Thursday, January 7, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Cindy Nessen

This is how I was like the bamboo that bends but does not break. This is my fairy tale story with many twists.

Born in Korea during the Japanese occupation, I supported my widowed mother and brothers during World War II by scavenging rice from the paddies. After learning American songs from the radio, I entertained the US troops stationed at Pusan during the Korean War, which launched my career as a professional singer. For several years I toured Southeast Asia with my group, The Apples, and became famous as Cindy Song.

While performing in Saigon, I met and fell in love with NBC correspondent, Ron Nessen. We married, and I followed him to posts in Mexico, London and New York, though not knowing the languages of those countries isolated me. When Ron was appointed President Ford’s press secretary, we moved to DC, where among other highlights, I danced with the president at the White House, sang with the Marine Corps band, and met dignitaries such as Emperor Hirohito and Anwar Sadat. After I divorced Ron, I raised my son alone, started a successful international company and survived cancer.

I wanted to write my story with the idea that it could inspire others to endure whatever life sent them. But there was no way I could do this alone. When I asked an author friend to write it for me, she told me to go to TWC. There I met with Al Lefcowitz, the director at the time, and asked if he could introduce me to someone who could write my story for me.

“Mrs. Nessen,” he said, “anyone can fix your English, but no one can write what you have in your heart.”

That was the best advice anyone could have given to me, but I was still unsure. Reluctantly, I registered and took a class. The first assignment was to write 15 pages about anything. I didn’t know where to start, but I settled on the story that my mother had told me about the tragic death of her sister and how years later her son brought her remains home to be buried with her ancestors. The teacher exclaimed what a wonder of story I had written. The class kept asking, “But what about her English?”

The teacher’s response was the same as the director’s.

“Someone can fix her English, but her description is what counts.”

I took two more courses, and over the next twenty years I wrote more than 500 pages and hired various editors along the way to help. But they didn’t know what they were doing and wasted my money. In 2008, after recovering from gastric cancer, I picked up where I’d left off before my illness. I knew all those pages had to be cleaned up and tons cut but didn’t know where to start. Out of desperation, I went to TWC again in hopes of finding someone who could do what the previous editors failed to accomplish.

Whatever Ms Barbra Esstman was teaching was way over my head, but I sat in her workshop and convinced her to edit my ms. She shaped my story, fixed my English and cut enough material that I have a good start on a second book of family history. If I hadn’t gone to TWC I wouldn’t have written the draft or gotten the right editor. Now I tell anyone who wants to write to come to TWC.

Cindy Nessen currently resides near Washington, DC. She owns and manages her own company, Nessen International Inc. This very successful company arranges events, interviews and contacts between Korean and American sports, business and political figures. She travels to Korea often. Visit her Web site.

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