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I mostly do freelance writing, but also edit other people’s material. It just so happens that right now I am editing two different books, a rather unusual and happy circumstance for me. I like both books very much, because, even though they are quite different, each author gives you something of himself or herself. That something is deeply personal, and comes from the gut. It’s a rather generous act to share serious experiences and to imbue them with the ring of truth. Both do.
First, there is Robert L. Davis, who at 86 years young wants to leave a memoir to his family and friends.
His book, “Faith of Our Mothers”, traces his break with his mother’s absolutist religious beliefs, through his work as a missionary in Vietnam and through a career in government working for the State Department and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Here he describes one of his Vietnam experiences:
A mass meeting of several local villages was in progress. The arrival of an American had been announced well in advance so we were ushered immediately into a low slung house of bamboo and thatch which served as security headquarters.
We had barely finished the customary greeting by the village chief and security officials when an agonized scream caused us to freeze. Suddenly all was a confusion of weapons and men. Immediately at our feet was the man we sought. He was groveling in the dirt somewhat out of his mind, beaten blue, and appeared to have little life left in him.
He looked up at us pleading for salvation — physical survival. It appeared that he would be shot directly. We learned later that security had sought to remove this man from the village before his condition could be observed by the Americans. In desperation, the man we sought broke loose and rushed to seek our help.
Now the guns were pointed directly at us and our exit was blocked.
Soldiers took our pictures and fingerprints. They recorded everything and placed statements in front of us to sign. We spent the rest of the day essentially under house arrest. The District Chief, whom we knew, finally arrived upon the scene and quickly ordered our release. He was told that we forced our way into the village and demanded the release of our friend. Clearly, a missionary must be prudent and avoid such interventions. This experience demonstrated again the abuses that occur in any party to war.
In a completely different vein but just as direct is a finance book being written by Alicia Costello Holley. Born in South America, she bootstrapped herself from humble means through victories and defeats and more victories in the business world. This was one of her first experiences:
Unexpectedly, our first order shipped two days late and a hurricane further delayed the shipment’s arrival in Jordan – I’m still wondering, why did they ship it via Jordan? U.S. Customs held the shipment to revise the materials used , and our products were stuck in a location less than a half hour away from our office for a week. We were paying $80 per day for storage cost. Our major client cancelled her order of $4800 due to the five-day delay. Furthermore, we had not taken into account that the import duty could be reevaluated, and increased from 12 percent to 37.5 percent, an additional of $2100.
We thought we were good planners and had included in our budget an estimate of ten percent for unforeseen expenses. Yet, with the merchandise sitting at the airport, clients waiting for product and the imposition of new import duty rates, we had an added unforeseen cost of $3,000 and had lost $4,800 in sales. Because we were a new company, we didn’t have a line of credit and had not sought any loans. Meanwhile, we had paid shipping, taxes, inspection and expenses, and our supplier was expecting his payments. We could have used our credit cards but we were still $1,200 short. We knew our clients were expecting their merchandise and we had enough money to pay off the import taxes and the customs duties. We convinced the customs agent to give us three days before depositing our check.
Once the merchandise was received, we devoted ourselves to delivering the orders, collecting checks and depositing payments. After two days, the bank rejected one check, resulting in total chaos. We talked with the customs agent once again, and got another extension. We deposited the returned check again, this time with success, and unsuccessfully tried to recover the client that we had lost. Soon we realized we had to re-evaluate our supplier because 700 pairs of shoes were defective.
For the next six months our houses were full of shoes and bags, and we devoted much of our time to sales. As time progressed, much of merchandise was out of season and we sold it at a discount or in small parcels via online auctions and other direct venues. We did not lose money, but we were neither paid for our time, inventory space, or our gray hairs. We made two or three cents per hour of our work.
She closed the business soon thereafter.
When the material is good, editing becomes a joy and a way of connecting with an author on a special level. If you get the opportunity to do some editing, take it, even if is just standard fare. The skills you learn will help you with your own writing. And you just might meet some interesting people.
Copyright 2011 Eric Bank, Freelance Writer