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The Ongoing Education of an Editor and Writer

The more I learn the less I know. I’ve had many different publishing jobs, but the common thread throughout them all is my work as an editor. My first jobs in publishing were editorial jobs; I started as an editor, and was trained as an editor. I have since run a literary agency, written my own books, planned events, and taught, but I define myself as an editor. As an editor, I must be able to delve into a variety of subject categories, particularly for non-fiction. To do this well, I must quickly acquire enough knowledge of a topic to be of use to the author in helping to shape the work. I love to learn, and I learn quickly, and being able to gain a good degree of fluidity in a range of topics makes me a valuable editor. And yet I can never hope to acquire the same depth of understanding or expertise as the author him or herself. In these situations, my knowledge always feels superficial to me. I am acutely aware of what I don’t know. As the editorial director of Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines this last year and a half, it has been my job to cover and write about a wide swath of both the book and magazine publishing industry, a challenge with limited time and page count. But I tried, as always, to be a quick study. I’ve had my eyes opened to a new world of digital publishing, and I have met many extremely smart people doing innovative work. But the more I learn about what they do and how they think, the more I realize how very much more there is for me to learn and understand. When I wrote my own book, I chose a topic that might seem frivolous to some. My book, Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests (Clarkson Potter), contains useful information about how to properly use china, silver, crystal, and other table décor, and interesting history related to table setting. One of my favorite parts of writing this book was the research. I read every book I could find about table setting and dining history. I visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and was given a private tour of the butler’s pantry; I went to Replacements, Ltd. near Greensboro, NC, and was given a tour of their vast warehouse of table wares. For once, I was an expert, and it felt good. But most of the time, as editor, agent, reporter, I play a supporting role. Speaking of roles, it is now my task to find my...

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A Free Radical: The Reason Why We’re Here
Feb04

A Free Radical: The Reason Why We’re Here

The credit goes to Corey Pressman of Exprima Media. I called to tell him that my position as Editorial Director of Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines had been eliminated, that I was no longer employed by parent company NAPCO. After some riffing and word association, he hit on the right expression and joyfully exclaimed: “You’re a free radical!” And so I am. Free to explore the exciting and ever-changing world of publishing through my own lens. Free to sniff out change, to explore the edges of what’s being developed and help bring important new approaches and technologies to the fore. Free to find the value in both the old and the new, in disruptive and legacy approaches. And radical in the sense of not being bound by the rules, embracing change, and veering away, far away, from the “this is how we’ve always done it” approach. Helping to put the pieces together into a new whole that makes sense and is fluid, productive, and successful. I’m pleased to introduce my new blog, Pub Hub, in which I will cover publishing news in book, magazine, and newspaper publishing. In many ways, these are three separate worlds, each with their own issues and challenges. In other ways, particularly as we move more and more into digital publishing, these three strands intersect and overlap. Publishing professionals in all three segments decide what gets published, shape it into publishable form, and make it available to readers, and have in common their role as gatekeepers of public discourse and of our intellectual heritage. I will be speaking with them, covering their news, their challenges, controversies and successes, and presenting it in both written and video form in this...

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