I suspect many readers of our magazine will have a special appreciation for the Off the Cuff column in our October issue, which will be out in early September. In it, Bill Glose pays graceful tribute to an early mentor, Bill Walsh, who played an important role in shaping up his writing.
At one point, Glose, today a much-published writer and contributing editor at Virginia Living, recalls a moment that so many writers can look back on: "He took my story and, while I watched in silent horror, began marking it up. When he was done, the pages contained more red ink than type."
I recommend Glose's entire essay to you. I think you'll not only find it moving, but will find yourself recalling your own mentors—and perhaps your own sea(s) of red ink that strengthened your writing. I think it's important to remember the individuals who helped shape us, and to try to help others in the ways we were helped.
Despite my many years in newspaper and magazine journalism, my top writing mentors were both academics. Larry Andrews, a now-retired professor of English at Kent State University, and Allan Peskin, a now-retired history professor and biographer at Cleveland State University, were the two finest teachers and editors I ever had, and the rigor of their minds and their editing has paid life-long benefits. Nothing weak or sloppy got by these two fellows. Today, whenever I find myself slipping—whether in writing, editing or how I read a book—I only need to remember their rigor. And in the same manner, I'm sure that's true for Bill Glose, and perhaps you, too.
Through the kind of weird coincidence that makes you think the United States is actually smaller than it is, I got to thank Larry some 25 years after my graduation from Kent State and from the perspective of middle age. Long story short: My wife (a Wisconsin resident) happened to sit next to Larry at an academic conference in Florida and spied his name tag. "You're Larry Andrews?" she asked with so much enthusiasm that it may have sounded like an accusation. "You're my husband's favorite teacher ever!"
I was tagging along on vacation. Larry and I hooked up and had a beer together. Talk about a transformation: Gone was the teacher-student relationship; now we were two adults talking about their lives.
I wrote my own mentor tribute in honor of Larry's retirement a few years ago and I included a Glose-like memory: "I still recall getting my first essay back from Larry in my first Freshman Honors Colloquium class. I was a freshman coming from a fairly high-level high school program in Cleveland and thought I was hot stuff. I was not—and the sea of red corrections that littered that paper was tangible proof that I wasn't. And worse, all of his comments, I later came to see, were so correct and well-founded. The nerve!"
For writers and editors, mentors like these are our own version of highly skilled "personal trainers." The least we can do is say thanks.
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