Their, They’re, Deer! Its Going to Be Allrite (Or, Have You Hugged Your Editor Today?) by Beth Brooks

Have you called your editor lately? Did she sound all right to you?

I don’t know. Did she sound funny, maybe? Or has she been acting weird? How about her email? I mean, are her messages shorter or something, even when you’ve met your deadline?

When was the last time you saw her in person? Really? That long ago? Hmm.

No! No reason. It’s just that. Well, I’ve been doing a little checking, and I think there’s something strange. Hang on a sec. Yes, I’ll have the spinach salad with the balsamic vinaigrette. Just water with lemon, thanks.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, that’s right. See, a couple of days ago I ran into that woman who spoke at our meeting last month – you know the one I mean, right? The one who just got her first book published. What’s her name, with the hairdo? Yes, that’s her, poor thing. Anyway, she was so upset she was practically crying right there in the lobby. I was standing there, patting her on the shoulder and handing her tissues to blow her nose. I thought for sure somebody had died, or something. But it turns out it was just her editor! What? No! Her editor’s not dead, who said her editor was dead? She’s just leaving, that’s all. Friday’s her last day.

That’s just it! She’s not going to another publisher. She’s out. Totally out of the business! Said she just can’t do it any more. Would you believe it, she’s actually going to teach school. High school English, of all things.

I swear! High school English! Can you imagine? All those years, working her way up the ladder, slogging through whatever dreck slid off the other editors’ desks – I couldn’t feed my dog on what they pay assistant editors. She finally makes it to the big time, and Bam! She throws it all away to teach basic sentence structure to teenagers. I mean, what is she thinking?

I know! But you know what the weirdest part is? Well, Hairdo said this is the second time it’s happened to her in the last year!

I guess she was working with a freelance editor on some of her other stuff, articles and things, when he just one day sends her this email message that he’s not taking on any more work. Turns out he’s going back to school full time to get a teaching certificate. She asks him, isn’t this kind of a step down for you financially? And you know what he says?

Oh, hang on. Here comes the waiter again. Thanks, we’re all set for now.

Anyhow, this freelance editor guy tells her that, even though he won’t be making as much money, he thinks he can make more of a difference as a third grade teacher than he ever could as an editor. And, he says, he thinks he’ll have more fun doing it, too! Can you believe it?

Me, too! I thought it was so bizarre that I started asking around. I posted an email to that online writer’s group I told you about, remember? And I called a couple of people from the conference last year, you know, just to check? Know what I found out?

Well, don’t tell anybody else, but I think there may be some kind of neurological disorder or syndrome going around that just affects editors. Because eight separate people told me that they had editors quit on them in the last year – and six of those editors are teachers now.

The other two? Oh, well, one of them won the lottery and moved to Mexico. And nobody really knows what happened to the other one. One day all her clients got this letter saying that so-and-so was no longer in business and that they should contact her son if they had any questions. The guy who told me about it says he was actually relieved, because her comments were getting pretty sarcastic at the end.

But don’t you think that’s too many to be a coincidence? Eight editors – eight – chucking their entire careers like that to go teach school? I mean, there has to be something wrong with them, don’t you think? Some kind of delusional virus or hallucinatory episode thingy, maybe? Why else would they get the urge to go teach Freshman Composition, of all things?

As if! Do you honestly think it makes a difference how they teach writing in elementary school?

Oh, please! Teachers have nothing to do with it. Ick! Just the thought of Miss Everhardt, and all those grammar rules she wanted me to memorize back in sixth grade- I get the shivers! You know, all that stuff about mixed modifiers, and metaphors, and outlines. It just gets in the way of the creative process, you know? I say writers should worry about telling the story, that’s all, and leave all the nitpicky stuff to the spellchecker. That’s what it’s for, right? And then the editor’s job is easy! You know, I think most writers would say they had to forget what their teachers taught them about writing before they could become successful.

What do you mean that might be the point? I don’t get it.

Me? No, not yet. But I’m not giving up. I just have to find the right editor, that’s all. One that appreciates my style, you know? I know there’s one out there that’s looking for me.

I just hope she buys my book before she gets the virus, you know?

Beth Brooks is chief cook and bottle washer at Paraphrase, Inc., a little company that offers writing and editing services to anyone in need of words that WORK. When not lurking in restaurants to find new material, she can be found at her keyboard or with her husband, two kids, the dog, and the fish.

Beth Brooks Copyright 2003


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