Dictionary Stories

Very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from the dictionary.

#7: Five Gold Rings

A somewhat abridged newsletter for you this month, before you rightfully abandon the internet for as long as humanly possible. I have a few small book-related notices for you, and a brand new video. Off we go →

I. The Book
Another bulleted list of book news to dive into: 

  • Advance copies of the book arrived! Their spines look like this! (For the avoidance of all doubt, please know that our faithful black-and-yellow palette is not being abandoned—Harper Perennial galley covers all have red spines. I never abandon a colour scheme.)
  • Illustrations are done! Basically! I'll go back to prepping them for print as soon as I finish writing this email. I'm not usually in the habit of suggesting anything I've done might be slightly competent, but I feel like these have come out nicely. You'll see some previews soon. 
  • If you're a Goodreads user, the book now has its own page. You may now boldly claim you Want to Read it, and maybe even give it a forgiving review at some point in the not-too-distant future. 
  • The book remains stubbornly available to pre-order

II. Premiere: Dictionary Theatre #2
It's 9am on a Saturday morning and I'm carrying boxes of ambiguous electrical equipment into the Swedish American Hall on Market Street. On repeat trips for remaining boxes, I nod encouragingly at people I pass on the stairs: a sound engineer and his assistant; a gaffer with armfuls of scaffolding; an 8-person choir. We're here for seven hours, to shoot a short film we've been planning for two months—a film that will ultimately end up no longer than a minute and a half. I will take what feels like three whole breaths for the entire day.

We're shooting the second in a series of films using pieces from the book as inspiration (the first being 'Fifty More Ways to Leave Your Lover'). Said second piece is called 'My True Love Gave to Me'—a rewritten version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' that was all but unavoidable when I realised I had collected a ton of example sentences that began with numbers ('Ten head of cattle', 'Four slices of bread,' etc.) Initially I thought the film could be quite straightforward—find a couple friends with passable voices, borrow a camera and film them on my doorstep. I think about this as I eat a bagel from craft services, watch lighting being assembled on a balcony, and listen to the echo of vocal exercises. 

Enough stalling! Here's 'My True Love Gave to Me', a festive gift to you, from the New Oxford American and Macquarie dictionaries and me.

Making this film was a true group effort, requiring a small army of incredibly talented and generous people. The voices you are hearing and the faces they are issuing from belong to the Bay Area's own Resound Ensemble, who diligently sat and sang in a chilly room for most of their Saturday. Phil Perkins recorded and mixed their performance, with additional sound design from Kevin Crawford. They were lit by Nima Khazaei and shot by Justin CarlsonMarc Estrada produced, and also came up with the idea that all our vocalists would be holding dictionaries, which is perhaps still my favourite element of the entire video. Keni Chaffeeprovided the pitch-perfect bouncing ball. Finally, the whole shebang was directed by Skyler Vander Molen, who was a generous collaborator and a huge part of why this video exists at all. Hire him immediately and repeatedly.

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.