At some point in the late 1980’s, I wrote a chapter for a human relations textbook. I had been working on a text of my own and had pretty much completed the chapter on prejudice and discrimination. That’s what we called it back then. Today material like this is titled multiculturalism or cultural diversity, but at that time, we weren’t as politically correct.
Back to the story. Through a series of events, I was asked to embellish some of my already written material and add examples of what some organizations were doing to address the ever increasing challenge of working with and for people perceived as being “different.” The two men who were writing the text were on a strict timeline, and they and their publisher felt pushed.
“Hey, why don’t we find some instructor at a technical college who knows the subject matter and ask her or him to do it for us? We’ll make it worth the writer’s time and acknowledge the contribution within the text itself.” I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew I was writing a human relations text of my own, and that person conveyed the news to the editor of the behind-schedule book.
I said yes. It was $500. Christmas was approaching, and I had visions of gadgets and gewgaws that Santa could bring down the chimney.
It was hard work, no doubt about it. My saving grace was that I’d already written quite a bit on the topic. I was captivated by the changes I had witnessed and was continuing to witness in our society. While many of my fellow Americans perceived the transformations as threatening, I saw them as inevitable and welcome.
But here’s what happened. The book came out, and I received two complimentary copies. I can’t recall whether I got the monetary reward before then or at that time. What I do recall was eagerly looking at the TOC for my chapter location and feeling thrilled when I found the chapter itself. There were my words in print. It was a miracle and proof positive that I could do it.
Heart fluttering with excitement, I found my name and acknowledgement. My name was misspelled. I was stunned. How could a big name publisher misspell a person’s name? But there it was: Jane P. Crolley. The Crolley part was right, but the Jane should have been Jayne.
Shortly thereafter, a book rep dropped by the college and offered to take me to lunch. We ate at the Sea Captain’s House in Myrtle Beach. We ordered our Avocado Seafare, and then she asked me what I thought about the book. Wasn’t it exciting?
“Yes, of course,” I told her. “But my name is misspelled. Is there any way that can be fixed?”
The book rep was a charming person with tons of tact and diplomacy. She basically said No. Thousands of copies had been printed and sold all across America, and they couldn’t be recalled for one little missing letter. She patted my arm and smiled as she confided that it was impossible to catch every single error. Before lunch was over, I had begun to feel grateful that my last name was correctly spelled and that my first name was listed as Jane and not Janet or Jean.
In the grand scheme of things, the misspelled name was/is of little consequence. The major takeaway is that most books have some little something that’s amiss, something that isn’t caught until after the final printing.
What I’m leading up to is that our anthology, What I Wish I Could Tell You, will be available next week, and although we’ve gone over it dozens and dozens of times, there may be still a teensy little error or two. Pretty sure we have everyone’s name right, though.
Has this been your experience with writing? Have you ever read something on Facebook or in an email, story, essay, book and realized you’d made an error?
names are a BIG deal; having it misspelled for whatever reason somehow feels demeaning regardless of intent. unfortunately, mistakes are a fact of life and we as mature adults learn to absorb it all as we travel along life’s paths!
Thanks, Laura. I got over it (of course) and floated on along to the next adventure.