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Thank You, Veterans

Note from author: I am reposting my Veteran’s Day post from 2016–still as true today as it was a year ago.

Today is Veteran’s Day. Today we honor the men and women who are part of our American military.

I know that so many people wish that we just didn’t need you—that there were no wars to be fought. That we could all just get along.

One day, yes. But that’s a description of heaven. That’s not what we have here on this imperfect planet. Have there been unjust wars? Yes. Have wars been fought for stupid reasons? Yes. Is war terrible? Yes.

We could get into a big discussion about that here. But I’m not going to.

I’m also not here to talk about the merits of various wars. I’m not here to honor or condemn any particular commander-in-chief.

I’m here to thank the men and women who swore to protect our freedoms. I’m here to thank the men and women who, answerable to their commander-in-chief (for anyone who might not know, that’s the president of the United States), do what they are called to do. I’m here to honor the men and women who take that job seriously, who are compassionate when they need to be and deadly when they need to be. I’m here to thank the people who fight for freedom.

I wish that we didn’t need you, that everyone in the world could just get along. Unfortunately, that is just not a reality. The best way to preserve freedom is for our country to have a strong enough military that says, “Don’t mess with us.” You who go into harm’s way to help preserve that freedom, who protect us, who help the rest of the world know that to mess with us is to bring the greatest nation in the world down on them—thank you.

I wish that more people understood the sacrifices you make—in families separated for long stretches and, when not separated, in families uprooted and moved to new places; in facing enemy fire; in PTSD and things you can’t unsee when you close your eyes to sleep; in doing all of this for pathetic pay.

You make these sacrifices because you believe in America.

Thank you.

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My dad, Col. Philip Chaffee (USAF-Ret.) circa 1967 while serving in Vietnam.

We just came out of a very divisive election. The country is split. But you know what? That’s what voting is all about. Some win; some lose. I have cried my eyes out over a few elections; I’ve sighed with relief at others. To those of you out there protesting that the new president is not yours, look around for two seconds and realize that you are allowed to do this. You are allowed to feel this way. No one’s going to put you in jail for your opinion (unless you start doing something illegal). You live in the greatest country in the world. You’re FREE!

You’re FREE!

And here’s the bottom line: One election cannot destroy a free people.

Take a look at our history to see what we’ve survived.

This is what you thank a veteran for. Too many people just don’t seem to understand that freedom isn’t free. It has to be protected.

But here’s the other side of the coin. With freedom comes a huge amount of responsibility. We’re free—but not to hurt one another. Not to make fun of one another. Not to badmouth those who disagree with us. We’re free to express opinions, but we must always do so respectfully, realizing that the person across from us with a very different opinion came to that opinion in his or her own reasoned way just as we did.

Has America had some very bad policies? Oh yeah. Have some presidents made some really bad decisions? Heck yes. Does America have some really big problems to work on? You bet.

But it has always been that way. Always. No country is perfect just as no person is perfect. We are all fallible and the best we can do is, when we see a problem, decide that we need to fix it. And we start to figure out how to do that.

We need all of the voices in the conversation—but there is no conversation if everyone is offended or upset or name-calling. The way we get to the best decisions is when we sit down and hear one another.

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He’s my hero; he’s my dad.

And for everyone upset about this election, realize that for the rest of your life, you’ll win some, you’ll lose some. Also, realize that most voters look at a way larger picture and take into account way more things—especially those of us who are older and try to look at the office and the nation and the future, which are way bigger than a single man or woman. And take a quick look at history. This country swings back and forth between Democrat and Republican presidents and Congress. If we don’t like what we have, we are able to vote them out next time around.

That’s what you thank a vet for. Helping preserve that freedom for the last 240 years.

Many of the greatest changes that happened in our country have not been top-down decisions from a president. That’s the genius of our system of government—a system people have fought and died for. Change happens when FREE people voice their opinions and work for change and vote in the lawmakers who could make the changes happen. In at least one case in particular, we fought a horrifying war on our own soil because of those differing opinions.

And if those lawmakers don’t win? Then stand strong on your principles, keep your respectful voice being heard, and keep working for the change you feel needs to happen.

Thank a vet for that.

Thank a vet that we are still a free country where we can have vastly different opinions and live together, work together, serve together, worship together.

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The best way we can honor our veterans is being worthy of their sacrifices.

