Even Editors Need Editors

Here she is. All 332 pages of her. I told you about this book contract and, well, after some weeks of imposter syndrome and some constant worry about if I could actually write this book … well. Ta-da.

The working title is Pathway to Publication. I’m still trying on some subtitles, such as “A publishing professional turned college prof leads the way” or “guides you.” Not sure yet. But we have a little time to hone that part.

The writing process has not been easy. I look at these pages and honestly am astounded.

But it wasn’t done alone. It took a team of people to help me get to this point (and I’m not even at the publisher yet!).

A dear publishing friend helped me see beyond the “this has already been written a million times” dilemma to look instead at my personal perspective on this publishing process. She helped me see that I could write this from the college professor angle — so the book is shaped by the college classes I teach in Professional Writing and is very hands-on, including worksheets to help readers go from the theoretical to the practical. (Thank you, Kim.)

Another publishing friend recommended that I revise my website to focus on the teaching angle and build on that. (Thank you, Rhonda.)

My sister has been talking to me about preparations for her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail next year. The more she talked, the more I discovered a hook I could hang this book on — preparing for the months on the AT could be compared to preparing a book for publication. That metaphor helped me lay out the chapters. (Thank you, Carol.)

A former student who now has a business helping authors promote their books will help me create a pre-publication marketing strategy. (Thank you, Jori.)

A high schooler I met at our writers conference teen track, who is new to the publishing process, is reading some chapters to help me know if I’m answering her questions. (Thank you, Eliana.)

A current student and another writer friend are reading to see if I’m staying true to the content and my voice, writing clearly, and speaking in the right way to my target audience. (Thank you, Anna and Dave.)

And, finally, yet another student who has started his own freelance editing business just completed an astounding copyedit of the manuscript. He caught me in my wordiness and in my tics. He smoothed and refined and questioned and commented. And, as I taught him in editing class, he remembered to offer a few positive comments as well. And boy, did I need them! (Thank you, Kipp.)

And I’m thankful to the many publishing professionals I’ve learned from across my almost forty years in the industry. Their wisdom guided this book. I’ve added their titles to a recommended books list and quoted several of them throughout. Instead of feeling like “this is just another book on the same topic,” I simply feel humbled to add my voice to the many others who have a passion to help writers.

All of this to say, we writers need folks around us — some with publishing advice, some with writing advice, some with editorial skill, some with marketing skill, some acting as the target audience readers — to bring out the best in our manuscripts.

I still have a week to go with this pile of paper before it goes off to the publisher. That’s why I printed it. I always need to see it on physical paper to highlight and mark the final changes I need to make.

Then, of course, the editor at the publisher will tear it apart — but I already know that. I teach about this. (Thank you, Bold Vision Books.)

I’m ready. After all, even editors need editors.

Even Thomas Jefferson Had Editors

Happy July 4th, everyone! Independence Day. This is one of my favorite holidays. I do love our country so much and, while we certainly have had and continue to have our problems, we are a great country with a great heritage.

Which is why the picnics and parades and fireworks on July 4.

As I write this on July 2, it was on July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress formally declared independence. It was two days later, on July 4, that the Congress approved the final text of the Declaration.

It had taken a few weeks and several versions to get there.

Apparently, the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson was known for having a way with words in his writing (you never know when and for what your writing skills might be called upon!). On June 11, Jefferson, along with four others, was commissioned to draft a statement justifying the colonies’ break from Great Britain — a Declaration of Independence. The Committee of Five included Jefferson (VA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), John Adams (MA), Robert Livingston (NY), and Roger Sherman (CT). Jefferson wrote the first draft, then Franklin and Adams acted as first readers, making some corrections that Jefferson incorporated before the Declaration was presented to the Continental Congress for approval.

The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration (including Adams’ and Franklin’s corrections) continued on July 3 and into the late morning of July 4, during which Congress deleted and revised some one-fifth of its text. … The delegates made no changes to that key preamble, however, and the basic document remained Jefferson’s words. Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence later on the Fourth of July.

Source: History: Writing of Declaration of Independence

What was that one-fifth of the text that was revised or deleted? Constitutionfacts.com gives a little info:

Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits made to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence. He had originally included language condemning the British promotion of the slave trade (even though Jefferson himself was a slave owner). This criticism of the slave trade was removed in spite of Jefferson’s objections.

