This morning I checked my email and the recurring theme from my favorite department stores was Prom! Prom! Prom! I was reminded of trips to the mall and poring over websites with Katie; we spent hours eliminating dresses that were too expensive or too revealing and giggled uncontrollably about the dresses that made the model look more like a giant marshmallow Peep than a Prom Queen.
We’ve progressed from laughing about peep-like prom dresses to snickering to the point of being dangerously close to snorting regarding the mystery of what kind of person would design pajama jeans, let alone wear them. Among many things, our regular diet of humor includes her latest dating escapades, my most recent episode of getting lost, and more often than I’d like to admit, my complete inability to grasp the proper use of a semi colon.
We exchange phone calls and smiley faces in between her classes and job, text messages to get me through the boredom of the stationery bike, and an occasional Facebook post for a quick update or to share pictures. We make the most of the traditional ways of communicating with the exception of voice mail.
In the world according to Katie a single missed call means call me back when you can and a series of missed calls means “I need to talk to you now.” Emails and text messages tend to be our main forms of communication if you measure it in sheer volume; last count we’ve exchanged around two hundred text messages and close to as many emails in the past month. I’d have to say our emails tend to be focused around my latest post or upcoming travel plans and not who’s at the gym.
Last summer I asked her if she’d be my editor and help keep me on the straight and narrow when it comes to commas vs. semi colons, whether or not a phrase should be highlighted with “quotation marks,” and to point out pesky run on sentences or paragraphs that just flat out don’t make sense. It wasn’t long before I dubbed her Dr. Semi Colon and after a few posts with far too many incorrectly connected independent clauses, Katie declared she had created a monster.
For five dollars a post I take a deep breath, attach it to an email with a subject line of “post for your review” and a message that is some variation of “I’m not sure about this one. I’ll be curious to hear what you think,” click “send” hold my breath and wait. Let the revisions begin.
It’s not uncommon for me to send and updated version within hours and sometimes minutes of sending the original with the subject line of “use this one please.” I’m not sure if my biggest challenge is the misuse of semi colons and commas or the overuse of quotation marks, and let’s not even talk about when one should use a colon.
Thankfully my editor does her best to spare my feelings and to educate me, but sometimes she has no choice but to tell the truth. After months of trying to write something that was punctuated perfectly, I got the email and edited version that was as close to that as I was probably ever going to get. Wanting to share my near mastery of punctuation with her I picked up the phone and dialed.
“Wow, only one correction. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this semi colon thing,” I said.
“Umm…well…Mommy…I hate to burst your bubble, but you only used one semi colon in that piece and you used it wrong.”
We recently collaborated on a piece that, after three revisions, we declared ready to submit to a magazine with the following email conversation.
“Shall I submit it and see if we get selected?” I wrote.
When I started writing a couple of years ago, little did I know that one of the best parts of it would be the lessons in punctuation, the exchange of ideas, the comical commentary noted in the margins of my manuscripts, and the joy of having my daughter as my editor.