So instead of letting our opinions divide us, instead of being angry that there are actually people who think differently than we do, why don’t we instead find ways to make positive change—in our personal lives, in our families, in our communities and workplaces, in our world? Why don’t we now take a deep breath, listen to one another, learn from one another, understand the very deep feelings on both sides, and work together to make whatever needs to be improved better?

Our country has made a lot of mistakes, but I can say without hesitation that the United States is the greatest country in the world. But FREEDOM is a privilege that must be handled with great appreciation and great care. We have come a long way. We still have a long way to go. We will always have a long way to go. There will always be huge new problems to face. But we won’t face them down by refusing to listen to one another or refusing to learn from our own history.

Today, I thank my Uncle Howard (who has passed away) for his sacrifice in World War II, and I thank my dad, who bravely flew a hundred missions over North Vietnam and faced enemy fire.

Thank you, Dad, for serving our country. Thank you, Mom, for providing a haven wherever we moved, for making each new house a home.

So why should you thank a vet? Because these men and women sacrifice for an ideal—the ideal of freedom.

So you can be FREE.

Thank you, veterans, for serving and preserving this great country. May the rest of us learn from your example.

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I can’t help it. I see them everywhere.

I suppose it comes with the territory of being a professional editor; yet, I don’t think one needs to be a professional to see (and be bothered by) the typos that appear everywhere in everyday life since fellow word lovers often make me aware and send me photos. Following are a few recent ones.

You have to have a sense of humor.

At the local Dollar Store, some enterprising employee put these extras out on sale, marking them thusly:

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Seems like if you are going to misspell a word, you wouldn’t do it the hardest way possible. Overstalk?

Really? Now this is “overstalk”:

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Sometimes I wish I could carry a black marker and make fixes wherever I see them. That is, in fact, what Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson did–literally traveling (travelling?) around the United States to correct typos–and wrote the book The Great Typo Hunt–Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time (Crown, 2010). They fixed some, weren’t allowed to fix others, and even got taken to court for defacing property.

Someone’s gotta do it.

My sister found this on highway 30 somewhere in Ohio. I do not understand the whole “let’s make a plural with an apostrophe” thing.

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Here’s a brochure for a recreational area near where my extended family lives. There are so many things wrong on just this panel of the brochure. Between spelling and font and consistency issues, my eyes are twitching. And I’m so glad to know that Kinzua (which is misspelled) Dam is so da** near Warren, Pennsylvania. And it’s “Niagara” …

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Even our clothing isn’t exempt. I saw these at a local Walmart. After I posted this on Facebook, the T-shirts disappeared by the next day.

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Last evening as I trolled Amazon for Christmas ideas, I was looking for stationery — the pretty kind, you know, with pieces of paper and matching envelopes. However, apparently they don’t just sell the kind to write on but also some special kind that stays in place as I use it:

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Menus are often hilarious — especially at small mom-and-pop diners. There are at least 8 errors in this menu from the Muncie Gyros and Pancakes House (which in itself is pretty funny) . . . I really want the “frries” and a second “tirp to the sald bar.”

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Have you found some good typos in your travels? Send them along and I’ll do a part 2 from my alert readers.

After all, we must protect the world from typos!

Now Tell Me about You

Okay readers, who are you out there? A few of you I know personally; many of you follow me (thank you!) even though we’ve never met.

Remember when we used to do those “25 Things about Me” lists on Facebook? I retrieved mine recently and updated it a bit. So here are 25 things about me. Does anything resonate with you? Then tell me more about YOU in the comments.

  1. I am for standing for the National Anthem. Hand over heart. Men with hats off.
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    Me in my little red dress, early 1960s.

    Military saluting. Always. Every time. Everywhere.

