How long have you been an editor? How long have you been with Book Editing Associates?
A long time! I’ve been an editor for thirty-five-plus years and have been working with Book Editing Associates since 2017.
Why did you decide to be an editor?
I don’t think I ever really decided. It was something I was good at. I began by editing mystery novels as a sideline while I was doing other things I was interested in–like traveling! I think I may have also acquired an impulse to make people’s writing more “correct” because a few of my close family members growing up were first-generation Americans who struggled with English. I still work with a lot of non-native English speakers. And then there was the inspiration of a sixth-grade teacher who made grammar more interesting than you ever thought possible.
Are you also a writer? Please tell us about a couple of things you wrote.
I’ve written for various magazines and newspapers, beginning with a piece on Yeats and Freud in a literary magazine. For a decade, I wrote regularly for a monthly magazine on yoga, meditation, and Indian philosophy. I have written a column and drawn political cartoons for a Catskills newspaper, The River Reporter. And recently, some of my poetry was published on the website of a Zen Center, The Empty Bowl.
What one thing can make most books you write or edit better?
For each book that one thing is different. My job is to find it.
What’s your fave/least fave…Most challenging/easiest …aspect of editing?
Fave: when I can make a small change that makes a big difference
Least fave: correcting reference lists for APA style
Most challenging: working out the structure of a book that’s very disorganized
Easiest: editing good writing about something truly engaging
How do you balance between the author’s style and vision, and the taste of commercial publishers or readers?
This often comes down to whether a book is going to be self-published or not. If an author wants to find a commercial publisher, then the balance tips one way. If they are self-publishing, it tips the other.
What are some things that make a book appealing to a publisher today?
For commercial trade publishers, it’s heavily weighted toward potential sales; for academic publishers, it’s more the quality and relevance of the work, along with the author’s credentials. And of course, good writing. Publishers and agents lose confidence in an author when they are sent a poorly edited manuscript or proposal.
What is your top goal as you approach an edit?
I like to find the sweet spot where I’m immersed in the work, doing what serves the client, and on time! A few years ago, I worked on a book written in English by a scholar who was born in Soviet-era Romania, got his degree in Germany, and then emigrated to Israel. He told me he effectively had no native language and worked with five dictionaries by his side. But the subject was deeply fascinating, and he had spent a lifetime thinking about it, and although he wrote in interminably long sentences, where the beginning and end were in different zip codes, I was happily absorbed in this project over many months, from beginning to end.
What fills your time when not editing?
Moving parts of the body besides the fingers. Cooking, walking, zooming, plants, reading, music, films, some zen practice, and hanging out with Alison.