Source: Constitutionfacts.com/Declaration of Independence

In addition, the Congress made 86 other changes before finally adopting the approximately 1,320-word Declaration.

Jefferson later wrote about the process in 1823:

… the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. … I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”

Source: National Archives: America’s Founding Documents

The National Archives site quoted above goes on to explain, “Jefferson’s rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson’s own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.”

This is every writer and editor’s dream. To see the actual text and edits of any great work. Well, we can take a look courtesy of the Library of Congress website, listed under “The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress,” and titled, “Thomas Jefferson, June 1776, Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence.”

Screenshot of source: Library of Congress website, https://www.loc.gov/resource/mtj1.001_0545_0548/

In this link are photos of four hand-written pages with scratch outs and rewrites. You can see, for example, on page 1, how the words “a people” were changed to “one people.” You can see that the next entire line is scratched out, replaced with what did become the final words, “… dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume …” And the first line of the next paragraph, to me one of the most beautifully written in all of literature, appears to have been edited several times to get it just right: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Note that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” remained unedited.

Who knows what discussions occurred as those Continental Congress delegates edited by committee over those two days in 1776? (And if you’ve ever sat in on a meeting where an entire group is attempting to edit a document, you know how frustrating that can be.) Why did they make certain cuts? What were the compromises? Why didn’t they understand freedom truly for ALL people? What subtle wording changes occurred? Indeed, Robert Livingston, one of the Committee of Five, did not ultimately sign the Declaration, believing it was too soon to declare independence.

But on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress finalized the document, then on August 2, 1776, 56 men signed it, knowing that they were putting their lives literally on the line by doing so. This group of men, as imperfect as they were, believed in freedom. They had the vision to create a nation with founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and the documents they created formed our United States of America.

Odd fact: Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Continental Congress’s approval of the Declaration of Independence.

So celebrate today! Wave your flag and thank the founders of the Declaration of Independence for their vision. It laid the foundation that we should continue to cherish, even as we as a nation have been adjusting and changing over the last 246 years. Let us celebrate our freedom.

Sources:

The Franklin Institute: Benjamin Franklin and the Declaration of Independence)

History: Writing of Declaration of Independence

National Archives: America’s Founding Documents

Thomas Jefferson, June 1776, Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence

Writers Need Thick Skin, Part 1: Dealing with Rejection

I tell my students this all the time: “You want to be a writer? You want to get published? You want to get your writing into the hands of readers? Then develop a thick skin.”

Sounds tough, I know. But it’s 100 percent true.

And this theme is a key element of my upcoming book, which has no title yet but is right now affectionately called, “So you’ve finished your manuscript? You want to get published? Here is everything you need to know, prepare, do, and plan for.” I know, too long. But that’s basically what it’s about.

And there’s a whole chapter on the idea of having a thick skin. Because writers need it.

We need it before we get published, and we need it after (which I will discuss in my next post as Part 2).

First, the BEFORE. Anyone who has been writing and submitting for more than a week has discovered that rejection is simply a part of the process. Writers need thick skin to be ready to handle those inevitable rounds of rejection and maintain personal mental health. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, no matter how many pieces you have or have not published, those four simple words “not right for us” hit right in the gut.

Every. Time.

Why does it hurt so much? Well, as a much-rejected writer, I believe it just comes down to how much of ourselves we put into every piece we write and how rejection feels like a rejection of us personally. Whether it’s a literary story, or a transparent memoir, or a how-to on keeping houseplants alive, we worked hard and put ourselves out there. So it is always with great fear and trembling that we send out the piece or the query or the proposal and anxiously await the response.

We fear that someone out there will laugh uproariously at our audacity to think we can write and that anyone would publish us, show it around so everyone else laughs at our expense, and then reply with the terse email, “Not right for us.”

Courtesy of memebetter.com meme generator (which I love!). Grumpy cat photo and meme created by Tabatha Bundesen.

Can I offer up a few facts to help keep those rejections in perspective?

However, first, I’m going to assume that you are a careful writer and researcher, that others have read and critiqued your work, that you’ve revised and revised to make it the best you can deliver. That is my assumption. (Please don’t be one of those writers who tries to send off the first draft or who dares to think that “God gave me the words” so therefore it’s perfect as is.) Good, solid writing takes time and care.

