About three weeks ago, I received that rarest of correspondence, a personal letter delivered by the United States Postal Service. It came in an odd sized envelope and was addressed in cursive. I was intrigued. My mail box is usually stuffed with sales circulars, bills, brightly colored credit card solicitations, and during election season, grave warnings from candidate A about how candidate B wants to take away my guns and declare sharia law. So, imagine my delight to find an old fashioned, honest to God letter?
Back inside, I showed my prize to Pam. “Look honey, I got a letter!” My daughter perked up at the news, “Well?? Aren’t you going to open it?” So, open it I did, with nervous anticipation. It was a typed letter stuffed inside a strange blank greeting card that featured a family of unknown ethnicity outside their humble hut somewhere in the third world. Turns out it was a village in India. I immediately figured that this was another announcement by one of my former Sunday School students that he or she had decided to go on a mission trip to save these poor people, and I was about to be asked for a donation. But then I opened the letter and read the first line:
Dear Mr. Dunnevant, Perhaps I should call you Doug since we have been close friends for quite some time now…
What the heck? Wait, was this…might this be? I read the next line:
I stumbled upon one of your blog posts about a year ago and have been hooked ever since.
No freaking way!! I had just received my first piece of fan mail! Is the internet great or what? But then it occurred to me that since this particular fan had evangelical sympathies, I might be in store for a diatribe about my views on gay marriage. Maybe this person had had it up to here with my snarky put downs of Baptist church services. I proceeded cautiously.
I quickly learned that my fan was a married woman with three grown children living in North Carolina, who had been introduced to my blog by the father of a girl who used to date my Son, who as fate would have it, also used to be her boss. This was six degrees of separation on steroids. She went on to say how much she had enjoyed reading my blog, how much it made her laugh and how our two world views had much in common. Throughout, she tried desperately to convince me that she was not some unhinged lunatic stalker, sometimes hilariously so. Then she got to the real reason for her letter:
I have followed your book writing and am intrigued…
She then cataloged for me her professional resume as an executive secretary, then made this astonishing offer:
So therefore, despite the awkwardness, I am offering, free of charge, to proofread your manuscript… I really thought that I would go through life anonymously reading your words, but the thought of your book going out with a missing apostrophe or comma troubles me too much to stay silent.
I then read the letter aloud to Pam and Kaitlin and they both thought she was hilarious, and were especially impressed when she ended the letter with practical tips on how to survive the wedding planning process since she was about to marry off her oldest daughter in just a few days. Kaitlin grabbed the letter from me and scanned it carefully with the critical eye of an English Literature major. “Dad, she has perfect diction and I don’t see even one punctuation error.”
To make a long story short, my new proof reader is the bomb. She has made it through chapter 21 of 30, actually likes the work and has caught a ton of bad punctuation, clunky formulations and butchered syntax, and is well on her way to a shout out on the acknowledgment page if I ever get the thing published. Plus, I’ve made a new friend.