Proofreading My Manuscript

Joy is infectious.
An author explains why her absence.  It’s not what you think.

I have been not been writing for over a year, other than sending out a weekly blog.  I thought I’d written ‘The End’ for Casanova Cowboy and decided to send the manuscript to Susan Uttendorfsky one more time for proofing.

Two years earlier she had copy-edited the document and sent her comments and suggestions.  At that time, when I read through them and came to the last chapters, she made me realize that there was much more to my story than I had written.

Now that Books in Motion is under contract with me to record Rusty Springs,  the first in my Wild West series, and are interested in taking a look at Casanova, the second, it was important to send Susan the manuscript for proofing.

However, I discovered that once I began rewriting the last chapters, two years ago that I had not gone through her Track Changes and comments.  I looked for them on my computer, only to discover that they had been wiped clean when my computer crashed.

In a panic, a month ago, I e-mailed Susan.  She quickly put my mind at ease, saying, “I always save all documents I’ve edited,” and re-sent both Track Change and her edited copy at no charge.

Now I am reviewing my story with “fresh eyes,” learning so much about what works and what doesn’t.

The value of a second eye, especially one as seasoned and wise as Susan,  is one of my most valuable tools.  A great editor gives the feeling she is working with an author to improve, clarify and guide the story to the best possible read.  I notice that when my manuscript is rolling along and tension is building, that she understands what I was attempting to say, but hadn’t, and adds a sentence of her own.

I’ve never had a problem proofreading.  My first job after graduating in journalism from the University of Iowa was as a medical book editor for Mosby Publishing in St. Louis.   This was tedious, precise editing.  In the medical field, words, if not exact, can be dangerous.  One foreigner was one of my first clients.  Every sentence of his had to be re-written.  My managing editor was horrified when she found out and immediately sent the manuscript back to the author.  He approved and appreciated my diligence and complete re-write.

 I had understood what he was trying to say.   Creating is easy.   But, writing skillfully can be painful.   The end goal– to produce a ‘good read,’–  is worthy of the effort.  Thank you, Susan, for helping me be the best I can be.

So it is time now to return to work on Casanova Cowboy.  His story is really getting exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens.   (I’ve found that’s that the only good thing about neglecting a manuscript.)




Trapped in a Snow Bank

A winter story of how neighbors help each other. Or, how Bud made it after this happened to Ellensburg to talk about Indian wars in the area.

Over a stretch of a rutted back country road, driving over watery ice, the car, moving under 30 mph, catapults forward on its own accord.

It hits a snow burn, flips over, trapping us upside down in five foot of snow.  We’re twenty miles from home and twenty miles from Colville.  It’s around eleven in the morning.  We’ve seen a car in the ditch, so we’re slowing way down to see if someone might need help.

We’re on our way to Ellensburg where Bud is to be a featured speaker.  Suddenly the car explodes as if shot from a cannon, speeding off the road into the trees.  Inside the car, the greenish-gray air is deathly still.

In a calm voice, my husband asks, “Are you hurt?  Can you release your seat belt?  Can you open the door?”  I’m fine.  He appears so, too.

I stretch to retrieve my bent eyeglasses and notice puddles of snow at my feet.  No windows appear broken.  How did all this snow get in?  I am fascinated with sight of a passenger airbag.  It’s about two inches thick.  A large metal book rack has flown from the backseat and lays between us.  My husband is stuffed behind the steering trying to get to his cell phone.  No service.

“I’m thinking,” he says.  It’s unusually quiet.  Suddenly, there comes a hard sound, like someone hitting the top the car.  “Is anyone in there?” Bud asks, “Who are you?”  “UPS,” says the driver, who shovels tiny paths to the car and doors can open.  We clamber out.  “Can’t give you a ride; against the rules,” he says and rushes off.

We stand at the highway.  Bud takes a photo of the car.  Jan Fisher drives by, stops to ask, “What can I do to help?”  We answer, “Call a tow truck, please.” We know on this very icy day that even the most experienced of drivers are encountering similar conditions, that we must somehow get to Ellensburg and that so many may need a tow that we’ll be waiting here for hours.

After her, Bud’s fire chief, Mark Smith, and his wife, Siena, stop. “We’ve been slipping and sliding, too, on our way to the airport to pick up kids, but let’s see if the neighbors are home.” They take us across the road to Jan and Gordie who welcome us to their ranch, fix coffee and let us use the phone.

Capt. Andy Harbolt is now at their door.  “As soon as I check the condition of the four other drivers up the road, I’ll be back to ask dispatch to check the status on that tow truck.”

Barry St. John, a fellow fire fighter from District Ten, arrives.  “I’m here to help any way I can.  I’ll stay with you, do whatever is needed.”

By five o’clock we’re on the way to Ellensburg in a rental car, all made possible by Barry and so many other fine neighbors.  It’s the way of the West, where neighbors pitch in to help.

In all the years we’ve driven this road to town, we’ve been cautious to watch for deer or other animals, but, after this event, we’ll be especially alert in the winter for the places in the road which get little sun.  It’s a small price to pay to live in the mountains.  As the saying goes, when you’re lucky to live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough.