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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .

LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .

BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .

SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .

SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .

M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .

ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .

STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .

GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .

JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .

JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff’s abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .

LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star. Read more. . .

ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .

ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” Read more. . .

In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    Last week we talked about the third-person singular pronoun.

    So this week let’s stick with our grammar expose and tackle another question that I continue to be asked, even though the answer is simple and has been established for a very, very long time:

    Serial vs. Oxford comma

    Luckily, I only get this one from English majors. Nobody else has ever heard of the debate, which I consider a good thing. Because it’s a complete red herring. There is no actual debate. The answer is not in question. And it makes complete sense.

    • Fiction

      In fiction, we put a comma after every item in a list.

      Except, of course, for the last item, which gets whatever punctuation belongs at the end of that particular list.

      Angela ate a chocolate bunny, a chocolate heart, a chocolate rose, and a chocolate elephant! In that order.

    • Non-fiction

      In non-fiction, we put a comma after every item in a list except the penultimate item.

      And except, of course, for the last item, which, again, gets whatever punctuation belongs at the end of that particular list.

      In other news today, Angela Lansbury ate a chocolate bunny, a chocolate heart, a chocolate rose and a chocolate elephant. According Lansbury, she ate them in that order.

    See? Simple.

    The issue isn’t a matter of editorial style or even idiomatic distinction between American and British English. The issue is fiction versus non-fiction. And the only reason the question exists at all is the journalistic necessity—which has created so very many of the questions of grammar that seem to plague English students today—to compress space.

    Journalists are always in need of space on the page. So they make up little rules for themselves like dropping commas and other stuff in order to squeeze more words into smaller space. I wish I could say this is because journalists simply have that much news to report. But I’m afraid it’s more likely because they simply have that great a need to compress the news to make room for more advertising.

    C’est le vie.

    And now you know!

    NOTE: The other issue is the complication of all this by using different terms for this type of comma usage: serial and Oxford. The are not terms for the opposite types of comma usage. They are the same thing.

    NEXT WEEK: That vs. Which


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