you ever felt as though you don’t fit in with some of the people in
this profession, that no matter what you do, others tower above,
staring down long, judgmental ski slopes at you?
If you have, I understand. I,
too, am one of those folks. In fact, I recently told a friend, “We’re
working a tough crowd here, sister.”
And it seems it’s been this way
my whole life. Very few people “get” my sparkling personality.
This had never carried over into
the writing world, though, until recently, when I received several
comments on one of my stories.
In one particular manuscript, my
protagonist calls someone a “heifer,” and a “salty old ham,” (both in
interior monologue). I honestly didn’t think anything about these
comments because as a child, my best friend’s mother dubbed me with the
nickname “heifer” (I ate like a cow and looked like a fencepost). As
far as “salty old ham,” well, I made it up for someone with a snarky
personality, like moi, so I never associated either
with anything negative.
Anyway, the individual who read
my work found my wording abrasive for the Christian market, said I
should tone things down a bit, and informed me I should be more
Ahem . . . I thought I was
So I decided to take the matter
up with my husband. I’d like to think I’m not above correction if need
be (insert laughter here), so I asked his advice.
I tucked my manuscript under my
arm, walked into our office, and found him at his desk. “Honey, do you
think I’m abrasive?”
Usually, he would stay glued to
the monitor in front of him and toss me a verbal bone. This day,
however, he whirled around.
A sly grin tugged at the corners
of his mouth. “You’re kidding me, right?”
Things were not looking good for
the home team.
I perched my hands on my hips. “Honey,
He rubbed his chin. “Well, you
do come off that way, Deb—”
“To people who don’t know you.”
Oh, that’s better.
I slapped my manuscript on his
desk. “I quit.”
Did I mention I was bucking for
the Academy of the Year award?
He held up his hand. “Whoa,
what’s going on here?”
I pointed at my retired papers.
He picked up my manuscript,
looked at the title, and said, “I already did.”
“Read it again . . . please.”
While he scanned the pages, I
paced behind him. Soon after, he started laughing.
“Oh, great. You think it’s bad,
He swiveled back around in his
chair. “What are you talking about? It’s hysterical.”
I jabbed my finger toward the
manuscript. “My language. Didn’t you read the comments?”
His eyes went wide, and he
flipped through the papers again. “Where?”
God bless his heart. Have I ever
mentioned how much I love him?
I leaned over his shoulder and
found the line where my protagonist calls someone a “heifer” and stuck
my finger on the paper. “There.”
Then I flipped to the page
referring to “salty old ham.” “And right there.”
He looked up at me, fire in his
eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Who told you this?”
I studied my blue-eyed,
silver-haired knight in shining armor.
clutched my work in his hand. “This is abrasive?
Better tell them not to read Song of Solomon. They might have a
I folded my arms and nodded. Sic
“Unbelievable,” he said, “For you,
I tapped my foot. “Amiable?”
I threw my hands in the air.
“Exactly! But what am I supposed to do? Write the woman a letter and
tell her every gruesome detail of my past?” Then I paced some more. “Do
I have to tell others where I come from so they’ll get who I am?”
God knows your heart, so
you keep writing.”
I huffed. “I don’t want to
anymore.” And puffed. “I’m tired of trying to make friends with these
people. I’m tired of feeling as though others don’t like me.”
around, I went for lap
two. “You know, this profession is the pits. What was I thinking when I
got into this business? I’m done.”
Yeah, right. Like I’d never eat
chocolate pudding or Texas cake again, either, but I knew in that
moment I’d graduated from heifer to bull, and I was ready to charge.
My husband held out his arms,
the brave man. “I like you.”
How dare he talk nice to me when
I wanted to hurt somebody?
He smiled. “In fact, I love
Crumbling, I walked over and
fell into his arms, realizing I needed to order some cheese and
crackers to go with my whine—all because of words.
Several months later, I decided
to write on this very topic. Before I submitted my manuscript, though,
I asked my husband to read it for me.
After he finished, he stared at
the monitor. A puzzled look crossed his features.
My eyes darted between him and
the computer. “What?”
“Nothing. I’m just thinking.”
I’d seen that look before, and
the man wasn’t just thinking. “What’s wrong?”
I held up my hands. “What?”
“This doesn’t sound like your
usual work. You sound kind of angry.”
I eyed the clock—fifteen minutes
before my deadline—and shook my head. “No, I don’t. I sound like this
all the time.”
No sooner had I hit the SEND
button, I felt “submission remorse.” I didn’t know why at the time, but
something bothered me. And it wasn’t because my sweetheart thought I
came across angry. Was it?
No. It wasn’t.
A few days later, we sat in the
office talking. “It’s still bugging me about my submission,” I said,
fingering my lip. “Are you sure you don’t think the word heifer
His chair squeaked as he turned
around. “No, I . . . I just thought of something.”
“What if the person who made
those comments had weight issues? It would hurt
Now the man tells me.
My eyes widened. “I never
thought of that.”
And I couldn’t stand to think I
might have hurt somebody.
I fired up my computer and
reread the article. I cringed. Not only did I think it would hurt
someone’s feelings, I did come across angry. You know, as if I was
standing on top of some judgmental ski slope or something, beating
those below me with a big stick.
I e-mailed my publisher, asking
if I could send a revised version. And do you know what she said?
Well, the answer was obviously a
gracious “yes,” or you would have been reading an entirely different
article right now. Whew.
Oh, the word heifer
will not remain in my manuscript. I’m not sure about “salty old ham,”
since it deals strictly with attitude, but I’ll shelf it for now.
And in the future, I’ll consider
the words of others when they comment on my manuscript.
Ain’t life grand?