Author Talk (Part 1)

Last Friday, I participated in an authors forum, or “talk,” during which the moderator asked seven or eight questions of the three of us who were on the platform. For the benefit of any readers who were unable to attend and might be interested in knowing my responses, I’m summarizing two of them here and will address two others in a later post.

  1. What influenced you to write?

The initial impetus was my frustration as a second-year teacher with students who were unwilling to exert an effort to learn. As a form of therapy, I vented my frustrations on paper. After getting home from a particularly trying day in the classroom, I wrote of the problems I faced and then read the results to my wife. After I had done that repeatedly for several weeks, my wife tired of hearing it. She said, “Either submit it to someone for publication or–whatever! Just don’t read it to me again!” That hurt my pride and challenged me to submit it to The Freeman, the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education. Much to my surprise, the editor accepted and published it as “Help Wanted: Laborers.” More recently, my first book, Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries, was the result of a desire to know about the subject and the inaccessibility of information on it. The most recently published book on the subject was written more than 70 years ago, and I thought that it was time that more recent findings were pubLished in one source. The publisher, McFarland, agreed. (I wish that more readers would, too!)

2. What has been your greatest joy in writing?

It’s always good to find a check in the mail and to see one’s byline on a book cover or magazine article. But I must admit that my greatest joy in writing has been learning that something I have written has been a blessing or help to someone. To hear someone say, “I really enjoyed that article” or “I learned something from your work” or “That really encouraged me just when I needed it most” makes all the research and writing efforts worthwhile. One particular incident especially encouraged me. I was walking back to my office when I was a textbook author, and I happened past a young Korean college student who was eating her lunch al fresco. Just as I passed her, she glanced up and said, “Hello, Mr. Peterson.” Surprised that she knew my name, I stopped, turned around, and returned her greeting. “How do you know my name?” I asked. She explained that she long had wanted to be a teacher, and one of her high school teachers had read all of my articles that had been in Journal for Christian Educators, translating them for her until she could read them in English for herself. Such encouragement, and the prospect of helping some other young teachers, led to another of my books, Teacher.

Next time: Answers to the questions Where do you get ideas? and Why have you not entered genres like drama, fiction, or poetry?

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

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Sandwich Day?

I’m calling today “Sandwich Day.”

Not because I’m planning to have a sandwich for lunch or anything like that, but because this post comes smack dab between two of the most important events in my life–with another important event occurring just a few hours after I post this.

Yesterday is like the top slice of bread on the sandwich. On October 12, 1979, my wife and I witnessed (well, I witnessed, she delivered!) the birth of our first child, Rachelle Joy. She took her good old easy time coming into this world. A knock at my classroom door about 11:30 a.m. and a whispered message from the school secretary interrupted the history class I was teaching and sped me to pick up my wife and rush¬† her to Grandview Hospital in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. I missed lunch and supper that day. Missed breakfast the next morning, too. In fact, I missed sleep in between days. We were still waiting on Rachelle to make her grand entrance. Finally, about 24 hours after I had left the classroom, the doctors decided that it was time (although Rachelle apparently didn’t agree). They did a C-section, forcing her to enter the world. She grew up enjoying action, doing, athletics, etc., more than book learning. Now she has a child of her own and is experiencing what we experienced when she was growing up, learning first hand just how active a little one can be!

Tomorrow is like the other slice of bread on the sandwich. It marks another significant event. On October 14, 1982, our second daughter, Elissa Cheri, was born. She was a “scheduled” baby, meaning that we actually got to select the exact date and time she would be born since her delivery was also by Caesarean. With a quiet, unhurried delivery, it was no surprise to us that she grew up as one of the quietest and most laid-back of our four daughters. She was our reader, and yet she chose one of the most demanding college majors and one of the most demanding careers–nursing. She now has two little ones who keep her active enough. She probably gets no more sleep now than she did when she was studying nursing.

Sandwiched between those two events of the past is the “meat” of the sandwich, the present, the immediate. Today I will be participating in the BJU Homecoming Author Talk and Book Signing. The forum, moderated by Dr. Ray St. John, begins at 2:00 p.m. in Levinson Hall. The book signing will be from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. There will be a lot of different things happening on the campus, but I hope to see many of you there. I’d enjoy having you stop by.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Happy B’day, USNA!

Somehow, in our sports- and entertainment-crazed society, a lot of people think only of football (specifically the Army-Navy game) when they hear the words U.S. Naval Academy. They are woefully mistaken. The athletic competition is merely a tool in reaching the overall goal of the Academy: to produce Navy and Marine officers “of competence, character, and compassion.”

