16 Number 17 - November 6, 2012
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When Two Words Are Enough
by Nancy Robinson Masters
“When two words are enough, don’t use three.”
I heard that advice more than thirty years ago as an amateur writer attending a writing workshop. The speaker went on to emphasize the importance of learning to “write tight” and “cut the clutter” in order to “say more by saying less.” Thirty-something books and 3,000 pieces of published writing later, I thought I understood what that speaker meant.
I did not. It wasn’t until last November when I was in the middle of a marathon month of presenting visiting author programs to thousands of students in school districts across Texas that I truly learned what it means to say more by saying less. Sitting on a school parking lot stuffing down a sandwich before driving to the next school to present visiting author programs, I listened as my husband calmly read to me over the phone the radiologists’ diagnosis determined from breast biopsies I’d undergone a week earlier.
Those two words launched me on a roller coaster ride physically, mentally, and emotionally where I’ve experienced everything from sheer horror to shouting hallelujah.
From discovery to recovery, nothing prepared me for the bilateral mastectomy that followed three weeks later more than being a freelance writer.
Preparing for bilateral mastectomy meant researching to find out as much as possible about the disease that one in eight women (and more than 2,000 men) will be diagnosed with each year. It meant asking questions, some of them difficult and downright embarrassing, to make necessary decisions.
Preparing for a bilateral mastectomy also meant exposing parts of me to people I did not know who, like editors I write for but do not know, got to decide what parts of me to keep and what to get rid of. It meant having marks drawn on my back, side, chest and underarms where painful, but necessary, cuts had to be made. It even meant having someone inject new stuff into my tissue to make the shape of the story come out right.
I wasn’t the only “manuscript” in line for editing on the morning of December fifth. Three others ahead of me were undergoing various “major revisions” in the row of operating rooms I was rolled past. Looking through glass-windowed doors I caught glimpses of surgical teams performing their skills much the same as an editorial team:
Open. Fix. Close.
Then it was my turn. Four hours later I awoke with parts of me removed, drain tubes, dressings, and dogged determination to do whatever it took to write again.
Another workshop speaker taught me the best way to share an intensely personal experience is to write about it as you bleed, revise your writing when you have scabbed, and publish when you have scarred. One month after bleeding in surgery, my scabs were gone. My scars and I were ready to meet with the oncologist to review the critiques he’d gathered through a multitude of post-operative tests. The results of the liver scan would largely determine if I was “ready for publication,” or would I have to begin a regime of chemotherapy. I held my breath as he read the radiologist’s comment:
Just two words. Enough to confirm the oncologist’s next two words I most wanted to hear:
A bilateral mastectomy is not a surgery for sissies, but it is a surgery I can LIVE with! It has opened new doors for writing and speaking I never imagined. While recovering I completed two books for a major publisher. Six weeks after surgery I was hitting the roadways and skyways with a full calendar of visiting author and conference speaking schedules. As a writer and a breast cancer survivor, I am living proof that when two words are enough, you don’t need to use three!
© 2012, by Nancy Robinson Masters
Nancy Robinson Masters serves on the Abilene Writers Guild Board and is a professional freelance writer. A professional freelance writer, she explains, “is simply an amateur writer with a lot of experience.” Among her more than 40 published books are ebooks published by AWOC.COM Publishing: Extraordinary Patriots, All My Downs Have Been Ups, and Devoted to Writing.
15 Paying Markets
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Better Homes and Gardens - Guidelines:
Pays on acceptance. Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments, photos/artwork. Subjects: Home, garden, travel, health, parenting and education.
Clarkesworld Magazine - Guidelines:
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Portland Magazine - Guidelines:
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Psychology Today - Guidelines:
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The Nation - Guidelines:
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Quill & Quire - Guidelines:
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Low - Less
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ISLAND - Guidelines:
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Literary Traveler - Guidelines:
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Vestal Review - Guidelines:
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Accepts simultaneous submissions.
Seeks fiction. Subjects: Flash (short-shorts) fiction.
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