Sunday, January 4, 2009

Team notes

I love it when everything I want to post about connects to a theme, and today's theme is publishing as a team sport. You've heard about this from me before, but here's some stuff from other people:

--at the Joyland Blog, Emily Schultz on "How I was Housebroken". The piece is about learning to work with an editor. The article is so very wise and useful in urging writers towards the best-case scenario:

"Change can be scary, but presumably if you respect the publication you’ve sent your work to, it means you also respect the editor or editors."

Any writer can learn and improve so much if they respect editors (good ones) as insightful professionals who know something about the writer's work the writer herself doesn't know: how it reads to someone who hasn't spent several years living inside it. Emily shows beautifully how to make the most of that insightful person, without any sacrifice of art or ego. Really, it's possible.

--Or then the worst-case scenario, in David Sipress's cartoon. Everyone keeps pointing out that I'm so lucky this didn't happen to me, and I know I am, but hell, if it's typical even of the New Yorker set, it's worth emphasizing.

--Which is why Michael Bryson's review of *Once* at Underground Bookclub is so gratifying, because it not only mentions my work but the work of the team that helped make this book be what it is--

"It is extremely well-written (and edited and published). Cudos to all who had a hand in it. Many are waiting to see what you will come up with next."

Go, team!

Bless your body / bless your soul / pray for peace / and self-control


August said...

I'm always interested in these various stories of the experience of being edited. I've had very little appear in print, but whether it was in a newspaper like the G&M or in a literary journal, my work has appeared in a form that was virtually identical to how it left my desk (in the case of literary journals, not one editor has ever suggested a single change to me, although no doubt it's coming). When I was editing Wooden Fish (potentially coming again to an Internet near you!) I was also very hands off. I was always more interested in being a kind of curator than any influencing agent.

Rebecca Rosenblum said...

I think it depends on the editor, on the author, on the forum, and on the timeline. Since eds at lit journals are often working for love and glory, I think the job descriptions can be a bit flexible.

I've definitely had the "It's great, let's publish it!" acceptance (and hooray for those!) as well as the "let's work on it" ones. I've actually also had the "we're not publishing it and here's why" editorial response and those are also, to me, extremely helpful for rewrites.

Looking forward to Wooden Fish!

writer_guy said...

In his Massey Lectures last year (and in some correspondence of his that I saw last year), Alberto Manguel touches upon the writer-editor relationship. Basically, he struggles to fully comprehend it, arguing that it's the only art form where there's an intermediary between the artist/writer and the reader. (For example, did Picasso turn to someone to help him put the finishing touches on Guernica?) He has high praise for the work of his editor here in Canada, Louise Dennys, but otherwise seems to hold editors in contempt. As someone that has published a slew of magazine journalism in the past, I value the work of a smart, intelligent editor. I've also had the worst kind of editor: the one that edits a piece to make it in their "voice," rather than the author's.

Oh, and of course feel free to edit this comment...

writer_guy said...

Sorry, couldn't resist one more comment on this topic. Actually, really only a link to an interesting piece about the relationship between Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish. (I think Carver's widow is trying to get his original, unedited pieces published.)

Rebecca Rosenblum said...

Hey, Writer Guy,

I never edit comments unless they are offensive--I never edit *anything* unless asked. That way lies hurt feelings.

I read the piece you mention when it came out, and I was really moved by that writer-editor intimacy, and it was so sad when it fell apart. I think that example is a bit extreme, but certainly, the editorial relationship has the capacity to be *quite* intense.