The U.S. Naval Academy is a four-year undergraduate college program from which graduates come out with B.S. degrees and commissions as either ensigns (Navy) or first lieutenants (Marines) and give at least the next five years of their lives in military service to their country.

The U.S. Navy was born during the War for Independence when the colonies, without a navy to speak of, were pitted against the might of the world’s greatest naval power. When peace came, the Navy languished until 1794, when George Washington revived it to combat piracy. The first ships of the new navy were launched three years later, in 1797. They were the United States (which was broken apart and its wood sold in 1865), the Constellation (now a museum piece in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, not the original but built from some scraps salvaged from the original), and the Constitution, the oldest warship still afloat.

 

George Bancroft, historian and Secretary of the Navy, was instrumental in establishing (without congressional funding!) the Naval School in Annapolis on October 10, 1846. It was renamed the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850.

According to the USNA web site, notable graduates of the Academy include

  • a president (Jimmy Carter)
  • 3 cabinet members
  • 19 ambassadors
  • 24 congressmen
  • 5 governors
  • 5 Secretaries of the Navy
  • a Secretary of the Air Force
  • 5 chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • 29 Chiefs of Naval Operations
  • 9 Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps
  • 54 astronauts

To me, however, the greatest testimony of the effectiveness of the U.S. Naval Academy’s educational program is the fact that 73 of its graduates have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

This is one land lubber who appreciates all that the Navy does for us in protecting our shores and our liberties. And the U.S. Naval Academy has played a huge part in their work. If you know a Navy veteran or a graduate of the Academy, express your thanks to them.

[Reminder: I will be participating in the Author Forum and Book Signing during the BJU Homecoming and Family Weekend on Friday, October 13. The forum will be held at 2:00 p.m. in Levinson Hall. I hope to see many of you there. ]

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Three Historic Events

The fact that George was awarded his first patent at the age of 19 should have been an indicator that he would achieve great things. That was only the beginning of a string of George’s inventions, and they should have left no doubt in anyone’s mind.

George became a celebrated rival of the great Thomas Edison, pioneering in electrical research. He developed a system based on alternating current. Edison favored direct current. This made George and Edison rivals. But George was intrigued by trains, too. He got a patent for a rotary steam engine. At age 21, he invented a “car replacer,” a device to get railroad cars back on the track after they had derailed. Then, shortly thereafter, he invented a “reversible frog,” a device to be used with a railroad switch to guide trains from one track to another.

But perhaps his greatest invention came as a result of tragedy. George witnessed a head-on collision between two trains, the engineers of which could see each other but could do nothing to stop in time. That tragedy prompted George to conduct experiments that led to his inventing the air brake, a device used on locomotives and heavy trucks even today. His invention has saved untold numbers of lives over the years.

George Westinghouse was born on this date, October 6, in 1846.

On this same date seventy-seven years later, one Philadelphia Philly, Cotton Tierney, was on second base. Another Philly player, Cliff Lee, stood on first. And a third Philly, Walter Holke, was in the batter’s box with no outs. Holke smashed a line drive toward the Boston Braves’ second baseman, rookie Ernie Padgett, who was playing in only his second major league start. Padgett caught the liner just above the dirt for one out, stepped on second to double up Tierney, and then chased down and tagged a startled Lee for the third out. It was the first unassisted triple play in National League history.

Only 14 other players in all major league history have done what Padgett did. It’s a feat that is even rarer than a pitcher’s hurling a perfect game, when no player reaches base by any means.

There have been seven unassisted triple plays in the American League, seven in the National League, and one during a World Series (by the Cleveland Indians of the American League). Eight unassisted triple plays were by shortstops, five by second basemen, and two by first basemen. In every case, the player caught a hard-hit line drive, touched the closest bag, and then tagged the runner coming from the previous base.

I’ve always thought that a well-executed double play is the most beautiful play in baseball. Maybe I would change my mind if I ever witnessed a triple play.

And finally, some food for thought: On this date in 1893, the National Biscuit Company (better known as Nabisco) introduced a tasty new invention–cream of wheat!

Safe trains, a close baseball game, and cream of wheat for breakfast–what more could one want? All of this (and more) on one day in history.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Announcement: Author Forum and Book Signing

I have been invited to participate in the Author Forum and Book Signing activity during the 2017 Homecoming and Family Weekend, October 12-14, at Bob Jones University. The Author Forum will be held on Friday, October 13, at 2:00 p.m. in Levinson Hall on campus.

