Friday, April 3, 2009

Meet the Editor: Jesaka Long

A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists.

Let’s see how Jesaka answers the same questions she’s used for everyone in the “Meet the Editor” series. Afterward, you can ask some of your own in the Comments section.

When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
My first love was a typewriter – I loved it so much that I would do anything to type. My grandfather even let me type up his reports for work. It was when I started working for my high school newspaper that I realized that I had a thing for typos. I loved scrutinizing the waxed layouts, marking the last of the errors with a blue pencil that wouldn’t show up at the printer.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Practice! I had the privilege of mentoring a few aspiring editors. It was so much fun to help them learn things like the in-house style and AP Style, then give them assignments. From there, it wasn’t long before the new editors were cursing me – telling me I’d ruined reading and even eating at restaurants for them. They were spotting typos and grammar mistakes everywhere. Of course, they always complained while wearing big grins.

What’s the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
To refrain from editing yourself, at least in the first draft. Many of the most productive writers I know are really good about just writing – getting the words on paper and then revising.

What’s the best advice you’ve given a writer?
Trust your editor. Since I work with mostly nonfiction writers, I really stress that writers should just get it all on paper. When a writer knows what he/she wants to say, but is struggling with how best to say it, that’s when a good editor can make a huge difference.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
Connecting with an author’s voice – and helping to preserve it or develop it or, sometimes, both. To achieve that, an editor must really listen and know when to prompt a writer versus spelling it out. (Of course, the final proofread is not the best time for that!)

What’s the one misperception about editors you want to clear up?
That editors are people who always have to be right. Now, there are times when there is a simple right/wrong situation with grammar. I’ve been in situations where I strongly recommended a revision, certain that it would improve an article, essay or chapter. But when the writer stated her case for why it didn’t work, I knew she was right and I was flexible.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I’ve written and edited with many people across a variety of fields and subjects. The one thing that almost every client says about me is that I have a talent for helping writers find their voices – and truly articulate what they want to say to the world. I also help writers craft all types of content as well, including their bios and website copy.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
Both of my grandfathers were storytellers – one documented his stories while the other focused on his audience sitting at the kitchen table. I love learning about people’s lives, so I am a huge fan of creative nonfiction and memoirs. It’s storytelling. I also like working with nonfiction because I love to learn and am curious about a wide range of topics, although I’m not looking for fact-checking work. I love the words.

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  1. Nice to get to know more about you Jesaka. I like reading memoirs and agree that a good editor can make one better.

  2. Great post! And I especially liked the point about great editors connecting with an author's voice. Editors shouldn't change an author's work, merely buff it to a mirror-like shine!


  3. Hi Jesaka. What fun to get to know you better! I like that you work WITH an author. Good post.

  4. Thanks, Jesaka! Good to have another writer interested in memoir. Do you belong to Story Circle Network? It's a great group and we have a nice yahoogroup for daily chats - also lots of smaller reading and writing circles.


  5. Thanks for all the great comments. Lisa, I really like your phrase about buffing a writer's voice to mirror-like shine!

    Dani, I am not familiar with Story Circle Network. I'll definitely check it out!

  6. It is really hard to refrain from editing my work first time around. I try, but can't always resist.

    Morgan Mandel


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