Sunday, February 5, 2017

Monthly Magazine Timeline 4---Editor's Essays

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I write an essay for an Editor’s Thoughts column each month for the magazines. The word count is 450-500. The topic is timely—something I thought about recently or plan to do in the upcoming month.

          I often write this essay in one day after deadline but before proofing. I’ve written well over 100 of them as an editor so I’ve had lots of practice. Since I’m exhausted after three days of editing all the text for both issues, I don’t expend the energy unless it’s going to be published although I’ve had to cut it occasionally at second proof if ads come in late. Editing requires tough calls.

          Here is the essay I wrote and rewrote on January 19th in 242 minutes:     

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend viewing Hidden Figures—the true story of three brilliant black women, Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who worked for NASA’s early space program.

Who isn’t in awe of anyone who can create equations to overcome gravity then accurately bring astronauts back to an exact area for pick up, or program one of the first computers, or design space crafts to withstand re-entry? Yes, there were smart and brave men who sat in those space crafts not knowing if they would live or die, but they would not have succeeded without every employee at NASA doing their jobs.

          Imagine if during some of the proudest moments of this country—John Glenn in space then astronauts on the moon and back—everyone in the world knew about the contributions of these and other black women like Christine Darden and all the other minorities that helped make it possible.

NASA’s workforce reflected America, but most citizens were not aware of it. These people were living their dreams in a time when most were not. Wouldn’t these facts have changed the country and the world even more?

According to the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, who visited NASA as a child because her father, Robert B. Lee III, was an engineer there: “Five of my father’s seven siblings made their bones as engineers or technologists…Our church abounded with mathematicians. Supersonic experts held leadership positions in my mother’s sorority…As a child…I knew so many African Americans working in science, math, and engineering that I thought that’s just what black folks did.” (page viii)

Imagine a world where everyone thought that; a world where all people were valued for their abilities regardless of race or gender.

The events depicted in Hidden Figures took place before I arrived on earth, but I’d like to image being born into a world where the STEM program wasn’t needed because all little girls studied and then grew up to major in science, technology, engineering, and math, if they wished, due to these strong female role models who provided crucial knowledge and data to put men on the moon.

In return for their amazing work, NASA named buildings in their honor. Katherine Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

In this day and age, I cannot understand why the history of space exploration isn’t taught so we know the names of at least these three women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, as well as we know the names of astronauts Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra, and Buzz Aldrin. We would not have won the space race without all of them working together—a giant step for all human beings.

As the Editor, I also write weekly thoughts for the magazines’ facebook page. Here is my most recent one, 193 words written and rewritten in 50 minutes on February 1st:

          Recently, my sister surprised our father with an array of photos from his high school ice hockey team printed from older newspapers now online. As the goalie, there are photos of him blocking shots including one where he is doing a split with his glove outstretched and stick ready to block a rebounding puck. It’s a photo he is proud of, but the newsprint copy in his scrapbook is crumbling.

          He was surprised and touched that she found the photos and articles, printed them out, and framed them. They are now hung on the wall or on shelves where he can see and enjoy them every day. He may not be able to do a split anymore, but there was a time when he could do it well. They’re called glory days for a good reason.

This was such a lovely, thoughtful gift, I wanted to share it. A blast from the past like this is perfect for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, etc. Imagine the look on your loved ones’ faces as they are reminded of wonderful times captured years ago yet available now for display thanks to the internet.

Writing and rewriting fast are necessary skills for editors. Deadlines have to be met and the editor is the one who has to make it happen.

Weekly word count for January 29-February 4: 12,902.

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