Friday Speak Out!: The Train that Almost Derailed My Writing Career

Friday, September 23, 2016
by Ann Goldberg

I was devastated.

I’d already written a few travel articles for this publication; my first serious acceptances in my nascent writing career. Now I had just written another one about a train ride that operated twice a day and took twice as long as the journey by car or bus because the train tracks still wound gently round the surrounding hills, unlike the new straight roads which had been built .

This was a tourist’s train ride. It gave a leisurely look at the glorious countryside . To prove how trivial the journey was considered, every station was in the middle of nowhere, with infrequent public transport connections to the nearest town.

The train ran twice a day: 8am and 4pm.

A few weeks after I sent off the article, I heard that the 8am train had been cancelled due to lack of interest. I wasn’t at all surprised. Most tourists are still asleep at that time.

The article was published.

The blow came ten days later.

An email day from the editor stated that he had been informed by his local correspondent that the 8am train no longer operated and therefore my article was factually incorrect and misleading to their readers in suggesting a service which didn’t exist. They were therefore printing a correction and apology in the next edition and of course I would not be receiving any payment.

I was mortified, humiliated – I just wanted to shrivel up and disappear down the space between the letters on my keyboard.

After a few days of beating my chest and wishing I’d never ever thought about being a writer, I suddenly came to my senses.

How dare the editor claim that I didn’t deserve payment? How dare he print an apology and correction about my article! Almost nothing was incorrect. I wrote a scathingly indignant reply.

“Do you realize that there are exactly two incorrect words in the entire article – those words are: (The train runs at ) 8 am and (4 pm).” The 8am train was never used by tourists, or anyone else and that’s why it was cancelled. Every other word in the article is correct.

I see no reason why you had to write any apology, and I certainly see no reason why I should not be paid the full amount.”

A few weeks later I received as close to an apology as an editor will ever write. They had checked again with their correspondent who admitted that it was true that the 4pm train still ran and that was the one that tourists probably use.

Under the circumstances they were going to print another correction confirming that the original article was in fact correct and the train service still operated – and of course I would be receiving my payment in full.

I learned two valuable lessons from that episode.

Always keep your editor informed of any changes in the information you sent, however small.

Editors aren’t always right.

* * *
Ann Goldberg is a writing coach helping writers and potential writers get published. She works together with you to write the best possible essay or article suitable for the market you are aiming at.
Anna also writes essays and memoirs as well as articles on Judaism, parenting, writing,home and time management and Israel travel.

For more details see  and

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Ann--Good for you for standing up for yourself as well as standing up for your writing. Too often, we get a proclamation or an opinion or a rejection from an editor and we just roll over, play dead and lick our wounds. You refused to play dead.

Thanks for the post.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Well done, Ann. We all need to stick up for ourselves.

Margo Dill said...

Thank you for sharing this with us! I feel like we can all really learn from your experience!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Ann, I love this. When I read that the editor was going to deny payment, I was pissed! Glad you stood up for yourself. Editors are just like everyone else and make mistakes. I think this is a really important lesson for new freelancers because I look back on the early days and there were a few times I just rolled over and didn't do anything, and just thinking about it still makes me upset. Thanks for sharing this helpful story!

Sheila Good said...

Good for you Ann. If we don't stand up for ourselves - who will?Congratultions. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

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