Monday, September 5, 2011

The Lost Art of Editor Worship

by Robert J. Wetherall

As a writer, you know you’re in deep doo-doo when you get a note from your editor inquiring, “What have you been smoking?”

Of course, you can take this a couple of ways. First, you can assume the question is posed by a person vitally interested in your personal habits. Or, second, you can view the inquiry as a veiled warning that your writing is approaching a dangerous precipice – that jumping-off point dividing the hilarious from the hullucinatory.

Now, my editor at Penumbra Publishing, whose initials are Pat Morrison, is a kind, insightful professional who deserves excellent marks as she goes about her 24-7 mission of  inspiring her unruly flock of writers to perform at their highest levels of excellence.

But don’t get me wrong: I don’t say this to ingratiate myself with P.M. with a cheap, sleazy and transparent appeal for special treatment or consideration. I’m just raising the issue of how sensitive writers with hearts decorating their sleeves react to comments and suggestions offered by their editorial helpmates.

I posed this subject to my old pal, Eddie Salinski. With Eddie’s rampant world-acclaimed successes both as a writer and welder, I was confident he could shine some light on the issue. Sadly, the illumination was not immediately forthcoming. Eddie reminded me that he doesn’t use a traditional form of editor to polish his prose. He relies on his milking goat, Tessie.

Hearing her name, the little white goat pushed open the metal gate behind Eddie’s trailer and stationed herself between us. Eddie reached over and slapped her rump playfully. Tessie nuzzled against his overalls in return.

“This little lady doesn’t know a participle from a turnip, but she can point out stinky writing without half trying. You should see her, pawing and snorting through my manuscripts, separating the riff from the raff.  Without her, I wouldn’t have a pot to pee in,” he added, stroking her fuzzy head in appreciation.

“But about your situation,” he said, shooing Tessie away and getting down to business. “Let’s look your situation right in the old eyeball. Now, it hurts me to say this but, unfortunately, you don’t write quite like I do. In fact, your output would benefit from all the editing it can get. So, in your case, you better treat your editor with plenty of respect. We’re talking deference, my young friend. Don’t fail to give her her due.

“Most important, remember: editor or not, this gal is a Woman. So send her decent perfume at Christmas time. Never, ever forget her birthday. That’s a definite relationship killer if there ever was one. And most important, remember this: The most incendiary disputes between men and women have been settled with chocolate bunnies.”

“Isn’t that awfully of patronizing?”

“Oh, of course. But think of this as a vital part of your writers toolkit,” Eddie countered.

”Makes sense, I guess,” I said, suddenly aware that once again Eddie had lifted the top off my skull and dumped in a couple of quarts of breakthrough thinking. 

“Pretty soon you’ll have this lady eating out of your hand. And you’ll be able to get away with murder. Trust me.”

“You think?”

“Can’t miss,” Eddie said. “We’re talking big dividends, Bobbo.”

I left Eddie sitting by his trailer in the afternoon shade and climbed into my rusty Mercury Montego. As I headed homeward, I found myself humming a happy little tune that I remembered from kindergarten. Zippity-do-dah, Zippity-di-yay. I resolved right then and there to take Eddie’s advice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Robert J. Wetherall

Last Flight Home
The Making of Bernie Trumble
Forever Andrew


  1. PM is a God. The sun rises and sets over her computer keyboard and talent. Tessie is good, too.

    Penumbra Publishing is fortunate to have both. Authors submitting manuscripts will at least get a fair read. Rejected manuscripts may be eaten by the goat.

  2. PM's advice: Never pass up an opportunity to allow others to suck up to you. It is a great ego-booster. ;-)


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