The Editing

It was Ann Patty at Crown who initially bought the book after reading the proposal. Elaine (Markson, my agent) was very excited. She knew Ann well and felt we were a perfect match. Ann and I met twice and I liked her a lot. Then she left Crown.

My new editor was Emily Loose. She is considerably younger than Ann and more mainstream, but I liked her when we met in her office. It was several months after that when I turned in the first hundred of so pages and waited with a lot of anxiety for Emily’s comments.

Like all good editors, Emily began with some compliments. She liked the voice, the pacing, the stories. So why was every margin filled with her scribbled notes? Literally, there wasn’t a page without critical messages in the margin. High school kids commit suicide over less.

She talked about how I shoud try to think about the book as an arc of my life as I developed through my experiences. I wasn’t sure I developed. What I knew was that I had a lot of great experiences to relate. What was this arc I was supposed to be thinking about?

Most of the marginal notes said things like: Reflect on this. What were you feeling when this happened? What were your emotions at this point?

I wanted to cry. I was telling good stories, introducing fascinating people, plotting anecdotes. How could I reflect on all those things without getting in the way of the stories and how could I remember what I was feeling all those years ago? It was too much work.

I saw Emily and told her that I knew she was right but that I hated her.

I called my friends Susan Lechner and Debbie Barr for help. They basically agreed with Emily. The book needed more me. So I kept it in mind as I moved on through the next pages and they turned out lots better, more personal and human. Emily thought so too.

So she was right. When I finished the last chapter, I went back to the beginning and became reflective and “arc-y.” I liked what happened. I kept putting more me in the stories, until everyone was pleased.

The manuscript went through three drafts before the cutting took place. We had to cut sixty pages. Sixty arc-y, reflective, emotional, me-pages. It was agony. The only thing that made it remotely possible was that I kept telling myself I could put the cut passages on my website so they weren’t a total loss. Now I’m groaning at having to go back to that earlier draft and pull out the cut parts. But I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I will. Just not today.

The final stage of editing comes when Emily signed off and the manuscript went to a free-lance copy editor, Mary Anne Stewart from Seattle. I was overwhelmed at the detail and care that she put into the editing process. She was the first “outsider” who had seen the book and she loved it and wrote a separate note that she wanted to meet me. I mention in the book that my daughter lives in Seattle so she knew I would be coming through. (We met for lunch in February.)