Saturday, March 28, 2009

Theresa's FAQs

We get a lot of questions behind the scenes and, given the number of new commenters turning up lately, I thought it might be useful to do a FAQ post.

Who are you?

Ah, that age-old question, who am I. Well, I am not the walrus. Coo-coo-ca-choo.

You know, it never occurred to me that my full name doesn’t appear anywhere on this blog until someone pointed it out to me. So, for the record, my name is Theresa Stevens. I'm currently the managing editor for Red Sage Publishing, a post which was first offered to me exactly two years ago this month. Before that, I was an acquisitions editor just like my blogging partner, Alicia, who is a senior editor at the same company. Before that, I worked a stretch as a trial lawyer, and before that, as an attorney-agent for a boutique literary agency in Indianapolis. Besides my law degree, I also have a degree in creative writing from Purdue. Go Boilers!

Whew. That's all rather dull, isn't it?

What does a managing editor do?

Beats the hell out of me. Whoops! I mean, we do very serious and important things all day long. For example, at least once every day, if not once every hour, I frown at a calendar. In fact, this is probably the most important part of my job. After frowning at the calendar and muttering like a madwoman for the requisite number of minutes, I go off in search of people and things which will allow me to change the status of an item on that calendar. If I succeed, I rise up out of my chair and do a little ballerina twirl of joy. If I don't, then I just send more e-mail. My day revolves around e-mail. E-mail and the calendar, my twin obsessions.

Oh. You want a real answer. Okay. The duties of the managing editor vary somewhat from house to house, but in my case, I run the entire editorial department and coordinate all of our activities with the production and art departments. I supervise the work of the editors and copy editors and have final approval authority over everything we put under contract. I don't supervise the work of cover artists, graphic designers, typesetters, etc., and I don't have responsibilities for accounting or sales or PR. I have input, but not controlling authority. And that's as it should be because, contrary to rumor, I'm not the boss of everything. My boss is the boss of everything.

That probably still doesn't answer your question unless you have some understanding of how a publishing house operates. But that's a topic for another post.

And yes, I do acquire and edit manuscripts.

Why don't you post more often?

See the answer to question number two above. Alicia and I do this blog for fun and as a form of service back to the writing community. (Yes, I said fun. What, you don't think that bickering about commas for a couple of decades is fun? Sheesh. Spoilsport.) Time I spend blogging is time taken away from reading slush, sending out revision requests to potential new authors, and similar tasks. If you don't see me around for a few days, you can bet it's because I'm trying to clear out my inbox.

But we want more. How can we get more?

Um. Read the archives? There's a lot of material accumulated there. Also, I do occasionally tweet mini-editing tips, and those tips carry over into facebook when all the software is working properly. I twitter as theresastevens and my facebook ID is Theresa Stevens. Don't ask me how to link to my profiles, because I haven't been able to figure that out. (Can anyone help with that? When I try to cut and paste, the links go back to main home pages rather than to my pages.) On face book, my profile picture currently shows me hugging a giant tree at our editing retreat last summer. You’ll know it’s me by the absurd red and white hat.

Do you do freelance work? Will you edit my manuscript?

Maybe. I only take on this kind of side project when time permits, and frankly, time almost never permits. Alicia does a bit more of it than I do, so you might have more luck with her.

What's with the three-sentence openings?

I have no idea how this started. Was it one of our commenters who asked permission to send us the first bit of his opening scene? Ian? Wes? Bueller? Anyway, somehow we ended up with a brief flurry of people sending us the first three or four sentences from the first page of their manuscript, and us dissecting them. We still do them on occasion when an opening turns up in our inbox. If you want to submit your opening for dissection, send the first three sentences to:

You can also send editing questions there or things you would like to see us address in blog posts, but just keep in mind that we don't check the inbox as frequently as we ought to. (We read the comments far more frequently than the inbox.) When we do check it, we usually end up doing most of what's requested. For example, we got a bunch of requests last month to do a pitching clinic -- I think we did one last year, if memory serves. In any event, we'll do one this year, too, in April. Details will follow.

OMG. I just read your post about ______. Were you talking about my manuscript?

If I was, you would know it before the post went live. I don't blog about a particular manuscript without the author's permission. (Sending your opening to our edittorrent e-mail address is the same as giving us that permission.)

All other examples come from my twisted little brain. Sometimes these are inspired by what I see in manuscripts, but they are never drawn directly from the text. Even when I do "Tales from the Slush Pile" posts, I change the details so that I can make my point without making an example of someone.

There are no exceptions to this rule. Ever. I either get the author's permission or I make up my own examples. The end.

Are you willing to come to my conference and give a workshop or take pitches?

Yes. But in almost all cases, the conference will have to cover the cost of travel and lodging. I do have a small corporate travel budget, but I generally use that for the big national conferences. If you want more information, please e-mail me.

What other questions would you like us to answer?



Kristin Daniels said...

Great post!
When I searched your name on Facebook, I couldn't find anyone hugging a tree. The first match that popped up said I had 3 friends in common with them, but no picture, just an avatar. Hmm.... I'm on there as Kristin Daniels, maybe we can meet up that way?

Riley Murphy said...

Yes, I have another question I'd liked answered.

Do you guys find time to sleep?

I really hope you know how much you're appreciated! This is a great spot to come to at the end of a tough day, and I thank you both for that welcomed opportunity.:)

em said...

This is great! I love this blog too!

Babs said...

I find so much information here. Theresa and Alicia do a terrific job and the additional comment threads that follow are always intelligent and insightful. That's why I asked about a critique group. I see a lot of supportive yet constructive criticism and the Friday night knitting Club posts are just brilliant.

Edittorrent said...

Kris, I found you and sent you a friend request. :) I suspect we know more than three people in common on facebook!

I've often pondered whether there was some way to do want ads for critiquing partners in our sidebar. Still pondering.

There will be more Friday Night Knitting Club posts. The book is still sitting on my desk, but my darling niece pulled all my sticky flags off the pages, so I have to go back through it and find the excerpts again. I do love the child. Really. Even when she plays office in my office.


Wes said...

A Boilermaker???? So we're both from the Hoosier Holyland! I got my Ph.D. from IU.

Do you have any online creative writing programs to recommend? Preferably ones with low residency or no residency requirements. When I attended a lecture by David Wroblewski he mentioned how enrolling in one helped him greatly in writing THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE.

Edittorrent said...

Wes, I knew you were a good man. You've got that Indiana horse sense about you. :)

I don't know that I would recommend an online MFA course, actually. Being there in the workshop environment is a big part of the experience. Have you thought about trying to do a short summer workshop at Iowa or one of the other programs? The length ranges from a few days to a couple weeks. That would be a very worthwhile experience, I bet.