The Author Forum will be moderated by Dr. Ray St. John of the English Department. (I am not sure which other authors will be participating in the forum, but I will post that information as soon as it becomes available to me.) From 3:00-5:00 following the forum, authors will be at their respective book tables to interact with visitors. I would like to invite any friends, fans, or blog followers who are in or will be visiting the Upstate of South Carolina during that time to stop by and say hello. I will be featuring two of my books: Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (McFarland, 2016) and Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught (2017). They will be available at special Homecoming prices.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.

The Greatest Comeback Yet

The subject of today’s post is perhaps one of the best examples of the truth of the adage “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” Or, in the words of the great and eloquent philosopher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

On July 4, 1914, the hapless Boston Braves were in last place among the eight teams in the National League. That was not unusual, and no one was surprised. For the previous several seasons, the Braves had fought tenaciously for last place. The previous year, 1913, they had had a phenomenal year (for them), finishing fifth with a record of 69 wins and 82 losses. So no one was surprised by where they were (last place) on July 4, 1914, with a record of only 26 wins but 40 losses.

Things had gone wrong for the team from the start of the 1914 season. They had won only 4 of their first 22 games. They were so bad that in an exhibition game against their Buffalo minor league club they lost 10-2. At one point early in the season, they reached their low point at 12-28, 16 games below .500.

The Braves had only one player in 1914 who is widely known today, and his career was even then beginning to wane. Johnny Evers had become a legend with the Chicago Cubs as the hinge on the double-play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. But the Cubs had traded Evers to the Braves. Evers and his middle infield teammate Rabbit Maranville still made a formidable double-play team as Braves, leading the league in double plays in 1914, but it was a short-lived combo.

Something happened to the Braves in mid-July, however, and they went on a tear, ripping apart just about every team in the league and climbing steadily in the standings. They hit first place on September 8 and never looked back. They won 68 of their final 87 games and 25 of their last 31. They were never flashy or overpowering; they just got hits and scored runs when they counted most. They finished the season with 95 wins and 59 losses, 10 1/2 games ahead of John McGraw’s vaunted New York Giants, who were led by the pitching great Christy Mathewson and were the odds-on favorite to take the pennant.

Heading into the World Series, the Braves faced the powerful and impressive Philadelphia Athletics, led by the legendary Connie Mack. The A’s had finished the regular season with a record of 99-53, five games better than the Braves. Their team included some heavy hitters, including Eddie Collins at .344, Stuffy McInnis at .314, and Home Run Baker, who was hitting .319 and leading the team with 9 homers, an awesome achievement in that era of the “dead ball.” No one gave the Braves a ghost of a chance in the Series.

But the Braves had come to believe Berra’s mantra long before he uttered it. They swept the A’s in four games, outscoring them 16-6, including a shutout in Game 2. The baseball world was stunned; Braves fans were ecstatic.

To date, only one other team has even come close to matching such a comeback. In 2003, the Florida Marlins, who were at 19 and 29, ten games below .500, came back to win their league and the World Series. But their feat, though great, pales when compared with the comeback of the “Miracle Braves” of 1914.

The sad part of this story is that the Braves never won another pennant until 1948. Nonetheless, their 1914 season proves that it truly isn’t over until it’s over. So never give up! You never know.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

The Chase for 61

The proverb says, “Records are made to be broken.” And some records resist for a long time all attempts to break them. When they do fall, some people rejoice, marveling at the discipline and hard work of the ones who topple them. But other people seem to think that such records are sacrosanct and seek to vilify the record breaker. And, by doing so, they make the athlete’s life miserable.

Such was the case of Roger Maris as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. He got hate mail. The lives of his family members were threatened. Baseball Almanac says, “Maris was hated, booed, cussed, and generally abused by the press and fans. . . .” The pressures on Maris became so great that he began losing his hair.

Maris described his ordeal of not only the chase but also the aftermath as “mental h— for me. I was drained of all my desire to play baseball.” He especially felt his loss of privacy. “I think the most privacy I had was when the game was going on.”

“I never wanted all this hoopla,” he lamented. “I just wanted to be a good ball player . . . and help my club win pennants. I just wanted to be . . . an average player having a good season.”

