Sorry if I've seemed a bit out of touch lately, I've been on vacation since last Friday to SF and now Seattle, and haven't had as much internet time as I thought I would. But as my last two BRG posts have been abbreviated, I was determined to write a post of some substance this week. I still have a lot of topics I need to write about, but for now, as I sit in the beautiful home of author Justina Chen Headley (Nothing But the Truth [and a few white lies]), I'm thinking about my friendships with the authors I work with. This may or may not tie into the whole coziness debate, which I'll be honest about and say that I haven't really been able to read carefully and can't comment on.
I don't think it's a surprise to readers of this blog that I'm close friends with many of the authors I work with. But in case it's unclear, except for Grace, I did not know any of the authors I edit before I worked with them on a professional level. Even fellow BRG Libby I met after she submitted her manuscript to me (which I'll make clear when I continue my "How I Know" series).
But it's true, I choose to be friendly with the authors and illustrators I work with. On this vacation to SF and Seattle--yes, vacation--I've chosen to meet socially with illustrator LeUyen Pham (Whose Toes Are Those and Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim), author Sean Beaudoin (Going Nowhere Faster), several West Coast agents, and now Justina Chen Headley. I've stayed in the homes of many of the authors I work with. I discuss my personal life with them, and want to hear about theirs. I know this can be dangerous--there was a PW column a while back about an editor who was close with an author who ended up leaving her for another publisher, and that in effect ended their friendship. I'd like to think that my friendships with "my" authors extend beyond business and book contracts, but I also know that you never know. As I've experienced, when it comes to negotiating contracts, dealing with money, marketing and publicity issues, editing, etc, the friendship can be strained. It's hard to not take things personally on both my end and the author's end. But the truth is, I don't know how to work differently, and despite some tough moments throughout my career, I still don't want to. And I haven't lost a friendship yet, for which I'm grateful.
Recently a friend posed the question: work to live or live to work? My first reaction was to say neither, and then I settled on "work to live--duh" because I don't want my work to be the primary focus of my life. But the truth is, it often is, especially since I blur the line between my professional life and personal life so often, and especially since children's books really are my passion. The truth is, if I love your writing, your art, I will most likely also love you. The rational part of me knows that I'm walking a dangerous line, that I may well be burned in the future, but as the saying goes, it's better to have loved and lost...this is how I choose to work and play, and I feel blessed to count many of the authors I work with as my dear friends.
Now, no doubt someone observing from afar might disapprove, might have the impression that I only work with friends, might complain about the coziness factor. But what can or should I do about this? To a certain extent, I don't want to change who I am, how I work. I'm also friends with my assistant, with my boss. Is this frowned upon as well? There are pros and cons. I wonder--what do you authors and illustrators think? And editors? Is there a line that should not be crossed?