April 17, 2007
Editors Are People Too
Karen Sloan, author of Flirting with Monasticism, came through Chicago this past week to take part in the Wheaton Theology Conference, this year discussing ancient-future Christian theology--just the sort of place where monasticism is actively flirted with.
Because of the apocalyptic weather systems we've been experiencing lately, Karen's flight to Chicago was delayed, so she missed the scintillating conversation that takes place every Wednesday afternoon when our editorial department gets together to eat popcorn and catch up. There's nothing quite like the anthropological experience of sitting with editors in our natural habitat, chewing with our mouths open so we can talk with our mouths full. I know it's a meager substitute, incidentally, but starting this week you can have a similar virtual experience at any one of our three new editorial blogs: Behind the Books, Addenda & Errata, and our fearless leader's recurring diatribe, Andy Unedited. Seriously, it's like an editorial smorgasbord around here.
But I digress. Karen was able to make it over here Thursday instead. For her trouble she got an up-close and personal view of my office, which is a total disaster area because I lack the common courtesy to clean up for my guests. She also got to meet some of her e-mail correspondents face to face, and she had lunch with a scintillating colleague of mine. From there she went to the conference, and from there she came to a play I was in, where she saw me dressed in a tunic and heard me singing poorly about my--make that Peter's--denial of Jesus.
I think by now it's well-established that I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself in front of virtually anyone, but while I've had authors sing to me, this was the first time I've sung to an author. Fortunately, her book already came out, so for the time being at least, she's stuck with me for an editor.
I mention all of this not only as a public thanks to Karen for her visit but as a way of communicating (read that "confessing") that editors are human. We do weird stuff--but that's not because we're editors, it's because we're human. We get anxious about what other people think of us--but that's not because we're editors, it's because we're human. My authors have learned that firsthand; it's part of the demystifying process of getting published.
One of the nice things about working for a publisher such as InterVarsity Press is that we learn while we're working--about God, about ourselves. In my case, I learned the following from David Benner as he wrote The Gift of Being Yourself:
People who are afraid to look deeply at themselves will of course be equally afraid to look deeply at God. For such persons, ideas about God provide a substitute for direct experience of God. . . . Paradoxically, we come to know God best not by looking at God exclusively, but by looking at God and then looking at ourselves--then looking at God, and then again looking at ourselves.
I learned a lot--about God, about myself--from Karen Sloan too, and I'm learning as I go from the other authors floating around this place these days. Yep, editors are people too, and people, I think it's fair to say, need one another.