Friday, August 24, 2012

Fall Retreat Registration Deadline 8/31! Our Fearless Leaders: Anne Ursu and Jordan Brown

Don't let the August 31 deadline to register for the fall retreat pass you by. There is only one week left, so do it ASAP! This year's November 2-4 retreat at the gorgeous Port Ludlow facility will feature workshops and manuscript critiques by the fantastic Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs, and her superstar editor, Jordan Brown.

They recently took time to answer a few questions:

Anne's on Twitter!
Brenda: Anne, when Jordan acquired Breadcrumbs, how much did your agent have you revise and how much further did Jordan take the manuscript?

Anne: I had worked with Jordan at Atheneum and when he went to HarperCollins I knew wanted to work with him again. So when I had 50 pages of a draft, I gave it to my wonderful agent, Tina Wexler, and we sent them a proposal with 50 pages of the first draft. So they both saw the entire first draft at the same time. Tina's a wonderful reader and I feel very lucky to have her eye on things.

Brenda: What was the hardest part of working with an editor and how much did it help your progress as a writer?

Anne: The most difficult thing about working with an editor is they can be astute and exacting readers. The best ones, like Jordan, are able to see what the book wants to be and they will push you beyond what you thought were your capabilities to get there. This process is occasionally annoying. When I got my first editorial letter on Breadcrumbs, I posted on Facebook, "There are advantages and disadvantages to having a genius as an editor."

Brenda: Which do you love more, the first draft or the revising, and why?

Anne: I love whichever one I'm not doing currently. I think a first draft is telling yourself a story—a process that can be very fun or very agonizing, and a revision is about turning that story into a living breathing book. And that, too, can be fun or agonizing. When everything clicks and you realize that all the reconstructing your doing is making the book better, that's very exciting. But for me there's usually a two-week complaining period before I can even hope to get to this place.

Brenda: Favorite snacks or rituals for writing?

Anne: I tend to eat things that get my keyboard sticky and/or gooey. Popcorn, grapes, apples, that kind of thing. In the past couple of weeks I've realized I tilt my neck a certain way when I'm thinking. I have learned this by how uncomfortable my neck is.

Brenda: Jordan, which personage do you consider most comparable to your role in the production of a book: Gunther Gebel-Williams, George Balanchine, or Merlin?

Jordan is also on Twitter! 
Jordan: I have to say I’m more Gebel-Williams: the authors do all the actual work, and I just run around in funny clothing.

Brenda: When you acquire a book, how do you slice the pie between: good story with legs, marketability, and your own booklust?

 Jordan: What decides if I want to acquire a book is a combination of “good story” and “booklust.” What decides if I will acquire it is marketability. It’s not getting any further than my initial read if I don’t love the book to my bones, but it’s not getting any further than the acquisitions meeting if it isn’t marketable. And for the small number of titles that I acquire in any given year, honestly, the two are usually going hand-in-hand: the things that give me a feeling of booklust—the manuscript’s voice and characters, its perspective, the way it’s working with what has come before in children’s lit, as well as the things that make it different from everything else out there—are also the things that I think give it wide appeal.

Brenda: When working on a manuscript, how do you balance your vision for the story with the author's vision?
Other books Anne and Jordan have worked on together
Jordan: To be honest, I’m not taking on a manuscript unless I feel that, on a foundational level, my vision and the author’s vision are the same.  After all, an editor’s job is not to make a book better – it’s to figure out what’s in the author’s head and help them get that on the page in the best possible form. We might disagree sometimes on the details, or how to solve a particular inconsistency, but my first conversation with an author, which usually happens before I acquire a book, is mostly about the things I love about the book, what I think are the most vital parts of it, and those are the things we agree on. My editorial notes, then, are all about making the book the best expression of that vision, making sure it’s all consistent with that vision. 

Brenda: What are the best/worst parts of your job?

Jordan: The best part is definitely reading a revision of a book I’m editing – the excitement that comes with opening up the manuscript after the author has had a chance to absorb all of our conversations and getting to see what has happened on the page. The worst part is probably trying to find a decent lunch spot in Midtown Manhattan.

Brenda: Who's the most neurotic: writers, agents, or editors?

Jordan: Yes.

Thank you, Anne and Jordan! We can't wait to see you at the retreat.

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