Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Editorial Suggestions

Last weekend, Grace suggested that I write a non-fiction book about _________________,* a topic that's long been dear to my heart. I was really excited and when I got home, instead of taking my usual time to re-adjust after having been away, I got started. I finished a rough draft in one day.

Why hadn't *I* thought of writing this book? I don't know....maybe some of us don't know ourselves that well, or maybe some things are so obvious we don't think of them. I don't know and it doesn't matter.

The point is, sometimes other people do know best. Think of these books:

Grace has told the story of how she sent some illustrations to a publisher, and he wrote back asking if she had a story to go with them -- the result was THE UGLY VEGETABLES.

A publisher suggested that Louisa May Alcott, who up to that point had been writing trashy melodramas for adults, write a story for girls. She did -- the bachelor publisher to whom she sent it (maybe not the same one?) found it incredibly boring, and was going to reject it....until he came downstairs to find his ten-year old niece sobbing over the ms. (LITTLE WOMEN).

One of my childhood favorites, THE TREASURE SEEKERS came into being when an editor asked E.Nesbit to write a story about her schooldays....she did, and that led to THE TREASURE SEEKERS, which was first published in PUNCH. People weren't sure if it was for adults or children, but they finally decided -- kids, and it came out in book form around 1900. It hasn't been out of print since.

HARRIET THE SPY was suggested to Louise Fitzhugh by the great Ursula Nordstrom.

I'm not saying my book is at this level -- I should be so lucky! But it IS interesting, how sometimes other people (especially good editors) know us and our talents better than we know ourselves.

Of course, not all editorial suggestions are good ones. When I'm the editor, I tell my clients that if (after I've explained what I mean as clearly and forcefully as I can), they think about it and decide I'm wrong -- I AM wrong. Whether I'm the author or someone else is: we, the authors, always know the truth, even if it's bured under the excuse that we're just being too hard on ourselves (or whatever). We really do know. But sometimes we can't see it until someone else says it.

If someone makes a suggestion and I instantly agree with it and get excited about it, SHE'S RIGHT.

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