Beyond that, here are some thoughts from my own (and many others’) experiences:

  • Everyone gets rejected. Every single famous author started out right where you are — wallowing in the misery of the “not right for us.” If you don’t believe me, here’s an article about best-selling books that were initially rejected (often many times).
  • You have to understand how many pieces these editors are seeing every single day. Sometimes hundreds. You have a lot of competition when there are a couple hundred submissions for a single spot in a magazine, or when there are hundreds of book proposals for perhaps five publication slots at an imprint of your genre for the next publication season. So don’t take it personally.
  • It could be that, although your piece or proposal is stellar, someone got in right before you with something very similar. And yours gets rejected. There’s no way you could know that.
  • Acceptance is very subjective. The gatekeeper reading your query or literary piece or proposal needs to “feel it.” They need to resonate with your topic or your voice. And if they don’t, then it will be rejected. Not because you’re a terrible writer, but simply because this particular editor just didn’t have that gut reaction. And there’s no way you can control that.
  • Rejection is about the piece, the query, the proposal — it is not a rejection of you as a person or as a writer (no matter how much it feels that way).

So how can you handle rejection? Here are a few more thoughts:

  • Allow yourself to feel bad for a bit. It does hurt. (Give yourself a day to wallow, if needed. But no negative self-talk. Remember, it’s not a rejection of you.)
  • Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to your tracking system for the next place to submit. (You do have a tracking system, don’t you? If not, create one. Make a list of all the places you want to submit to on something like an Excel doc. More on that in a later post — oh, and also in my upcoming book. <just a teaser>). What I mean is that on such a list you can now mark down that XX publication or publisher rejected it, so now turn around and send it to YY. Of course you’ll have to revise your piece, and double check submission guidelines and word counts, but get it out there again. If you really believe in it, keep trying at other places. You might hit right at the moment when they DO need just your piece and the editor DOES resonate with it.
  • You could even take an optimistic approach, like this writer, on why you should aim for 100 rejections a year (pardon the swear word in the article — but the point is valid). The basic premise is that the more you’re submitting, yes, the more you’ll get rejected, but by the law of averages, it also means the more chances you’re giving yourself to eventually be published.
  • Stay classy, don’t burn bridges with any editor or publisher, and thicken that skin.

You writers out there who have experienced rejection, how do you handle it and keep your writing sanity?

Proud of my grads

So excuse me while I get a little verklempt.

It happens to me every year, around May, you know … graduation. Every year, another set of students in whom I’ve invested for four years whatever knowledge I have to share, whatever words of wisdom I have to offer, and whatever encouragement I have to pour out on them — every year, another batch of them leaves. I wrote about this feeling back in 2015, about my annual heartache, and it has followed me every year since then.

Seriously, it feels like it did when I had to let my kids go. We parents know what it’s like to launch our children. To watch them drive away to that new job, or to hand them off in marriage, or to stand by and hold our breath as they learn the joys and frustrations of adulting.

I know these aren’t my kids, but they have definitely become a part of my life and the letting go still hurts my heart.

The Professional Writing 2022 seniors from Taylor University (oh, and me).

But here’s the deal. These folks are really special to me. They entered the Professional Writing program just as I was taking it over in the wake of some unexpected changes. They stuck with me. They offered thoughts and advice and encouragement as we worked to update the program to better prepare them (and future ProWrites) to successfully leave college and enter the work force.

And here’s another deal: They’re doing it! Four of them already have jobs in their field! I mean, job jobs. Jobs they have trained for. One of them is going on to graduate school for an MFA. The others are in interview processes that will land them shortly, I have no doubt.

They are ready.

I’m happy, I’m sad. I’m letting them go knowing that indeed that’s what I’m here for. To bring them in, train them as best I can, and send them on their way to whatever God has for them.

Seriously. I have the best job in the world.

Blessings to you Ellie, Kipp, Zach, Grant, Tarah, Alyssa, Katie, Lindsey. Go with God.

Finding Your Writing Rhythm

I’ve been thinking about my writing rhythm as I’m working feverishly to meet my book deadline (mid-May). First was getting past my imposter syndrome that plagued the early writing.

Now is, you know . . . finishing the actual book.

