Last weekend I went to the John Marshall Media studios in Manhattan where I recorded the audiobook for “Don’t Sniff the Glue: A Teacher’s Misadventures in Education Reform.” I’m normally not starstruck, but then I saw the audiobook cover for Harry Potter–I snuck a picture, imagining myself using the very same microphone as Dumbledore himself. Magic!
I learned a ton about audiobook production and I had fun. I had so much fun I’ll keep writing so I can record again.
So, life was good–flowers in bloom, birds singing and flying around the heads of Disney characters, all of whom were holding copies of my paperback…
Someone found The First Typo.
Note to authors and future authors: If you can’t get your editor to find all your mistakes, you can always hire your mom. Or my mom. When kids mess up, moms are the first to notice. That’s why they should all be editors. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that earlier.
I did have an editor, mind you–a freelance one, not my mom, back before I knew what I should ask an editor to do and what a craft editing really is.
Since then, I’ve seen Dumbledore-level magic in action as one of the best editors on the planet transformed some of my writing. Having her touch something I wrote is the nerd equivalent of meeting Einstein or an aspiring musician running into Sir Paul, Sir Elton, and Sir Mix-a-Lot in the same deli.
When I put her edits next to my draft, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. I said “Wow,” quite out loud savoring each word she added or deleted which shifted my sentence from good to heavenly.
Each edit was simple. “I should’ve seen that!” I thought. Head smack.
Of course I never would have seen that, which is why I didn’t write it that way the first place. It’s why she’s magic and I’m suntanning in the magic so I can learn to turn cadaverous clauses into runway bronze.
“No, I don’t write,” she said. “But I know what should be written.”
Editing is an entirely different craft. Done well, the beauty of the written word shines through in a way so subtle the reader never knows it’s been touched.
I’ve discovered when an editor says “Good job,” in a day or less, it probably isn’t a good job. It’s the kind of room cleaning situation where any mom would send you back to do it again.
That’s why editors should all be moms. Maybe a tough dad or two, but nobody catches “You missed that sock under your bed,” “You didn’t dust,” or even “I know you didn’t do your homework properly,” like a mom. Moms find that needle in a haystack, the lost soccer sock minutes before the game, or the autocorrect disaster waiting to sneak through spellcheck and attack a million readers.
It’s the nature of being a mom. If moms didn’t attend to the details, the world would fall apart.
My author friends laughed… “Yup.”
Glitches are part of the new author learning curve. I’m happy to provide entertainment as I learn the ropes. Learning is a stretch of the mind, mistakes–part of the growth.
One thing I wrote about in Don’t Sniff the Glue was that schools often talk about learning stretches, but we then judge using high-stakes instruments. This makes students and educators fear taking chances.
Fear is the opposite of growth.
Instead of exposing ourselves to learning opportunities, and saying “Yes, I will,” we duck and cover so we can look perfect, because the stakes are that high.
Writing and releasing Don’t Sniff the Glue was a learning stretch for me, and the mental payoff’s been huge. The things I’m learning will make my next book better, the process smoother, and allow me to help others who are now where I was.
If I ever thought I was going to be evaluated on my writing, or that my ratings could end my career–like happens in schools these days–I never would’ve started this journey. Sure, the universe speaks to authors–Amazon stars, reader comments, emails–those are gifts of feedback I’ll use to shape my writing and improve. I’m humbled and grateful. It’s quite the opposite of a high-stakes evaluation or test.
I want schools to operate like editors so we feel, “Wow, I never would have seen that–my vision has changed.” We’ll relax, we’ll collaborate, we’ll be creative. Schools will be about learning again, not gaming the system or election-year education policy debates that really do affect our schools–and not always in the way the candidates intend.
Meanwhile, my mom’s retired. If you want her to copy edit your manuscript, she probably will.