Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude on Four Levels

     Thanksgiving––the season, the week, the day of the year for giving thanks––was made more meaningful this year by the untimely passing of a family member. 
     I returned a week ago from Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. My niece, Debbie, received a kidney and heart transplant this past August. The hours-long procedure occurred one year after the famed Mayo had fitted her with a Left Ventricular Assist Device, known as an LVAD, while she awaited the two "new" organs. Debbie was a fighter. She LOVED life, and wanted very much to have the gift of new organs to replace the cumbersome LVAD. She wanted to live the remainder of her years normally in the loving surrounds of her husband and family, and her BFF, Brinkley, her dog.
     A Delta flight on a balmy morning flew me to a crisp afternoon in Minneapolis, and from there onto Rochester via airport shuttle bus. Threshers and bailers worked the fields along the agricultural highway. I had time to focus, to gravitate, to recall times spent in gaiety and family reunion. The sun set in a beautiful mid-west sky. The air became crisper as I travelled an hour and a half south to meet news delivered in my air time that had truly "gone south."
     I flew there to be with a hope-filled family who had been, over the months, assured Debbie would walk out of the hospital on her own and live a life she'd dreamed about for years. I flew there to give support, and provide physical and mental relief. I flew there to meet the WONDERFUL Mayo staff who had worked and hovered over Debbie for all these months (years). I was where I was supposed to be, and for which I had planned weeks in advance.
     All the rosaries, novenas, Masses; all the crossed fingers, toes, and get-well cards––the prayers and wishes in all their myriad forms––were not in the Master's plan. While I was there, Debbie lost her heroic struggle. I was present for her, her parents, her children, and her beloved husband. We were there for each other in the end. We bowed our heads in prayers and tears with her last heartbeat.
     So it's Thanksgiving––the season, the week, the day for being grateful. I am grateful, and let me count (just) four ways:

I am thankful for being at the side of my family in their darkest hour.    

I am thankful to live in a country with the best medical care.

I am thankful for having been blessed with a healthy mind and body.

I am thankful for the opportunity to reset my priorities.

Today, the day I write this Blog Post, I am grateful for so many things––for everything. And I am grateful for the Prayer of St. Francis. Thank you. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Writers and Their Typewriters, #3

Personal Typewriter; Portable Typewriter Smith-Corona Classic 12 available today. Handsomely styled with sleek, modern lines, it has the solid construction, built-in dependability and advanced features that have made Smith-Corona portable typewriters the first choice of millions the world over. In excellent condition. 
Remington Letter-Riter, a portable typewriter you'll take pride in owning and pleasure in typing. It features 42 keys, and an 84-character keyboard. In good condition.
Seen in up-scale store window
 Boca Raton, FL

     Two internet classifieds among twenty-three advertising the sale of portable, personal, and in-demand typewriters. And that's just on one day, two weeks ago. Typewriters are sought after by young and old––writers, collectors, even store window designers. View this CBS News Video, Typewriter Renaissance, to see what I mean.

     I've attached the following from The John Updike Society, dated June 1, 2010, for your interest:
John Updike’s typewriter is for sale.
Christie’s Auction House has listed John Updike’s Olympia “electric 65c” typewriter with cover and metal typewriter cart as Lot Number 318 in Sale 2328, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana. The estimate for the typewriter is $4000-$6000. June 22, 2010 is the date of the auction.
The lot description dates the typewriter from 1967-68, probably purchased when Updike lived with his family in London from 1968-69 not long after he wroteCouples. Of interest is the ribbon, which passed only once and recorded a speech for a Gordon College commencement, a paragraph on writing well, a letter regarding an intro he wrote for Kafka’sComplete Short Stories, and a letter to his typist. According to Christie’s, “the typewriter was given to one of his daughters about 15 years before his death.”
Call it a case of bad timing. The Society is in the process of establishing an archive, with several collections already donated. But we’re just a little too new to have the money to purchase something like this to preserve for future museum display.  The Updike typewriter is one of two in the sale, with Jack Kerouac’s priced in the $20,000 range. But the Updike typewriter is priced in the same range as a manuscript of Walt Whitman’s, and higher than a typed and signed letter from J.D. Salinger.
UPDATE:  Christie’s lists the price realized as $4,375 for the typewriter.

I hope I've continued to pique your interest on typewriters with this third in a series (see Writers and Their Typewriters #1  and  Writers and Their Typewriters #2.)
Do you have a typewriter? How did you come by your typewriter(s)? Do you use it, or is it more of a collection item? Tell me, I'd love to know.

Friday, November 1, 2013


     Have you ever visited "Selling It" on the back inside cover of Consumer Reports? If you haven't, you really should check out an issue in a bookstore or library. "Selling It" is this publication's euphemism for "goofs, glitches, gotchas." It is monthly fodder for the proofreader inside of me. At first, I'm struck by outright laughter––talk of things gone wrong because someone failed to proofread! Then dismay settles in.
     I shake my head wondering how many customers are turned off by grammar or spelling errors. Perhaps it's naiveté that prevents a marketing department from reviewing each word in each line in detail––assuring no typographical or caption mistakes accompany a product's path to the consumer front lines.
     And it's not just Madison Avenue, manufacturers, or promoters who commit these transgressions. Banks, department stores, signage companies, grocery and drug store chains engage in the same. Good, bad, or indifferent, writing errors interfere and compete with messages. They undermine credibility and drive away customers. Costly, costly, and on many levels.

     Then there's you and me, writers of prose. Writers of poetry. For the majority of publications, authors are considered the primary proofreaders.

     Proofreading is the process of reading a text and scrutinizing all its components to find errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, illustrations, and tables. We're the ones who bear final responsibility for errors and inconsistencies in our published works. Proofreading takes time, extra painstaking time––but it pays off in the end.
     We may be tempted to proofread our own writing, but readers will spot the errors we missed. Even the best writers overlook mistakes in their own writing, and they value a fresh set of eyes to proofread their work before publication. To help mitigate this responsibility, a professional proofreader may be hired by either the author or the publisher.

     Basically, I fall back on a golden "eleven" checklist:
  • I allow for my writing(s) to simmer on the back burner for a while. When I return, I've acquired  a new perspective.
  • I use a printed copy. I can't do proofing/editing/revising on a computer screen.
  • Believe it or not, I read backwards from right to left, one paragraph at a time.
  • I take frequent breaks to remain fresh.
  • I examine one problem at a time––grammar; punctuation; spelling; redundancy; sentence cadence.
  • I've created a checklist.  Punctuation √, Grammar √, Spelling √, Redundancy √, Cadence √
  • One line at a time, I chant. I tackle one line at a time.
  • I use a spellchecker BUT recognize its shortcomings.
  • I trust my dictionary. 
  • I trust my thesaurus.
  • I ask for another set of proofreading eyes.
     Many websites and books provide guides and checklists for how to proofread or what to expect of a hired proofreader. Check out what I've provided below.
     The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
     The Writer's Essential Tackle Box
     The Copyeditor's Handbook

     Proofreading is the last chance to correct mistakes before our readers see them, and the last opportunity to make sure our writing presents the image we want.
     Don't forget: Keep CLAM and Proofread!!!!