In America children are encouraged to set ambitious goals for themselves. When I was ten years old my intention was to play center field for the New York Mets.
That didn't happen.
When I was twenty I was a little more realistic. My destiny, I decided, was to become one of the Mets radio/TV announcers. That didn't come to fruition, either.
By thirty I'd have settled for being a radio/TV announcer for any Major League Baseball team (or any National Hockey League team, except for the evil Philadelphia Flyers), yet still no offers came my way. I began thinking I might never reach one of my increasingly modest aspirations. Then after a career change and a few more birthdays I began harboring another secret ambition. I wanted to write a book.
Four months ago that dream finally came true! I am now a published author!
Last fall I culled the 450 or so columns I've penned for this and other Maine Newspapers over the past decade down to 67 which I felt merited inclusion in a publishable collection. Then after some intense editing and many hours of consultation with an extraordinarily patient, creative and technologically adept collaborator, I had 50 copies of a paperback with the not-so-original title of Young Ideas ready to distribute to family and friends at Christmas.
The unusual gift delighted its recipients, several of whom suggested I try marketing the collection on my own. Inspired and encouraged, I decided to go all out to make this latest ambition a reality, although I vaguely remember reading somewhere that dreams don't come true without hard work and perseverance, two factors which haven't proven to be terribly prominent in my DNA over the past several decades. But making excuses is getting too old and too easy. It was time to pursue this latest goal in earnest!
Job One was to correct a litany of mistakes that had somehow been overlooked in the book's first edition, oversights which included not just typos but glaring errors involving grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and occasionally all four of those factors at once.
The illustrations in the original 165-page book included 14 photographs. Half of the original copies had those pictures in color (at $18 per book), while the other 25 contained the same photos in black-and-white, at $12 per copy. The text is the same either way. Lesson learned: black and white photos look just fine.
I had another epiphany along the way: essays commenting on current events such as politics, sports, and pop culture don't have much shelf life. Now I know why my mother always maintained, "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all." However, it turns out reflective musings on ordinary, everyday events invariably retain their meaning(s), and sometimes increase in significance with time, particularly if such happenings were clearly, accurately, and precisely recorded shortly after they took place. It's rewarding knowing that much of what I've shared in print about my own mostly ordinary existence has maintained whatever value it originally possessed, but also deflating realizing that most of my commentary on the doings of famous folks I don't know personally has proven to be, in the long run, irrelevant.
And in case I needed even more humility, there was this: after proofreading virtually every word inside entire book out loud, as I constantly tell my sophomore English students to do, I decided it was ready for its next printing. It's too bad I didn't exercise that same care with the book's outside; thanks to a rather glaring oversight there are now 50 copies of Young Ideas out there with a front cover proclaiming the book contains, "Throught-Provoking Essays." There is, needless to say, no "R" in the word "thoughtful."
A negative person would see that mistake as mortifying. However, after experiencing a brief bit of chagrin (okay...after going on a shrieking, irrational tirade) I realized those 50 copies of Young Ideas aren't tangible evidence of inexcusable carelessness at all. They are in actuality valuable collector's items.
Copies of Young Ideas make great birthday presents or graduation gifts. They're also ideal for fixing wobbly card tables, assuming that one of the legs is precisely one centimeter shorter than the other three.
The best way to obtain a corrected-yet-again copy of Young Ideas is to approach me on the street or in the grocery store and ask if I have any for sale, which I undoubtedly will. Don't know me by sight? Look for someone resembling a younger, more buff George Clooney. If it's actually me, you're in luck. But even if it's someone else, who knows...maybe you'll make a new friend, and an uncommonly handsome one at that!
Andy Young is an English teacher at a local high school. He is also a freelance writer who is far better at proofreading than he used to bee.Andy Young
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