Friday, October 9, 2009

Author Guest Post - Emily Arsenault (& a Giveaway!)

* Congrats to lucky winner - Margie *

Today I'm pleased to welcome Emily Arsenault, author of The Broken Teaglass. Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa.

About The Broken Teaglass - The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.

Dictionary Dreamin’

When I was eleven, I spent an afternoon looking up dirty words in a dictionary with a friend. We had a grand time laughing together at how stiff and academic the wordings of those definitions were. Of course we didn’t really consider that they were written by actual people. And never did I think I would someday be one of those people.

But somehow, at the age of twenty-two, I ended up in the editorial department of Merriam-Webster in Springfield, MA. I’d just graduated with a degree in philosophy, and having no clue what to do with the rest of my life, sent a resume to Merriam on a whim. But from the very first time I saw the citation files, they fascinated me: rows of drawers resembling a card catalogue, full of millions of citations (or cits) drawn from books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, etc. I’d be spending my days working with words, flipping through piles of those citations.

Perhaps fitting—after my eleven-year-old behavior—that the first word I ever worked on was ass. It wasn’t assigned to me specifically. Editors simply sign out boxes of citations for small portions of the alphabet, and the ass-assembly line box was next in line when my two fellow trainees and I ceremoniously signed out our first boxes. Citation after citation for ass. I had several questions, so I sheepishly brought them to my boss. I struggled to keep a straight face as we discussed ass in hushed tones in his corner cubicle. Most of the new cits were for the use of ass to refer to the whole person (e.g. “Get your ass over here!”). But to my disappointment, someone had already added that sense of the word to the definition. After ass, I eagerly tackled assacu, assagai, assail …

Soon, however, the novelty of defining wore off, and I began to I find the silence of the editorial office difficult to take. My coworkers were not unfriendly—the work we did simply didn’t require a great deal of discussion. On top of that, I was shy and afraid of making usage errors when speaking to more seasoned editors.

The solitude tended to give way to daydreaming. When I’d come across older handwritten citations, I wondered about the people who had written them. Who were they—behind the disciplined anonymity of their work? Were they ever driven a bit crazy by the silence, as I often was? I’d heard that in previous decades the quiet of the office had been even more severe. Talking was frowned upon. Editors were encouraged to communicate through interoffice memo whenever possible. I imagined office romances being conducted on paper, the evidence stashed in the cit files.

Once, while shuffling through the files, I imagined myself stumbling upon something scandalous—or even dangerous—in the citation files from days past. It wasn’t a story or book idea at the time—just one of those passing “if-my-life-were-a-movie” kind of thoughts. But since my life has never been much like a movie, no such citation appeared—on that or any other day of my four years there.

Long after I’d left Merriam-Webster, though, I started a story about a secret being hidden in the files of a dictionary company—and that story became The Broken Teaglass. In a way, the novel satisfies my original childish impulse—to seek something secret and forbidden in the dictionary—and to discover a little unexpected humor and humanity there beneath all of the formality.

That was certainly interesting, Emily, to learn about the inner workings behind a Dictionary! I must say I'm looking forward to reading your book. Also, Congrats on the debut - hope to read many more from you.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky winner.

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me :  the funniest or the most curious word you've come across, in a book or a dictionary!
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of November 9, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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92 comments :

  1. When I was little I thought Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was such a fun word to say over and over. Another word that I thought was a riot was dingleberry.

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  5. I always thought hirsute and avuncular were funny words.

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  7. I get a kick every time I hear the word Persnickety!

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  23. I think the most interesting word I've ever heard - which I had to learn to spell in 3rd grade - is antidisestablishmentarianism!

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  29. Comment #1 on A Conversation with Lisa Patton post!

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  30. I always liked the word "fiddle-faddle" (nonsense). This sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for the chance to win!
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  31. Just signed up for email updates.

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  32. When I was young and I saw the word "tuxedo", I thought it was pronounced tewx- do. I could never figure out what that had to do with formal wear.

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  43. I just heard the word sapiosexual for the first time, which I thought was pretty interesting!

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  47. My younger sister has a horrible case of cowlicks, and curly hair. It's baaaad. We made up a word for what her hair looks like: FLURLY. [fluffy+curly]

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  51. I always find the word frentic interesting - like a mix of frantic and frenzied.

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  57. Sorry, I can't think of a strange or unusual word. walkerd@primus.ca

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  60. One of my favorite "words" is kattywampus. However, it's not always in the dictionary and some people think it's with a "c". Maybe a regional thing? Thanks for the chance to win!
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  77. I think "perseverate" is a pretty interesting word. I means to repeat something insistently or redundantly.

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  81. A few years ago one of the vocabulary words I gave my 7th grade students was "loquacious" (which means talkative and chatty). For the rest of the year that word was used A LOT!! Whenever I think about that word it makes me smile and reminds of of a great school year!

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  90. This giveaway is closed and the winner notified. Thanks for stopping by!

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