Editors All Day, Every Day

BY CATE CULPEPPER

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 hereThe 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.

25 Responses to “Editors All Day, Every Day”


  1. 1 freckles3 July 17, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    Cate,

    Love the blog, and loved the book!
    Cindy must have a great sense of humor, or you just really like playing with fire! LOL

    Nanc

    Like

  2. 2 Cat July 17, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Argue with Cindy Cresap? Oh but you’re brave😀

    She is a distant but revered authority in my household, to the extent that the ultimate put-down (on all occasions, not just literary) has become “But CINDY wouldn’t like it”.

    Like

  3. 3 Connie July 17, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    Excellent book!!!!! Very clever blog–but I wouldn’t expect less from you Amazon Queen.

    Like

  4. 4 VK July 17, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Cate,
    I venture to say that most of us feel some of the same things during our editing process, but you say it so beautifully. And yes, “we” are so lucky that “they” put up with us! 🙂

    Like

  5. 5 Erin Saluta July 17, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    That was a wonderful way to start my morning! Thank you for the comedic relief. Can’t wait to read the story!

    Like

  6. 6 Devlyn Sixtyseven July 17, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. A Question of Ghosts is an amazing journey and a credit to you both.

    Like

  7. 7 Ginny July 17, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Wonderful blog … wonderful book. Obviously I am not a writer.

    Like

  8. 8 jfaraday July 17, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Hehe you are a brave woman! And…I didn’t see anything wrong with those two sentences either. Uh-oh…. =D

    Like

  9. 9 Larry Benjamin July 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    OMGosh I love this post. And I so know what you mean. As it turns out Cindy is editing my first BSB book, Damaged Angels. She sent me a 10 page summary which talks about gerunds and my tendency to use present participle phrases, or as you say “waah, waah, waah.” Also she sends me emails at 5 a.m. Do editors never sleep? If they’d sleep more present participle phrases could live in peace and I’d be less stressed.

    Like

  10. 10 Bookgeek July 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Had a quiet and thorough laugh (I am editing in my spare time) … And just a Note from a very frequent reader: if I need a breather from good, but badly edited lesfic I always turn to BSB books which are usually a joy to read and well above average thanks to good editing. Kudos to the editors and to the publisher to uphold an exacting high standard.

    Like

  11. 11 Bookgeek July 17, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    @Larry, it all pays of at the end: good reviews, appretiative emails by readers, etc. — real hell would be to have it all pointed out after publishing.

    Like

  12. 12 lynchly July 17, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    More, Cate, more. More blogs, more books, more of your distinctive, hilarious, well-edited, voice!

    Like

  13. 13 Teryl Cardella July 17, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    What a great blog. Had me laughing all the way through. Thanks for sharing your awesome talent with us.

    Like

  14. 14 Cate Culpepper July 17, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    I’m afraid to leave my house this morning, fearing I will see wanted posters bearing my picture tacked to every tree . . . I spoke ill of CINDY CRESAP! These responses gratify me no end, thank you. Rest assured I checked this blog out thoroughly with Cindy before submitting it. Her only comment? “You say my name too often.”

    Like

  15. 15 D.Jackson Leigh July 17, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    All I can say is that Cindy must be a saint to put up with a crusty old Pirate like you.🙂 Although I love your Amazons, I do think “Ghosts” is your best.

    Like

  16. 17 Carol July 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    What a great blog. Thanks for a bit of a view into the wonderful BSB editing world.

    Like

  17. 18 Max July 17, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Hilarious and so refreshing.I have to buy your books now!

    Like

  18. 19 Lynda Sandoval July 18, 2012 at 1:16 AM

    This freaking blog made my whole night. 🙂 You’re one of a kind, Cate. If only we could clone you.

    Like

  19. 20 Lilaine July 18, 2012 at 5:00 AM

    Oh my god! I had two lone and joyful tears trickling down my cheeks after releasing the breath I’ve been consciously holding since I read those words: “Cindy Cresap, that illiterate cow.” :O
    Gotta read the fruits of your collaborative efforts, now.🙂
    Thanks for the edifying and humorous description of the author-editor relationship some of you seem to enjoy tremendously…😉

    Like

  20. 21 Rebekah Weatherspoon July 18, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    This post cracked me up. I was afraid to look Cindy in the eye in Palm Springs after she was done with her edits on The Fling. I thought she actually might slap me her notes were so brutal. But in the end we hugged it out. Can’t wait up to read this one, Cate!

    Like

  21. 22 Sheri Campbell July 18, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Having never met Cindy I know she has been the editor of record of many books. I cracked up when I read ‘Illiterate cow” thinking you had just committed author suicide. I liked your sentences without the change, but I’m just a frequent reader. Looking forward to the new book. Still laughing.

    Like

  22. 23 ramengrrl July 18, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    love it. all the hard work that you (both the authors and the editors) do is greatly appreciated!

    Like

  23. 24 Kim July 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Can’t wait to read this one and love the cover!

    Like

  24. 25 Jove Belle July 22, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    I love you. I really, really love you.

    Jove

    PS Tara sends her undying devotion as well.

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,021 other followers


%d bloggers like this: