On Words, “Marching Ships,” Writing, Sophie


Linda just appeared (from her office on the second floor down the stairs to mine in the basement) and asked me if I knew the definition of “secular.” Of course, I did, and so did she, as in not being religious. What sent her down the stairs was how the word was used in an article she was reading for her class tomorrow about the prevalence of autism in which the author made a statement about the “secular increase of the prevalence of autism.” Hummm, that use puzzled me too. While she checked my several dictionaries, I checked the Internet. Between us we found the meaning the author–who is Canadian–was using: “of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration.” So, interesting!!!!

Unannounced the second pass pages for Thanksgiving: The True Story showed up on my doorstep Friday morning. (I found it when I went out to get the newspaper, so it may have been there since Thursday.) I stopped my plans for the day and scrutinized the manuscript so that I could return it before the day was over. I discovered this sentence had slipped by everyone who, to date, had proof read & copy edited the manuscript: “In late August 1565, ships carrying Menendez and hundreds of soldiers landed on the coast of Florida, and marched with trumpets blaring and banners flying into a Timucuan Indian village.”

“Oh, no!!!” I exclaimed as the image of marching ships paraded in front of my eyes!!! Immediately I sent the editor an e-mail and corrected the sentence on the manuscript. As long as I’ve been a writer, it never ceases to amaze me how tricky it is to catch everything! So, what would I have done if it had slipped through into the printed book? Been embarrassed, recognize that readers would not necessarily noticed it, use it as an example when I teach/speak.

Next day update: At about 1:30 pm, 2/11, I received an e-mail from the assistant editor double-checking my change to what I will probably always think of as the “marching ship” sentence. Since at this stage, I had to make the least disruptive correction, I simply deleted “ships carrying” and changed “landed” to “arrived;” so now the sentence reads: “In late August 1565, Menendez and hundreds of soldiers arrived on the coast of Florida and marched with trumpets blaring and banners flying into a Timucuan Indian village.” Oh, and if you’re wondering what all this has to do with the true story of Thanksgiving; Menendez is involved in one of the 12 claims for the “first” Thanksgiving that I explore in my book Thanksgiving: The True Story.

I’ve moved forward writing Stirring Up The World and I’m really happy with what I’ve produced so far; it’s such an intriguing story, especially with the race for the Democratic presidential nomination going on.

We had Sophie for an overnight. We rode a double-decker merry-go-round, etc. We also “talked” politics; from listening to all the political conversations swirling around she’s concluded that “girls are for the girl and boys are for the boy.”
Although it may seem that way, I told her, in our family some “girls” are for the “boy” and some “boys” are for the “girl.”

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