“Never wander into a paragraph,” she said, scolding me. “Give your thought some thought.”
It was 1972, and I was being taken to task by Olive Mills, our senior editor and my writing mentor. The same admonition would be repeated over and over again until I got it right. Paragraphing did not come naturally to me, so it took Olive’s blunt force trauma of criticism to move me in the right direction.
Those were the days of hot metal, of monotype and linotype, of quoins and chases, of ligatures and kerning, of typewriters and carbon paper, days when editors affixed their comments not with sticky notes, but with scrap paper and straight pins, little crucifixions for would-be writers.
Those days are long gone, as is Olive, but I always think of her when I sit down at the keyboard and give some thought to my thought. I may wander still, but Olive is always with me, sometimes scolding, sometimes rolling her eyes in disbelief, occasionally smiling as I lay click upon clack and she peers over my shoulder, ready with scrap paper and pins to set me straight.
That's the thing about mentors, the really good ones. They never leave.
Isn't that right, Olive?