It all started when…
Mr. Fetherling set down his Diet Dr. Pepper.
A former L.A. Times editor turned adjunct journalism professor, he wore penny loafers and drank ungodly amounts of caffeine after 2 pm.
He was on his second marriage, an all too common fate for a writer, and seemed inherently dissatisfied with the work his students produced.
With cushioned steps between the aisles of the computer lab, he said a lot of things as we scrolled through endless pages of copy, but this one thing I remember the most:
“Only some of you are cut out for this kind of work. Maybe one or two people in this room will make a living doing this professionally."
Not exactly a pep talk, but we got the point.
The work of a writer is sleight of hand. A discerning eye. A hunch for the right turn of phrase. It's part training, part gift.
Mr. Fetherling was a pessimist. He spent too many years in L.A., I think, but I learned to shape story through his copyediting class. Stripping a story to its bones and letting it talk. An exceptional editor always keeps the writer's voice intact and leaves something better than they found it.
After graduating from Mr. Fetherling's class, I took what he taught me into the real world, and it multiplied my power as a writer. The discernment I learned helped me shape other writer's narratives effectively.
What grew from practice edits in afternoon editorial lab is now second nature. While Mr. Fetherling couldn't have predicted my becoming a professional writer, I do enjoy a good plot twist.