Do You Believe in Ghostwriters?
By Marvin Payne
This column isn’t due for another two weeks, but I’m so excited about learning that I haven’t been fired as a writer for Meridian Magazine that I’m writing it right now.
Maybe that bears some explanation.
You see, the deadline calendars for several months of publication didn’t go out to the writers. Kathy Kidd, my personal editor, told me today that she’d been using the “think method” instead to let writers know when their words were needed. In many cases, this worked. It many cases, it did not. But you haven’t been able to tell, right? This is because Sister Kidd (who is doubtless somebody’s kid sister but we won’t go there) has been editing Meridian writers so well for so long that if telepathy hasn’t worked on a particular writer, she knows just what to write in their place.
All the tributes to President Hinckley? Kathy’s work. (Well, all except the piece entitled “President Hinckley’s Funeral.” In the by-line, credit is given to Maurine Proctor for the text – although, having known Virginia Pearce in her youth and knowing something of her style, I can say confidently that she, Virginia, at least, wrote her own text.) “Navel Academy Coach Appreciates Gospel Life” (same issue) was a bit of a stretch for Kathy, who is not strong on anatomy, but she pulled it off admiralably. More of a stretch was the adjacent column called “Return and Report” which was about, well, weight loss, of course. This is because K. K. doesn’t give a skinny fig about weight loss, but you couldn’t tell, could you? Of course, the scholarly stuff is a slam dunk, because who’s really gonna check the research?
The popular audio feature “Cricket and Seagull” is another exception to the Kathy Kidd ghostwriting marathon. I know Steve Perry personally and he said he would just send it in every week, no matter what. (The one week purporting to have been guest-hosted by Steve’s mom, Janice Kapp Perry, though, was Kathy’s.)
This column is really written by me (scrape the screen for a conclusive sample of DNA). This you may take as truth because I’m the one writer no editor can imitate. Or maybe, would want to. I invited Kathy this very day to direct me more (it’s an actor thing). She wrote, “Harnessing you would be like harnessing the wind. Who in the world would want to harness the wind?” That has the feeling of a compliment, but could also just be a very poetic way of saying, “Feel free to be fired momentarily.” That’s looking closely, though. What first hit me was the obvious answer: Environmentalists! Duh.
This column is about journal keeping. I will now include a couple of recent journal entries as object lessons.
2 February 2008
“President Hinckley’s funeral. Looking back as we do, his accomplishments are astounding. But with all the light, the brightest moment in his preaching to me was in the last conference when he said, ‘Where we are now is only the beginning.’ Those are words not of optimism or politics, but of prophecy. As excited and impressed as we are with what has been done, his eyes were on what will yet be done. I don’t have the math to extrapolate upon the inevitable trajectory of growth, but I think I’d be amazed. He had more than math. Bishop Burton has said today that prophets are about miracles.”
3 February 2008
“It snowed a foot during the night, and snowed all through church. I shoveled for four hours in the afternoon. I haven’t seen this much since ’93. It’s ten o’clock at night, and snowing.”
4 February 2008
“Thomas Monson is the President of the Church, assisted by Henry Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf.”
(My spell-checker doesn’t want me to type “Uchtdorf,” but it doesn’t give me any options. That’s okay, I don’t want any options.)
Now why, you ask, should you write such a thing in your journal? Wasn’t this in a press conference on the radio? Didn’t we just see it in the Chicago Tribune? Will not this event on this date be quite adequately documented without your writing it down? Will future (you’re not talking, now, we’re back to me) historians turn to one another and ask, “Do we have this date right for the announcement of the new First Presidency?”
“I don’t know. Check Gretl Graffitireader’s journal – she’s pretty good with this kind of thing. It’s on the top shelf of the ‘Restricted Access’ section.”
“Ah, here it is, just next to Parley P. Pratt’s. Let’s see … 2008, was it? Winter? Hmmm … Professor Nibbleby!”
“What is it, Chauncey?”
“It’s not here!”
“Woe, (like in ‘Woe,’ not like in ‘Woh’) the data is lost! Chauncey, you know what this means, don’t you?”
“Tell me, Professor!”
“Our children will dwindle and perish in unbelief!”
This conversation will not occur. Your writing it down in your journal doesn’t have that purpose. The purpose it really has is twofold. First, to establish that you noticed it, and second, to reveal how you felt about it. Two of the junior-est apostles flanking the senior-est apostle, who, despite the calendar, always seems, in energy, style, wit, memory, courage, service, and general quickness in uptake to be about forty-six years old! This has been an unusual day. Your posterity will learn much about you when they read how you feel about it. Nobody can tell them but you.
(Some solicitous columnreaders may want to know how I, the author of this column ((not Kathy Kidd)) feel about it. Myself. Well, I feel really quite good about it. Um, I should maybe write more than that.)
The preceding notion is the actual instructional marrow of this column. Those interested only in instruction and/or exhortation may quit here. But there’s more to today’s journal entry, if you’re interested.
“I drove up to Intermountain Guitar and Banjo this afternoon to swap out another of my guitar cases for the bandaged, burned, burlapped and in every way glorious old Gibson case that I got from my son Joshua years ago, which has been housing the Martin M-36 I recently sold them. The place is open by appointment only,”
(This is because people like me with no money to spend and nowhere to go would hang out there and play beautiful out-of-reach guitars until the proverbial cows came home.)
“and when Leonard let me in he was engaged in a complicated phone call with his lawyer, having to do with the fate of a banjo stolen twenty-four years ago. Kennard was back beyond the counter repairing a guitar. So here I am, surrounded by gorgeous instruments, alone with twenty minutes to kill, and what do I do? Nothing. I just stood there within arm’s reach and gawked at them. I thought, ‘Why am I not playing these things?’ When I got home with my old case, I found out why. I have a fever of 102.4.”
Which is the other reason I’m writing my column two weeks early. I’m incapable of doing anything at all that requires mental exertion. And I don’t care if I never see another snow shovel in my whole life until Wednesday. More journal entry:
“Leonard and Kennard (not related) are really these guys’ names. While we’re here on names, the Koralewski Missionary Companionship (my in-laws, who just left for Europe) has written to say that though they’d been originally scheduled to begin their labors in Vienna, Austria, they have instead been sent to Pig’s Crossing, Germany.”
This town, many of you will know, is famous for not being the birthplace of Mozart.
With the introduction of Mozart into this column, I’m beginning to feel just a little exerted, so I’ll stop. Except to say, along with all my literary Meridian colleagues, “It’s great to be back!”
What we’re most looking forward to now, as reclaimed Meridian writers, is the “Good Sportsmanship” Awards night. This, I believe, is to be held in the legal wing of the Meridian Magazine virtual edifice, in order to expedite any lawsuits that may follow refreshments.
Kathy, you have any Ibuprofen?
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)
2008 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.