November, 2016:

EDITING BOOKS — MY PASSION

Edited books of recent years

Edited books of recent years

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide; it was a way of explaining my passion for editing to new, usually first-time, authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.

Before I started editing books, I spent years editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. As a high school freshman, I became serious about writing and I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting for William and Mary’s Flat Hat newspaper and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, easily understood truthful writing to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important facts are given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

I’ve edited over 100 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man experiencing the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man by Debra Pauli (dating tips for the single woman), Beyond Time by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell from African Skies by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like), and eight books so far for Tim Gurung (a Nepalese native who lives in Hong Kong), which includes Dignity and A Nation of Refugees (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees). I’m currently editing a biography about character actor Strother Martin by Madelyn Roberts and another book by Tim Gurung.

If you need an editor or co-writer, check out my website: www.victoria4edit.com.

 

MEDITERRANEAN MOONLIGHT MADNESS – PART 2

A Mediterranean boat trip takes guts and imagination, especially on a winter night in a makeshift boat never tested before: just ask Art Arrowsmith and Eric Norby, who tried this escapade in the 1950s. These students of Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya, were determined to complete their proposed 15-mile boating adventure from Wheelus to Georgimpopoli—despite the cold February night, the howling wind and icy water, their lack of experience, and Eric’s very limited swimming skills.

A Libyan Dhow would have been a reasonable choice.

A Libyan Dhow would have been a reasonable choice.

This photo above depicts some fellow Wheelus High students on a Libyan Dhow at a beach party I gave about 1957.
Nevertheless, Art and Eric had managed to push their makeshift catamaran, crafted partially from an F-86 airplane fuel tank by Air Force airmen, into the ocean. They were headed toward a reef and then planned to sail west. Here’s the rest of the story in Art’s words:

As we approached the reef we came out of the shelter provided by the cove we were in. The wind increased, screaming in our ears and whipping up the crashing white water. Stinging foam sprayed our faces, burning our eyes. Crosscurrents caused by the swirling waters hurled from the breakers as they crashed over the reef and made it nearly impossible to steer. The closer we got to the reef, the higher the waves grew. Soon they were high enough to breach the gunwale of the boat. We were desperate to keep the craft pointed into the frothing waves, which worked for a few minutes with both of us paddling, but when we began taking on water, with no bailing tools, our fate was sealed. We had to turn back.

As the bow of the boat turned away from the breakers and we became broadside to their foaming fury, icy water streamed into the boat, rapidly filling it. We had barely completed our turn and headed to the beach, 70 yards away, when the boat sank. Eric clung to one of the 50 gallon barrels. As soon as the boat sank, my dad’s flight jacket filled with very cold water. My arms moved like I was swimming in a vat of syrup as I treaded water and worked on taking off my jacket.

I shouted over the wind to Eric that I would come to get him and felt confident that I could get us back to the beach. Over the years my dad had insisted all the children in our family take swimming lessons at the YMCA or at the base pool. Life-saving lessons were always a part of these courses. My real concern, however, was whether I had the stamina to rescue us both. Fortunately, I was very familiar with the cove we were in, and was able to estimate the depth of the water. I yelled at Eric to hold his breath and dog paddle, which he knew how to do, while I tried to touch the bottom. My plan was to drop feet first to the sandy bottom and push off in the direction of the beach, snagging Eric as I went. I trusted the moon would give enough light under water for me to see his form above me. Meanwhile, he would be dog paddling. And it worked!

It was past midnight when the shivering teens snuck into Art’s house. Luckily for the adventurers, Art’s mother had a good sense of humor when she discovered what they’d done the next morning. She was grateful the boys were safe, and Art’s father, who was on a trip at the time, never asked what had happened to his flight jacket. Art concluded that he and Eric had learned some serious lessons about the fragility of life, the weight of responsibility and the strength of teamwork.

MOONLIGHT MADNESS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

Boys will be boys is an old saying, but it holds true with teenagers like Art Arrowsmith, a fellow student who also attended Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya in the 1950s. Art sent me this true humorous adventure of his a few years ago. Since it’s a long story for my blog, I’m going to present it in two segments.

Art A
Art Arrowsmith
Art and good friend and classmate Eric Norby, also Class of ’57, had discovered a pontoon boat on the beach near Art’s house at Wheelus Air Force Base. As Art writes, “It was constructed from a modified F-86 fuel drop tank. The top half of the tank had been cut away, leaving a boat that resembled a bathtub with pointy ends. Attached to the boat by several rope-lashed two by four’s were two 50-gallon drums that provided an outrigger arrangement to balance the catamaran-type craft. Our plan was to wait until dark, launch the boat and paddle it parallel to the shore all the way from Wheelus to Giorgimpopoli, a distance of some 15 miles.”

Their respective parents had been told the teenagers would be spending Friday night together since Eric lived in Tripoli and Art lived on the base. The parents didn’t ask for specifics: Eric’s folks thought he’d be at Art’s home; Art’s parents thought he’d be at Eric’s.

