Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ghost Writing (Day 133)

Remember earlier in the week when I wrote about my grandmothers' paintings as if they were time traveling messages from beyond? 

Well friends, Nana is back with more messages from the grave! So dim the lights, grab a cup of coffee spiked with Bailey's and get ready for this tale of ghost writing. 

Here's the scoop:

My Peloton bike is next to one (of six) floor to ceiling bookcases that line the walls of my office/den/peloton/guest /dump things here because people are coming over room. Often, I get distracted while doing a ride (hard to believe, right?) and I find my attention drifting to all those books I own. 

My husband, who is the organized one, has put all my books on writing together. Last night, I noticed a very midcentury modern looking book nestled between my Writer's Market from 2000 (turn of century!) and "Effective Public Relations" (which I believe I stole from a library in Fairfax, Vermont. That library was right by the covered bridge my Nana painted!).  

Anyway, everyone knows that everyone TOTALLY judges a book by its cover. And I love midcentury--so I thought: THIS BOOK WILL BE AMAZING.

Titled "Handbook for Writers," I assumed this was a book I purchased when on a book purchasing spree in the past 5 years. BUT then I opened it and VOILA:


Esther W. Cox was my Nana and in 1961,  I believe she was in college, after raising her children, to become a teacher. And then, my mom, at some point, gifted me this book, which is an acknowledgement that I write things (she never, ever reads anything I write and encourages me once a week to become a realtor, because "you seem like you can sell things."). 

So, as you all know, I constantly struggle with impostor syndrome. I haven't written a book. I haven't published any editorial or memoir content anywhere but here in forever. I write for clients; but it is not exactly what I envisioned when I decided to stop dreaming of buildings with my name on them and start dreaming of stories with my name on them. 

When I was a kid, my Grandfather was the first person to buy me drafting and architecture supplies. He was so excited for me to design buildings and encouraged me so much. My Nana, well, she often corrected my posture and grammar and taught me everything there was to know about traveling into Philly and of course, art! It seems she is still teaching me. The  Handbook for Writers is filled with her notes and underlined passages. One of my favorites is this:

"Begin your paper effectively. If your paper is on how to clean guns, you might say quite simply, "The best method of cleaning guns is. . ." Or if your paper is entitled "I Hate Cats," you might begin, "Cats are a menace to mankind. They should be exterminated."

Nana and Granddad were members of the NRA and did not ever own a cat. 

And then, this was underlined, 4 times, as if she was literally speaking to me, while using her sit-up straight voice:

"Avoid a rambling, decorative beginning that simply delays the introduction." 

And she does, also offer advice on ending a piece:

"The paper on "How to Clean Guns," for example, might end with this statement: If you have followed all the directions given here, you should now have a re-assembled, clean gun, ready for another day's shooting."

I really have no idea why there is a fixation on gun cleaning, but alas, the advice for endings is solid--bring it back to where you started and end with optimism! 

Thanks to my Nana for leaving behind ghost writing for me to find. As her youngest granddaughter, I always felt cheated out of time with her--but, it seems she's still here, teaching me how to sit up straight, conjugate French words, hang onto a trolley with one hand, make bread and butter pickles, pack a road trip picnic and, of course, to begin and end my writing with a "forceful, vigorous, non-decorative tone." 




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