In mid February, when the spring semester began and I worked up my weekly class schedule, I thought I would take advantage of a free hour here and there during my work days between classes to keep the momentum going. “One hour of writing,” I boldly declared to myself in the box on the weekly printed schedule.

It has yet to happen.

There is too much else needing my instant attention in those in-between hours — whether it’s emails or grading or prep for the next class or students wanting to meet or just plain taking a breather. (As a card-carrying introvert, being “on” all day long is exhausting. Sometimes I just need to recharge in my quiet office before venturing back out in front of the classroom.)

I’ve discovered that I just can’t work on my book in those in-between hours. It takes too much for me to get going, and then, once I get going, I don’t want to stop and then have to pick up later. A single hour just isn’t enough. But give me an entire Sunday afternoon or give me a free day during our college’s spring break, and I can write for five or six hours before looking up and realizing I should go get something to eat.

Allie Pleiter (creator of The Chunky Method — check it out, it’s cool!) would call me a “big chunk writer.” There are “little chunk writers,” those folks who can pick up and write in the cracks of time between other events. Some of my students fall into that category. In the few minutes between classes, they write. Others are like me and need to find a place and a time where uninterrupted hours allow for uninterrupted flow.

Indeed, famous writers past and present have very different types of rhythms. This article, The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers (and How You Can Use Them to Succeed) by Mayo Oshin, offers up the routines of twenty of them. Stephen King tries to write six pages a day, while John Steinbeck strove for one a day. Ernest Hemingway, Susan Sontag, and Maya Angelou wrote in the mornings (it seems that for many of them, mornings are key). Ray Bradbury wrote one short story a week, figuring that, with the law of averages, at least one out of 52 would have to be good. Mark Twain wrote all day from after breakfast until dinnertime. Charles Dickens always took a three-hour midday walk.

Some need music; some need silence (I’m a silence worker). Some write at the same time in the same spot every day. Some are compulsive about page or word count, others not so much.

The point is, no rhythm is right or wrong — you just need to find yours. And granted, I’m guessing you’re not making your living writing, so you probably have to work your writing time around job and family responsibilities. It’s a challenge.

Yes, it’s a challenge, but it will be worth it!

My senior capstone students are currently reading Andrew Peterson’s excellent book Adorning the Dark (if you haven’t read it, please do!). He writes, “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write a thing” (p. 40). And all of them resonated with that statement. (And, if they think it’s tough now while in college …).

So if you’re going to make your writing life work, you need to figure out a rhythm that works for your life right now in this season. Even then, a few months from now, your life routine may change and you’ll need to readjust. But figure out something that will work for you now.

  • Decide if you can make use of small chunks of time or you need long chunks of uninterrupted time.
  • Consider the time when you’re most productive (and have time to put into writing). If you’re a morning big chunk writer with a full-time job, maybe you’ll have to use Saturday mornings. If you’re a morning small chunk writer, maybe getting up a bit earlier and putting in an hour each morning will work for you.
  • Determine if you can work amidst chaos (will the kitchen table work while folks are moving around you, or a local coffee shop?) or if you need quiet. If you need a quiet space, can you set up a work table in a large closet, or the garage, or an attic? Is there a space you can set aside where you can work?
  • Can you do chaos but with earplugs or earphones? Does music help or hinder?

Find out what works for you. Just because someone says to write X number of words or pages a day doesn’t mean YOU have to do that. But if you’re going to keep moving ahead with your writing, you’ll have to find a rhythm that works best for you.

If you’ve found your writing rhythm, what does that look like? Share in the comments below.

3 Questions for Imposter Syndrome

I feel it (almost) every day. “Imposter Syndrome.”

Defining terms:

An imposter, a fraud. Someone who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive.

A syndrome, a group of symptoms that occur together creating some kind of abnormality. Over at the U of Utah Health site, it says, “A disease usually has a defining cause, distinguishing symptoms and treatments. A syndrome, on the other hand, is a group of symptoms that might not always have a definite cause.”

Put together, one feels like a fraud because of some undefined group of symptoms with no definite cause.

The full definition, as noted by Psychology Today, is:

People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them. 

It looks like me asking such questions:

“What am I doing teaching at a college? I never trained for this! Everyone else on faculty is so much more [academic, interesting, challenging, capable, professional, creative] than I am.”

