Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Second Experience in Publishing

The Vagaries of the Writing Process

My second experience in publishing showed me that I still had a lot to learn about the writing process.

Angered by the persistent criticism in the nation’s media of public school teachers and the public schools, I decided to write an article for the English Journal called, “Reverse the Image: Involve the Public in Reading and writing.” I had learned that when I demonstrated how our teachers taught reading and writing, and involved the audience in actual reading and writing activities, they expressed respect for the efforts of our hard-working public school teachers, who, in my experience, were doing an excellent job of teaching their students to read and to write. I decided to put my experiences in writing.

I remember coming home on a cold, rainy spring evening after an exhausting day at school. My wife greeted me with, “You had a call from Arizona. The editor of the English Journal wants to publish your article.” I was elated. “However,” she said, “you must have left out a page. He wanted to know where page 14 was. And he wants you to send it right away.”

The Mysterious Writing Process: Where Is Page 14?
I was puzzled. To my knowledge, I had not left out a page. I immediately found a copy of what I had sent the editor. I had typed it on one of the first Commodore computers. As I turned the pages, I soon realized that I had made a mistake in putting in the page numbers, which were not automatically numbered as they are today in most word processors. Somehow, I had skipped from page 13 to page 15 when numbering the pages. Still, since the article was complete, a missing page number should not have made a difference. The page numbers were simply wrong. But then, I began to read carefully. Sure enough between pages 13 and 15 was a gap, a significant gap, a missing transition that I simply had not realized I needed.

What followed was difficult. I had to write that transition between the two topics on pages 13 and 15, and I had to make it exactly one page long—page 14. Somehow I succeeded, sent the “missing” page and the article was published in the English Journal of October 1982.

I found myself marveling at the writing process. I had unintentionally left out material, but in putting in page numbers had not numbered the pages correctly. The page number I had left out proved to be the very place where important transitional information was missing from the manuscript. An interesting experience in professional writing—and in the process of writing.

Teachers can learn a lot about writing from attempting to write professionally. RayS.

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