A Poet Can Survive Anything but a Mis-Print

The title above is credited to Oscar Wilde, who was more adept than many at surviving all sorts of things. Sometimes the mis-print is no fault of one’s own. Sometimes it is definitely user error.

When My Dear Jenny, my second book,  was published, I fell back on the time honored trope of the Regency-era romance: a woman who underestimates herself. She is heading toward spinsterhood (a socially–and economically–despised state), used to being helpful as a way of making up for a lack of beauty or fortune. If she’s attractive, she does not know it. What she is is competent (my most favorite virtue) and humorous. And lovable, but she’s certainly unaware of that. And of course, because I was writing romance, there’s this guy who sees her for what she is, and appreciates (nay, loves) her for it. So toward the end of the book, when he declares his feelings, she is conflicted. By the markers of their society–looks, fortune, birth–he’s too good for her.  Okay, as world-beating plot twists go, this is hardly one. As I said: a trope of a certain kind of romance. Also, I was young and not terribly confident of my own virtues too. So.

When the proofs came, there was a typo that stood the whole thing on its ear. The sentences I had written were: He was, she thought, a bit above her touch. But on the proofs the sentences read:  She was, she thought, a bit above his touch. That’s right: suddenly, she’s too good for him. I marked this in the proofs, and of course, with that stubbornness that is life and publishing, that is the only correction I made on the proofs that did not get made before the book went to print. I fixed it, years later, in the e-book edition. 

Then there are the typos we do to ourselves. Three years ago I applied for (and achieved) TSA Pre-check status. Most of the time it doesn’t make much difference, but sometimes (like when I’m checking in Orlando, FL, for the flight home from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts–at the end of school break, when the security line can take an hour and a half) it makes all the difference in the world. For the past three years I have had Hell’s own time getting the little logo on my boarding passes. Today, having called the airline and TSA, I finally discovered that the final digit on my Known Traveler Number (KTN) was not a 5 but an S. Changed the number and Hey, Presto! Alaska Airlines’ system gave me the tiny logo and I’m good to go.

Except that I feel kind of stupid. I’m not sure where the error came from, but I’ve been proliferating it lavishly for years.

Ah, well. By the time this is published I’ll be on my way to ICFA; if you get a chance to go some year, do.  It’s an absolutely wonderful conference, especially when you don’t have to stand in line for an hour to get there.


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