I have long contended that, while I can edit stuff—I’m not a great editor. Not like some of the editors I’m lucky enough to work with, who really take my stories to a new level. I’m not saying I never do that (one happy writer—a professional in her field who wrote a tips piece for people who’d like to try the activity she specializes in—left me a voicemail saying my editing made her look “so good,” which warmed the cockles of my ego exceedingly). It's just that when I do do it, it’s probably more a function of odds than it is a function of my outstanding editoryness.
In fact, this week I’ve been making story assignments for the next issue of the magazine I edit, and I have been rolling my eyes at myself nonstop. I’m so excited when a writer accepts an assignment, it’s just pathetic. (Granted, most of the writers I’m trying to nab are actually clinicians or researchers, so their schedules are very tricky to navigate—but still.) And when an eager writer responds with questions about the direction of the story, I usually find my own answers vague and unhelpful. (I mean, if I knew enough about the subject to give them good direction, I’d probably just write the piece myself.)
But today, I was feeling it. I was an editor. I came across as an editor. I could practically see the coffee stains on my dress and the cigar butts in the nonexistent ashtray. (Okay… that’s really more about old movies with scenes in newsrooms than it is about editing. But you know—setting is very important!)
Someone passed a call through to me from someone who ostensibly wanted to write for the magazine. But when I picked up the receiver and said, “This is Elisabeth,” the woman on the other end said, “Oh!” as if my identity were somehow surprising to her.
“Are you in charge of the magazine?” (Strike one!! Now I know what all those Writer’s Digest stories meant. It is RIDICULOUS for someone who wants to write for a publication NOT TO LOOK ON THAT PUBLICATION’S WEBSITE, at least, TO FIND OUT WHO THE EDITOR IS. I mean, come on, people!)
“I am,” I said briskly. (This is not entirely true. I am not the editor-in-chief. But IF SHE’D GONE TO THE WEBSITE SHE WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT.)
“Oh!” (Strike two. I am just not that surprising when I’m slumped over my keyboard at the office. Honestly.)
“I’m calling on behalf of Some Guy who wants to write for your magazine.” (Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand—she’s OUT! Who has SOMEONE ELSE call to pitch a story? Paris Hilton, maybe. The Pope, probably. Everyone else should just do their own damn legwork. And I’m including Paris in that blanket demand.)
Here’s where I got very editory indeed. (By which I mean, in retrospect, “superobnoxious.” But the question was begging to be asked.)
“And is there some reason he isn’t calling me himself?”
Yes. Yes, I did actually say that.
And let’s be frank: there is no way the woman on the other end of the phone could see the look on my face. But evidently The Look has now increased in power, and can be transmitted via vocal frequencies. Because she started stuttering that she was his representative, and he could write about anything, and if she could just send me some writing samples that would probably be best, and if she could have my email address, she’d just send the samples right over and be out of my hair.
(She hasn’t emailed yet.)