A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about her Editors
A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about her Editors
"Treasure the Past" was a segment of the INTA Congress held in San Antonio, Texas this past summer. Some of the New Thought leaders of the twentieth century, who helped lay the foundation for the twenty-first century, were appropriately honored in that segment.
I would also like to pay tribute to some unseen helpers of the twentieth century who helped to expand the New Thought movement through my writings. They were my editors. All authors have war stories they could tell about editors they have disagreed with over their precious writings; and editors usually have war stories they could, in turn, relate about their authors.
But let me share a slightly different take on editors: Over the past forty plus years of writing, I have had many editors, most of whom were very helpful to me in spreading the nondenominational, inspirational message of New Thought to my readers.
The editor who first cheered me on was my original one, Mr. James Decker of Unity School. After I had submitted my first prosperity article to him, entitled "Your Success is Unlimited," published in 1959, reporting on the first prosperity class I taught during a recession in 1958. He had said, "Write more on prosperity, much more. The entire New Thought Movement teaches the spiritual principles of prosperity, as did its founders. But few people are now writing on the subject. Your short prosperity article brought in more reader reaction than any we've had in years. People obviously are spiritually hungry to know more about the laws of prosperity."
I took him at his word and wrote prosperity articles for almost every issue of the Unity publications for the next five years. The appreciative reader reaction from around the world was almost unbelievable, and continues until this day. Thanks, Jim Decker, for launching me and indirectly helping people everywhere to prosper, then and now.
Perhaps I should be most grateful to my late husband, Dr. Kelly Ponder, who taught writing in the Department of English at the University of Texas. I married him just in time (I discovered later) for him to edit my first book, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity. The editors at Prentice-Hall had taken one look at my oversize manuscript and said simply, "Cut about in half." I howled. The very idea! Until Kelly Ponder diplomatically said, "Let me have a look at it." He then proceeded to do all the necessary cutting for me. No small job, since, like most authors, I tend to overwrite. In the case of that manuscript, to say I had overwritten was an understatement. Through his editing, in which he sliced and diced, I learned a lot, without his saying a word. I had already been writing for the Unity publications for some time, so I did not care to hear his writing theories. I had developed my own.
Nevertheless, the tremendous job he did in cutting that manuscript about in half, made it, in my opinion, the quiet best seller it has been for the past 35 years, still remaining in demand in the United States and abroad. I have often felt that his fine editing of that book was his long-term legacy to me, since he moved on to the next plane of life soon thereafter, leaving me with a best seller on my hands.
Then there was the Prentice-Hall editor who almost caused me to lose my religion (never mind his) over my book on prayer. You would never have known that I'd ever heard of the word prayer by the time I finished losing my cool with him on that sacred subject. He wanted to cut two chapters out of my prayer book, and indeed, he did. I never wrote for him again. Instead, many years later, when I had changed publishers, DeVorss & Co. was kind enough to allow me to reinsert those two chapters. It made a large but far more complete book on the subject titled The Dynamic Laws of Prayer.
Some years later, when that Prentice-Hall editor and his wife had retired to Florida, he wrote reminding me he had been my Yankee Editor, as though I could forget him. We had gone round and round over my Southern accent, which would creep into my writings. Later on the lecture circuit, my listeners would ask, "Why don't your books have a Southern accent?" My reply: "They do. But my Yankee editor keeps cutting it out."
In spite of our past differences, by the time he had retired to Florida, either he had mellowed, or I had. Regardless, we shed our differences and became friends again. Only this time, he complimented me ror the Southern charm he claimed radiated from my little notes to him. Was that his way of making things right from the past? I don't know or care. I finally realized what a remarkable editor he had Deen to Put up with me in the first place. I was glad for our joint peace at last. (He had also edited New Thought writers Dr. Joseph Murphy, Dr. Donald Curtis, and others.) But my most unusual editor was (do I dare admit this?)—my ole' dog Taurus, given to me by my son and named for my son's astrological sign. Taurus was half Bassett and half Beagle. So we called him the Bassel. His main claim to fame was that he had reportedly been born in a litter of puppies owned by the Presidential Lyndon Johnson family. Regardless, I never knew whether he was a Democrat or not. He slept right behind my steno chair for hours while I wrote at my typewriter.
When I had finished a manuscript, I would often place it on the carpet in my writing studio to review it page by page or chapter by chapter. Taurus, upon being roused from his latest nap, would often move quietly through the open sliding glass door and take a walk outside, usually just about the time the afternoon sprinklers were coming on to spray the flowers in the yard. He considered those sprinklers his private shower, and would then sneak back in where I was working, often with wet, dirty paws. Before I could stop him, he would walk all over my manuscripts and leave his dirty paw prints everywhere. Since he was such good company while I pounded away, day after day, at my typewriter, I decided that instead of banishing him, I should put as good a face on his antics as possible.
My solution: I simply sent my manuscripts into my publishers, explaining that the dirty paw prints on some of the pages were the paw prints of approval from my Associate Editor, my ole' hound dog, the Bassel, who kept me company while I wrote. I further explained that I interpreted the pages or chapters carrying his paw prints of approval to indicate his favorite passages.
Did it work? It must have. The books got published without a murmur (audibly), although the paw prints went invisible. Taurus was with me for almost twenty years, and has now retied to hound heaven. But I must admit that of all my editors over those several decades, he was doubtless the most unusual. As I treasure the past by remembering my varied editors of the twentieth century, I bless them one and all for the help they gave me in various ways, thereby spreading the good news contained in the New Thought philosophy, near and far. As I take up the project of my book-writing again, after so many years of doing other things, I will doubdess need editing in the future, as in the past. But I've made one very serious decision: No more associate editors with wet paws. Why? They're too unforgettable.
(Excerpt - New Thought Magazine - Autumn 2000)
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Preceding Entry: Ponderings ... A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder 5: DeVorss & Co.
Following Entry: Ponderings ... A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder 7: Dr. Robert Bitzer