“What am I doing writing a book about publishing? Everything has already been written. How can I possibly add anything new to the mix? All the other authors [are better writers, have deeper knowledge, have stronger writing voices, can promote their books better, are already on the circuit, are more fun to be around].”

Then basically choose any other task or role, and I’ll find a way to feel like either I shouldn’t try to do it or shouldn’t be there if I am doing it … because, you know, someone else could do it so much better.

I’m not alone. Again according to Psychology Today, 70 percent of adults may experience this at least once in their lifetime. But my imposter syndrome is less about me feeling undeserving of accolades or awards (don’t currently have any to speak of); instead, it’s more about me feeling like I’m merely acting a part and, yes, someone at some point is going to find out I’m not as competent as I pretend to be and they’ll call me out.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ever feel like that?

I don’t want to feel like an imposter, even as I humbly acknowledge my shortcomings in so many areas. So I’ve learned to ask myself three questions because, as a Christian, I look not just within but outside myself as well, to my heavenly Father, for help in dealing with this negative thinking and self-doubt.

(1) Did God call me to this job or give me this opportunity?

(2) Have I sensed his clear guidance and peace in pursuing it?

(3) Do I continue to sense his presence — whether things are going smoothly or not?

If I can say yes to these questions, then I can look imposter syndrome in the face and calmly explain that I am NOT a fraud. I am not perfect, I’m still learning, I’m still striving to improve, but I’m not going to let imposter syndrome cause me to do less than my best or refuse to take risks or try new opportunities. I won’t let it stifle me or God’s plan for my life.

(Well, at least I’m going to keep trying …)

What’s that verse we all love? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). When Christ is giving me strength to do a task he has clearly called me to, then who am I to feel like I’m just an imposter?

Have you ever been inflicted by imposter syndrome? What has helped you through it? Share in the comments!

To the Old Man Working at Starbucks

You sort of stand out. Most Starbucks employees are pink-haired, nose-ringed youngsters happy to have a first job that isn’t sitting behind a desk. I can say this because my daughter used to work as a shift-manager at a Starbucks right out of college. She was not pink-haired and nose-ringed, but she was young and happy to have a job that wasn’t behind a desk. She loved that job, although a marriage and three daughters later, she has moved on to—you guessed it—a job behind a desk.

But you, sir, you’re tall and grey-haired with glasses. You’re very distinguished looking. You have on the green apron and the headset. I’m at the cash register getting my chai and watching you heat up my blueberry scone. You’re staring into the microwave window as the scone circles. There’s a lag in the activity, a rare quiet moment for you in the day of busy baristas. You’re looking in that window, but you’re not seeing anything.

Image courtesy of Annie’s Eats, Flickr

Why are you here amongst these young bouncy extroverts? Do you have this job because you have to or because you want to?

Is this a job to get you out of the house because a beloved wife passed away and being alone at home all day is just too much?

Is this a job to give you some money because social security just isn’t enough to live on?

Did you get hammered in the stock market? Did your mortgage get under water? Is the economy taking such a hit on you that you have to be here taking latté orders with a shot of this or that?

I’m sorry. I want to come around the counter and give you a hug.

I want to tell you it’s okay that it takes you a little longer to get my drink or to heat my scone. I want to tell the flurry of baristas to just slow down a little.

After all, I bet you have a story to tell. Are you a veteran? What have you seen?

Were you at the top of your game—a CEO or an academic?

Were you a solid and loyal employee for a company that repaid you by downsizing or moving away?

Why are you here?

I could ask but I just think that would be rude. But I want to hear your story.

Why are you here?

And then I think about how I’m suddenly seeing so many older people in jobs where they shouldn’t be—at the checkout line at Walmart, handing me my burger through the McDonald’s window, mopping the floor in the grocery store.

All of them are someone’s mom or dad, someone’s grandpa or grandma. What if you were my dad? What if an impatient punk lit into him for taking an extra ten seconds to gather his thoughts and count the right change? I’d wanna punch that kid.

I really hope you aren’t doing this because you have to, but I suspect that isn’t the case. I wish the economy wasn’t tanking and COVID wasn’t turning everything upside-down.

Sir, I’m not sure why you’re here. I don’t know what circumstances led you to put on the green apron and headset and heat up my scone for me.

But I appreciate you. Whatever your story is, I appreciate you.

