Lessons Learned

Mr-ChileThat curve ball I reported in the previous post about my book title has been tossed all over the field. I appreciate the comments many left there. An update is in order about  principles validated, lessons learned, and conclusions reached.

Principle 1: Do your research.

When controversy arose over the spelling of chile or chilehead, I did do lots of research, and I learned many fascinating facts about chile/chili quite apart from the spelling lessons and history.

Principle 2: Check your references

When I called my father to double check my memory of what he told me, I was in for yet another surprise. Without knowing why I was asking, he turned my memory inside out. In his considered opinion, replacing the “e” at the end of chile with an “I” is an affectation that became fashionable about the time people began naming baby girls Christie rather than Christy. I never did understand how he could be at such odds with local custom, so although chagrinned at this outcome, I’m relieved to find him in character after all.

Lesson 1: Involve lots of others

I was beginning to wish I’d never mentioned this project to the Facebook group, considering in retrospect that asking forgiveness would have been easier. I had no intention of stirring up such a flap. But … I was using what I remembered as my father’s guidance in the first place, and his opinion trumps the rest. Had I not stirred up that Facebook pot, a permanent cloud would have hung over that book when I learned of my flub. This way I can still fix it. Community matters. Crowdsourcing helps.

Lesson 2: Double check your sources.

Memory is a tricky thing. We all know that. My memory error was legitimate and defensible. And I could have asked that question sooner. I just never thought of doing that. So, learn from my example and think about it. Root out and check out your assumptions to keep that egg off your face.

Conclusion 1: I need a new title!

It’s time for creativity. I’m considering options and open to suggestion.

Conclusion 2: It’s chile, not chili.

Case closed on that.

The story of compiling this collection from loose stories to memoir goes far beyond the title. I’ll continue the tale in the next post.

Write now: Think back through your old stories, or perhaps one you are currently writing and look for underlying assumptions. In my case, this was an assumption about spelling and remembered advice. Yours may be quite different. When you find an assumption, check it out. This is especially important when your assumption is based on things other people said or did. Mine was resolvable. Yours may not be. But it’s always worth a try.

Photo credit: Clotee Allochuku


Jessica Baverstock said...

It certainly was an interesting discussion. I can understand why you'd wish you hadn't mentioned it, but it's far better to have the discussion now while the decision is still to be made than have the debate after it's published. You made the right choice. ;)

Perhaps you could call it something like 'My Fiery Affair With Spicy Food, and the Surprising Spelling Complications that Ensued.' :P
I look forward to seeing your cover art! :)

suzicate said...

I have found my assumptions to be wrong more than once! Facebook is full of opinions...and the occasional fact, lol!

Sharon said...

Thanks for the title suggestion, and glad you also enjoyed the interchange. As I said in the post, regardless of what the group said (which I totally respect and appreciate) cost time, effort, and confusion, sparing my from my father's disdain... PRICELESS! Or something like that.

When the title is again set, I'll be more certain about the art. Stay tuned.

Sharon said...

I know about Facebook opinions. I've contributed my share, ;->. Reference material is mixed, but for my purposes, the final authority was on the other end of that phone call.

Sue Mitchell said...

I like Jessica's title suggestion, or perhaps you can use that "blow-your-head-off food" phrase somehow.

Funny story. I was making a grocery list for my husband, who has absolutely no knowledge of your recent spelling dilemma. One of the items was diced green chiles. But somewhere along the line, I developed the habit of spelling the plural of chile "chilies." Go figure! I didn't even realize I was doing it. When my husband looked over the list, he went right for it. "Is that how you spell chiles?" he asked. I laughed and thought of you. :)

Anyway, I love the reminder about checking out our assumptions. The first step, of course, is to even realize we're making an assumption, but we almost always are!

Sharon said...

Funny story Sue. Your husband gets an A in spelling! I don't think the blow-your-head-off line belongs in the title, but it can definitely fit in the book description.

Sue Mitchell said...

Yes, of course you're right about the blow-your-head-off thing, especially with all the violence in the news these days. But perhaps a variation on it that includes the humor without the violence. The books I tend to pick up usually have something goofy or unexpected in the title, which is what I liked about "blow-your-head-off foods."