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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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Hot Off the Press: Spring 2014

In this monthly book discussion class, participants will read major works of new fiction just as they are being published. Class discussions include analysis of the book as well as background information about the author and the book’s path to publication. All classes meet in Elkins Park on Monday evenings from 7pm to 8:30 pm. Sign up here! Please note that we will be meeting this session in the library at Keneseth Israel (directions to be provided), which is a wheelchair accessible space. March 10th Orfeo by Richard Powers Retired composer Peter Els has an unusual hobby, do-it-yourself genetic engineering. Is his work dangerous? Powers (a National Book Award winner for The Echo Maker, 2006) sure-handedly builds a rich metaphor in which musical composition is an analog for other kinds of human invention, with all the beauty and terror that implies. Publication date: 1/20 BUY THE BOOK: If you would like to buy the book from me, I have it available in my Open Book Bookstore at a 20% discount for class members (plus tax). Either email me that you would like the book or click here to purchase it: https://squareup.com/market/open-book/orfeo [Note: Books for the other classes will be available, also at a discount, as they are published.] March 31st The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan Set in recession-struck Ireland, this virtuoso debut novel, long-listed for the Booker prize, pieces together a fractured portrait of a community in shock. Publication Date: 2/25 April 28th Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi Named one of 2014’s most anticipated books by CNN, The Huffington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and many others, this book from the prizewinning author of Mr. Fox is the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity. Publication date: 3/6 May 19th Every Day is For the Thief by Teju Cole Teju Cole, whose critically acclaimed debut, Open City, was the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by more than twenty publications, In his new novel, a young Nigerian living in New York City goes home to Lagos for a short visit, finding a city both familiar and strange. In a city dense with story, the unnamed narrator moves through a mosaic of life, hoping to find inspiration for his own. Publication Date: 3/25 June 9th Casebook by Mona Simpson From the acclaimed and award-winning author of Anywhere But Here, a powerful new novel about a young boy’s quest to uncover the mysteries of his unraveling family. Publication date: 4/15 Cost: The cost for...

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Tell Me What You Really Think
Feb12

Tell Me What You Really Think

I just read a book I didn’t much like. I did finish reading it—there are many books I abandon quickly if they do not engage me—so there was enough of interest to me to keep me going until the end to find out what happened to the characters, although I did a lot of skimming. But overall, the book was disappointing. Now what do I do? In this blog, in my classes, and, really, everywhere I go, I talk about books I’ve read and share my thoughts about them, and I have a number of people who take my book recommendations seriously. Yet while I freely share my feelings in conversation, I find it difficult to be critical in print. It’s that old adage pounded into me by my mother: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” I’ve struggled with this issue before when I got my first (and only!) freelance assignment as a book reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer for a book by which, as it turned out, I was not impressed. I danced around this in the review. When I turned it in, the editor called me up. “Did you like the book?” he asked. “Ah,” I replied with a smile, “I was wondering if you were going to notice that.” He had to coach me through figuring out how to incorporate my negative opinion into the piece. After all, people read reviews to find out if the reviewer liked the book or not, right? For the last few days, I’ve been struggling with how to write about this book I just read. I have committed to writing about what I read in this blog, but I wasn’t sure how to write about this particular book and still be nice. I questioned why I felt the need to be nice. I don’t know this author. And yet I so admire the work authors do; even finishing and publishing a book is a great accomplishment. And I meet so many authors in my work; perhaps I would someday encounter her. I feel it’s my job to be supportive of authors. Interestingly, as I was having this dilemma, The New York Times read my mind. This week’s “Bookends” column in the Sunday Book Review is entitled “Do We Really Need Negative Book Reviews?” In the column, two writers, Francine Prose (I can honestly and comfortably say I like her work!) and Zoe Heller (haven’t read her) each weigh in on the topic. Prose says she used to write negative reviews when she was younger, and she describes how much easier it is to write a...

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The Mom Salon
Feb05

The Mom Salon

The Mom Salon is a discussion group just for Moms. It’s a regular gathering of thoughtful mothers who want to talk with other women about important issues in the world of mothering, issues including what it means to be a mother and a wife, balancing work and home life, finding time for self, and one’s relationship with one’s partner. For each Mom Salon session we’ll read ahead of time a chapter from a provocative book about women’s lives today.  At the meeting, Lynn Rosen will lead a discussion about the reading and the issues raised by the author. The next Mom Salon gathering is on April 21st. It will take place at Whole Foods in Jenkintown on the Fairway. Class runs from 12pm to 1pm in the Whole Foods community room. There is no charge. Pick up a yummy lunch and join us for friendly, lively and thoughtful conversation! Monday, April  21st, 12-1xpm Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner Of course we worry, we all worry. It seems to come with the territory of motherhood. Author Warner talks about dealing with the stresses of motherhood and bringing things back into balance, and we will too! Note: All books are available for sale at Whole Foods. For more details or with any questions contact lynn at lynnrosen dot...

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Open Book “Pop Up” Mobile Bookstore

Stop by our mobile bookstore for a carefully curated collection of great books for adults and children. You’ll discover great fiction you didn’t know about, thought-provoking non-fiction, and terrific books for children of all ages. Sunday, February 23rd, 9:30am to 12:30pm, Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Rd. (corner of Township Line Rd.) Open to the public. Held in the main lobby accessed from the parklng lot side main door near the traffic circle. UPCOMING POP UPS: At Creekside Co-op, 7909 High School Road, Elkins Park, PA Sunday, March 2nd, 11am to 3pm Sunday, March 30th, 11am to 3pm Sunday, May 4th , 11am to 3pm If you have a location you’d like to have an Open Book Pop Up Mobile Bookstore, send us an email! Please note that we are also available by appointment. If you’d like to set up a time to shop our collection privately, email...

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