writers

My Desk

A short, true story, by author Helen Pugsley.

 

I had the stupendous and rare fortune of purchasing my mentor’s home, The Nest, as she named it. June Wilson Read and I shared the only town I want to live in all through my childhood. She has helped me in all things writing since I began. Being in her 80’s she wanted to move closer to family. With her home came her desk. A door laid across two wooden filing cabinets.

“I’m so happy you’re the one getting my house!” she said, “And my writing desk!”

I grinned through that last part. I was and am madly in love with the sun-drenched cottage but as soon as a replacement could be found I had every intention of throwing the door down a ditch and stacking the filing cabinets on top of each other to save on floor space. I could use one of the nice metal desks my family keeps in the garage until I got the guts and finances to purchase an antique roll-top!

But winter came…

First, my mother said, “You’re going to trade wood and good memories for cold steel?!”

Being porous, wood absorbs a lot of things. That’s why I won’t use wooden cutting boards. As well as beef blood I hope wood sops up talent! “Ack! Fine. I don’t feel like moving the heavy summagun anyway,” I reasoned to her.

Next, there was going to be a washer dryer set there, right in my dining room.

“But Dad! Actually having a desk will keep me from writing in bed!” A terrible habit. Guess where I penned this?

“You should really quit doing that! But find somewhere else. The washer and dryer will go here.” You can’t argue too much when someone is financing the labor and the appliances.

However, the contractor inadvertently took my side. “A water line on an exterior wall? Are you crazy?!” The huge, rectangular window is amazing for gleaning enough natural light to write by until twilight. It is not so great for keeping water lines above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A stackable apartment sized washer/dryer will now set next to my oven.

When she left she handed me a pile of pelts. June was truly a Wyoming woman. Not knowing what else to do with them, I set them in one corner of the desk in a neat pile with an axe. Later, the axe got moved to my bedside.

A short while ago a neighbor of mine wanted some kittens. In a week she discovered she was horribly allergic. So now Iris and Wilhelm live with me. When they’re not in their heated bed they like to sleep in the pelt pile on my desk. I like to think of it as the kitten annex.

Even newer than the kittens is a kitchen chair I picked up at a second-hand shop for under $10. The silk seat is perfect for resting my feet on when I’m feeling rebellious. I sit with my tooshy on the desk and a notebook in my lap.

One day my mother and I got to looking at the door-desk very carefully and realized it’s probably my closet door. It is literally a part of my home. I can’t just throw it down a ditch! Not when the empty door knob socket is perfect for stringing a laptop cord through! And how could I when that desk is where June Wilson Read penned most of her book, Frontier Madam?! Maybe parts of Whistle Creek and Other Wyoming Tales. Also a score of unpublished works she tells me she keeps in a trunk. How could I throw it down a ditch?! That’s my desk!

 

About Helen

Helen M. PugsleyHelen comes from a small town of twenty in eastern Wyoming. She has been passionate about writing since she was small. Helen enjoys traveling and is always thrilled to excite friends with tales of playing music on the streets for money, conversing with the drunks who frequent gutters, and the epic struggle of finding a decent bath when living in a car. Visit her on Facebook‘s War and Chess page!

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Arguing With Your Editor

You’ve written that last sentence and completed the manuscript you have been working on for seven years. You submit to your dream publisher and a few days later you get THE publication offer. Dreams do come true!

The email comes from your editor with some details about the contract, royalties, information about cover design and the sentence, “I made some notes.”

Notes, of course, you think, I must have missed a few typos. Still on your high from all the wondrous things happening you open up the attached manuscript with “some notes” and need to blink a few times.

RED.

RED EVERYWHERE.

Are you sure about this title?

Her green emerald eyes stared up at me from the pillows on the floor. (How did they get on the floor?)

My heart stopped. cliché, get creative!

 

My advice to you at this moment: Breathe. Read the comments. Then, read the comments again. Sometimes there is praise amidst the notes, comments and corrections!

Editors are not out to destroy you work. In my experience it is never our intention to do so. The reason we offered you a contract is because we saw a spark of genius in what you sent us. We want the book(s) to succeed just as much as you do, so make sure to review all comments with an open mind before discarding the changes or the comments.

There will be some instances where you want a particular sentence to stay where it is. Instead of demanding that it stay there, support your reason why it needs to be there. Occasionally, a great sounding line just isn’t properly placed, or needed. If you can’t defend the line’s necessity, reevaluate if it really adds anything to the story. Get familiar with the: Kill your darlings phrase. Does another line before or after this absolutely gorgeous line say the same thing? Does it paint a picture, or tell us what is happening? Editing is not just typos, grammar or elimination of overly used adverbs. It comes down to the nitty-gritty of the plot, character development, believability.

Make sure to pick your battles – and this goes for the editors out there, too! For example, I dislike the Oxford comma. I’ve had writers who LOVE the Oxford comma. Is it grammatically incorrect either way? No. Will I delete every comma and tell them it can’t be in there? No. I pick my battles.

I battle when I know the author has more in them then: The handsome man turned and stared at her. What do you mean by handsome, how was he staring? Or maybe the timeline doesn’t add up enough – and changes need to occur there. The note I most often make, is when a character starts losing his/her voice – a gentle reminder to the author to strengthen that character so he/she doesn’t fade into the background is something I’ll fight for as an editor. But if, as an editor I make changes and alter the voice into something not like the character – the author should say something, kindly so that we can assess the situation.

Open lines of communication are essential. Writers, this is your story and the editors want you to tell it. But choose your battles – the comma in paragraph four on page ninety-four is not the end of the world, normally. But if it is, be able to defend it!

 

(House style may trump the writer, so make sure to discuss that with your editors.)

Keep your wits about you as you enter into the editing process, it is long and grueling, and your only ally is your editor.

 

 

Corinne can be reached at AndersonEditingServices@gmail.com

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.