When I was a sophomore in high school, I had this English teacher, Mrs. Parker. She did not particularly care for me and I hated her with the fire of a thousand suns, because she sneered at my writing. When you’re a 14-year-old girl who has only ever wanted to be a writer and your English teacher essentially makes fun of you for writing poetry and consistently gives you C’s, it stays with you and no, I no longer hate her but if she and my ex-husband were both on fire and I had but one bucket of water, it’d be a hard decision.
One of the things she did that makes her fire-worthy? The grading criteria for our weekly composition papers. If, in our composition, we used any instance of passive voice (be, being, been, is, am, are, was, were, has been, have been, had been), she gave us an “F” on that paper.
This scarred me for life, or so editors and colleagues tell me. I, along with fellow Parker survivors, still unconsciously edit out every instance of passive voice in my writing. I have since accepted that in rare instances, a writer may use passive voice, but I am in no way OK with it. I realize I could probably benefit from some sort of therapy.
Which is why I find it so amusing that when I received the final edits back for my book’s introduction, my editor included rewording the second paragraph to read:
“There was a time when not only could you find such a book, but the presence of such a guide was considered so crucial to the nation’s economy that our government sponsored such guides.”
The editor for the University Press of Florida – the same people who published Carl Hiaasen’s column compilations – inserted passive voice into my book. Delicious.
I can’t remember Mrs. Parker’s first name so I don’t know if she’s still alive, but if she is, I would love to send her a copy of my book, with the second paragraph highlighted.
Some days you go for the little victories.
Oh, and also, the editing process of my book is done and we are moving onto the next process: External review. I don’t know what that means, but it sound both scary and wonderful.
So, you know, kind of a big victory day, too. The editing process sucks. It took me longer to make the edits than it took me to write the book.
But either way… I’m going to have a book. It’s starting to feel real.
Suck it, Mrs. Parker. I am a writer.