When Maris finally tied Ruth’s mark on September 26, 1961, and then broke it on October 1, he was relieved. But that did not end the clamor against him. Fans and sportswriters argued that his record was somehow tainted or less than a stellar achievement. They downplayed it, saying that he could hit homers only because Mickey Mantle hit behind him and pitchers would rather pitch to Maris than Mantle. Even the baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, weighed in against the credibility of Maris’s achievement, pointing out that he had had the advantage of playing in eight more games than Ruth and suggesting that the records should include an asterisk pointing out that fact. (Yet, he conveniently failed to point out that Maris had hit his sixtieth home run, tying Ruth, much earlier than Ruth had hit his sixtieth.) And former baseball great and Hall of Fame member Rogers Hornsby vilified Maris, contemptuously calling him a “bush leaguer” who “couldn’t carry my bat.”

When one gets beyond the controversy and the trauma and begins to analyze the actual accomplishment, the wonder of it all hits. Maris hit his first homer of the 1961 season in the fifth inning of Game 11 off Detroit’s Paul Foytack. He hit No. 61 off Boston’s Tracy Stallard in the fourth inning of the final game of the season.

Maris was an equal opportunity homer hitter, blasting shots off every team and practically every pitcher in the league. He was especially successful against the Chicago White Sox, who surrendered 13 shots to Maris. But the Washington Senators gave up 9, and the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers each suffered from his bat eight times. Only the Baltimore Orioles were stingy with him, reluctantly permitting him only three roundtrippers.

Maris was even more liberal in distributing his fence-clearers to individual pitchers. Forty-six different pitchers watched his blasts sail from the various parks. Three of them gave up three homers each to him: Pete Burnside of Washington, Jim Perry of Cleveland, and Frank Lary of Detroit. Billy Pierce of Chicago surrendered two back to back in one game.

Maris was as fair in clearing fences in enemy ball parks as he was at Yankee Stadium. He hit 30 at home and 31 away.

Only in dividing his homers between right- and left-handed pitchers was he one sided. Forty-nine of his dingers were off right-handed hurlers, whereas only 12 were off southpaws.

The sports media tried to make it seem as though Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were at odds with each other. But Mantle repeatedly denied that accusation. In fact, the two shared an apartment in New York, and Mantle reportedly said that Maris “was as good a man and good a ballplayer as there ever was.”

In reflecting on the trials that Maris went through during and after his pursuit of Ruth’s record, I got to comparing his situation with Henry Aaron’s pursuit of Ruth’s other record of total homers and the pursuit of Maris’s record by Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds between 1999 and 2001. Aaron suffered many of the same insults and threats as Maris, but he earned the new record fair and square. But in each of the latter cases, there was evidence of the use of performance-enhancing drugs. That was also the era during which there were serious allegations that a “juiced” ball was being used throughout the major leagues. Players who had never been known for their power suddenly began hitting homers right and left.

The only thing of which Maris was guilty was playing in a few more games than Ruth, and that was not his choice but the scheduling of Major League Baseball. Roger Maris and his Yankees teammates–such men as Yogi Berra, Clete Boyer, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Mantle, Bobby Richardson (shown here), and Ralph Terry–increased fans’ respect and love for the game. (Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek were squeaky clean, so upright that they refused to drink and carouse after games, thereby winning the monicker the “milkshake twins.” Both men were open Christians and the others respected them for it. Richardson later testified that he was able to lead both Maris and Mantle to Jesus Christ shortly before each man’s death.) Maris’s breaking of Ruth’s record did nothing to detract from the Great Bambino’s greatness as a player. Together, their records enhanced the sport.

The same cannot be said of the more modern home run kings who broke Maris’s record. They, too, could have brought honor to the game. Instead, they brought it disdain and disrepute. If there was ever a legitimate need to put an asterisk after anyone’s record, it should be beside those of Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa, not Maris. (By the way, in the official records, there is no asterisk by Maris’s achievement; it’s a myth that has been perpetuated since Ford Frick first suggested it.)

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

 

He Could Do It All!

Cesar was a real jack of all trades. He quickly got the nickname “Mr. Versatility.”

How versatile was he? He was only the second major league baseball player to play all nine positions in a single game, and he did it on this date, September 22, 1968.

Cesar Tovar played for five major league teams over a 12-year career, 8 of those years for the Minnesota Twins. (The other teams were the Philadelphia Phillies, the Texas Rangers, the Oakland Athletics, and the New York Yankees.) Rather than kick back during the off season, he also played in the Venezuela Winter League–for 26 seasons.

Tovar’s is not a household name. But he was no slouch as a player. In fact, in his 1,448 major league games, he got 1,546 hits, averaging more than one hit per game. Not bad. His lifetime batting average was only .278, still not bad and better than many others. What’s more, as a lead-off hitter, he had a knack for getting on base the hard way. He was hit by pitches 88 times. (He probably was hit more than that, but some umpires thought he wasn’t doing enough to get out of the way and called many of those HBPs strikes.)

