by, Kathie Shoop
While I’m still working toward the publication of a novel, I have published essays and articles and written for textbook companies. I have one article coming out in the February issue of Pittsburgh Parent (Yay!). It’s always a thrill to submit the finished product and nothing beats the surge of happiness when I actually hold the printed piece in my hands. I can only guess what that must feel like when a full length novel is wrapped in hardback and on the shelves of the local bookstore. Besides imagining my own books published I love to buy those of my friends and acquaintances, seeing their hard work laid out for the world to enjoy.
But, what’s beginning to surprise me is the reaction I get when people read my articles in print versus when they read them in manuscript form. There is a gap in between the time someone might have proofed my work until the point it shows up in print so I’m not surprised a reader might not remember every little thing in an article. But I repeatedly get calls from proofers to tell me they liked the article and they go on, their words painting a picture of not having ever read the work before. These people are the ones who have read the exact piece that is later published. And they aren’t wimpy, yes-men types of readers. They give faceted, pointed feedback—they’re actually reading the stuff, thinking about it. So what accounts for them experiencing the piece in such a different way?
In a scientific, data-grounded sense, I have no idea. But my guess is there is something powerful and different about words once they appear in a valued source. People read the article differently. Perhaps there’s a filter on when we read something in print—the idea that the work’s been vetted is fixed in our subconscious? Does that allow us to be gentler readers?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not under the allusion that everyone in the world is reading my work, falling in love with it, thinking I’m a great writer. I can hear the criticisms—I know my weaknesses as a writer, the things that bug readers about my work. But my writing gets an instant influx of power merely by having been printed off someone else’s printer. And that’s intriguing.
How about all of you? Have you noticed this? Some version or aspect of this? Or is it just me?