I was commiserating with a fellow writer recently when a sub-editor 'corrected' and thus ruined a beautiful column he'd crafted based on a highly nuanced historical reference. We ruefully swapped stories of such humiliations.
My worst experience was inflicted by a headline writer of the 'Evening Herald'.
I had suffered an ignominious departure from the illustrious 'Irish Times' (but not so illustrious to prevent a sub-editor there once inserting into a column that my home village of Enfield was in Westmeath, instead of Meath, as if I didn't know where I lived).
After a suitable period of penance, I was granted a spot in the 'Herald'.
All was going well until Seamus Heaney upped and died.
I wrote a charming meditation in which I admitted that, like most people, I wasn't given to reading poetry much.
Since Heaney wasn't on the school curriculum during my time - the point at which most of us are exposed to poetry - I hadn't read his work and was chiefly acquainted with it through his high quotation frequency by politicians.
This might seem an odd angle to approach the subject of his death; but then, always with a mind to a good narrative, I added a major plot twist.
I'd had the good fortune to attend a function at which both Bill Clinton and Heaney were present.
With Clinton it's all about the sex, and one forgets about the intellect. In an amazing speech, he talked about Heaney's 'The Cure at Troy', from which the over-quoted "hope and history rhyme" line comes.
Clinton explained the story in a way that completely captivated me. He focused on the line, "It was a fortunate wind that blew me here", declaimed by Philoctetes, the wounded soldier finally escaping the island on which he'd been betrayed and marooned for many years. His point being that suffering brings growth.
The moral of my story was that while most of us are at home watching telly and not reading poetry, Clinton was so moving that I resolved to reform and read 'The Cure at Troy'.
Which I thought was a rather optimistic and encouraging fable.
One night when I was at home watching telly, and not reading poetry, a friend texted me: "What on earth have you said about Seamus Heaney?"
Apparently I was trending on Twitter.
I grabbed the laptop, terrified.
The article had been published online with the headline; "I've never read a Seamus Heaney poem and does it really matter anyway?"
Which was the opposite of the point I'd made! Needless to say, no one was reading the actual column. The headline was enough for the mob to conclude I was a moron.
I reacted as I always do to such disasters by having a total meltdown.
In polite hysterics, I rang the digital fellas at the paper and explained the disaster. Nothing could be done about the print edition but they could change it online.
The chap who took my call promised to take care of it, so I had a glass of wine and passed out distraught that strangers were hating me unfairly.
When I came to the next morning, I checked the website.
To be fair, the headline was much better.
It now read "How Bill Clinton turned me on to Seamus Heaney". Except the way it was laid out, what you read first was "How Bill Clinton turned me on" beside my smiling photograph.
I'd gone from literary ignoramus to bimbo.
I didn't complain again, because I had a flashback to the night of the speech.
When Clinton was preparing to leave the venue, another woman and I sprinted down a corridor, threw ourselves in front of him so we could shake hands and breathlessly gush "Hello Mr President" with eyes that pleaded "Take me Bill, take me". I had disgraced myself.
My sins never go unpunished, so I soldiered on, suffering my shame.
Several weeks later, I was in Newstalk to present my radio show, and most unusually there was a letter for me. It was a beautifully embossed envelope from the "Office of William Jefferson Clinton".
Dubiously I open it and I swear to God, it was a personal note from Bill thanking me for my lovely column.
I immediately presumed this was a hoax. After all, I once received an email from Fintan O'Toole praising my columns. That seemed unlikely and sure enough it was a fake. My terror in the face of potentially nice things is what a therapist once told me is "learned anxiety"; which means they really are all out to get me.
But my colleagues examined the Clinton letter, declared it authentic and I began to believe. This was now the high point of my career! Bill Clinton had sent me a personal letter praising my column!
Aha Twitter mobs! I win!
Naturally, I emailed my editor at the 'Herald' to let him know of this momentous event.
Then I get a call from a reporter who wanted a copy of the letter so they could write a story about it. Except there was one problem.
Clinton had praised my "article in 'The Irish Times'". I guess his file on me hadn't been updated with my change of employment.
Therefore, my finest moment of acknowledgement cannot be publicised; because it's not just the wrong paper, it's the paper I'd left under a black cloud.
This is very on-brand for me - the stories that show me in the best light are unusable.
Everyone said I should frame the letter but I never did. I put it in a book, I can't remember which, for safekeeping.
I'm still privately pleased Bill Clinton praised my column, but the unfortunate typo rather spoils it. I regretfully considered that had Clinton a good sub-editor, they might have picked up the error.
I'm allowing myself to lose the letter but perhaps one day, after I'm dead, my children will find it and proudly frame it instead.
The thing is though, Bill did inspire me to read 'The Cure at Troy'. I love it so much I keep it in my bag to enjoy at random moments. I read other poets too now, especially WH Auden, and often at night I'll sit at home reading poetry instead of watching telly.
So Bill Clinton didn't just send me a letter; he gave me a far greater gift that brings me immense comfort.
Who knows, one day I might meet him again, behave with better decorum and talk about the fortunate winds that blew us here.