Eric Norby

Eric Norby

February in Tripoli isn’t toasty. The Mediterranean water is no longer warm and the evening breezes can be very cold. Had we considered such things as wind and tides, water temperature and coastal currents, reefs and time of day, perhaps we…

Eric was wearing his ever-present light tan leather jacket, imported from Germany: his trademark in those days. I wore my dad’s flight jacket that he’d had for many years, the only warm jacket in our house. It goes without saying that we both wore jeans; that’s all we ever wore. We were wise enough to have a couple of bottles of water for the long voyage, a loaf of bread along with peanut butter and jelly: all stashed in the boat over the last couple of days.

Launching the boat proved to be an incredibly arduous task. We tugged and pulled and lifted and rearranged and sweated and struggled and stumbled our way to the edge of the water. The fuel-tank hull of the boat was smooth and slid easily along the sand and over the seaweed. The 50-gallon drums dug into the seaweed, even though it was like walking over wet noodles. Our feet slid over the slippery sea weed but the drums parted the wet strands and clawed their way into the underlying sand. Eric proved to be the heavyweight lifter as we inched our way to the roaring waves. He lifted the forward drum and side-stepped toward the water, pivoting around the boat hull, as I pushed the hull forward from the opposite side, attempting to match his progress. After a couple of these maneuvers we would trade places and repeat the process. Eventually, we reached the water. We rested about 15 minutes, caught our breath and discussed our next move. We looked at each other with doubt etched across our faces, but wouldn’t admit to the doubt. Neither wanted to be the one to call it off. It was then I found out Eric couldn’t swim!

Art and Eric brazened it out and pushed the homemade craft into the cold water, despite incoming tide and a strong wind. The moon was nearly full, which equates to high tide they discovered much later, but they weren’t trained seamen. They had to clear the offshore reef and then head west to their destination. The moon gave them light to see and there were lights along the shore. How difficult could it be?

Look for the ending of this sea adventure on Sunday, November 20.

1959 Wheelus Beach

Summer 1959 Wheelus Beach – definitely not the weather the teens experienced.

THE GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

Since we’re on the verge of making political history on Tuesday as we vote to complete this year’s very divisive political process, I decided to write about how we remember some local and national history in Southern California. Less than a mile from my San Fernando Valley apartment is a unique historical mural along the southeastern border of Valley College. Not long ago, the paint was refreshed by the school. I drive by the mural fairly often and took the time not too long ago to walk slowly and admire its details.

Valley College students (about 400 artists over the years) in the 1970s began creating a dramatic and colorful half-mile long mural depicting California history. They had the perfect surface—one side of the concrete Tujunga Wash that borders the college along Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Sections of it depict the Spanish history of California, the Japanese internment, civil rights actions, the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the movie industry, the Olympics, Jewish refugees during World War II, etc. It’s been called the Great Wall of LA.

I’m in a Sherman Oaks neighborhood that’s a mixture of businesses and residential housing from the swanky to apartment buildings. Coldwater Canyon, my street, winds through the hills of Beverly in the west down to Sherman Oaks and all across the Valley. The Little Brown Church, on Coldwater, is about a mile south of me and has the distinction of being the location of future President Ronald Reagan’s marriage to Nancy.  My street is a main artery that runs perpendicular to the 101 Freeway. Depending on the traffic, I could drive from my apartment to the freeway entrance in five minutes and either head north and west to Ventura and Santa Barbara or south and east to downtown Los Angeles or Pasadena (the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade). Since I’m in a huge valley, I can see mountains, both near and far, surrounding me, depending on the weather. I can even watch a “river” flow, especially if it’s rained in the winter. The river or channel,  called the Tujunga Wash, is encased in concrete: no more floods like the early 1900s.

We Southern Californians live in a desert, but you’d never know it from the millions of trees and blooming plants, courtesy of imported water. Someday soon we’ll most likely get on the “green” bandwagon of desert plants only. We’ve already got recycled sewage water for irrigation and have experienced a drought in the past few years.

My neighborhood is handy for day-to-day life. Grocery stores, a Whole Foods two blocks away and a Ralphs, a five-minute walk, are close. I could buy a car or have my car serviced a half-block up the street. The young man of Armenian culture who owns that business is not only congenial, but quite handsome.

Across the street from the car place is a tiny shopping mall chock full of conveniences: a donut shop, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners, and several restaurants: Chinese, Mexican, Italian pizza, and yogurt. Judo lessons are available and even a manicure/pedicure business. We’ve got a Walgreens on one corner along with one of those fake trees that are disguised cell phone towers. A chiropractor operates from a small office building a few steps from the Walgreens, and in the Ralphs center across the street there’s a recycling business and a gas station where we can agonize over gas prices, always more expensive in California because of gas taxes.

Public transportation has made great strides: there’s a bus line a half block from me and a Valley-wide bus line a little more than a block up the street, which will connect commuters to our subway system, which wasn’t here when I arrived in LA. Now Hollywood and downtown are easily accessible.

I don’t want to forget education facilities. Besides an elementary school and middle school within walking distance, there’s the junior college with the colorful mural. Los Angeles Valley College with its a large campus and an extensive adult education program, is a few blocks north.

If I’m not in the mood to drive to any of our many art galleries, I just have a short walk to gaze at lively historic interpretations done with passion and enthusiasm.

California History on the Great Wall Mural

California History on the Great Wall Mural. Water is flowing in the Tujunga Wash.

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