Sunday, September 9, 2012

Are Some Of Your Best Friends Fictional?

Nancy sent me one more guest post and I think it rounds out her entries nicely so, although I said I'd be back this week, it makes sense to keep her posts together. The questions left in the comment section at previous posts will be addressed later, although I can tell you that she can't answer your questions about Hudson or the Nighty Napper or characters' back stories, etc. I keep her in the dark about as much as I can because I only get one chance to have her read a manuscript for the first time, and that first read is very important to me--both for her reaction to the mystery (when did you know whodunit?) and the emotional impact of relationship development. Anyway, enjoy this last (for now) post from Nancy!

When I tell people that I edit children’s books, they frequently ask, So what qualifies you for that?

Probably they’re curious because it sounds like a great job, and they want to do it too.  But the question always makes me squirm a little because I don’t have a good answer.  What qualifies me?  Nothing in particular.  But also, everything I am.

I think it’s more revealing to talk about what qualities most editors possess, instead of what qualifications.  (Maybe because I don’t have any specific qualifications, but we won’t dwell!)

Some things to consider:

Do you love to read?  I mean, love to read kind of like you love to breathe?  Do you carry around not only the book you are currently reading but a second one as well, just in case?

Are some of your best friends fictional? Consider this:  I’m in Venice with my mom and sister, exploring an old cathedral, and my mom says, “This is Guido’s mother’s favorite church.” And I say, “Really? How come?” And she points out the paintings and the architecture that make this place special.  My sister asks us who Guido is, and rolls her eyes when we tell her we’re talking about Guido Brunetti, a Venetian detective in books by Donna Leon. 

Another example:  Wendelin is touring near where I grew up, and so I bring her home to meet my parents.  We’re all chatting around the dining room table and my mom turns to Wendelin and asks, “So how is Hudson?  I haven’t heard about him lately.”  Wendelin laughs, looks at me, and says, “Now I understand where you came from.” (Perhaps what this really means is that I have a great book-loving mom.  True enough.  But I think it’s more—I think it’s that characters truly live for us.)

Do you love words? Do you like slang and lingo and jargon and colloquialisms?  Have you ever stopped and sighed over a particularly elegant phrase?  Are you always searching for the exact right way to express something?  Does it make you inordinately happy to find it?

Do you have a fix-it gene? Are you constantly critiquing things?  Do you read a book or see a movie and think, Yeah, that was good, but it would have been even better if only they’d changed this.  Or, There is no way that character would have done that.  Do you imagine how the whole thing could have played out differently?

Would you rather be pointing the spotlight than in it? An editor’s job is to help.  Help writers express their ideas in the best way possible.  Or to help them clarify what it is they are trying to say.

For me, I’ve never wanted to be the lead in the play or the rock star.  Even in my dreams, I’m a back-up singer.  You know, shimmying in a cute fringed dress, adding the perfect harmony, helping keep the beat.  (Now that I consider it, I think I got this idea from a book—Laurie Colwin’s Goodbye Without Leaving.  Typical.)

Did you answer yes to most or all of these questions?  If so, you might just make a great editor!


Yusa said...

Maybe i could be... but what about being good at editing and grammar. That i'm not so good at... I agree with almost all of those....
Love these posts, but i still miss Wendelin to.

Unknown said...

thank you for guest blogging, i had no idea wat editors do, but now i see that its more then checking for grammer, spell. pun. erors =)

Jessica said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and definitely yes. But I'm also a slow reader, and I have a feeling that would slow me down. I think it's funny that Wendelin had a post about "turning up the background singers" and then Nancy said that being an editor is like being a background singer. Good word-people use good metaphors.

I finally read "The Fault in Our Stars." I'm going to give it an extensive review soon (on my poor neglected blog), but the short version is: it was thought-provoking, but I got pulled out of the story by things like diction and an overabundance of certain literary devices. I feel like there are a lot of layers I'd only understand from reading it again, but I just don't want to. It's worth reading, for sure, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

I'm very late to the party, but has anyone read "The Thief" (and related books) by Megan Whalen Turner? My friend talked me into reading it, and it had a lot of neat plot twists, but with very sneaky foreshadowing that reminded me of a cross between Harry Potter and Sammy Keyes. So if you need something to read while waiting for Sin City, I recommend it.

Jessica said...

P.S. Nancy is a chameleon. I had to do a double-take at the pic in this post because at first glance, I wondered, "Why is Wendelin posting a picture of Rachael Ray?"

Kylie said...

Well since I said yes to all of these I am pretty sure I could be an editor. I am actually considering making it my career. The only thing I wouldn't like is the sitting down all day. I am the type if person that needs to work outside.

And I know this has nothing to do with this post but have you heard Ronan by Taylor Swift. It is a song she wrote with the boys mom about a him. Ronan died of cancer. It is such a sad song. I am crying right now because I just listened to it. Please so listen to it, please for Ronan.

KB said...

Nancy, I've enjoyed your posts very much; they were really interesting!

Would you be my editor? =D

Thank you and Wendelin, of course, for bringing Sammy to us! I'm forever grateful!