Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I chickened out on taking a picture of the inside of my refrigerator. Most of the time all you can see is a large collection of half-empty mason jars. My mom is a canner who is teaching me to can garden produce. (Maybe I should take a picture of the fruit cellar.) We always seem to have several things open in the frig that are from garden preserves -- pickles, relish, applesauce, strawberry jam, pear butter, tomatoes, green beans, grape juice, salsa, etc.
Another benefit of living in the country (20 minutes from work, 30 minutes from Wal-Mart, an hour from an airport or Starbucks) is the wildlife. I recently broke in my new digital camera by sitting on my front steps, waiting for birds to gather at the feeders and deer to assemble in the field across from my house.
We spoil our birds by keeping them well fed through winter. When the feeders get empty the birds seem to twitter loudly as they sit on the porch rail and call to us inside. Even the deer like to lick up the seed that falls to the ground. But there comes a time in spring when you have to cut off the free food supply and let the birds forage as nature intended.
I got to thinking how the author/editor relationship is sort of like bird feeders sometimes. An editor can only do so much to supply the author with ideas, tools, rules, etc. Editors expect writers to come to us knowing how to get the knowledge they need to create a basic book. At times, it gets tedious answering new authors’ questions about what guidebooks to use, what writer’s groups to join, how to find a critique partner, how to submit a proposal, and so on. I expect authors to have the instinct to forage for these answers without loading up my e-mail box with questions.
Barbour works with a lot of new authors, so we are willing to do some handholding through the edits of a first book. But after that, we expect an author to take what we have taught them and keep growing on their own. On occasion, authors repeat mistakes and slip back into old habits. We can’t keep stocking the bird feeder for all our authors. We work with too many.
So it may happen that an author who has had multiple books published is no longer getting contracts. The author has to consider that, perhaps, they have not continued to grow as an author and have been relying too heavily on their editors to clean up repetitive mistakes (i.e. stock the bird feeder).
I don't mean to be a downer on a pretty spring day, but I don’t want to have to keep hand-feeding birdies. I want both the birds in my yard and in our author nest to fly and forage on mature, fully developed wings.
I don’t have a particular author in mind today, and I’m not picking on anyone. So keep up the good work, birdies, and keep growing.
Editor Du Jour Becky