You may not be old enough to recall those words as the title of a song in “Annie Get Your Gun,” but as soon as I typed them, the song sprang to mind — not that this column has anything to do with singing. I can assure you that singing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve discovered that writing does.
I write daily, often for hours, but I’d never really thought about where my writing ability came from until my friend Rob Paley asked me to edit his memoir. Yes, I have two degrees in English, wrote and edited throughout my corporate career, and am a columnist and author today; but all of that still doesn’t explain why writing and editing come so naturally to me.
I majored in English because I loved reading, not because I had a yearning to write. And I briefly taught English because that’s what you did with an English degree back in the day. When I went to work for a bank, somehow long before I realized it, others saw that I could write. Because it came easily to me, I didn’t think it was anything special. Instead, I was always amazed by my co-workers who could analyze numbers and produce spreadsheets — skills that in my book amounted to rocket science.
And so when Rob was blown away at how my virtual red pen transformed his work, I was surprised. The more he sang my praises and wondered aloud how I did it, the more I began to look back and wonder myself. After all, not all those who major in English go on to be writers, so why did I?
I explained to him that both my sisters are avid readers and are also well-written though they weren’t English majors. I may be the family grammar geek, but we’re all word nerds, and my youngest sister regularly slaughters me at Words with Friends. Of course, a good vocabulary and good grammar do not a good writer make.
Our conversation prompted some introspection and produced an aha moment. I’d forgotten that my father had begun writing a novel before he passed away at age 51. He briefly attended Brooklyn College, long enough to lose his Brooklyn accent, but not nearly long enough to pursue a degree. And yet, in his 40s, he started a novel.
Pondering the nature vs. nurture question was a logical next step. The nature side of the equation would say that we three girls inherited a penchant for words and writing from our father. Perhaps for me, years of writing in corporate America nurtured that penchant until it flourished. While experts debate whether it’s nature or nurture that has the most influence, I’ve never thought that one had to be dominant, and I think both have shaped who I am.
Now back to Rob and his book. “The Last Salute: The True Story of a West Point Cadet’s Dream to Honor His Dying Father” is a must-read. Face it — not all memoirs are intriguing or even interesting. It takes talent to weave a true story into a compelling tale, one you can’t put down. As he writes in the introduction, it’s “a story of love, sacrifice, honor, and forgiveness.” It’s a story about a father and a son and a mother’s love and devotion.
As compensation for editing the book, I requested two signed copies and two tickets to the movie premiere when Hollywood picks it up. That should tell you how highly I think of it. I see Rob’s writing as masterful, but only he can tell us whether it also “comes naturally.”
Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/, and/or read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.