Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How I Became an Editor

Did you read that little piece at the top of my blog about CROSSxCHECKING? That's my new venture––a critiquing and editing service. In honor of the launch I thought I'd give a little background on how I came to editing, which will also serve as a way of thanking those who presented me with the opportunity.

If you've read my bio in the sidebar, you know that just prior to starting this blog I was Co-Managing Editor for The Rose & Thorn, but the journey started even before that thanks to a young woman named Whitney Potsus. Whitney, we've lost touch, but if you are out there I hope you'll read this and contact me.

A few months after buckling down to finally pursue my dream––after some 40 years––of becoming a writer, I joined Writers Village University to take some courses. The site recently re-launched T-Zero as a quarterly, but when I joined it was a monthly zine publishing craft articles as well as fiction. As it was poised to become a paying market, they were looking to increase staff. At that point I barely thought I could write let alone edit, so you can imagine my surprise when Whitney, who had just been hired as Nonfiction Editor, contacted me about an article I'd submitted and after working on it with me, asked if I'd like to become the other Assistant Editor on her staff.

To this day I'm not sure if she saw something in me or, confident in her own editing and teaching abilities, figured she could mold this lump of clay into a real editor. To say "she taught me everything I know" might be a cliche, but it is no exaggeration. Whitney liked giving new writers a chance, so if the topic was right we might be open to accepting work that was far below perfect. That didn't mean we published anything less than perfect. By the time we were done, it had to meet Whitney's high standards, and the first couple of articles I worked on went back and forth so many times I think the writer really hated me once the zine went live. Over time, I got the hang of it, though, until I could pick everything out the first go-round and express the changes required more precisely.

Eventually, the little group at T-Zero went our separate ways to pursue our different goals, but I was addicted. When one of my early stories was accepted by R&T, I decided to try out as an editor there, and was glad of my experience at T-Zero since R&T required a little background.

R&T staffers reading this will appreciate when I say I received so many welcoming e-mails, I told my husband it felt a bit like a cyber-AA meeting. But that "new-kid-on-the-block" feeling dissipated shortly and soon Managing Editor Barbara Quinn and I became good friends, and if I have any complaint about working with her it would be that she opened too many opportunities. Soon my climb-the-ladder and take-on-ever-more-responsibility personality––the side I'd thought to submerge in becoming a writer––got the best of me. I was a Co-Managing Editor and Blog Manager. I was conducting or assigning book reviews and author interviews––all fascinating, don't get me wrong––but I was no longer writing my stories. With great reluctance I left the zine that felt like part of my family.

Since then I've found a better balance, writing and submitting, blogging, and finally fitting in time to read as well. For a while I got my editing fix reviewing for Sotto Voce where we comment on all submissions, but while we are supposed to supply a couple lines of feedback, I find myself itching to tell more. I don't want to leave it at a "weak ending." I want to tell the writer when the dialogue is good but the characters feel cliche and what can be done to fix it.

Every editor I've worked under––Whitney Potsus, Barb Quinn, and now Emily Thorp––have combined producing fine zines with encouraging new writers and helping them improve their craft. They've taught me a lot and now I'd like to pass it on.

So tell your writer friends, CROSSxCHECKING is open for business.


Embee said...

congratulations on the launch of crossxchecking! wishing you loads of success!

Nannette Croce said...

Thanks. I already have some nibbles, and I didn't even put the ad in any newsletters yet. It was fun taking this little walk down memory lane. I still think of getting into editing as something I did recently, but now I realize how long it's actually been.


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