For a number of years, Armand Singer edited the West Virginia University Philological Papers, which prompted him to write a set of guidelines for those who submitted papers. A few years before his passing, the editor of The Philatelic Communicator asked Armand to write a version of his hints for the philatelic media which resulted in How To Soothe and Impress Your Editor.
Last year, I named all twenty-one suggestions and cited only one that I thought was short and sweet. Here's another brief hint (I'm guilty):
15. Downplay Emphasis. Liberal use of emphasis by way of underlining and/or "!" is great stuff, if you are a schoolgirl writing home to doting and forgiving parents. Eschew such practices in submissions to hardbitten editors, especially those unrelated to you.
Although he may sound hardbitten in those few lines, Armand told me that even when he rejected papers submitted for the annual WVU Colloquiums, he thought the decent thing to do was to offer some suggestions.
When Armand died in 2007, his daughter Ann received numerous letters and notes about her father's contributions, but it was a woman named Sylvie Richards, who best described Armand as a generous and effective mentor when she said, "He made my prose sing." Here is her letter:
It was with such sadness that I heard the news of your father’s passing. Not only did I lose a beloved colleague, but I have lost a precious and irreplaceable friend to whom I owe so much of my professional career.
I met your parents thirty-one years ago at the first annual (it seemed daring to call it that at the time!) Colloquium on Literature and Film. I was still a graduate student at the time, and this would be my first professional conference. I was living in the Pittsburgh area at the time, and so I drove to the conference with feelings of great anticipation mixed with some trepidation. Armand happened to be at the registration desk when I arrived, and from that moment began a friendship and a collaboration that has spanned my professional life. From that first conference came many more opportunities to visit Morgantown in the fall, and through the years I participated in numerous conferences. At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Colloquium, a number of us who had attended the first Colloquium gathered to celebrate that remarkable achievement. The Colloquium remains an institution, one of the longest running literature conferences still in existence.
Your father taught me to write. Armand accepted my article for publication after the first Colloquium, and thereafter he would call me to talk to me about punctuation and word selection because he cared so much about words. He made my prose sing. Through the years, his editing made me a better writer, a more nimble wordsmith, and a more insightful critic.
I looked forward every year to his Christmas letter where he would recount his wondrous adventures. I marveled at his zest for life, and like his other readers I traveled the world vicariously with him. I have saved his letters and will treasure them to the end of my days. He taught us all to embrace life, to see the beauty in nature, to scale life’s high peaks with gusto, and to relish adventure by banishing fear.
When my mother passed away, your father called me and left such a heartfelt message on my phone. I knew that he understood my loss because the loss of your precious mother was always fresh for him. Some of my most vivid memories of your father are with your mother at his side. I remember watching them leave the conference together, walking hand in hand down the hill that led away from Mountainview Lair. They looked like honeymooners and they made all of us believe that true love could indeed be found lasting.
Through his faithful stewardship, Armand leaves behind a legacy of accomplishments befitting a life well lived. His contributions to West Virginia University as a teacher, scholar, conference organizer, editor of the West Virginia Philological Papers, mentor, and donor are exemplary and trace a trajectory for a meritorious academic life. His friendships were deeply felt and a significant part of his life. His family was everything to him. And the world was his oyster. On July 12th, the world lost a priceless pearl.
With sincere sympathy,
Ms. Richards is now a practicing attorney in New York, specializing in wills,trusts, and estate planning. Enjoy her writing skills by reading her blog.
How To Soothe and Impress Your Editor is available in PDF format through The Philatelic Communicator.