The Typo That Got Away

Are you really, really ready to publish this book?

Are you really, really ready to publish this book?

I missed Shakespeare’s birthday celebration because I was in the middle of final, final edits.  Those of you who are writers are keenly aware of the abject horror of final, final edits. Basically the publisher says to you: “Here is your last chance to catch embarrassing typos, missing words, misplaced commas, etc.  After you sign off, your work will be paraded naked through Amazon and, if you missed anything, you will be the laughing stock of the literary world. But what do we care.  You’re not making us any money.”

And you know, don’t you know, don’t you know, that despite the many, many, many times you and your editor and the proofreader go over the manuscript, as night follows day, something will be missed.

It was . . . The Typo That Got Away!

It was . . . The Typo That Got Away!

Oh yes.  That nasty little bugger – the  Typo That Got Away – is hiding somewhere in the text, somewhere weary eyes haven’t a chance of finding him.

However, that first reviewer, oh yes, never fear.  Your first reviewer will find it.  And they’ll dangle it in front of your face as if to say –  “what kind of a writer are you anyway?”

Buy my book!  Review my book!

Buy my book! Review my book!

Sigh.  The second worst thing about final, final edits is – guess what – it’s Circus Barker time because you know if you don’t start out of the gate with 35 five star reviews well, you might as well have never written the book at all.  You’ve just frigging wasted all the years of your life you devoted to writing it.

I’m not a huge fan of Kafka but when it’s Circus Barker time I feel like I’m devolving into a giant praying mantis, sliming all my friends and colleagues.

PrayingMantis

Write me a review or else!

Beetlejuice

The Typo That Got Away

I know what.  This time I’ll do it a little differently.  I’ll offer a reward for the Typo that Got Away.  Dead or Alive. Or better yet, I’ll sell my soul to . . . Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice 

A Boy and his Monkey

WishkidMany years ago I was a volunteer for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. At that time the organization was only four years old, having been founded in 1980 in Phoenix Arizona.  (The first “wish” kid was a little boy who wanted to be a fireman when he grew up which was not likely to happen.) 

Scotty

Scott Douglas Newman, gone too soon but never forgotten

There are many ways you can volunteer, ranging from working in the office to “interviewing” the children and their parents.  Many volunteers prefer not to interview families for the obvious reasons but since I joined primarily because of my nephew, I decided not to take the easy route. I figured I knew what the families were going through.  Most of the interviewers I worked with were also the aunts or uncles of a child who’d died so I was not alone in seeking redemption.

ladyTramp

The number one wish when I worked for the Foundation was to go to Disneyland

My training was at an Italian restaurant near the Oakland Airport, one of those places with plastic grapes, checkered tablecloths and, to further set the ambiance, it was across the street from the Teamsters Hall.   The restaurant allowed Make-a-Wish to use one of their banquet rooms. They even provided platters of antipasto and soft drinks during our breaks. 

Interviewers, as we were called, always work in twos.  One questions the child while the other goes over the process and paperwork with the parents or guardians in another room. Unfortunately many adults will try to manipulate a child into wishing for something like a family vacation to Hawaii, something beyond the conception of a four year old child. So Make-a-Wish was forced to mandate that the child be interviewed in a separate room.

 The important thing was to note the child’s actual wish without making any promises.  Just to acknowledge it; to write it down.  If possible to get a second and third wish in case the first is denied.  Sometimes the wish can be very simple, for a turtle or a monkey.  The older the child, the more elaborate the wish.   

Hogan

My first Wish child wanted to meet Hulk Hogan – a true hero to Make-a-Wish.

I can still remember the pile of paperwork we were required to go through with the adults – forms to be completed by the child’s doctors, releases of liability, etc.  Nowadays it’s probably all done by computer but back then computers were in their infancy and so we arrived with a daunting pile of paper. Imagine arriving on the doorsteps of people in pain of the most unimaginable kind with a pile of papers they have to sign in order to give their child a few moments of joy. You feel like the shiny-faced harbinger of doom.

 After the interviews were complete, one of the interviewers either sent or delivered the paperwork to the main office.  Then we were assigned another case. Generally we weren’t informed of the progress of the case unless the first, second or even third wish was not approved.  Then we would have to re-interview the family which is akin to requesting a second root canal.  

AsiaSociety

From AsiaSociety

The number one reason for wish rejection was the child’s medical condition. I had one little boy with brain cancer who only wanted a monkey.  He didn’t ask for a second or third wish.  It was a monkey or nothing.  Given his fragility the doctors absolutely refused.  It broke my heart. The little boy’s family had been drawn and quartered by his illness.  His estranged parents openly argued about what the boy’s wish should be as he stood in tears.  If you’ve ever watched a little boy with visible signs of the cancer protruding from his bare skull cry, I guarantee you will never forget it.

The experience I wish I could have given that little boy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rjoRSoHsVk

Wrestlemania

My last Make-a-Wish child, a beautiful young lady, wanted to go to Wrestlemania. I never understood why until I had to fight to survive.

I lasted about five years until my marriage started to fall apart. I remember each of the kids.  One of them actually gave me the courage to change my life.

What unlikely source of inspiration gave you the courage to change your life?

Images, except for Scotty and the monkey, are courtesy of bing.com.

Cold-Bloodedness

By pure coincidence, in the last couple of months I’ve seen two movies based on Truman Capote’s life at the time he wrote the book IN COLD BLOOD: Truman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Infamous starring Toby Jones. Both excellent movies. Hoffman had the more difficult role because he had five or six inches on Capote and didn’t really look that much like him. However, he did an amazing job of capturing the angst of a writer trapped by his ambition.

Capote

The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote agonizing over what he knows he must do to get the story.

Writing about an actual crime must always bring angst. Will you get the details accurately? How will the victims be affected by what you write? No doubt there are cold-blooded writers and journalists out there who put their own ambitions above the feelings of those affected by what they publish, but, both these movies suggest Truman Capote was not one of them. However, he was keenly aware that in order to finish his book (which he called a“nonfiction novel”) the killer he’d come to know would have to die. He also knew that his book would have more authenticity if he could pry the details of the Cutter family’s seemingly random slaughter out of a death row convict. Not an easy job.  It would take Capote four years to cajole and dance his way into the man’s heart and soul until finally gaining his trust. His passion to create a masterpiece overrode any moral objections to duping someone into believing that you care about them when all you really care about is improving your story.  Of course, there’s no way of knowing how Capote actually felt but as the appeals process dragged out the execution day, he was forced to face the ghoulishness of the situation and his own “cold-bloodedness.”

Truman

I know writers who believe that this sort of ambition, this willingness to sacrifice all – including one’s self-respect – is necessary to write great fiction. I must admit when I create a character based on a real person, I shudder and stammer and fall all over myself with dread. I don’t have it in me to befriend someone just so I could expose their story to the world, even for that coveted Best Seller status. What do you think? Are there limits beyond which you will refuse to go?  Or, in the pursuit of art are there no limits?