Friday, April 20, 2007

A Memory in Red

In the wonderful little compilation book, A Complete Guide to Writing for Publication, edited by Susan Titus Osborn, there's a sentence that hits me in the gut:

"Red ink. There's something repulsive about it--"

This is how Julie-Allyson Ieron opened her essay Edit Yourself Before Someone Else Does It For You. Grabs you doesn't it? And I'll bet it brings back memories of some horrible experience you've had with a teacher, critique partner, contest judge or maybe an editor or agent. It reminds me of a letter from a young woman to her boss. The woman decided she needed to pursue some dreams so she pulled up stakes in our East Texas town and moved to Denver, Colorado. After she was settled, she wrote, telling boss man about her life in the big city. The boss sat down with her long, informative letter, and he proceeded to correct it--in red.
I saw this with my own eyes; it's true.

By the time boss man finished, her letter bled, but that wasn't the worst thing boss man did.
He mailed it back to her.
I've always wondered if he jotted a note, a smiley face, or if he just crammed it in an envelope and sent it on its way. To my knowledge, he never heard from her again.

That was 37 years ago.

I'm still wondering what she must have felt when she opened that envelope? I'm sure she expected something wonderful. Encouragement from a boss for whom she'd worked for ten plus years, news of friends, praise for making the right decision. Love.

It's true. . . there's something repulsive about red ink.

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