My 12 New Things

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm an "Epic" Editor

I didn't ride my bike from the east coast to the west coast... but my friend Jed did! I also didn't write a book detailing all of the adventures, challenges, and people along the way... but my friend Jed did!

What I DID was make his manuscript bleed (upon his request, of course) with my red pen and helped edit his book, Epic Ain't Easy.

I considered using this project as a New Thing, but it wouldn't have quite hit the mark on my objectives. The idea behind my New Things is that they push my limits and make me uncomfortable. Even though I've never helped edit a book manuscript before, it didn't qualify as an official New Thing for 2010 and I'll tell you why.

Helping Jed edit his book was one of the most interesting projects I've ever done and I was excited to be involved. I had read samples of Jed's work before and loved his poignant and humorous writing style. When I heard he was writing a book on his cross-country cycling adventure, I told him I wanted in.

I received the manuscript via email one weekend in mid-November. Jed sent it to me and four others, calling us the Epic Edit Team. In the email he introduced us to each other with brief bios and laid out the project. I enjoyed the bio he wrote for me:

Shanna- Currently resides in Kansas City and has been recruited because her husband mentioned she likes my writing style. Further investigations revealed she is also in possession of wicked skills, quick brains and an ability to provide criticism with the midwestern charm that removes the sting. Shanna is also smokin' hot but as is usually the case she's already got a dance partner.

I thought his description of me was hilarious. I don't know about the "smokin' hot" part, but if someone wants to say that about me, I won't stop them. And it won't bother me to post it on my own blog either. ;)

The manuscript was attached in the email and I couldn't wait to get started.

That first night I read nearly the whole 162 page document on my laptop. I drank a glass of wine. I was in my element and the book was fantastic, as I knew it would be. My plan was to read the book through once and then take to a printed version to make my edits and comments.

So that's what I did and I did it with fervor. Once I received the printed manuscript from Jed in the mail a few days later, I took my red pen and dove in. (Not that it wasn't a fabulously well written story already, by the way. It was. I provided editorial comments, suggestions on where to provide a little more description, etc.).

My goal was to be able to provide my edits to him by the end of November, so I took it with me on the long drive home for Thanksgiving. I was prepared with a book light since it would be dark much of the travel time, but the stupid thing didn't even work. Luckily my husband had his hunting gear packed in the car and had a headlamp I could borrow. I actually edited a good portion of the manuscript wearing his camoflauge headlamp. Really. Picture me in the passenger seat of a car with a camo headlamp, manuscript and red pen. That's how it went down. My daughter was incredibly freaked out by the light attached to my head, but she fell asleep soon enough. I mailed Jed the manuscript with my edits in late November.

In February, Jed sent it back to me with a signed copy of the published book. I was elated to see the final product and where my edits and suggestions were used. I was also thrilled that I was able to help a friend out on a project that meant so much to him. 

The book is called Epic Ain't Easy and it is indeed epic.

In 2006 Jed Dunham, upset with ambivalence and unaccountability in America, quit his job and put all he had on a bicycle. He wanted to see if his country was capable of meeting the challenges of the future horizon and he decided to ride across the continent to find out. He had no training, few maps, little knowledge of bicycling and no support vehicle. He left Mont Vernon, New Hampshire and aimed for the Pacific Ocean. He thought it would be fun. It wasn't. But what he learned completely restored his faith in America.

The book editing project reaffirmed how much I love writing. Around the same time that Jed's book arrived in the mail, my uncle gave me a book by Marcus Buckingham called Find Your Strongest Life. One of my biggest take-aways from Strongest Life was to learn to recognize activities that make you feel strong and figure out ways to spend more of your time doing those things.

Working with Jed on his book was a strong activity for me, which is why it doesn't qualify as a New Thing. I absolutely loved the project. It reawakened my love for writing and inspired me to find the time to do it more. His story motivated me, too. He's a guy that had a dream to bicycle across the country to find out what people are made of. Including himself. He didn't let the naysayers get him down or allow him to stop believing in himself. He used their snarky comments as fuel to push through the toughest parts of his journey.

Thank you, Jed, for allowing me to be a part of your adventure. You know where to find me when you get to Volume 2.


  1. Shanna--Congratulations on how you helped Jed Dunham with his MS. I just happened to stop in Twin Mountain NH yesterday and noticed the article about Jed'd bike trip in The NH Sunday News. I am planning to refer to it in a book I have almost finished about raising and schooling kids.

    I think his "discovery" of the basic goodness of ordinary Americans and their desire to work together to make us stronger will fit well with my theme. My book develops our need to emphasize character and cooperative problem solving rather than continue today's political wrangling.

    And it explores the relative unimportance of high IQ and grades in producing decent and competent citizens. The future of that nice looking child you're holding will be determined by much more than IQ, and cultivating those other parts of her(?) adult nature, is what I am writing about.

    I think Jed found that most Americans have a lot more of that important stuff which school grades don't reveal. Our problem may be that too many high IQ "smart" people are in charge and we need less of them and more people with some common sense and simple integrity.

    In any case, it was a happy coincidence seeing your blog. I may not use Northshire as a POD publisher, but will come up with some firm soon. By the way, if you want to read and edit another MS, I need all the help I can get!

    Bill Greene

  2. Hi, Bill. Thanks for the comment. Your book sounds intriguing. I'd be interested in taking a look through your manuscript. You can email me at