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Culture Vulture: U. librarian by day, Twitter sensation by night

Published April 26, 2010 6:00 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Reading her résumé, you might not suspect Anna Neatrour was part of one of the hottest sensations on the Internet.

She's a married mother of twin toddlers, living in Salt Lake City. Her day job is as a librarian -- specifically, project manager for the Western Soundscape Archive at the University of Utah's Marriott Library. (Next month, she becomes executive director of the Utah Library Association.)

When Neatrour takes off her glasses and starts spinning, though, she magically transforms into -- not Wonder Woman -- but one of The Bureau Chiefs, the folks responsible for the exceedingly funny Twitter feed, Fake AP Stylebook.

The Fake AP Stylebook (which you can find on Twitter at @FakeAPStylebook) is a spoof of the real Associated Press Stylebook , the guide by which journalists around the nation know what words to capitalize and where to place their hyphens. Fake AP Stylebook serves up pop-culture variations, 140 characters at a time, on arcane writing rules, such as these recent entries:

» "Avoid using masculine pronouns in sentences where the subject's gender is not specified. Broads find it offensive."

» "When covering comic book conventions, be sure to walk past 400 normal people to interview the fat guy dressed like Aquaman."

» "When reporting on broken box office records, pretend that ticket prices have remained unchanged since 1943."

» "Subjects and verbs should always agree, even if they just agree to disagree."

Fake AP Stylebook began when Neatrour and a few friends scatter across the country who blog about comic books were looking for a project to work on together.

"It was Ken [Lowery] and Mark [Hale] who came up with the idea," Neatrour said in a recent phone interview. "They were e-mailing everybody: 'Do you think this thing has legs?'"

Apparently, it does. The Twitter feed now has more than 120,000 followers, and The Bureau Chiefs (as the 15 or so contributors, including Neatrour, call themselves) signed a book deal in January for a full-fledged Fake AP Stylebook , due to hit bookstores in spring 2011.

Writing for the Twitter feed is a loosely organized exercise. Contributors toss items to editors Lowery and Hale. Entries may be tweaked, and then are scheduled to publish on Twitter. Sometimes an entry will be posted quickly, especially if it's culturally relevant, while others may sit awhile.

"With so many people writing for it, it's a treat to see something I wrote a few weeks ago pop up," Neatrour said.

All of the Bureau Chiefs have their strengths and idiosyncrasies. Neatrour tries to get as many references to Jem and the Holograms, the bubblegum-pop band from the '80s cartoon series "Jem," onto the Twitter feed as possible. (So far, she's done it once.)

One of Neatrour's triumphs was her April Fool's Day contribution, a daylong 11-post storyline in which the Fake AP Stylebook woke up from a messy drunken one-night-stand with the Chicago Manual of Style .

If you laughed at that idea, congratulations, you're a word nerd -- and a member of Fake AP Stylebook's target audience.

The first fans of the Twitter feed, were journalists or former journalists (a rapidly growing group, considering "you can't go for a week without a story about the death of print journalism," she said). But interest in the Fake AP Stylebook "is really more about writing in general, or commenting on typical news stories that people might see again and again."

In addition to adding to the Twitter feed, Neatrour contributed to the book and set up the group's website (http://www.TheBureauChiefs.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.TheBureauChiefs.com). "I'm basically the webmaster," she said. All this while maintaining her day job at the U. of U., and raising twin 2 1/2-year-old boys.

"It's all pretty surreal to me," Neatrour said. "Even though I know I was working on the book, until I see it in my hands, I won't believe it's happening."

Sean P. Means

writes the Culture Vulture in daily blog form, at blogs.sltrib.com/vulture