Divine Grace and Human Imperfection

© 2018 Jon Woodhams

I tell people that one of my claims to fame is that I was the proofreader for Jan Karon’s first Mitford book. It’s true—back in the early 1990s, I did a fair amount of proofreading for David C. Cook’s book division, and they had recently purchased the American arm of Lion Publishing which, prior to the books being taken to the ABA market by Penguin, published the first three Mitford volumes.

I’m probably telling tales out of school here, but it turned out to be a marathon proofreading session because I had to proof the entire typeset novel in one weekend. But I gamely took on the project and gave it my best shot. I turned it in and forgot about it until my sister (who knew I’d proofread the book) pulled me aside and told me that principle was consistently spelled principal, or vice-versa.

Sigh. I do know the difference! But in my rush to finish the project, I missed this crucial error. How much copyediting or proofreading had occurred prior to this, I don’t know, but I do know that I was the last one to proof it before it went to print. And so, in a real way, I failed.

Fast-forward to the early 2000s, when I was working full time with David C. Cook in the book division. Cook still owned the CBA-market rights to the first three Mitford books and decided to repackage them. Guess who was the editor for the project? You guessed it. So you could say I had a second chance—a do-over—to fix my earlier errors.

In the world of publishing and writing, at some point, deadlines arrive, and we must let go of the book, trusting that those who follow us in the production process will do their jobs too. This brings home a principal, er, principle that is as true in life as it is in publishing. Strive as we might, we will not reach perfection in this life. We must do the best we can with the tools and time we have, and then we must move on, trusting that God’s grace will smooth over the errors we’ve made along the way.

And sometimes, when we least expect it, God extends us the special grace of a do-over that allows us to fix our failures—both in life and in publishing.
Jon Woodhams has been involved in various facets of Christian publishing for nearly 30 years. Prior to his work with Guideposts as a fiction editor, which he began in 2011, he worked for WaterBrook Multnomah and David C. Cook Publishing. In his work for Guideposts, he has launched and/or edited several fiction continuity series, including Miracles of Marble Cove, Mysteries of Silver Peak, and Tearoom Mysteries, as well as four volumes of short-fiction Christmas sets called A Cup of Christmas Cheer.

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