When you stare into the void, the void stares back.
I’m not sure whether the “void” in this regrettable analogy is the author or the editor. (Which is more insulting? Don’t answer that.) But as an editor of over ten years, I thought I knew what being an author was like. After all, I’ve witnessed it from the other side of the book-making process more times than I can count. I’d stared into that particular void a whole bunch.
But now I’m on the other side of the void, staring back at my own face, and I’m beginning to realize (to switch metaphors altogether, thanks and sorry) that it’s sort of like the difference between being a midwife and actually giving birth. When midwives give birth, are they constantly reminding themselves to be model patients? To be calm and rational and to trust the other midwives? Probably. Does it work?
I’ve set out to be a model author. I know what a model author is, because I’ve edited a few of them. A model author cares deeply – maybe even insanely – about her book, but she spares her editor her moments of insanity whenever possible. A model author defends her own interests, but she never lets her worst impulses rule the day. She tackles revisions like a champ, with minimal ego and no defensiveness. She endears herself to her entire publishing team by being deadline-driven, honest, hardworking, flexible, and (most importantly) polite.
It’s not that I thought it would be a walk in the park, trying to be a model author. But it is harder, sometimes, than I thought it would be. All these FEELINGS come boiling up out of nowhere every now and then, and completely overwhelm my good sense. MY BOOK MY BOOK MY BOOK, shrieks this tiny, demented voice in the back of my mind. MY BOOK MY BOOK, I WILL BITE YOU, KEEP BACK, MY BOOK MY BOOK MY BOOK. And this is why I’m very, very grateful for my agent, Erin, who has the thankless but oh-so-necessary job of letting me vent a little craziness at her here and there, so that I can turn around and blithely pretend to be a paragon of sanity to my editors.
Maybe soon I’ll have mastered the fine art of sanity altogether! I’m certainly trying. But until that day, I’ll fake it till I make it as a model author, and I’ll try to remember something important–the view from the void, whether you’re an editor or an author, is always the same:
A human being, trying to publish a book as best she can.
Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. She has a cat named Percy and a husband named Perry and she hardly ever gets them mixed up.
Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.