A practiced magazine reviewer of books of literature and poetry, I write strong, clear prose, which means I can help others perfect their own prose. I have edited books of philosophy, history, memoir, but in recent years I have gravitated to books of poetry or individual poems.
My Approach to Editing
My ideal client writes from the stories, ideas, images, and experiences that press and clamor to be told: a personal story, a saga of family life, vignettes from the factory or office, travels in nature, whether it is one’s backyard or the Amazon. The form may be straightforward narrative, impassioned lyric, or detailed analysis.
In approaching a new piece of writing, I first read for mastery of the material and understanding of content. I make an assessment of the author’s style. Is it spare or robust? Does the author tend to use one-syllable words or Latinate words of several syllables? Does the writer lean toward sensuous details of sight, sound, smell, for example, or focus on an abstract train of thought? Such an assessment is important to the editor, whose suggestions must always respect the author’s style and the language in which the author is comfortable. I find it helpful to discuss with the writer the strengths and tendencies of the writing. Is story the most important element? Structure? Music? Imagination? Of course, the best writing, as Gregory Orr has noted, has all these elements.
Within a style, however, editors can do much. My approach is to clarify the writing as one might a window. Has the author made the best words choices in a difficult paragraph or stanza? Does the text connote or suggest something the author did not intend? Clarify! I delete redundancies as though they were smudges on the glass, to make the view clearer. I’ll also call attention to an unhappy mixture of metaphors; or trim an adjective or two where something simpler would do.
Structure is an important part of any piece of writing, so I pay attention to it, and seek in my work for my clients a balance between excessive form and lazy or wandering structure. I may suggest a different sequencing of narrative to build suspense, sustain attention, or simply clarify events. I always have on hand examples of different ways other writers have tackled a problem.
With poetry, the music of the language is especially important. I’m familiar with poetic forms and strategies, from rhetorical devices to varieties of rhyming, and use them in my own writing, and where appropriate, I suggest them to clients who have asked that I help them revise their poems.
Below is a sampling of both editing and freelance writing projects.
Gillian Dean. “Modeling Policy Impact and Feedback Effects.” In The Analysis of Policy Impact.
Charles Fenyvesi. Splendor in Exile. Washington, D.C.: New Republic Books.
Tama Preaud. Sevres Porcelain. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Towards Peaceful Change” and “Applying Science and Technology to Public Purposes.” In Report on the American Association for the Advancement of Science Five-Year Outlook Project (1, 2). Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Book Reviews and Essays
_______. 2013. “No Lazy Love: Norma Farber’s Year of Reversible Loss.” Poet Lore.
_______. 2014. “A Poet’s Gondola.” Blue Lyra Review.
_______. 2017. “Naming Glad, Naming Loss.” Poet Lore.