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Smithy

The Evolving Relationship with Editors?

5 posts in this topic

If you're willing to discuss your relationship with and attitude toward editor(s) over the years, I'd be curious to know whether and how it's changed. As you have gained stature in the world of culinary writing, do you find editors more willing to leave your style alone? Did you have to fight to maintain or develop your own style, early in your career?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I was lucky to have had a really good editor from the start. My first was Fran McCullough, already famous for editing Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, and, in cookbooks, Diana Kennedy. I'm still most grateful for her assistance and commitment to my first book, Couscous, and her supportive work on the first edition of this one. I learned so much from her!

Later I was edited by someone very unlike her. Fran knew how to inspire an author. This other editor (who shall remain nameless) could only bring me down. Thank God I got away from her and found Susan Wyler, who edited "The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen," and also this new edition of SWF. She's been wonderful -- inspiring, thoughtful, always a positive critic.

I know that some authors get quite "high and mighty" about their precious prose, but I've learned that a good editor is a treasure -- when you find one, listen closely to her/him, respect her/his ideas even if you disagree...and never let her/him go!


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Interesting to note that your relationship with an editor can make such a huge difference in the way you feel about a project. In what ways does a good editor inspire an author?

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Paula, in addition to your own evolution from editor to editor, do you feel the role of the editor in general has changed since you started writing? Many writers have suggested to me that editors do less now -- that they have less involvement in projects than they used to. Have you found that to be the case, either yourself or in general?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Lucy, emotional support is very important on a long-term project (and I worked as long as five years on a project). It's great to have someone to talk to along the way -- try out ideas with, send recipes to -- to hear what she thinks, discuss organizational questions, etc. I like to feel that my editor is really my partner -- not my antagonist. I (and many other cookbook authors, I'm sure) could tell you some hair-raising stories abouyt the latter!

I find that warmth is really important -- warmth and rapport. At this point in my life, I really don't want to work with people who wouldn't in other circumstances be my friends.

Steven, yes, many editors do less, but the really good committed ones are still there for the author, playing a supportive role. For example Maria Guarnaschelli, Susan Wyler, Rux Martin, Linda Ingroia, Leslie Stoker and Jennifer Josephy.

For me the biggest problem in publishing these days isn't that editors do less, but they're so much less important in the publishing scheme of things. These days, as my husband puts it, "too often the marketing tail wags the editorial dog!"


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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