Listen in on any gathering of Bold Strokes Books authors and you’ll hear them wax rhapsodic about their editors.
“That literary giant, Dr. Shelley Thrasher, is a genius!”
“That sainted Stacia Seaman taught me SO SO SO much!”
“Ruth Sternglantz breathes life into my prose! LIFE, I tell you!”
I’ve worked with Cindy Cresap for six years. She has edited every book I’ve ever written for BSB.
Cindy Cresap, that illiterate cow.
Heresy, yes. Heresy most dire. But I am the only writer at Bold Strokes Books, the only writer in the world, who finds the editing process difficult.
I admit, I might sometimes be a difficult writer to edit. I was capable, in one of the earlier Tristaine books, of producing the following sentence:
She raised her single-shot rifle and fired twice into the morning sky.
I saw nothing wrong with this sentence. Cindy Cresap, to her credit, refrained from sarcasm and simply inserted this: (?)
But the point is, Cindy Cresap sometimes wants to change my work. She wants to correct my grammar. True, she tries to explain to me why these changes are necessary. But when Cindy Cresap starts going on about “comma flatstops” and “modifier tintinnabulation” or what the fuck ever, her voice comes out “waah waah waah” like all the adult voices in the Peanuts TV shows.
I’m especially gratified whenever I reduce Cindy Cresap to inchoate sputtering, as when she took umbrage to a line I used in my latest novel, A Question of Ghosts:
“A single tear trickled down Becca’s cheek.”
Oh my god! (Cindy Cresap wrote.) It’s the ‘single tear trickling down a cheek’ – second only to ‘releasing a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding’ as the biggest cliché in romance writing! Please kill it! At least remove the ‘single’ description. (Cindy Cresap added.) A tear is the same as a single tear.
Cindy Cresap likes A Question of Ghosts, though. She thinks it’s my best yet.
And Cindy gets it, that her approval can be as hard for me to accept as her criticism, and I’ll second-guess her all the way. After these years and these books, she knows she’s working with an author who didn’t see print until her mid-forties, one both blessed by the freedom of writing fanfiction and mired in its conventions.
Cindy and I disagreed once on something in a story that felt important to me. She finally had to say no, this doesn’t work in the book, and you need to drop it. Complying with that was hard. Authors joke about their books being the children they send out into the world, but that’s true in a sense. Mine are surely the only progeny I plan to offer. Cindy was telling me she knew my child better than I did, and I was sure she was wrong.
Cindy was telling me the truth about the world my child was trying to enter.
As Jeanne Kisacky said: “A writer is in the forest, describing the trees; an editor is in a high vantage point, simultaneously seeing the dirt, the trees, the forest, the paths and patterns manifesting in the forest, and the relation of the forest to the surrounding landscape.”
If I want to bury my nose in the bark of a redwood, I have to trust what Cindy tells me about the forest. I will continue to argue with her forever about the placement of certain greenery, but our collaboration is sound. I’m happy Cindy and I are in accord on A Question of Ghosts.
I’m going to tell a story about the book now, which Cindy would say is too abrupt because the theme of my blog seems to be my relationship with my editor, but this blog is my tree and Cindy should sit the merry hell down.
Anyway, my good friend Jay came out to Seattle last summer to take the photo that Sheri Dragon has conjured into the cover for Ghosts you see here. The picture is of the Lady of the Rock, a statue that graces the Brawley family plot in Lake View Cemetery. Both the statue and the cemetery feature prominently in my story. I was afraid the family wouldn’t allow the use of this image—that they might be uncomfortable with a lesbian theme, or they’d want to charge a fee I couldn’t manage.
Lynn Brawley-Birkwist’s response: “We’re just fine with it! Can we have two copies of the book?”
I hope you like A Question of Ghosts. It’s recommended by no less than Cindy Cresap, that most erudite and brilliant of editors.