Monday, April 07, 2008

All About Editors

The March/April issue of The Horn Book does a lot on editors with an article on Ursula Nordstrom and some shorter pieces by contemporary authors on their relationships with their editors.

I have to admit, if it were not for The Horn Book, I wouldn't know who Ursula Nordstrom was. Nonetheless, I believe I've read every word they've ever published about the woman, and I read every word of this issue's The UN Tapes by Leonard Marcus. The UN Tapes is a collection of first person recollections of Nordstrom put together from interviews Marcus did with people who knew her when he was working on the book Dear Genius. I was left with two reactions:

1. The Ursula portrayed in these accounts and I probably would have had nothing to do with each other, and thus would have gotten along very well.

2. As I read along, I felt poor Ursula (I should call her Ms Nordstrom) was being violated a good twenty years after her death and even longer after she was a mover and shaker in publishing. As a general rule, I'm not at all bothered by the exposure of historical figures' warts. I like humanity in history. But while I understand why Nordstrom is a giant in our field, I question whether she is a big enough figure in the overall scheme of things to justify exposing so very much of her vulnerability. The tone I heard in this article was often, "The queen is dead. Now's my chance to voice a little simmering resentment in as nonjudgmental a manner as I can muster."

Or maybe I just like Ursula more than I think I do.

Other articles in the magazine discuss authors' personal relationships with their editors. Those pieces filled me with anxiety because I barely have a personal relationship with my editors. Kathy and I used to talk about The X-files a bit when we first knew each other, and Susan and I went to the same university. But she doesn't get the alumni magazine anymore, and I don't think either one of us gives a damn about collegiate sports, so once the work's done we don't have much to talk about other than whether or not we had a good time over the holidays. (We always do.) Years ago, people at Readerville used to talk about buying their editors Christmas presents. I thought, Come on, who does that? Now I'm wondering if maybe everyone does, and I didn't get the memo.

Susan went to Bologna and has been out of the office for a couple of weeks. Perhaps I should run out and get her a welcome home gift? Maybe I should haul my heinie into New York and make her go out to lunch with me?

Won't she think I'm stalking her?

By the way, Kathleen Krull has the final word on editors in The Horn Book's Cadenza feature. It's called How a Children's Book Manuscript Gets Bought (or Not): The Inside Story, and it's hysterical.

6 comments:

SamRiddleburger said...

I'm afraid I may have overdone it with my first editor. A bit too friendly perhaps, a bit too eager for a "relationship."
I wonder if that's why she changed companies?

Anyway, I try not to bug my two new editors, too much, but ...

gail said...

It's very difficult to know what to do with that relationship. I think people who live nearer geographically to the publishing world can get a better feel for it. They can be part of the publishing/literary goings on in New York or Boston where they might naturally see publishing people and other writers in more situations than those of us who have to make an appointment and spend a day traveling into the city and back. One of the articles in the new Horn Book is by Jack Gantos who was in Boston when he was starting out, and he seemed to be part of a booky world.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I keep meaning to resubscribe to The Horn Book; maybe now is the time.

gail said...

I've been a subscriber for years. I can't exaggerate how much I've learned about what I guess I'd call kidlit culture from reading the articles. Many publications, no matter what they're subject matter, have some kind of political ax to grind in relation to their content. I really don't think The Horn Book does. You may find anything in there. I like that lack of predictability.

Wizards Wireless @ said...

I found it a particularly interesting issue of the Horn Book, too. Thanks for writing about it.

I loved Kathleen Krull's cadenza. SO funny.... and I bet a lot of children's book editors will cut it out and hang it up on their walls.

-Susan

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