Fact Checkers UnitLater this week, I have a story that will run in The Anchorage Press, my first paying gig as a writer. Not that I write just for the money, although it doesn’t suck when a writer is paid. I write because I like the process of arranging words however I want to. AND if I feel like beginning sentences with ‘and’ I can do that.  AND If I feel like ending a sentence with a preposition I can do that to. Two. Too. Winston Churchill got away with it. He once PUT a preposition at the end of a sentence and was called to task for it. Churchill replied, “That’s the sort of pedantry up with which I will not PUT.”

So back to fact-checking. I was so excited The Press was publishing my story, I rushed my process in working with the editor. Not good. Why I thought I had to do my revisions in five seconds or less, I have no idea. I was giddy with the prospect of writing a story for my local peeps to read. I couldn’t stop dancing around to plop my butt back in the chair to give it another read. It wasn’t until I went to a retirement party last weekend that I realized I had a glaring error in my about-to-be-published wild land fire air tanker story. The horror.

I had the good fortune of talking with an Alaskan pilot, also a writer, so I gushed about my upcoming piece. So what kind of air tanker was it, he asked. A DC-10, I answered. Did it have props or a turbine engine, he asked. I said props. He said DC-10s don’t have props. I froze, duck-paddling like hell, with the stark realization I may have a glaring error in my story. My brain groped for the 28-year old memory of that air tanker.

Rut-Roh. FactCheckerSLIDER

The next morning (when I wasn’t drinking any more wine) I rushed to my computer to Google air tankers used in 1987…sure enough the DC-10 is a jet—and it wasn’t used in the 1987 aerial firefighting fleet! Had a DC-10 actually flown over our fire crew, low as it was, our ears would have fallen off and our organs would have left our bodies.

I racked my memory. Our air tanker definitely had propellers. No way were jets used as converted air tankers in 1987.

I raced through my photo album and found the picture of the air tanker that had saved our crew in ’87.  It had four props and a window for a nose.  My heart pounded with embarrassment. What kind of plane was this?  I clicked ‘google images’ for 1987 air tankers to match my picture. Lo and behold, there it was: A P4Y2 Privateer navy bomber!  Not a DC-10.Retardant Plane 1987

My keyboard smoked, I typed so hard and fast, to edit my story. I emailed the Press editor and told her this error needs revision. I haven’t heard back yet, which makes me nervous. I hope I contacted her in time before the story is printed. If not, every pilot in the firefighting world AND Alaska will nail me to a tree. Bad dog! Bad writer!Fact checking pinnochio

Lesson learned: CHECK ALL FACTS of a personal story, no matter how well you think you remember them. Don’t just rely on your memory.

I am writing a memoir about my hometown and let me say this: If I don’t get my facts right, my friends and cohorts in Butte, Montana will not only nail me to a tree, they will eat my lunch and toss me in the Berkeley Pit! I know this. I’ve been in contact with some of these history buffs and they are death on accuracy.

I hope I corrected this error in time before my story runs. Otherwise—I’ll want my mommy. Fingers crossed. Lesson. Learned. fact checking bad writerIf the editor doesn’t get it in time—well—please don’t nail me to a tree. Just eat my lunch and say BAD DOG. BAD WRITER.

© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2015, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.                      LIPSLips

Written by Lois Paige Simenson


  1. Winking from across the cul-de-sac June 30, 2015 at 7:46 am Reply

    I love you Lois!!!

  2. Barbara June 30, 2015 at 5:41 pm Reply

    Those heart-pounding moments when we realize we’ve made a horrible mistake are the worst! Especially, if we have no way of correcting them. But they are also the times we become better writers as we never repeat the mistake again. I loved this post but am unable to share it on Facebook or twitter as I can’t find your share buttons. I would also have “liked” it on your page.

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