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Editors Talk about Editing

Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers


Susan L. Greenberg

The work of «editing» is by and large something that happens behind the scenes, noticed only when it is done badly, or not done at all. There is not much information about what editors do. The result is that editing is not often talked about in its own right – not even by the people who do it. This collection of interviews attempts to fill some of the gaps. The author, a former editor herself, interviews practitioners at the top of their game – from newspapers, magazines, broadcast news, book publishing, scholarly editing, academic publishing and digital curation. The interviewees think out loud about creativity and human judgment; what they have in common and what makes them different; how editing skills and culture can be shared; why editing continues to fascinate; and why any of this might matter.
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Chapter 10: Constance Hale, Book Editor


← 126 | 127 → Chapter 10


Freelance book editor, teacher, journalist, authorInterview: Friday, October 19, 2012Brooklyn, New York

Constance Hale is an articulate advocate for the editing arts, and a founding member of the editors’ collective The Prose Doctors. In a long career as reporter, writer and editor, she combines an editorial practice with postgraduate teaching at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley.

The interview, held in a noisy café in Brooklyn’s Dumbo1 neighborhood, was snatched during a book tour taking Hale away from her home in Oakland, California. She was in New York to promote her latest title, Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch (2012). This follows Sin and Syntax (2013; first published in 1999) and a Wired stylebook (1999).

Hale’s experience provides insights into the teaching of editing culture and skills, and the devolution of those skills away from traditional publishing houses. She occupies a particular spot in the ‘circuit of communication’: as she puts it, ‘I’m usually hired as a developmental editor for a book that has been more or less accepted for publication, and I know what the publisher wants from the book’.

← 127 | 128 → SG Would you call editing creative?

CH Absolutely. I go through a process of needing to ‘see the book’. That’s the only way I can put it. I hold the book in my head and I get to a point where I have a vision...

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