As a professionally trained editor, seldom do I blog just to tell a story. My posts are usually targeted toward specific topics and audiences, thus this post is different. It’s one doozy of a tale that heralds an English professor hero, Dr. Barry Wood. I should have written it years ago and will probably include it in a memoir one day.
First, the backstory.
I’m not sure there are many professionally trained editors who have invested twenty-nine years in obtaining a bachelor’s in English, but I’m one of them. I took my first class at the University of Houston as an eighteen-year-old freshman, was overwhelmed at the size of the campus after leaving a small-town environment, and dropped out. Over the years I picked up coursework elsewhere — an associate’s degree at Blinn College and classes at Houston Community College and Sam Houston State University — all the while working in corporate America and building my sideline editing business.
It wasn’t until my forties that decided to finally complete my English degree at UH, and attempted to register at the last minute. I was initially told that enrollment was closed to non-UH students. Thankfully, I mentioned that I had attended many years prior and was told, “Oh, you qualify as a returning student!”
Voila! Once again, I was back on campus and signed up for distance learning courses as well. And it’s a good thing I did because I stumbled into a class taught by Dr. Wood.
The Good Professor
I owe so much to the mentors who helped me further my skills as a prolific writer and professionally trained editor, and Dr. Barry Wood is one such mentor. He made a difference in my studies, skillsets, and career.
Mind you; I was already a professionally trained editor through previous coursework and involvement in numerous literary organizations. My sideline book editing business was growing, and my work as a magazine writer was expanding as well.
But I lacked an undergraduate diploma. It just seemed that a professionally trained editor should have an English degree. So there I was in my forties, competing with students half my age and navigating divorce and single motherhood. Yet I committed to a monumental financial investment because I felt this credential — the degree — would yield a return on my investment.
Ultimately, it did. But first I had to face a number of required English courses. I happened to sign up for one of Dr. Wood’s classes — having no idea about what I had just gotten myself into!
Fortunately for me, Dr. Wood’s standards were stringent. Some might call them brutal in the sense that he demanded our very best efforts. I really had to hustle as I juggled many balls that semester, but rise to the challenge I did!
I came to appreciate that course, and Dr. Wood as well!
This venerable professor squeezed every bit of intellect out of my brain and replenished it with copious lectures and assignments. I was then able to pour this knowledge into my exams and also my writing career. Because Dr. Wood is as brilliant as he is exacting, I immediately signed up for another one of his courses, an elective by the way, and braced for a second round of excruciating assignments and exams.
That’s when Dr. Wood became a mentor as well as an instructor, as you’ll see below.
A Professionally Trained Editor Doesn’t Shy Away
Why did I follow Dr. Wood when I could have taken an easier route? Well, honestly, doing well in his classes involved a degree of difficulty and a sense of accomplishment I had never before encountered. As writing and editing professionals, we should run toward academic challenges. We should jump on opportunities to grow and excel. And we should seek role models who insist on the highest standards. Only then can we truly amass literary knowledge, become subject matter experts ourselves, and put our training to good use.
That’s precisely what Dr. Wood brought to the equation. Getting an A or B in his classes was a badge of honor. However, that almost didn’t happen, at least, not the second time around!
While taking Dr. Wood’s follow-up class, I turned in an assignment and received an abysmal grade right out of the shoot. What?! How could that happen? I wondered in a panic. Actually, I was mortified!
In disbelief, I called Dr. Wood and reminded him that I was a returning student. I explained that I purposefully signed up for this current class because I enjoyed his prior class, and asked about my grade. I think my phone call surprised him. Perhaps the majority of his students took a mandatory course and then moved on. I assume that only the very dedicated few intentionally signed on for more. Therefore, he realized I was serious about his class and my love of English studies.
Dr. Wood took me under his wing. Not only did he listen as I confided about my personal hardships, he wisely put a lot of my life experiences into perspective. Mind you, I was studying, parenting, and working while attending U of H. Thanks to him, I felt encouraged to motor on, keep focused, and stay on track. I earned an A- in his class and eventually received that coveted, long-sought degree a few years later.
By the way, I cherish that A- as a trophy!
Professional Training Pays Off
Shortly after graduating in 2009, one of my magazine articles, Pink Divas, received an Excellence in Cancer Journalism Award from the American Cancer Society. I went on to write for magazines around the globe as an online editor for an engineering firm and became a contributing editor in five Houston-area magazines. What an honor to serve as editor-in-chief for two Christian publications, and as a writer for the national magazine American Cowboy (the article God’s Country is among my favorites). I’ve also ghostwritten more than two dozen books, edited hundreds of manuscripts, white papers, and web articles, and have become an author myself.
Dr. Wood’s tutelage definitely helped, the degree helped, and my affiliations with numerous literary groups continue to bolster my expertise.
And now, I have more cause to celebrate because my favorite professor, Dr. Wood, has rolled out a new novel.
Ironwood Ridge by Barry White
Just today, April 12, 2022, I received a newsletter in my inbox from UH’s Department of English, sharing updates and newly published works by students and faculty. Lo and behold, Dr. Wood’s name appeared along with the book cover of his thriller, Ironwood Ridge. I was ecstatic at the announcement — not only was I flooded with memories of my alma mater, but fond recollections of Dr. Wood and what he meant to me.
It nudged me to email him a thank you for his contribution to my calling as a professionally trained editor who has carved out a niche in the world of worlds. I also congratulated him on the launch of his new novel. Dr. Wood is a rockstar author and I’m sure his readers, including me, will enjoy the adventures of protagonist Broc O’Neill, and a plot of international intrigue.
In “Ironwood Ridge”, a novel by Professor Barry Wood (Vanguard Press, 2022), hero Broc O’Neill is targeted by a high-tech criminal network after calling for a Senate probe of Truman-era documents. Barely escaping assassination, O’Neill teams up with Christelle Washington in a flight-and-chase investigation of mysterious financial transactions that takes them from the U.S. to Southeast Asia. Momentarily safe, they uncover the roots of a conspiracy extending into the U.S. judiciary, CIA, NSA, and Congress that preys on victims in hundreds of American corporations. Narrated with a rich array of characters, plot surprises, and local color, “Ironwood Ridge” is a thriller in tune with the past quarter century of political conflict, ideological struggle, and government corruption.
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