interview, editor

Interview With Editor Amy Enke

April 16, 2019, 1:30 p.m.
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Curious about publishing trends? Want to know how someone becomes an editor? Just want great book recommendations from an industry insider?

We at Prolitfic are excited to share with you our interview with editor Amy Enke, who is currently fielding offers from several prominent publishing houses!

You got your Bachelor's in English, worked as a children's librarian and a piano teacher, and are pursuing an editing certificate at UChicago. Is there a common thread that ties these endeavors together? Did you always envision getting to the point you are now?
Yes, I’ve always had a desire to work in the field of editing and publishing. Music has been ever-present in my life, and has always worked its way into my life so conveniently that the dream of being an editor was put on hold. As I’ve studied with great music teachers over the past years, I’ve come to see that there is a beautiful overlap between these two fields. Creativity, interpretation, and great attention to detail are key to both being a good musician and a good editor and writer.

Why did you choose to get a certificate in editing?
I’ve always been an avid reader, and have had so many experiences with writing and teaching in various ways (teaching high school English, teaching English as a second language, free-lance writing, medical transcription, etc). These kinds of experiences have been happening all along the way while I’ve been teaching and studying music. I finally got to the point where I was ready to hone my editing skills and gain the expertise required to be a great editor. The program at the University of Chicago Graham School has been phenomenal. It really focuses on practical experience with instructors who can teach from real-life experience. I can honestly say there are many things I didn’t know I didn’t know! I love what I’m learning! And it’s a great bonus that University of Chicago is, of course, where the Chicago Manual of Style was born!

What makes a good editor? A bad one?
A good editor knows the basics, is technologically curious and willing to learn new ways of doing things, is a pro at being respectful and developing a good rapport with authors, and has a sharp eye for detail.

Are there any deal breakers in the editing process?
Sometimes a really great story will be filled with mechanical errors. Mechanical errors are easy to fix! Coming up with a great story is not always easy. Unless there are real communication problems between the author and the editor, there aren’t many deal breakers.

What's a significant takeaway from your time as an editing student?
Four Cs: clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness.

What's the most misunderstood aspect of editing?
Sometimes there’s miscommunications on the level of editing an author asks for, so being clear on what you as an author want is key. Also, authors can absolutely refuse edits! But author and editor should be able and willing to back up their stance.

What are some publishing trends you've noticed?
Publishing is moving more and more towards digital. Style-wise, there’s more freedom from strict grammar rules. It seems there’s a growing mindset that the point of communication is to, well, communicate, and as long as it’s clear, understandable, and expressive, allowances can be made. Also, I’ve been seeing more and more gender-neutral terms.

Can you think of any horror stories in editing? We often hear about what writers should never do when working with editors, but are there common editor mistakes of which authors should be cognizant?
Editors must send their author a sample. It’s a good practice because it will help establish the author-editor partnership, that the author likes and wants the level of editing they see. Sending a sample helps clear up any editing-level miscommunications as well. For example, do you want your editor to fix only mechanical things, or do you want suggestions for revisions?
Queries from the editor to the author have to be polite and understandable, and easy for an author to respond to
Timelines should be clear from the beginning. And both author and editor need to understand the editing budget for the project. This will have an impact on how much editing happens.

Do you have any advice for writers and/or editors navigating the process?
For aspiring editors, I would suggest finding a program at a university. It’s a great way to augment what you already know, and practice in a setting where making a mistake doesn’t have to ruin your (or your author’s) day! I think that with both writing and editing, practice is key, and also reading well written literature. For writers, I would recommend considering if every sentence earns its keep. A well-crafted piece only employs what is genuinely contributing to the work. Also, for fiction, your reader shouldn’t need a dictionary close by. Choose words that your audience will know, unless that more obscure word is clearly the best choice.

What do you generally like to read?
I read a wide variety of literature, both old and new. I love biographies, memoirs, historical fiction, spy novels, YA books, the classics, and more! A few titles I’ve enjoyed recently are Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee, and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

What are you reading now? What kind of reader would enjoy the piece?
I’m currently reading two books—one fiction, one nonfiction. I’m reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This book is beautifully written. It’s long, but don’t let that scare you away! I’m also reading The Road to Character by David Brooks. It’s a quick read that explores pathways to morality through the lives of some pretty amazing people.