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Jeanne Munn Bracken

Jeanne Munn Bracken

Sometimes It's About Editors

I've been writing for over 30 years. I know editors.

I've been a freelance writer for over 30 years. This makes me something of an expert on editors.

Personally, I think editors are great. I would prefer to have an editor find my boneheaded errors. I write for the local weekly newspaper, the smallest one owned by an ever-growing chain of newspapers. Our editors tend to move on up to the larger, more prestigious ones in the chain. In 32 years I have written for at least 25 and probably more editors on this one weekly alone.

Most of them were fine human beings and excellent editors (which I define as "accepts Jeanne's work as written, publishes it with minimum errors, and provides interesting assignments.")

Magazine editors (and I admit to less experience here) have occasionally tweaked my words in interesting ways. One changed "snapping green beans for the dog" to "shelling walnuts for the cat", certainly not a hanging offense, although at the time I didn't have a cat and the ones I have had since have not shown any interest in walnuts, shelled or otherwise. I did forge some great relationships with editors of regional magazines, who liked my work, published it, and then either moved on or the publication folded.

Editing experiences for my books have been a mixed bag. With the corporate history, I was the editor as well as the writer and "we" got along quite well wearing both hats.

The editor of my seven history titles assigned me fascinating topics, gave me a lot of leeway with deadlines, trusted my work, and barely messed with my drafts at all.

Then there are my experiences with a Major New York Publisher, who has stood beside me through many years of missed deadlines and various crises. The editors have thoughtfully handled my drafts with care and I believe that the result has been two editions of an excellent book.

Not without a few potholes in the road, to be sure. For the first edition, I had the same editor from acquisition through publication and after. We worked almost entirely through printed drafts and letters with many telephone calls. We have a cordial relationship that has lasted over 25 years. I consider her a friend.

The updated edition is a whole different story. If I count correctly, I had six main editors plus several assistant editors and a copy editor in India. Full disclosure: I missed the deadline by several years and it's not like other people are going to put their lives on hold for my book.

I can't even remember Editor Number One, just that she wasn't interested in the book.

Editor Number Two and my agent took over a year to negotiate a contract everyone wanted. Then she went to culinary school.

Editor Number Three was a veteran of the publishing business. He took me to lunch. Then he retired.

Editor Number Four took me to lunch. She commented on several chapters in various stages of completion. Then she moved to another house.

Editor Number Five was the jackpot. The project was reassigned to my friend who edited the first edition. We were both happy. We talked a few times on the phone and I vowed to finish the manuscript in a timely fashion. (My definition of timely and that of the publisher might be a teeeeny bit off.) Then, out of the blue and for no discernible reason, she was pulled off the project .

Editor Number Six was at a disadvantage from the start, clearly haunted by the ghosts of editors past. We communicated by email, sending drafts back and forth for the two years or so it took to finally get the book done. Unfortunately for her, she was also the editor of record when I had two (okay, three) major meltdowns (meltsdown?) over various issues. I was stubborn about some formatting issues, and I "won" but that meant a lot of work to put chapters back the way I wanted. Hard feelings all around.

Still, Editor Number Six and I pulled it off. Children with Cancer: A Comprehensive Reference Book for Parents got a "highly recommended" review from Library Journal.

And I had a bumper sticker made up: Honk if you've edited Jeanne Munn Bracken.

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