“I'm just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don't they?”
J. D. Salinger
While I'm obviously self-centered enough to have a blog, I'm not going to sit here and claim to be a late-blooming genius. But I will not tell a lie. I hope I am! Through all my bouncing around from poetry to nonfiction to novels to this blog, I'm racking up my 10,000 plus hours. I'm failing over and over again but I'm learning and growing, and finding out exactly what it is I have to say and how I want to say it. I have blind faith that someday I'll find purpose and a destination.
And if fate ordains it, perhaps someday one of my manuscripts will land on Carrie's desk (or in the hands of one of her industry colleagues), and the reaction will be, "Wow! This is a new kind of genius!"
Perhaps that glorious day is thousands of writing hours away, but what if it isn't? No, I won't give up even if I suspect no one will ever read it all--because someday someone might.
If that day comes, I'll be ready.
You've said that the work you do begins with talented, creative writers, and that the creativity involved in editing primarily centers around marketing and focusing highly creative individuals. When did you first realize you wanted to be an editor? What do you believe are the most important skills needed? Is success more about selecting the right books/writers at the right time, or is it more about what you do with the talent once you've identified it?
I was always a huge reader and of course was an English major in college. However, I studied business afterward and one of my first jobs was for IBM. So I think I’ve developed both sides of my brain: the business side and the creative side.
I would never say that other editors need to be like me. But what works from me is having a good idea of how to package books as well as a group of really talented people who are writing books.
And I am only as good as what crosses my desk.
I've heard that many highly successful writers have great relationships with their editors. I'm sure there's no set formula but what generally makes it work? How would you describe a positive relationship between writer and editor?
I think what works for me is that I don’t want to be a writer, so I am never imposing my voice over the writer’s voice. And the second is that not every book needs a lot of work. It’s important to realize where I can be helpful, and in which cases I would just intrude. Finally, the author’s name is on the book, so they need to be happy with the content.
Assuming basic quality exists in the work, taste in books, art, music, etc. is subjective. Over the years, have you developed a particular dream book that you look for? Has this changed or evolved over the years? If so, what has contributed to the shift?
No one knows what they want until they find it. Isn’t that true of so many things in life?
I'm a firm believer that folks should follow their dreams; however, I also believe it's healthy to be somewhat realistic. In a world where everyone says they want to write a book, what advice do you have for those of us who've been slaving away at it for years?
If you want to write, you should. I think real writers write even if they feel as if they would never sell. Think of J.D. Salinger! Rumor is he has been writing all these years even though he has not published his writing. Perhaps just the act of creating something made him happy.
In terms of writers and your evaluation of their work, is there a difference between creativity and talent? What are your thoughts on this, and how important is the distinction?
There is a difference between talent and work ethic. Some people just sit down and write every day, and that is always positive. As Malcolm Gladwell says you need to spend 10,000 hours on something before you truly master the task. However, even if you put in the 10,000 hours, it does not guarantee you will be successful. That is where pure raw talent enters the picture.
As you work with writers on an ongoing basis, and evaluate new projects, what truly excites you on a daily basis? Is it the words you read, the sales figures that come across your desk, both, or something else?
I like that no day is ever the same!
What are some of your favorite books? Were there any in particular that influenced you to become an editor?
Oh, my. I have so many favorite books. But I first read Jane Eyre when I was sick with pneumonia at age 10. That was the Young Classics Readers Digest Edition. The actual book followed soon thereafter. I loved that sprawling strange world, and I loved the Ugly Duckling story that was at the heart of the novel.
My mother remembers that as a child I drew out complicated genealogies for the characters in GONE WITH THE WIND. So I think I’ve always been interested in story and character.
The other story my mother tells is that I constantly reread the “good parts” of books as a child, as if I was trying to figure out what made those parts so interesting.