Friday, June 8, 2012

The Editorial Phone Call

by Mindy McGinnis

It's one of the days I've been living my life for, when the phone rings and it's an editor at Harper Collins, calling to talk over the edit letter I received earlier in the week. I am thrilled. In fact, I still get a little roll in my tummy when I get emails from my agent, I'm that new to the game.  So why can't I drum up a ton of enthusiasm and let my editor know how happy I am?

Because I have laryngitis, a double ear infection, and it's possible I may doze off in the middle of the conversation.

My life has always been this way, the huge moments are overshadowed by the mundane. So when I realized I was incapable of pitching my voice normally, I went ahead and dropped it an octave. I was operating right around Marlboro Man levels when my editor called and said, "Uh, Mindy?"

Yes, it's me. Although I sound like a generation-older male version of me. My editor is a humane person, and she offered to reschedule, which nearly sent me into paroxysms. The idea that an editor at Harper Collins was willing to rework her afternoon schedule because I had a sore throat was ... kind of unreal.

I guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise. I've learned over the course of the past year that my agent is a real human being, so why shouldn't my editor be as well? Maybe it's because the only real image of an editor that I have in my head is of Jack Warden as Mr. Tarkanian from The Great Muppet Caper. I picture doors slamming and employees hanging from the ceiling lights, trembling in fear.

It's easy to forget when you're in the trenches of querying, or the self-questioning hell of whether you're cut out for this gig or not, that agents and editors are real people. Yes, they are. Even the ones at the Big Six houses, my friends. I talked out my edit letter with my editor and never once felt like I had put my foot in it, screwed the pooch, or bought the farm.

After running a few ideas past her to air for an opinion her final word was, "You know your world, and I trust you to write it."

And that was music to my infected eardrums.


Mindy McGinnis is a school librarian and author whose debut Not a Drop to Drink is coming Fall 2013 from Katherine Tegen Books. She also wields a mean editing hatchet. When she's not avoiding writing her own bio, you can find her at her blog and on Twitter.


E.B. Black said...

It doesn't help that you probably know how few people get book deals and agents. It makes all writers feel like they must be super men and women. We're not allowed to be sick or going through a rough patch in life. We have work to do.

Even when my house burned down and I lost all my stuff and someone I cared about died, I thought I needed to continue writing as if nothing happened. Even though I was emotionally exhausted to the point where I was ill.

Lynn Proctor said...

awww sorry you are down--feel better and congrats!

Jean Oram said...

Awww... your editor sounds awesome. I hope you feel better soon. Ear infections are the worst.

And yeah, sometimes it is easy to forget that agents and editors are real people like you and me and that this gatekeeper role is their job, just like writing is ours. They want us to succeed just as badly as we want to!

Jemi Fraser said...

This is such an encouraging post! I love hearing about how 'real' agents and editors are :)

Hope you're feeling better soon! Take care :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

EB - Yes, it was an extremely pleasant surprise that my editor actually cared that I was sick. Whew!

Lynn - I *shall* prevail!

Jean - I know that it's easy to hate on the editors and agents when stuck in the query quagmire. But my agent and editor were good people before they met me :)

Jemi - They are, they are! And Gosh, me too!

petemorin said...

**chuckle** great bit, Mindy. Thrilled that you're happy with the editor, and why not?

Mindy McGinnis said...

Why not indeed, Peter? Although... there is a part of me that has always wanted to hang from suspended ceiling lights in fear.