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 next role, the next step in my career. Last month, due to budget cuts, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job at North American Publishing Company, and so I am no longer the steward of Book Business and Publishing Executive. I am now looking for the next door that will open for me in this very interesting career I am in the midst of. But in the meantime, I want, I need, to keep learning, to keep finding out just how much it is that I don’t yet know.
Over the past year and a half, I have had the great fortune to meet and interview many great minds in our industry, many skilled thinkers, designers, technicians, business leaders. In this ongoing Pub Hub blog, I look forward to continuing my inquiry, and to sharing what I learn with my readers. I hope here to have the time to dig deep, to really learn about this wonderful industry in which I work, and to share what I learn with you.
If there’s something happening you think I should cover, please write me at lynn at lynnrosen dot com.