Honoring Writers, Past and Present
Leaving Your Mark on the World
with Your Words
When it comes to death, writers do it differently.
The expanse of that statement can be reduced, like a fine wine
sauce, to this: Writers are more likely to leave a more permanent
mark on the world. It matters not whether they are journalists or
literary writers. Speech writers or politicians. Famous or unknown
outside their families. If they write, they become more indelible
than their physical selves.
When Time magazine runs its annual farewell section, many
such people are among those we will long remember. Amazingly others
are first introduced to us in those pages. It seems a shame; we
get to know them just as they leave us. But it gives us this to
ponder: If we (in this case I) didnít know them and they have done
enough good to be celebrated by Time, then think of those
who did not make the list but were also great enough to be celebrated.
This yearís list included Frank McCourt, John Updike, William Safire,
Ted Kennedy, and Walter Cronkite. All names we know and all writers,
though all of them did other things, too, and some were better known
for those other things. In fact, so much better known that we may
not have thought of them as writers.
But there was no more eloquent nonfiction pen than Ted Kennedyís.
Some might remind me that he had the best of editors, but then I
must remind them that so did greats like Frank McCourt and John
It also included those I didnít know. In case you donít know them
Iím going to mention a few. One was economic textbook writer Paul
Samuelson. Funny, but my husband knew him. He still has one of his
textbooks from his days earning an MBA at Columbia. Then there is
playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote. Certainly I should have
known him, but didnít. Another was Natalya Estemirova, a reporter
who documented the atrocities of Chechens and Russians. all of these
writers who left marks on the world were just as great as the ones
I knew and—especially in the case of Estemirova—even
greater for her sacrifice of life in the pursuit of bringing truth
to us with her pen. She was only 50. She was, according to Time,
ďkilled by four bullets at point-blank range.Ē
And what of the rest of us. The writers whose books are represented
by powerful agents and published by names that are just as large,
but never make it to bestseller lists and are little read. The writers
whose beautiful books published by small publishers get lost among
the hundreds of thousands published each year. The ones who publish
their own books or get help from partner or subsidy publishers,
many of them little jewels that go undiscovered. The ones who never
write a book but write columns and blogs and journals. The ones
who write their familiesí histories and tuck the manuscripts in
a drawer never to be seen until some great, great grandchild interested
in genealogy finds it and devours it with gratitude.
They, too, leave their marks on the world. Both now and after theyíve
Tips and Tidbits
(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will
help authors write or promote better. She will also include
a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected
books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)
Writers interested in their craft know that last-minute edits
can mean the difference between success and failure. My new
booklet, Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers,
will help all writers, from those who write business letters
to those who pen poetry. Find it on Amazon.
Those who like to read will appreciate the guidance in Magdalena
Ballís review site, The
Compulsive Reader. Or follow her reviews at MagdalenaBall.blogspot.com.
For up-to-date information on all things literary, subscribe
to her newsletter, too.
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