Love Letter Legacy

I won’t sugar-coat it. Christmas this year kind of sucked. I mean, it was good to be with family, but the gathering was because we knew my mom was not going to live much longer. My family and I arrived in the early hours of her 87th birthday, December 24, and that was the last day she was somewhat coherent and knew us (a blessing in itself). She breathed her last late in the evening of December 27th (although hospice confirmed it in the wee hours of the 28th, so that is her official death date). Her obituary is here. (Incidentally, this followed on the heels of losing my mother-in-law in October and brother-in-law in November.)

The blessing side was having family together to surround her. During those final days, she was never alone (whether she knew it or not). Between dad, my sister’s family, and my family, someone was always there to talk to her, read to her, sing hymns and carols to her. She died peacefully and entered heaven’s glory. What a blessing to know that fact and rejoice even in sorrow.

In the days following the funeral as we began to help my dad adjust to his new normal, he shared lots of fun stories. This one stands out and I simply have to share it, for it is the power of the written word and letters to begin a legacy of love that, for my parents, lasted for 67 years.

The power of the written word and letters begins a legacy of love that, for my parents, lasted for 67 years.

My dad shared the story that, home from college during his senior year, he went to the local roller rink for an evening. A lovely young woman caught his eye. He finally got a chance to skate with her and was able to get her name and city: “Reva Grover, Corry” (Corry, PA). Then she went home with another guy, saying he couldn’t take her home because she didn’t know him.

But dad couldn’t forget her. So from his dorm room at college 300 miles away, he wrote her a letter, telling us that the envelope had nothing more than her name, city, and state (this was pre-zip code days). He mailed it on the truly off chance that she would ever receive it.

And thank goodness for small towns, because the letter found its way to her.

The actual letter my dad sent with only my mom’s name and her city and state because that was all the information he had. Notice the cost of the stamp (3 cents!).

My daughter went to mom’s “hope chest,” which has been in their bedroom for my entire life. Sure enough, buried beneath various memories was a box of every letter she and my dad exchanged, starting with this one. We couldn’t believe we had the actual letter!

Of course, we wondered what in the world dad had said in this letter so, with his permission, we pulled it out and read it aloud. The letter began: “9/23/54 Hi, This is going to be a shot in the dark if I ever made one.”

Then, of course we wondered what she had said in return. Finding that letter, we pulled it out and read it aloud.

My dad, leaned back in his easy chair and said upon our finishing that letter, “Well, don’t stop now!”

So began an evening reading each back-and-forth letter as my parents, having only met once, began to learn about each other. They asked questions about family and about faith. There were local Corry football scores from mom; tales of fraternity life, final exams, and chorus travels from dad. The letters became more and more frequent with Thanksgiving being their next opportunity to meet. Clearly their first official date and time together went well, for the post-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas letters become more frequent, all the while both of them counting the days until Christmas when they would meet again (on her birthday, December 24).

Clearly, they had fallen in love over the Thanksgiving holiday and knew that Christmas was going to be very special.

Dad’s college photo on the left, mom’s high school photo on the right. Left bottom is the photo of mom pinning dad’s wings on him as he graduated Air Force ROTC from Colgate University in the spring of 1955.

Indeed, another set of letters from January to May surely lays out their future (we didn’t have time to get to those letters; dad said they were probably pretty mushy anyway). That next summer, after dad graduated from Colgate University, he proposed to mom and they were married in Corry, PA, on November 5, 1955.

Mom and Dad’s wedding photo.

Before she passed away, they’d had 66 years of marriage.

During those 66 years, they had also weathered a separation for eight months while my dad served his country in Viet Nam. Also buried in that hope chest are eight months’ of daily letters back and forth between them. A future task for me is to transcribe all of those letters, along with daily entries from my dad’s journal while he was there, as a legacy for our family.

I can’t help but feel that, in the future, we’ll be missing something of our heritage for our children and grandchildren and beyond without having physical letters. While I’m sure my dating parents would have been delighted by the technology of texts and phone calls without the prohibitive long-distance charges, I’m thankful they wrote (and my mom saved) these letters. It’s a window into their story.

A story that has become my own.

I Got a Book Contract!

Hey writing friends! I just have to share some good news.

I got a contract for another book and I’m so excited.

