About 8 months ago I wrote an article about housekeeping for Parents Magazine. If you'd like to read it, here it is.
I've written two pieces for Parents now and being edited is really weird. For the first article they already had a blog post in mind they wanted me to revise for publication. After that, they wanted me to "pitch" them ideas. I said, "Great! What does that mean?" Luckily I was able to send them ideas informally through e-mail. I think there is such a thing as a formal pitch which probably follows a certain format but I don't know what it is.
This was before I started writing my tips for not very good housekeepers post but well after I had developed an obsession with reading housekeeping books to see how other people do it. I bought a bunch of books and offered to try them out. I was excited because they sent me four other books (for free!) to read and try and write about. I did it and wrote a draft. Then they wrote back with changes, which I made. And now--almost a year later--the article is in the June issue.
They cut out one of the books entirely, which doesn't offend me or anything because I'm sure it was for length. I should say none of the editing changes offend me but I do notice them and sort of obsess over them. For example, there's a part where I talk about assigning chores to my children and inspect them when they are done. They added that I wrote them down and the first chore was "make your bed," which isn't true. I can see that they are making it more coherent and giving more concrete details but when my kids read the article they thought I made it all up for the magazine (plus it was a while ago so they don't remember it at all).
At one point I said my domestic goddess was "telling me to bring it" and they changed it to "begging me to make her proud." Maybe "bring it" was unclear. When I was writing it I thought, "this is a great way to incorporate a hip new phrase." There's another part where I said "I'm a Mormon so nothing fazes me." I thought for sure they would cut it because it's an incidental detail about me that isn't really relevant--but when you're paid per word those irrelevant details add up! When I saw they left it in I wondered if they thought I would think it was anti-Mormon to cut it. (I enjoy playing mind games like this. With myself. And other people who don't know they are part of the game.)
Other words I didn't write and actually never say that my editor added: "back-of-the-napkin calculations," "grotty," and "needlepoint-worthy." I didn't write those words and yet. . . it does sound like me. This makes me wonder why they don't write the whole thing instead of paying me to write it because they are totally capable of sounding just like me. I seriously wonder. (The mind game continues.)
Is this boring you? Do you wish I would stop talking about it so you could just read the article and get on with your life? Sorry. I keep forgetting--just because my life is on hold until the season finale of Lost, doesn't mean yours is.
Well, here is the anecdote on editorial process that I hope will be your pay-off for reading this post. In my previous essay for Parents I gave a list of parental advice. One of the tips was, "Don't allow the word weenis in your home." I thought for sure they'd cut it but it is a rule I live by so I put it in the first draft. I'm sure they thought it was a typo on my part and that I meant wienies (like hot dogs,) which is how it was published. But there's nothing wrong with the word wienies. I said weenis and I meant weenis. And weenis, my friend, rhymes with penis. That's why I don't allow it in my home. Because it is a crass cross between wienie and the aforementioned.
Several months after the piece was published they called to tell me it was going into an issue of Parents for Brazil. They were translating it and had been working with several experts to get the word wienies just right. The woman who called had done a lot of research into the origins of the word and wanted to know if frankfurter fit with the original spirit of the piece. "Oh no, my dear. It's much more complicated than that. . ." When I told her about "weenis" she was dumbfounded and had no idea where to begin to find a suitable equivalent. I think you will agree--there is no equivalent. Which is when I wrote the improbable e-mail to my brother-in-law who served a mission in Brazil, "How do you say weenis in Portuguese?" There's really nothing quite like it.
What can I say? I'm a writer and an artist.