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Friday, July 22, 2011

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: My experience editing four Shakespearean graphic novels

Warning: this post contains groan-inducing Shakespearean phrase usage.

Initially, we planned on using the original Shakespearean language for our Shakespeare Graphic Novels, new for Fall 2011. However, we realized something was rotten in the state of Denmark when the books were assigned a “Z” reading level; in other words, far beyond the age of our readers. So, with little time left before the books were due to be printed, it fell to this unfortunate editor to translate all four books into modern English. Woe is me, I thought. It’s only spring, yet now is the winter of my discontent.

Nevertheless, I refused to water down Shakespeare; our readers deserve better. No, I wanted these books to stand out from all other adaptations. It is I who should suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — not librarians and students!

So, over the next few weeks, I pored over countless reference materials and play adaptations. While I became exceedingly well read, the process made me want to shuffle off this mortal coil; converting the text took about a week per book, or ~160 work hours total. But there was a method to my madness: we retained the Shakespearean language of five select phrases per book; they’re bolded in the text, then explained in straightforward detail in the back matter. This way, readers will get a taste of Shakespearean language without feeling overwhelmed, enabling them to enjoy the stories and be prepared to tackle the plays themselves when the time comes.

Please forgive me for the dramatics; while exhausting, the process was worth the toil and trouble when I saw these beauties grace my desk. Our illustrators turned in all-star performances. Brann, the books’ designer, understands that all that glitters is not gold; thus, he put in long hours to fill these books with shine and substance. Both of us have seen better days, but we’re recovering. Perhaps my fretting was much ado about nothing, after all.

This is the short and the long of it: three talented writers, several gifted illustrators, one burnt-out designer, and this weary editor strived long and hard to bring you these spectacular books. All’s well that ends well, as they say. Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have not slept a wink since this project began. I need a nap — a long one. Move over, Yorick.

- Sean Tulien, Editor

1 comment:

Craig Phillips said...

Oh my lord. What a job. But I bet they look and read fantastic. It is the first I have heard on this so I'm kinda excited. Better get ordering.