  2. I’m a born again Christian who loves Jesus and am trying to learn to love as Jesus loves.
  3. I enjoy singing old hymns. What poetry! What amazing theology embedded in those works of art. They fill my soul.
  4. Politics—be involved but don’t let the antics of politicians ruin your day. Don’t let your mood be determined by them. The beauty of the American system is that we have a chance to vote out the people we don’t like and vote in the people we do. In the meantime, enjoy life. I’ve seen enough politicians come and go in my lifetime to know that nothing is permanent.
  5. I like living in a place where the seasons change. Each has its own magic.
  6. I love pecan pie.
  7. There really is nothing like an excellent cup of coffee with just the right amount of cream.
  8. I am blessed to have a loving family and have prayed to build a loving home where family and friends can visit and feel comfortable and cared for.
  9. I am blessed to have a job I love and freelance work that I find just as exciting.
  10. I feel strongly about grammar mistakes, but not enough to be annoying.
  11. I love words—how they look, how they sound, how they go together. I’m constantly astounded that a finite number of words can be combined to create masterpieces or drivel. And I’m constantly attempting to make my writing better so mine isn’t drivel. Good books fuel me. Writing calms my anxious heart.
  12. I enjoy organizing . . . anything. I feel good when it (whatever it is) is organized. I hyperventilate in office supply stores.
  13. One of my favorite movies is Napoleon Dynamite. And give me Mystery Science Theater any day of the week.
  14. Memes. Funny memes.
  15. I got engaged to my husband in a hot air balloon.
  16. I’m completely craft impaired. I don’t get the point of cross stitching or scrapbooking or card stamping. But I love it when other people do it. I’m amazed, frankly.
  17. I am also sports impaired. I never made a sports team I tried out for. I stopped trying after I knocked out my dad’s front tooth with my elbow practicing for the girls’ basketball team tryouts. (And no, didn’t make that team either.)
  18. I love public speaking. I hear it’s the #1 fear of most people, so what’s wrong with this picture?
  19. Pets have a huge place in my heart. We have a Shih Tzu and a few cats who found us in the country — willing suckers who fed them and soon housed them.

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    My husband and I in China at the astonishing Great Wall.

  20. I’ve been all over Europe (Germany [lived there for my 4 high school years], Switzerland, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Monaco, England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, even Liechtenstein) and also to China. I still want to visit Scotland, Ireland, and Greece.
  21. I’m an MK—military kid, specifically an Air Force brat. When people ask me where I grew up, I say “everywhere.” I am proud of my amazing parents.
  22. I love my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces (and their various significant others). She’s 11 years younger than me (and we’re the only two), so it’s awesome that we’re friends.
  23. I like to do laundry.
  24. I think my kids are awesome—interesting, talented, self-confident. They’re miles ahead of where I was at their age.
  25. Oh, and did I mention my grandkids?

So now tell me about you! One thing, five things, 25 things! I want to get to know you.

What are you reading?

My Goodreads account is making me feel guilty.

At the beginning of this year, I made a goal to read 52 books and, well, it is letting me know in its calm yet non-confrontational way that I am “21 books behind schedule.”

Yikes.

I could chalk it up to, I don’t know … writing my own book, finishing my thesis, reading the thesis submissions from my cohorts in the MFA program, and moving ourselves to a new house.

Or maybe I was just lazy.

That’s sad news for someone who regularly lists her favorite hobby as “reading.”

So now I’m attempting to make amends, although since we’re a third of the way through September, I’m not sure I’ll reach my 2017 goal. And it certainly isn’t for lack of books to read. In fact, as I mentioned, we moved ourselves to a house in a new town. That of course meant packing up our many shelves of books. As we packed, I attempted to organize the books into boxes so that unpacking and placing them on new bookshelves would be an easier categorizing process.

We purchased 5 new bookshelves. A few of them are here on our sunny landing where I also have my work office and an old library table that doubles as my desk.

sunny landing

Then we bought a couple more shelves for our entryway:

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And we have shelves in our bedroom. I have one shelf that is now dedicated to my “to reads.” In other words, as I shelved the books from the boxes, I set aside all the books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time — books that were purchased and then made their way to various nooks and crannies and promptly were forgotten.

Now, this way, I always have my “to reads” right in front of me. Here’s a picture of my shelf.

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It’s an eclectic mix of fiction and fantasy and memoir and nonfiction. There are 40 books on the shelf; reading half this shelf will get me to my reading goal.

But more than just meeting a goal, I’m excited to finally get through each of these books. They sit there in all their glory, promising so much.

Right now, I’m reading a book written by one of our Professional Writing graduates — a debut novel that won a prize from Simon & Schuster, was first an ebook, and then was released in paperback. I’m so proud of Chandler and what he has accomplished in his young life as a writer. It’s fantasy, so a new genre to me. I’m diving into The Facefaker’s Game.

After I finish that, then I’m on to another book on my shelf. No more looking around wondering what to read next. No more feeling at a loss. The shelf is there. When I finish one and move it upstairs to the other categorized shelves, I’ll have space to add another that I will inevitably purchase.

Because, no matter how far behind I get, I’ll just keep on reading.

What are you reading right now?

This past weekend (August 4-5, 2017), we held the second annual Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference at Taylor University.

