As every book evolves, from the first draft to the final one, there’s nothing more indispensable to an author than a skilled EDITOR–someone who can dispassionately review the manuscript.
The best editors not only catch errors and suggest line changes, but also fine-tune the entire book, including its pacing, tone, and structure.
Should a section be condensed? Would a passage be more dramatic placed sooner rather than later? What added research would enhance it? How effectively are we capturing the voice that will carry the reader through 200 pages?
For more than a decade, such questions have been ably answered by my editor, Ed Friedel, an invaluable member of my writing team, who has worked on all my books and magazine articles.
How did I find him?
As I wrote in a recent blog, so often, proximity is the messenger of fate. It sure was for me. Here’s how it happened: In the summer of l997, Ed and I met quite by accident at a New York City AIDS Hotline, where we were both working as volunteers. Over the next year, every Monday, from 10 am to 2 pm, we sat two feet apart, taking calls about safer sex and AIDS prevention while also becoming fast friends.
One day, thinking I’d get some work done in-between taking calls, I brought along the manuscript of an article I’d been working on for Family Circle , all about celebrity charities. It included my interviews with Elizabeth Taylor, Colin Powell, Reba McEntire, Christopher Reeve, and Bill Gates.
Although Ed’s professional background was international banking, I asked him if he’d like to take a look at the article. I soon discovered that he was blessed with an eagle eye. He read the entire thing and returned it with penciled corrections and editorial suggestions in the margin. It was fantastic. As a thank you, I gave him a sweater!
I next asked him to take a look at another article—A FRAGILE LIFELINE, detailing my personal experience working on the Hotline. Another sweater was added to Ed’s collection–and then another when he edited SHOULD YOUR CHILD WATCH TV NEWS?, which included my interviews with Peter Jennings, Maria Shriver, and Jane Pauley.
By the time he tackled YOUNG AT HEART, interviews including Sophia Loren, Betty White, and Kirk Douglas, I started paying him for his work, which was adding great quality and value to the final article.
Without any formal training, Ed clearly had a natural editorial talent. And the rest is history. We not only have remained close friends, but he went on to edit more than 40 articles for Family Circle on many subjects, from laughter, stress reduction, and the secrets of the centenarians, to interviews with Mia Farrow, Tony Robbins, Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, Dr. Phil, and Shirley MacLaine, among many others.
And that’s not to mention editing my books too, including the one closest to my heart, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, based upon an article Ed edited in Family Circle titled GRANNY DOWN THE HALL.
Nowadays, in addition to working with me, Ed has gone on to edit books for other authors as well, while also teaching English as a second language in New York City. While retired as a banker, it just goes to show that we all have many potential careers within us. I suppose I can take some credit for asking Ed to edit that very first article.
I sometimes ask myself, what would have happened if I had never been placed on that Hotline shift? I very much doubt someone else on another shift would have turned out to be my editor. So perhaps our seemingly accidental pairing wasn’t so accidental at all.