Only in the last couple of years have I been free of a recurring nightmare featuring my high school journalism teacher. It's not her fault. She stands as one of the inspiring figures in my life – she had a lot to do with me choosing journalism as my first career, and a lot to do with the high standards I believe I champion and try to attain in all my work.
In the dream, she scolded me for failing to count out a headline correctly (newspaper editors will understand). And I felt ashamed that I'd let her down and doubtful of my skills.
On Wednesday, I had coffee with my high school journalism teacher. For real. I had sent her a review copy of my forthcoming novel, HEADLONG. Its protagonist is a once-renowned journalist trying to reclaim his life. And I sent it to her as a way to thank her for shaping that part of my career – and my own character; I also sent it in hopes that she'd be able to provide some networking leads.
To my delight, she loved the book. No matter how old I get, there's nothing quite like being affirmed by the people who've helped shape me. And, not surprisingly given her history of generosity, she pointed me to some people with whom I could network.
But then she asked me a question: "Why did you have Nick (my protagonist/narrator) misuse the nominative case? It makes him sound uneducated." My nightmare came back to me. I froze inside, and tried to keep a confident smile on my face as she went on to describe herself wondering why I'd made that choice: "I know Ron knows the correct use of the nominative."
I couldn't move my limbs. I mumbled something about how the usage was a conscious choice, to keep Nick from sounding too formal. But inside I had one looping thought: I cannot admit to her that I can't remember what the nominative is, let alone the correct use of it.
And I didn't. I didn't want to be exposed. Even at 54, I didn't want her to be disappointed in me. I let the moment pass.
I did, as soon as we parted, Google "nominative case." I looked at examples of it, and considered how and where I might have misused it in the book. And I will be squeezing in some last-minute edits this weekend.