Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring SD/PEN board member David Gaddis Smith, a writer, editor, and Spanish-to-English translator.
I’m a former San Diego Union-Tribune foreign editor and Mexico columnist who has reinvented himself as an editor and Spanish-to-English translator of books and articles about Mexico, in addition to being a long-distance editor for the Middle East website Al-Monitor.com and writing about Mexico.
What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally?
I am most proud of my work that helped show the innocence of four men falsely arrested in the 1994 assassination of Mexican ruling party presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana. Mexicans were so convinced that there was a conspiracy behind the killing that they came to false conclusions that resulted in the incarceration of these men, and it unfortunately took far too long for logic and justice to take their course and for these men to achieve their freedom.
Which quality or qualities would you most like your clients to remember you for?
I would like my clients to remember me most for my accuracy and for the perspective I help provide in seeing the larger picture. I had no corrections my last five years at the San Diego Union-Tribune and have caught error after error for my clients since. God (or Allah) only knows why it all too often seems that I have better knowledge about the 12 Imams than the Shiite Muslim writers I edit.
Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.
A book I bought with a gift card I won at an SD/PEN meeting (there are great benefits in attending!) is The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by McGill University neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin (2014). Chapters such as “Organizing Our Home” and “Organizing Our Time” have helped me clarify what to do next. I now use 3x5 cards as an organizing/to do process as recommended by the author, who calls this a brain extension system that “builds on the neuroscience of attention, memory, and categorization” (p. 74).
Where would you like to go on your next vacation and why?
I would like to go to the Copper Canyon in northern Mexico. A good friend whose Canadian-born wife introduced me to my Canadian-born wife, Louise, wants the four of us to take a train trip to see what is often described as the "Grand Canyon of Mexico." It just has been difficult scheduling four people to do this trip amid family deaths, illnesses, weddings, births, work, remodeling—you name it!
Describe one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
I have become quite a handyman. The internet, which has made me a far better editor and translator, also provides a wealth of knowledge that was not previously readily available and that allows the average homeowner to do a decent job at home repairs and projects. Internet research also helped me once become the Toastmasters humorous speech champion for the state of Baja California with my talk “La Historia de México en Siete Minutos.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always have had wide-ranging interests and got into journalism when I was in high school by being a sports correspondent. I thought that if I took a job at a newspaper after graduating from the University of Florida, I would meet people from all walks of life and then figure out what I really wanted to do. Turns out I never left journalism; more than half my working hours are still devoted to the craft.