Monthly Archives: July 2014

Cut the Clutter


Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto


My novel in progress has received a great shot in the arm. Hiring an editor to help with the finishing process has been an enlightening and rewarding experience.  Some pages of the manuscript have few needed changes, and some have more, but each and every suggestion is thrilling. Is that an odd word choice? No. The suggestions give me goose bumps. My editor is a really good writer, and every line her pencil has drawn is an improvement. So many sentences slated for change, are ones that I struggled with and re-wrote time and time again. In some cases, I have eliminated them, making short work of the problem.

Four Stanley Cups and a Funeral, is a novel about a quest for identity, set  in a very male arena.  In a family torn apart by conflict, defined by winning and losing, a starstruck dreamer comes of age, seeking redemption. Lessons have been learned and grief has run its course. I would recommend the memoir form, or as in my case, an autobiographical novel, to anyone who wants to make sense of their life and times. While I would not venture to say the process has left me older and wiser, I can say it has left me older. The countless hours I have spent recalling snippets of dialog from loved ones who no longer walk upon this earth has left me with greater gratitude and affection than ever before.


Reading my work with the editor’s marks has taught me more about myself than I imagined it would. The editor’s skill with the language has filled me with awe. She has added better words! She told me to be judicious with exclamation points! Who could ask for more? She has also reigned in my overblown enthusiasm, my too often repeated phrases, and spiffed up idioms passed along incorrectly through the generations. Writers tend to speak of editors in glowing terms. They thank them profusely when the work reaches the published form.

You can only do so much by yourself. No matter how well you did in school, or how praised your writing has been, you may have developed appalling habits over time. I know I did. Like golfers, tennis pros, or professionals of all kinds, we can all benefit from an unjaundiced eye. Yes, a friend can proofread the manuscript, but an editor can do so much more. Don’t hesitate to seek help. If your work is accepted and another editor comes on board, so much the better. It is the editors who choose to take on the work of getting a manuscript to publications. Spare them the tedious, obvious line editing, and let them get to what they do best. I, for one, am hooked on the process.

Provocative Silence


 J.D. Salinger

 Born: January 1, 1919, New York, N.Y.

 Died: January 27, 2010, Cornish, New Hampshire

Ron Rosenbaum, of Esquire magazine when describing the solitary nature of J.D. Salinger wrote:

“It is not a passive silence, it is a palpable, provocative silence.”

My Salinger Year, by Joanna Rakoff spoke to a great fantasy of mine. While I do not read romances with shirtless men on the cover, I am not without special nooks and crannies in my imagination where the topic thrills me, and sends me off into delicious flights of fancy. What do I lust after in my heart, to quote President Carter? I want to gobble up all I can about the New York literary scene.

Joanna Rakoff, at the age of twenty-three, spent a year working at an esteemed literary agency in the heart of the best of all literary worlds. What drew me to the story right from the beginning was my abiding desire to step inside one of these establishments. My filing cabinets have folders holding rejection letters, letters expressing interest, letters asking for the full manuscript, and why I keep them all is a mystery to me. Writer’s conferences invite agents who are looking for new talent. Since they are the gate-keepers to the publishing contracts, it behooves any writer to learn something about the people who hold the keys to our kingdom. Over the years, I have learned a few things about these agencies. For one, they seem to stay in business. Two, they maintain the same address, and three, they grow in the numbers of employees. Four, they have graduate students and new-hires reading our query letters. Books on how to approach literary agents and how to seek representation are plentiful. Yet, as a voyeuristic and curious reader, I want to be right inside and sitting at the desk. Joanna Rakoff did an excellent job of putting me there. She writes about her year as an assistant, in the nineties, at the old and venerable establishment working for a woman holding the coveted post of agent for J.D. Salinger.

The period of time in my life where I gobbled every word written by Salinger, is still fresh in my mind. Rakoff, well into her time in at the agency, still had yet to pick up Catcher in the Rye. We know that Salinger is reclusive and must be protected at all costs. His agent must shield him from those who would make a pilgrimage to his front door. Rakoff has the job of answering fan letters. It has always been an accepted arrangement where a reader can write to a publisher if they want to contact the author directly. The publisher would be duty-bound to see that the mail reaches its intended recipient. Rakoff, given the standard form letter, began to veer from that, and answer letters addressed to Salinger personally. Intrigued by the emotional impact his writing has on the public, she finally reads Salinger’s work and like so many others, becomes a devoted fan.

There is such clarity to Salinger’s work that it seems he can write without effort. Of course, that is not the case. His desire to keep distractions at bay has always been admirable to me. Understandably, there are those who would disagree. It is my contention that he deserved to be able to do what he did best. Never, not for one day, did I imagine that he was not continuing to write out there in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Perhaps the last sentence from Catcher in the Rye says it all:

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”