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Conclusion of Interview with Marsha Srameck
Has writing this book opened up any new doors for you? Have there any opportunities presented that you would never before have considered?
Iím now the president of a publishing company spending 50-60 hours a week on marketing programs directed at developmental (remedial) writing and ESL (English as a second language) professors at colleges. The book has become an actual business.
I thought I would write this book, spend a year promoting it, and then go on with my life. I had no idea how much time and money publishers spend promoting books. The big textbook publishers have battalions of marketing employees who show up at every regional, state, and national educational convention. They have huge displays, sponsor coffees, breakfasts, cocktail buffets, and give away promotional items along with free copies of their books. They carpet bomb educational magazines with advertisements. These huge marketing expenses are what make textbooks so expensive.
In order to get even a small share of a very large market, I discovered I needed to market my book continuously. But with my approach Iím able to keep the retail price under $20.
Have you received any feedback from students who have used your book? If so, what did they say about it?
Most of the information Iíve gotten about studentsí reaction to the book comes from instructors. Students tend to like the book a lot, but the book is especially popular with international students. One group became nearly hysterical over the fact that in Binghamton, NY, itís illegal for 9th graders to grow a moustache. International students are intrigued with American cultural oddities, and the book has plenty of examples.
Some students have sent fan- email, and two students ordered the book for their mothers, who both spoke English as a second language. One asked me to gift wrap it, which I did.
Several college remedial writing instructors told me that most of their students used to have to take their class two or three times in order to qualify for regular freshman composition. Now, using my book, most of the students can take the course just once. That was my best feedback.
Unless it is one of the character's traits to speak improperly, I believe that the use of proper grammar is essential in books. Do you feel that the standards for the proper usage of grammar in our writing has gone downhill? Why or why not?
Itís been a long, slow downhill slide for both grammar and writing. When I was at the Wright Brothersí Museum last summer I was amazed at how well-written the historical letters wereónot just those of the Wright Brothers, but the ground crew, the parents, the friends, etc. I donít think any of the writers had been to college, but they all wrote beautifully.
Iím annoyed by how cavalierly grammar is taught in many high schools. One of the few significant class distinctions in America is based on the grammar people use when they speak. You can be certain that at the prep schools of wealthy children, those students are drilled in correct Standard English grammar until theyíve mastered it.
And I want to be clear here that Iím not putting down people who donít speak Standard English. Many bright people have chosen to speak non-standard English, and I believe that grammar usage is a personal choice. But unless students have been taught Standard English, they donít have a choice to make.
Do you have any advice for writers who struggle with the proper usage of grammar?
Fortunately, computer grammar checkers are usually excellent. Those wavy lines signify a real problem and the computer almost always offers a good solution. Thatís my first suggestion.
My second suggestion is to use the Purdue Owl (Online Writing Lab). That website can answer and explain almost any grammar usage problem. Of course, you could also buy my book.
Finally, good writing always takes patience. Writers must rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Itís the best way to improve writing over time.
Thank you, Marsha, for such a fantastic interview. If you would like a copy of this indispensable grammar book for yourself, I have provided an Amazon link below.
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