Even more impressive to me is the fact that Tovar struck out in only 7.3 percent of his at bats. (Babe Ruth’s strike-out percentage was 15.8 percent, and Mickey Mantle’s was a whopping 21.1 percent.) Tovar was a consistent hitter, too. He broke up five no-hitters.

No one could accuse Tovar of laziness on the base paths. Although he was successful in “only” 68 percent of his attempts to steal bases (not considered great for a lead-off hitter, they say), he remained a threat, especially to steal home. He and teammate Rod Carew once combined to steal five bases in one inning, each of them even taking home. Tovar once stole home as part of an almost unheard-of triple steal!

The next statistics are sobering and say a lot about how America’s values have been turned upside down. Tovar began his career in the majors playing for the Twins with a salary of $6,000. His total income in his eight years with the team amounted to $198,000. For 12 years in the big leagues, he made a grand total of $312,000. Compare that to players’ salaries today! Signing bonuses are larger than Tovar’s total income in the majors!

But back to the reason I’m writing about Cesar Tovar today, September 22. Forty-nine years ago today, Tovar became only the second major leaguer to play all nine positions in the same game. (Bert Campaneris was the first to do it in 1965.)

The Twins were mired in the cellar, and attendance was dismal. Their general manager decided that a stunt might help a little; it certainly couldn’t hurt. So he announced that the Twins’ starting pitcher against the Oakland Athletics on September 22 would be Cesar Tovar.

Tovar took the mound and the lead-off batter stepped in. It was none other than Bert Campaneris. He proceeded to pitch a scoreless inning. He struck out the great home run-hitting Reggie Jackson. But he also hit a batter and then committed a balk. But the A’s didn’t score!

The next inning, Tovar moved to catcher. Then, through the next four innings, he played around the infield, counterclockwise from third to first. In the final three innings, he played the outfield, from left to center to right.

Cesar Tovar has been described as “speedy, enthusiastic” and “an all-out competitor,” and he was all of those things. But on this day in history, he certainly lived up to his nickname–“Mr. Versatility.”

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Mile Markers

We’ve all passed them on the interstate. They’re ubiquitous. We can’t miss them, but we seldom notice them. We note them only when we’re in trouble and might need to refer to one to direct help to our location. We’re just too involved in our journey to notice them more than then.

I’m referring to those narrow, vertical green signs along the shoulder called mile markers.

Today, this post is sort of a mile marker for me. It’s not much of a mile marker to many bloggers who have been at this longer than I have. Maybe I’m just a late bloomer.

Be that as it may and for what it’s worth, this marks my 200th blog post since I began this blog on September 4, 2015. Much like what happens when I’m driving, I happened to glance to the shoulder during my writing journey and noticed this mile marker. It flashes past and becomes history as soon as I hit the “publish” button. Then the journey goes on as though the marker never existed. But for a brief moment, it made me reflect.

Why Did I Begin Blogging?

I had read and heard the “experts” say that every author must have a blog to gain “credibility,” to build and expand a “platform,” and to “brand” himself or herself. (Hmm. Doesn’t branding involve getting burned?!) I had only days earlier signed my first book contract with McFarland for Governing the Confederacy. (Only they changed my title to Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries, which I thought was too long and ponderous and uninteresting for an effective title. But they were the “experts,” so that’s how it hit the market.)

I’ve never been much of a salesman, especially when it involves promoting myself, so even the baby step of starting a blog stretched me well beyond my comfort zone. I’m still uncomfortable doing so.

Has My Blog Achieved Its Purposes, Accomplished Its Goals?

I don’t know, but probably not if measured by the standards of those who presume to know. And judging from the successful blogs I read, I’d have to agree. I’ve gotten a few “likes” and fewer comments, and I have a couple of faithful followers. (They’re usually the ones who comment.) I have no idea whether it has led directly or indirectly to any book sales.

Judging by the number of readers, most “experts” would say that my blog is a failure. Agents, editors, and publishers want to see a lot of followers and shares. They judge the size of an author’s market by those magic numbers. Without them, they won’t consider the author’s works, no matter how well written or timely. Or, if they do, they won’t devote a lot of time or money marketing them.

