(My new hashtag: #GN/BN: Good news/bad news)
On Sunday, I was sipping my coffee, watching Sunday Morning on CBS, lounging with my husband, reading the paper, minding my own business. I opened up the Life section of Sunday’s Des Moines Register and screamed! My travel essay and photos from a recent trip to Panama were published in full color for God and everybody to see. I had submitted my story about 10 days before, but hadn’t heard a peep back from them so I had no idea it would be printed so quickly—or at all.
I jumped, I danced, I squealed, I Tweeted, I Facebooked, I called Mom, I called Dad, I texted family from out of town.
Then… I read the printed version, the one I wrote and knew by heart. Five hundred and six words, carefully chosen, carefully edited, carefully reviewed. But lo and behold, there were beaucoup errors! What? How could that be? Embarrassment silenced me. Half the verbs in the printed version are in past tense, half in present tense. HELLO!
My husband insisted that no one except writers would even notice. But… who else matters?
I’ve written 3 1/2 novels, all in past tense. That’s normal for me. But travel essays are often written in present tense, so I challenged myself. It’s not that hard, but it does take concentration to tell a story that happened 10 months ago in present tense. I consulted my best editor (yes, my son, @Elliott_Krause (as I now refer to him) on the finer points of non-fiction writing (he’s in the NF Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is an editorial assistant at the Iowa Review), and soon I had an essay I was happy with. Attach photos. Polite email. Send.
So the GN/BN: My essay was in print—nearly a full page!—but all those errors are so embarrassing that I don’t even want to frame my first hard-copy publication. I was ashamed that I let all those errors slip through. Shocked, even. Until I consulted my advisor again, (yes, Elliott) and he said, “Blame the paper.” I said, “I can’t do that. If I made the errors, I need to be responsible for them.” He said, “They may have transcribed it incorrectly to put it in their required format.” I said, “What? They don’t just Cut and Paste?” He said, “Probably not.” So I ran home and checked and, sure enough, my copy is clean, theirs has errors.
I can’t (won’t) complain to the newspaper editor because a writer does not want a black mark by his/her name with the local newspaper. But, still… how discouraging. What would any of you writers do? Does this happen often? How do you promote your accomplishments when someone else screws them up in the printing/publishing process? I suppose, **it happens, so you just deal with it and move on, right?
One thing I know for sure: This will not stop me from submitting a thousand more articles in the near future.