January 10, 2012

Editors Roundtable: Introducing Nancy Wick and Julie Van Pelt

I met Julie Van Pelt when she gave a guest lecture at a class I was taking for the University of Washington Certificate Program in Editing. She probably can’t remember. I met Nancy Wick through the Author-Editor Clinic in 2006, when she was the experienced editor in the room and I was the newbie. Since then I’ve been privileged to become friends with both editors … and I always listen carefully to every word they say. (Really, I do.) —Kyra Freestar


Nancy Wick

How long have you been doing developmental editing for authors?
I think about six years. I’ve done journalistic editing since the 1970s.

What is your favorite thing about developmental editing?
It’s simple. I love to read. Every time I pick up a new book, there’s that rush of anticipation—expecting pleasure, expecting to learn something. When I get a manuscript of an as yet unpublished book, I have that same rush of anticipation, with the added pleasure of knowing that I get to interact with the author. Since I am a writer as well as an editor, I know how easy it is to get lost in one’s own work and not be able to find a way out, and how bad it can feel when you reach that point. When I’m working on a manuscript rather than just reading for pleasure, I have the opportunity to use my analytical mind to figure out what’s working and what’s not. When I can help a writer say clearly what he or she wants desperately to say, that’s very satisfying to me.

What are your favorite genres to edit?
This is a hard question for me to answer because I have very eclectic tastes. In fiction I like character-driven novels of all kinds—books that focus on why people do the things they do. It doesn’t matter to me whether those novels are mysteries or literary fiction or historical romance, as long as they present interesting characters whose motives I get to ponder. Given that, it’s not surprising that in nonfiction I like psychology/self-help books, spirituality books, and memoirs. However, I should say that I’ve worked on books that don’t fit into any of these categories. 

What was your favorite book when you were 13 years old?
At 13 I was trying hard to read things that were above my maturity level. I remember reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, Exodus, Gone with the Wind. I also remember finding a copy of Peyton Place in a brown paper sack in a drawer at home. It probably belonged to my older sister. I sneaked it out and read it and was disgusted. My good taste was developing already!

What’s one thing you hope your editing clients say about you?
That I took their writing seriously on its own terms and that my suggestions helped them improve the manuscript.

What’s one thing about yourself that you think would surprise your editing clients?
That if I’d had my druthers, I would have become an actress. My bachelor’s degree is in speech and drama. Unfortunately, I’m way too self-conscious for that kind of career, but I still love the theater and attend often.

Coffee, tea, or chocolate?
None of the above. I don’t like the taste of coffee and couldn’t drink it on a bet. I will drink tea politely if someone gives it to me. As for chocolate, well, I was the kid who ordered the vanilla ice cream cone. My drink of choice: water … and wine, of course, but not when I’m working!


Julie Van Pelt

How long have you been doing developmental editing for authors?
I’ve been an editor since 1995, doing developmental work with authors since 2006.

What is your favorite thing about developmental editing?
That moment when the author sees what the shape of her/his book will really be, often after several drafts. Inspiring.

What are your favorite genres to edit?
Travel lit and history—put ’em together and I’m blissed out.

What was your favorite book when you were 13 years old?
Thirteen, eighth grade, hmmm. Must have been Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy? Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders series? I was very into fantasy/sci fi, but in eighth grade I don’t think I’d yet found James Tiptree or Samuel Delany. Oh! I know, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green Sky trilogy. How odd, though—I haven’t read sci fi in years!

What’s one thing you hope your editing clients say about you?
That I listened to them and edited their work from the inside out, helping them make their work more itself.

What’s one thing about yourself that you think would surprise your editing clients?
I don’t like word games! Crosswords, anagrams, jumbles, Scrabble, blah blah blah. They’re all a busman’s holiday if you ask me. Ditto grammar blogs. My favorite word game is simply to be immersed in a well-written book, seeing how the author puts things together. Magic.

Coffee, tea, or chocolate?
I have to choose?


[And come back Thursday morning for introductions to editors Marta Tanrikulu and Beth Stokes.]

2 comments:

  1. Nancy--The theater! I love knowing your acting background. Through college, I was always a costume/set person, watching from the wings, but oh how I loved it. Do you attend one of the Seattle theater groups regularly? Choose what to see piece by piece? cheers, Julie

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  2. I find I like editing as much as I do writing. Even to the point that I find going through books and finding mistakes & suggesting improvements to be more enjoyable over simple reading.

    There are a lot of fiction nowadays that could do with some serious editing. I don’t just mean typos (although there are some occasionally), but also books with poor character development, boring, predictable plots or weak attempts at a ‘deeper meaning’.

    I’m always looking for the next Eragon, but recently, it seems I can find fewer and fewer good books.

    It doesn’t help that the publishers are as guilty as the self-published authors when it comes to editing. Maybe if they paid them more and didn’t overwork them, they would get better results?

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