Last year, 2016, we did our first conference. We started with zero dollars and hoped that we’d break even or perhaps have a little extra to have seed money to hold a second conference. We didn’t know if we’d make it or not … until about two weeks prior to the conference when a flurry of activity brought us above our minimum (100 attendees) and encouraged us that we were meeting a need and should hold another conference.

Which we just did.

And this time? We got to 120  … 130 … 140 registrants, plus 20 faculty and staff, and suddenly my behind-the-scenes self was worrying about having large enough rooms for breakout sessions. So I closed the conference registrations (and still let through about 10 more people who begged) and held my breath that we’d have enough space.

THEN, our main session room was determined to not be ready, so we scrambled for another room and another breakout room. Thanks to staff at Taylor U, we moved to another room (holds 190, so we were tight but had close fellowship), and located another large-enough breakout room.

Then our folks arrived. Sessions began, keynoters encouraged, faculty taught, one-on-one meetings went on in the Campus Center, books were bought, snacks were consumed, staff people ran around, and while I used the passive voice here nothing was passive at all. It was proactive, energized, encouraging, and … from my perspective … so much fun!

It’s always terrific to get to communicate and rub shoulders with authors and agents and acquisitions editors and editors in the industry — some I’ve known for years, some I’ve known of, and some I’m getting to meet for the first time. They prepare talks and handouts, they sit on panels, they talk individually to conferees in one-on-one appointments, they stay overnight in college dorm rooms — simply because they love writers. All of them are amazing professionals with a heart for helping and encouraging.

And conferees? We couldn’t do a conference without those amazing people who set aside the time and money to come to a two-day conference. These folks were appreciative, which makes it all worthwhile!

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In addition, I had wonderful staff (former Professional Writing students) who spent two days running (which, as writers know, is not part of our general activity). They helped me put together conference packets, they ran to the store to purchase 160-people-worth of snack items, they checked on technology in the breakout rooms prior to each session, they got water for speakers, they ran extra copies of handouts, they carried boxes … they basically did whatever I asked them to.

And they made me laugh.

I couldn’t have run this conference without them.

Thanks guys.

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The purple staff shirts say, “You’re in the write place.” And we all definitely were. These were my “purple people.”

If you’ve never attended a writers conference, get thee to one! They’re a great place to be with like-minded folks, discuss the craft, be encouraged, and fill your tank for a few more months of lonely writing. Conferences happen all over the country (and world) at all times of the year. Look here and here and here for some listings of conferences.

And, of course, you can always consider the 2018 Taylor University Professional Writing Conference. We’ll be here!

 

Back two summers ago (and Facebook reminded me with a photo I took of the dorm room I was staying in two years ago), I wrote a blog post where I discussed just getting started with this program here at Ashland University in Ohio. I talked then about how difficult it was to get started, to figure out what to write about, to discover my voice.

Well, it’s been two years and lots of writing. I ended up doing what I mentioned in my blog two years ago: “I’m experimenting right now with a series of essays talking about the whole process (and brilliance) of editing when it’s done well. I am thinking about tying in my research into the great editors (some of which I’ve begun doing on this blog) and extracting lessons from them.”

Indeed, that’s what I did. The final title of my thesis is Words with Friends: The Intimate Relationship Between Authors and Their Editors.

The struggles I faced in writing in the creative nonfiction genre were how to get a memoir out of my life as an editor and how to make that job an interesting read. As part of our study, we have to read similar books to help us understand the ways other writers approached what we are trying to do.

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Without Bonnie Rough, I might still be wallowing in despair. She helped to create a coherency and shape that made the writing process that much smoother.

From my own reading, I learned that editors, as well as folks in other seemingly mundane jobs, could write memoirs. Reading the memoirs of book editors such as Diana Athill and Robert Gottlieb, of a copy editor at The New Yorker named Mary Norris, and even a house painter helped me to understand that the power of such a memoir lay in the presentation of needed information (with a balance, not too much) and the ever-present interesting anecdote.

Even so, as I wrote I kept wondering, Is this boring? How can I possibly keep my reader fascinated enough to keep turning pages? Is the tone right? Have I found my voice? I didn’t have famous names to drop or fame in my own right or the cachet of working for a publication such as The New Yorker, as did many of the editor memoir writers I read. What I did have, however, was knowledge and longevity in my field (editing and publishing), a passion for words, and an understanding and respect for the power of words. What I needed to do was share that knowledge (just enough, not too much) along with anecdotal stories to illustrate and entertain.

