Other Voices, Other Rooms

Longtime editor and former bookstore owner Philip Turner has an essay on getting William Styron interested in a book he was editing, Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America (1999). The core of the piece is really how editors become passionate about a manuscript and do all they can to get a book to succeed. As Turner writes:

“As a person, I am not overly concerned about what people seem to think of me, nor do I crave lots of personal validation from others. Yet it’s an occupational hazard of the book business; as an editor and publisher I am invariably focused on what people think of my books—by colleagues inside publishing houses and among booksellers, agents, foreign scouts, critics, and readers. … In the case of Dead Run, I was blessed with the enthusiasm of Loomis and Styron, which nourished my hopes for the book with such ardency that I was inspired to mint a quip I’m still fond of sharing about my profession: ‘Being an editor allows me to express my latent religiosity, since I spend so much time praying for my books.'”

Journalist, author and Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones has been conducting on his website “an experiment in storytelling” called Tell Your True Tale. People send in an essay, in Spanish or in English, about something that’s happened in their lives. Then Quinones will edit the piece and post it for others to read. The two latest pieces he’s posted are “Speed Kills,” by writer and fashion designer Monah Li, about a day in her meth addiction years ago. And “The Green River Camp Fire” by Carrie Gronewald, about her day hiking with her husband along the stomping grounds of the Green River serial killer before he had been caught. Gronewald writes:

“We found some red lingerie torn and cut apart. A few pieces had been burned in the campfire. Looking closer, we noticed a paperback book lying half in and half out of the ashes. My husband bent over, brushed away the ashes and picked it up. It had been partly burned around the edges, but was mostly intact. The title was ‘How to Have Sex.'”

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