Friday, January 25, 2008

The Power of Print

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?

6 comments:

Joyce said...

Whenever I've had an article published, it even seems different to me, and I'm the one who wrote the piece! Maybe it's the fact that it's no longer just a bunch of pages and someone actually liked it enough to buy it.

Martha Reed said...

Kathie, I always enjoy reading reviews of my material because that's where I see how well I communicated the story. If the reviewer mentions most of my plot points I feel like I did a pretty good job, but I'm still surprised by what each reader picks out of the story - everyone has a different emphasis depending on their own experience, and how that reflects out of my work is what fascinates me.

And there is nothing else like holding your book in your hands, except maybe a baby!

kathie said...

Hi Joyce, so I'm not crazy...or not in that sense, I suppose!

Martha, reading your own reviews? That must be scary and exhilerating (sp?). I don't know how that feels to hold my own book, yet, but I do imagine it feels somewhat like a baby--a creation--a miracle of sorts. Thanks for commenting--both of you!

Nancy said...

Okay, can I admit this? A few months ago, I picked up a romance I had written back in the late 1980s-----AND I DIDN'T REMEMBER WRITING A WORD OF IT.

It was terrible, by the way. But the dialogue was funny.

I hate reading my own reviews. Especially when they say the book was terrible, but the dialogue funny.

Martha said...

Nancy, I don't think that's so strange. I hate to admit it, too, but there are large sections of chapters that I don't remember writing, and that was in 2004-5, not twenty years ago. Sad to say, the 'automatic' writing is some of my best stuff! Where does it come from?

JennieB said...

I'm just hoping that being printed on someone else's printer will somehow validate my books... At the moment I feel like I've managed to fool everyone, but it'll blow up in my face one of these days.

I frequently come across stuff I don't remember writing, either. Usually I'm pleasantly surprised, but not always, sad to say. But at least I can tell I'm getting better, right?