I’ll be working again with Bold Vision Books, who published my last book titled Word by Word: An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-editing Process (you can read more about that book here).

This will be a revised and expanded version of that book–probably incorporating much of what is in the current book but then bringing in everything that a writer should be doing in the process of preparing for publication. After all, the actual writing of the manuscript is only part of the process.

So I began an outline. See what you think. What am I missing?

  • Seeking an agent
  • Seeking a publisher
  • Building (or enhancing) your social media presence
  • Self-editing your manuscript (that part I have)
  • Going to writers’ conference and what to expect
  • Writing the book proposal
  • Writing the one sheet
  • Perfecting your pitch
  • Preparing for book promotion
  • Being confident in your work
  • Handling rejection
  • Handling acceptance
  • Understanding contracts and rights

As I have attended and taught at many writers’ conferences, I have begun to realize how much knowledge of the industry I take for granted and how much most people simply don’t know. A one-stop basic book for writers just putting their toes into the publishing waters will offer them understanding and confidence as they move through the process of trying to get published.

There is a lot to unpack here. If you have thoughts about something newbie writers should know but don’t — in other words, topics I should address in the book — please comment below or write to me. I would love to hear from you.

Help me make this happen!

In Defense of Proofreader Marks

I recall it vividly. I was just out of college at my first job working for a small publisher (ETA–Evangelical Training Association that does basic books about the Christian faith). The company hired me as an assistant editor. I was green, knew nothing about the publishing industry, and very little about editing and proofreading.

(Now, after forty years in the industry, I teach everything I didn’t know to my Professional Writing students so that they don’t have the same experience I did. I want them to hit the ground running in any new job with solid understanding of what’s needed.)

But I digress.

Mind you, this was the mid-1980s. No computers and fancy Microsoft Word programs. No fun little “comments” added to Word documents. No squiggly lines on a document pointing out misspellings and potential grammatical problems.

No. This was printed galleys (long printed pages of a book on big sheets of paper) and red pens.

This was where I learned on the job.

As I began proofreading our galleys, revising a sentence to update it meant dutifully crossing out the offending sentence and then writing the revision neatly in the margin. (Thankfully, I have neat writing.) So far so good.

Deleting a stray comma meant marking out the comma, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “delete comma.”

Removing a word meant crossing out the word, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “delete word.”

Capitalizing a currently uncapitalized word meant circling the offending letter, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “capitalize.”

Two words that should be one meant circling the word, running the red line across to the margin, and explaining that “the two words should be one word.”

I’m sure you’re seeing a theme … lots and lots of red lines, lots of explanatory words.

Here’s what I remember vividly. After I had been working on my first set of galleys for several days, the office manager / editor / person-who-knew-more-than-me stepped into my office with a sheet of paper. She had seen my proofreading pages and was coming to the rescue.

She handed me a sheet of paper neatly laid out with what I came to discover were proofreading marks. A squiggle to delete. Three lines to capitalize. Carets from above or below for insertions. Sideways parentheses to close up the space between words or letters. A hashtag symbol to insert a space. She patiently explained to me that these magical marks would replace my explanatory scribbles.

Smooth, clean, easy.

I’m attaching a sheet with proofreader marks that I use in my classes. It’s free for you to download here.

And yes, I still teach my students how to read and use proofreader marks. Is that a waste of time? I don’t think so for a couple reasons:

  • Not everything is copyedited or proofread electronically (either as Word documents or PDFs). Knowing proofreader marks allows you to quickly and easily show what needs to be done if you’re handed physical copy to work with.
  • Sometimes you’ll be working with older folks who know these markings and maybe not the Microsoft Word tools. If you’re handed a physical copy with these markings all over it and it’s your responsibility to incorporate them, you’ll know exactly what to do. (I once had a student message me in a panic. He was at his internship and his boss had done just that — handed him a proofread piece all done with proofreader marks, and it was his job to incorporate the corrections into the Word document on his computer. “Can you send me that sheet of symbols?” he asked. I like to think I saved the day.)

And if you’re interested in a little fun, enjoy these “lesser-known editing symbols” courtesy of Brian A. Klems. The photo below is from his post. (And seriously, sometimes these are just what a proofreader needs.)

All credit to Brian A. Klems

So yes, I still think proofreader marks are valuable to know and valuable training for anyone who seeks to become an editor.