Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Yesterday evening, April 3rd, I was invited to the birthday party of authoress M.Suma.

I first heard about Suma when her mother, Dr. Rama, gave me a book Suma had written and which had just been published by the printing press of the school she attends. The book is titled “The Wings of Dreams,” and it is the story of a young girl’s Harry Potter-esque adventures in a fantastic realm of make-believe.

Dr. Rama asked me if I would like to read the book and comment on it. I readily agreed to do so.

That’s Suma, wearing the green sari in the picture above. The other girl is one of her classmates. As of yesterday, Suma is 15 years old, but her age belies her maturity. Over the phone, prior to my meeting her in person, she came across as very much an adult in her tone of voice and use of language. I would never have guessed that she was only 14.

When she came to the guest house with her father to bring me to her home for the birthday party, I didn’t recognize her from her picture (which is on the cover of her book) and wondered who was visiting me unannounced. I was expecting a young girl. When she told me who she was, I was mildly flabbergasted. Suma is a graceful, eloquent, refined young woman who, in her appearance and demeanor, would not have looked out of place amongst my Masters of Education students at the university.

I enjoyed reading her book. Since I’d been invited to comment on it, I read it with editor’s pen in hand. It quickly was apparent to me that Suma had not benefited from an editor’s touch before her book was published. I learned in conversation with her during the birthday party that she had hand-written the manuscript in a note book, then had the manuscript transcribed onto the computer by someone else, and the electronic file was then passed directly to the publisher for publication, without further ado.

I could have “read” her book, as others had done, and ignored all the errors. But I thought it important, for Suma’s sake, to give her a critical evaluation. So, as my wife, Marilyn, did for years with her student’s papers, I identified every mistake I came across. I marked up oodles of mechanical errors, just as the editors of my published books had marked up my own work.

I loved the story, and the writing style, though I had one question when I was done reading it: “Where’s the rest?”. It sort of peters out at the end.

Well, Suma is aware of this and is already writing the continuing saga of young Felishia Adornis Yaflowne, affectionately known as Fay, and that of the cast of characters who progress through the first part of her tale. I'm looking forward to reading more about Fay’s further adventures, and about her blossoming relationship with her magical, winged friend, Levion.

Suma has a computer at home, so I asked her why she hadn’t used it to prepare the manuscript for the publisher. It would have allowed her to edit her own work. Most important of all, the computer would have enabled her to present the publisher with an electronic version of the manuscript, thus eliminating the error-prone process of transcription by a typist who may or may not have had much familiarity with the English language.

When I asked her why she hadn’t used the computer, Suma just shrugged her shoulders and told me it hadn’t really occurred to her to do so. Anyway, she much prefers to do her writing pen in hand, rather than typing directly into a computer, as I prefer to do.

But Suma does have the electronic version of the manuscript on a CD-R, so she’ll easily be able to update it based on all my edits, prior to adding the sequel to the story. Along the way, she’ll no doubt tweak things here and there as new ideas, insights, and intrigues come to mind. A work of art is never finished, as such. It reaches a stage where the creator feels compelled to let it go, and thus it becomes, so to speak, etched in stone. Even fiction writers, though, will sometimes revise their books between printing runs when given the opportunity to do so.

I’m looking forward to reading the next edition of Suma’s book. As she told me in our conversation during the rooftop gathering of family and friends, every character in “The Wings of Dreams” reflects a part of her personality, so it will be fun to find out more.

Meanwhile, you’ll no doubt be alarmed to know that I was invited to sing at the party! “No way,” I said. “Even if I could sing, I don’t know the words to any songs.” But then I thought: “Wait a minute. I do know the words to one song.”

And I stood up and got everyone to join me in singing “Happy birthday to Suma!”

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