Yesterday I sent out an email to many of my family and friends promoting my forthcoming book How to Play the Harmonica: And Other Life Lessons (Gibbs Smith Publisher, August 2009), my blog, and my music. In the subject line I wrote “Sam Barry’s Blatent Self-Promotion,” not noticing that I had misspelled “blatant.” This is embarrassing. To a large extent I make my living by writing. There’s the book and the column “The Author Enablers” in BookPage. There’s my day-to-day work working at HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins, where one of my primary roles is copy chief, although admittedly this is more about coming up with a lot of clever ways to say “Y’all REALLY SHOULD BUY this book” then it is about good spelling and grammar.
Which is why the spelling error was embarrassing. But the truth is—the dirty little secret that I have hid all my life, but which I am now going to reveal here (or should I save this for Dr. Phil? I’d better check with our publicity director Suzanne Wickham) is that I misspell words all the time and don’t know many of the basic rules of grammar. This in spite of my well-spoken parents and a good education and all my work with words since. (See? That last sentence is a fragment!) The truth is I write by ear. That’s write—I mean, right—I just wing it! O God, the shame. And yet is cathartic to reveal it at last.
And while I am on the subject, yes, Mrs. Reed, if you are out there—it was me who broke that small window in the back of your house those many years ago, just as you always suspected.
There. I feel better.