Co-Authoring Focus on Grammar, Fourth Edition

Majorie Fuchs

Marjorie Fuchs

Margo Bonner

We recently we sat down with Marjorie Fuchs and Margo Bonner, co-author team of Focus on Grammar, Fourth Edition, levels 3 and 4.

How long have the two of you been working together?
A very long time. When exactly did we start working together, Margo?
MB: Let’s see. I think it was in the late 1980’s, wasn’t it?
MF: That’s right. I believe it was 1989.

Tell me, how did the two of you first meet?
MF: Well, we were both working independently on a Longman project – it was an adult ed series called On Your Way. Then, one day the publisher brought us together as a possible co-author team.
MB: Marjorie and I had never actually met, so I remember going to Grand Central Station carrying a description of her. I’m pretty sure we met under the famous Grand Central clock, right?
MF: Yes, just like we did today!
MB: And just like today, we took the train up together to White Plains. Anyway, so there we were, way back then, chatting and getting to know each other for the first time. But then we also started brainstorming ideas for the project. That was our first brainstorming session! 1989!
MF: That’s right. But I’ll tell you, I never imagined then that more than twenty years down the road we’d still be brainstorming ideas!

Now, tell me about Focus on Grammar. How do you work together? What is your process?
MB: You know, we always refer to Focus on Grammar as FOG! So, our process with FOG has been very collaborative. Some co-authors, and even us on other projects, divide up the work and they don’t have too much interaction. For example, one author will take the even-numbered units, the other will take the odd-numbered. Then they look at each other’s work. However, for FOG we’ve always preferred working together more.
MF: In fact, we have so much collaboration that when we look back at earlier editions we sometimes can’t even remember who wrote what!

Does writing together make things go faster?
MB: You’d think so, but surprisingly not. There’s so much back and forth especially for a first draft that the process is actually slower than writing alone.
MF: Right. But we believe the results are better. After all, you’re getting the best efforts of two people.

So, how does your process work for a new unit?
MB: OK. After we choose the theme of a unit, one of us does a first draft of the opening reading. Usually it’s the person who came up with the idea. But If there’s research involved, we both might take part in that before the actual writing begins.
MF: And often while one of us is drafting the opening text, the other one is busy doing research for other exercises in the unit.
MB: And since FOG is a contextualized grammar there’s usually a lot of research involved.
MF: Another thing. We also like to do our own photo research as much as possible. We think it’s an important part of the process.
MB: Yeah, that way, even if what we come up with doesn’t always make its way into the book, we can still give the professional photo researcher a good idea of just what we’re looking for.

What happens after the opener is drafted?
MF: A lot more back and forth until we’re really happy with it. The same holds true for all the exercises and activities that follow.

You’ve been writing together for a long time. Has the process changed much?
MF and MB: Yes!
MB: And that’s mostly thanks to advances in technology.
MF: We often reminisce about the days when we’d get home and find the floor covered by these long rolls of uncut thermal fax paper with drafts of opening texts and exercises. Today, of course, we just attach files to emails.
MB: That’s right, it’s so much faster and easier now. And another thing that’s changed is our phone bills. We live in different parts of the country. Our bills used to be really high before unlimited calling plans came along!
MF: And don’t forget the Fed Ex guy! At times it seemed like I saw him more than I saw my own friends and family.
MB: Same here! But I think the biggest change of all comes from being able to do research online. Don’t you think so, Marjorie?
MF: Absolutely! The Internet has changed everything.
MB: In the past, we’d often have to go to the library and spend a whole day there researching background for just one single exercise!
MF: Now the Internet has made it possible to work from home 24/7. Again, this doesn’t mean that things go faster than before! If you research at home, there’s no librarian to come and turn the lights off at 6:00 p.m. and kick you out!

One more question. In your opinion, what makes a successful co-author team?
MF: First of all you have to really like each other’s writing style and taste.
MB: You also have to have similar senses of humor. If you don’t, things can get very awkward
MF: And then there’s the question of work ethic and trust. Projects like FOG have very tight deadlines. So, you need to be able to count on each other 100 percent!

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