What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)
My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.
You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.
Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
My Farewell Column to Bill Shipp
Bill Shipp came into my life personally in the last quarter of his career, and in the early to middle stages of mine. As a freelance copyeditor and proofreader working for almost all of Atlanta’s business and political periodicals in the mid-1990s, I received a call one day in 1997 from Tim Bentley, another great and unfortunately late-too-soon Georgia political journalist, saying he’d heard Bill Shipp needed an editor, and could he pass my name along?
Me? Work for Bill Shipp? Pinch me, I’m dreaming. Having lived in Atlanta since 1977, I was more than familiar with Mr. Shipp’s work. (And I called him “Mr. Shipp” for years before he invited me to call him “Bill.” I was just raised to talk to my elders that way, especially one as esteemed as he was, yet I know he didn’t stand on formality. That’s just how it went.)
So I’m sitting in the DeKalb County Public Library near Northlake one day, and my pager went off. I found a public telephone (remember those?) and dialed the number. Bill Shipp’s number.
“Bob, I heard about you. My editor just quit, and I need someone to read my columns and newsletter. I don’t want just someone to check grammar. I need someone who will tell me when I’m off-base and tear up my writing when it needs it. Can you do that for me?”
Off we went. Via fax and e-mail. The very occasional phone conversation. For 12 years. I worked with him anywhere from two to four days a week, 15 to 60 minutes at a time. I believe I met him face to face exactly three times: twice very early on in the parking lot of Channel 5 when I was working on his book The Ape-Slayer and Other Snapshots and once with my wife Tere and his daughter Michelle about two or three years ago at a restaurant in Kennesaw.
My life for the last 12 years has been the steady drumbeat of Sundays and Thursdays, editing his columns before they were distributed to his syndicate. And Bill Shipp’s Georgia before it became Matt Towery’s property. And his columns for Georgia Trend. And the every-so-often special-occasion piece.
When I started using a laptop, I’d take it with me, mostly so I didn’t have to miss a column if I was traveling somewhere. If I didn’t get the column, I’d write to his assistants over the years, concerned that I’d missed something or, later, concerned about him.
Bill was a unique writer in that he had absolutely no fear of the editing process. Just the opposite. Some years ago, if I went for, say, 4 weeks without bleeding all over one of his columns — in some cases rewriting or trying in my own clumsy prose to say what I thought he was trying to say or even should have said — he’d call me up and give me a hard time.
“I’m not paying you just to pass over these columns. You need to tear them up more often than you have been. I know they need it.”
But they often didn’t. So what’s a poor editor to do, given good material?
Bill’s political leanings were hardly concealed. And in the days after the Republicans took over Georgia, his voice became more noticeable. Every once in a while, he’d pen some piece that seemed a little too moderate, too conciliatory. I’d email him and ask what was up? His response: “I’ve got to write one of those every so often so my newspaper editors don’t think I’m a communist.”
Then the email hits my account today that Bill is hanging it up. Effective immediately.
I want closure, a different kind anyway. I want a farewell column. I want the dean of Georgia’s journalists to give one last wave to the first rumblings of integration in Athens while he was a student, Billy Graham, Zell Miller, his dear departed son Ernie and wife Reny, Jimmy Carter, Ernest Vandiver, Tom Watson Brown, Lester Maddox, Romeo Richardson, the AJC, the Talmadges, Roy Barnes, Mike Bowers, Tom Murphy and a hundred others. Even Sonny Perdue. I want the perspective of history. I live in Virginia now, but Georgia still feels very much like home, and a big reason for that is Bill Shipp.
I’d have worked for him for free (although I don’t think I ever offered), but now I’m feeling a far greater loss than the monthly, promptly delivered check. He was no doubt my smallest regular client measured by dollars, but dollars are an entirely insufficient measure of the last 12 years.
Mr. Shipp — Bill — thanks for taking me along for the ride.