Old Friends

On the trail-front, I have had to take a break yet again due to a swollen ankle that is not getting better. I hobbled around on it last week, and thought that if it was not better by the Victoria Day weekend I would make a doctor’s appointment, which I have done–for tomorrow. I think it’s odd. If it’s a sprain, there was not a whole lot of pain when it happened. Like my broken toe, it seems more stress fracture related. I know better now to not run on injured things; they just get worse. Well I was continuing to run and hike rough trails after my ankle started hurting. Dummy me. Now I’m down again until it heals.

That means more writing and editing for me! I am working on two books at the moment–actually now three, because I am contracting an exciting new novel about climate change for next spring (which I will reveal later). One other novel is the fourth part of a pastoral type of literature series by Annis Pratt, an amazing woman who is retired now. The other novel I’m working on is my own, the one about the oil spill. I realized from my debut novel that I wanted a really good editor on this one, and I have thought of my old friend Fran from the beginning.

I met Fran at the first job out of college, in the mid-90s. Back then you could pretty much get a job shortly after graduation. It only took two weeks to find a job. I had a strong literature (and anthropology) background, but the editorial jobs for literature were competitive, so I took an editorial offer in computer book publishing. After five intensive interviews and an editorial test, I was hired on, and it turned out to be my very favorite job of all times. It didn’t take long to realize that while many people were my age, and recently graduated from college, many others were older and served as strong mentors. But we were all in the same boat–literary folks stuck in a book industry that catered to a technical audience. So in our Friday morning meetings, we talked about grammar and literary ideas and how to apply those things to computer books about programming, operating systems, and computer tech. But we also worked on fun books, like when Industrial Light and Magic, which did computer graphics for Jurassic Park, explained their technology in one of our books. We all got plastic dinosaurs.

It was exciting times. I still remember when Windows came out, and a lot of our books covered this new OS. I remember playing Descent over the company’s LAN. I remember the click-clackety sounds of dot matrix printers for hours on end. I may be aging myself a little, but it wasn’t really that long ago. We’ve just come a long way.

The friends I met back then are still acquaintances today on Facebook. I moved so far away since those times. I will forever recall the times we shared–lunching at Bazbeaux’s in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis, tons of parties, conversations, the sharing of novels or short stories we were working on, playing guitars, and in general, just good times. The slightly older women of that group, such as Sandy, Carolynn, and Cathy, taught me more about grammar than I had ever learned. I remember the excitement of finally understanding the importance of the serial comma and why using restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses made a difference–the thats and whiches.

My friend Fran was among these editors. She was kind of, to me, popular and witty. But once I got to know her, I realized she was such a genuine person. She would eventually marry Dean, a development editor, and she also had twins–who I remember babysitting and just admiring the tininess of them and how delicate they seemed. Once when I was babysitting, I went out on the patio to smoke (an awful habit I gave up years ago), and out there I saw this scene. It was like a vignette. A small wrought iron table with two chairs, a half-melted candle, an empty wine glass, and an ashtray with two partially smoked cigarettes. This scene made its way into a mystery I began to write later–which I never finished. I knew that Fran neither smoked nor drank, and I always wondered–who had been there? Come to think of it, Fran is the name of the main character in my debut novel, but as I was writing I never thought of the real Fran I knew (in fact, during the draft versions, the name of the main character was Fan–and I only changed it later).

I still remember also, before she got married, attending a tailgate party at Purdue, my alma mater, with Dean and a couple others from work. We got pretty shit-faced, we did. Dean was, and is, a very funny guy, the kind to have everyone in stitches at all times.

Well, I contacted my old friend to see if she would be interested in editing my upcoming novel, and she seemed giddy about it. This gives me comfort. I feel my first novel could have been improved quite a bit. I had people reading it–one a scientist for a tech edit and others who weren’t professional editors but were strong in grammar and literature otherwise–and what I learned is that we all missed some things. I feel writers are never happy with their own stuff. It is always an improvement process as you go along. But having Fran on board is a plus. She has such great knowledge about life, about literature, and about grammar.

So with all that in mind, I am also thinking of that return to Indiana this summer, in a little over a month. The big thing I’m looking forward to, other than seeing family, is going to Turkey Run State Park to run and hike. All my Indiana friends are now elsewhere. Fran and Dean, for instance, recently moved to Florida, so I won’t see them.

Turkey Run State Park is a place I have visited since I was a baby–being carried by Mom and Dad in a baby backpack. So I have a lifetime of memorable hikes there. In a state like Indiana, which is cornfield-flat, the forests at the park are full of canyons and gorges, as Sugar Creek has carved itself through the sandstone bedrock. For all my life, we have always gone on trail three, the most rugged, which includes creek hiking, ladders, stairs, and narrow but deep gorges–these gorges you can walk in or do like we usually do, feet planted on either side above the water.

This photo, and the featured image, are by MrGreenBean Public Domain

Because trail three is relatively short (two miles), we often hook up with other trails to see other features. I’m looking forward to going back. And while I think fondly of old friends like Fran and many others–Keith, Joe, Angelique, Kristy, Gayle, Bryce, Sandy, Carolynn, Sean–my other old friend, Turkey Run, is waiting for me. I sense it!

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