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Joe Mackall, Tom Larson, and Steve Harvey honed the manuscript with me, asked the tough questions, and made me a better writer.

My theme is “the power of words.” Because words are so powerful, personal, and intimate, when we put our words into the world, we share a piece of ourselves. The special joy of being an editor is helping to shape words, sentences, paragraphs, and manuscripts by entering into that intimate space between the author and the work to help the author say what he or she really means to say. This requires a kind of familiarity and friendship with the words and the author.

I wanted to help my readers understand that if and when they enter the publishing world, the editors are generally there to be their best readers, their greatest encouragers, and their most strategic critics. The purpose is to help the writing be the best it can be—to help writers dig deeper, choose words carefully, and say what they really mean to say.

It’s all about the words.

Those powerful words.

 

 

The manuscript for Word by Word is nearing completion . . . but it hasn’t been easy sailing.

That first draft looked perfect! I felt an overabundance of self-confidence as I emailed those 49,000 hard-won words to the publisher.

And waited.

After several weeks, I received a loooooooooong email with the editor’s comments — some positive, some negative, lots of suggestions. I cried a bit and fell into a funk for about five days. Then I thought about how I would want my author to react if I, as editor, had sent such a letter (and I have sent a few in my day). Finally, when I got into the right frame of mind, I printed off the editor’s letter and dove in. Among other things, she wrote:

There are a number of issues in this manuscript that need focus and clarity. As I read your table of contents, my first thought was that you had nailed the content that needs to be in the project. But then I discovered that the actual content doesn’t quite deliver in some cases.

I had my work cut out for me. The biggest issue my editor pointed out was that my audience wasn’t clear. As I reread the manuscript, I discovered that she was right. Sometimes I was writing the book as a textbook for my students; sometimes I was writing to the person who already has a manuscript at a publishing house and is working with an editor; sometimes I was writing to people who are critiquing others’ manuscripts; sometimes I was writing to people who want to become editors. Only sometimes was I writing to the true audience of this book. I realized I had done more of an information dump about everything I know than staying true to my audience.

Other issues included some random items that made me think, I know better! Why didn’t I see that?

But then this:

Thank you for your hard work on this project. You are obviously knowledgeable and have a broad background of experience to enable you to write this book. . . .

I trust you will take the critiques as constructive and that you will be challenged to take it up with renewed enthusiasm. . . . You are a wealth of knowledge, Linda, and your voice is needed in this arena. I really really want this book from you.

Yes, indeed. And I really really want it published! So yes, I can and will do this.

My editor listed a number of fixes.

1)    Identify a clear picture of the audience.

2)    Set definite goals about the type of material you want to write.

3)    Prepare an outline (extensive) of each chapter and what will be covered in that chapter, as well as the primary target audience for that chapter.

4) Rewrite the manuscript using these tools and suggestions.

I pictured my audience and knew what I wanted to write. My target audience is that pajama-clad and coffee-fueled author who has just pressed the key for the period at the end of the stunning final sentence on the first draft of his manuscript. He’s finished! But in the back of his mind he knows he isn’t really finished. He knows that no first draft is perfect; he knows he needs to edit.

But he doesn’t know how to do that or where to begin.

My goal is to help that writer understand both the publishing process and the steps and keys to self-editing.

bookProbably most helpful was my editor’s suggestion to create a revised extensive outline. Internally, I balked a little. Why do I need an outline at this point? But forcing each section of my manuscript to prove why it was there, where it fit best, and how it helped my target audience caused me to be very focused and brutal. Doing the big-picture editing with a revised outline proved invaluable.

I set to work with scissors, tape, and a red pen. Cutting, moving sections, taping pieces together — following my new outline. After a complete restructure on hard copy, I made the necessary changes on the electronic document. I let it sit for about two weeks. Then, I printed it out again. . . .

. . .  and read word by word.

That’s where I am now. Reading and marking with my red pen. Suffice it to say that my manuscript is very red.

It will be better for it.

I am doing what I said everyone should do — in my book. The lesson is, of course, that no matter how much you go over your own manuscript, no matter how many critique readers you have, editors will still make marks and offer suggestions. They come at the manuscript completely objective. While an author sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees, the editor comes in like a surveyor and see the trees and how to create a clearing.

I’m thankful to have been on this side of the desk with an excellent editor who saw exactly what my book needs.

What about you? If you’ve worked with a professional editor, what has been the best advice he or she gave you in feedback on your work?

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