The Positive Benefits

But my blog has accomplished a couple of things. First, it has forced me to write regularly, according to a self-imposed schedule. That is a big part of my journey. I determined (based on what the “experts” said) to post something twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday. Those self-imposed deadlines, the mile markers along the writing roadway, forced me to come up with things to write about. I don’t know if readers have found my subjects to be interesting, but those subjects interested me–at least at the time I wrote about them.

Most of my topics have related to historical events or historic characters. Sometimes they were about writing, editing, or publishing. Sometimes about educational issues. In a few instances, I’ve even forced myself to post something about my articles or books. And I’ve learned, unsurprisingly, that it’s much easier and more natural to write about those other topics than about myself or my writing products.

Second, writing a twice-weekly blog has forced me to plan. I can’t wait until the last minute and then just throw something together. Oh, I’ve posted a few things serendipitously, such as quotations that struck me during my reading or when something unexpected happened or came to my attention. When “the muse” spoke to me most clearly, however, was when I had a planned schedule, a prepared list of topics, each tied to a specific date that just happened to coincide with a Tuesday or a Friday. These were the items on the itinerary of my journey. Once posted, each became another mile marker passed, little noticed and insignificant.

The “experts” would probably say that I’m being too transparent here. But I’m just telling it like it is.

Mile marker 200 is now behind me. MM201 is approaching. I don’t know how many more such mile markers I have to pass during my journey. No one but God knows when or where one’s journey will end at one’s final destination. I only know that I must keep “driving” on my journey. I must write. I don’t know how many people are following me; I know that a lot of people are ahead of me, and a lot of people are passing me, progressing faster in their writing careers. But I just know that I must write regardless of numbers. That’s my calling. I’ll leave the numbers, the results–the “likes,” the “shares,” the “followers,” the sales–with God. After all, He is the only Judge of true success.

In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor hit the nail on the head and offered this food for thought: If glory goes to you, it’s not going to God.

Soli gloria Deo!

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

 

Lessons Learned: Writing

For the last 36 years (since my first article was published in 1981), I have been learning the art and craft of writing and the “tricks of the trade” of publishing. To paraphrase a certain insurance company, I’ve learned a lot (much of it the hard way) because I’ve seen and experienced a lot. And I’m still learning. Perhaps you can relate to some of the things I’ve learned. Here are a few of them but by no means all of them.

  1. Study the markets before you submit. When the first article I ever submitted was accepted and published and I got that check in the mail, I was hooked. I began cranking out article manuscripts right and left and submitting them so often that the postal clerks and I were almost best buds. But then reality struck: I began finding more rejections than junk mail in my mailbox. That’s when I realized that something was wrong. I wasn’t studying the markets and tailoring my submissions accordingly. When I began to do so, the acceptances became to creep in. Even some articles that had earlier been rejected found a home and were published.
  2. Rejection is not personal (usually). Publications have needs and guidelines, and those needs change over time. Sometimes the changes are seasonal. Sometimes they are topical. And sometimes they are philosophical. When the rejection reads, “Doesn’t meet our needs at this time,” we should take it at face value. In a few instances, however, maybe you and the editor just don’t hit it off. Or your writing isn’t quite up to the bar that publication has set. But those instances should be rare. Even if the rejection IS personal, move on. There are other publications and editors out there who want and need what you write. Forget the bad experience and create good ones elsewhere.
  3. Editors change.¬†This point goes along with the previous item. Editors tend to move around a lot. If you have a good working relationship with an editor, work to stay on good terms with him or her. But realize that one day–sometimes sooner, sometimes later–that editor will move on. Be ready for the new editor and brace yourself for rejection–then move on. I once worked with the same editor at the same publication for nearly 25 years. He published almost everything I submitted. But he eventually retired. His replacement rejected everything I submitted. My writing hadn’t changed. The editor did. I submitted my work elsewhere, telling myself that he and the publication’s readers, not I, were the losers.
  4. Not everyone will rejoice at your successes. People are funny. One day, someone will cheer you in your writing efforts, but as soon as your work is published, he or she suddenly becomes sullen and silent or begins to find fault with your writing. I think it’s the result of a big lump of envy and a dash of jealousy that prompts the change. If you’re excited about your writing success, I hope others will be, too. But don’t count on it.
  5. Be faithful to your calling. If God has called you to write, realize that He does not use the same measuring stick for success that people use. He rewards faithfulness in performance, not outward results. This truth is hard to swallow when you’re getting rejection slips, but faithful persistence promises and pays an ultimate reward. Keep at it. All in God’s time and in His medium of exchange, you’ll see success.

What have you learned from your writing experiences? Care to share them? I look forward to reading them.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson