June 5, 2008


The editor’s words stick in my memory.

“I don’t care what your background or education is. All I care about is, can you write?”

I sat quietly as he speed-read the best work from my published portfolio, what I realized later were three poorly written articles. Looking up, he spoke.

“How many articles can you give me each month? Six? Eight? How many?”

Paul’s imposing physique and production demands took me off guard, making me shrink back. I’d only come into the office to see if the paper had coverage of a local human service conference I was attending. What he was asking was more than a staff member might do, and I was merely a freelancer. Furthermore, I wasn’t prepared to jump into a demanding writing job, since I was recovering from our recent move to his county.

My “field” wasn’t journalism, although I liked to write. During the five years I lived in Jamestown, PA, I wrote for the Record Argus in Greenville. The previous freelancer, Norma Leary, wanted to cut back and welcomed me aboard to replace her. Later, I began writing regularly for the Meadville Tribune in Meadville, as well. Both edited my material some, but to improve my work I had to compare my submitted article with the published product, which I rarely did due to time constraints.

While my first editors provided me the opportunity to enter the published writing arena, Paul, provided me with the opportunity to learn journalism from the inside. He required me to bring my “finished” draft to the office, and sit with the editors doing the final edit on my piece. We worked it through together until it was publishable to their higher writing demands. This process continued with the two editors who followed him, and it improved the quality of my work, making it a successful teaching avenue.

Paul must have seen something in my writing that impressed him. I was the only “stringer” required to be with the editor during the editing process.

It was often fun. Jerry, the third editor, often didn’t like my choice of a certain word, just because he didn’t like that word. He always apologized, offering me the option to keep it.

To me, it rarely mattered. I’d respond, “Change it, just send me the check!”

In editing one article Paul suggested a word I’d used might be beyond the scope of the county readers. “But what about the educated readers?” I asked. “Don’t you think they deserve some respect too? And don’t you think it might challenge the occasional underachiever?” The word remained in the article and thereafter I included one “challenging” word in each submission—with no further arguments.

When I filled in for a typist on vacation one year, I was handed work from other stringers. I realized I was editing it as I typed it, and told Ed, the third editor I worked under. He told me to continue to do so, which I took as a compliment. He enhanced that compliment on several occasions when he asked me to edit his work.

One year I determined to submit an article a week. It was hectic, and more than the staff was doing, but I pretty near succeeded. However, I was a productive stringer while working with these three editors, submitting columns, feature articles and even feature photographs.

Later, when the situation changed so I no longer sat with the editor, the newspaper published an article I submitted. Thus, I was unable to catch the following editing error.

I’d submitted the following quote: “My father found a lot in the community and built a cabin.” The editor took the words out of the quote and wrote: His father founded the community. The man whom I had interviewed, and other community residents, were so upset at the error that I had to show them the copy I’d submitted.

Because of the nurturing and one-on-one relationship with the three newspaper editors, I was able to develop my writing skills. This was evidenced when, after approaching a local magazine asking if I could submit an article, I was told that since I had worked at this particular newspaper, she didn’t have to worry about my writing. When I turned in my article, I was complimented on my work.

The confidence I gained from these close working relationships enable me to move in different directions, including facilitating the Beanery Writers Group and its activities, the Beanery Online Literary Magazine and hard copy publications.

This is the legacy left to me, a lowly stringer, by her editors. 

Thank you for visiting my writing site. For additional reading, click below:







DAVID Part 1 of a 10 Part Romance Story

DAVID Part 2 of a 10 Part Romance Story


1 Comment »

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    Pingback by Writers calls for submissions, competitions adn events. April 7, 2009 « Beanerywriters’s Weblog — April 9, 2009 @ 4:10 am | Reply

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