Friday, January 16, 2009

Earlier this week, when I saw news that Random House announced more job cuts, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Today, I learned that my editor's job was among the ones eliminated.

Anika Streitfeld was the editor of my dreams. We met at Book Expo America several years ago; she was working for MacAdam/Cage at the time (where she edited, among other amazing books, two of my favorite novels: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffinegger and Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward). I had written a blurb for one of her books, and introduced myself when I saw her at the MacAdam/Cage booth. We hit it off and kept in touch; both of us spoke about how much we would like to work together some day. When I finished a draft of Self Storage, I noticed in Publishers Lunch that Anika was moving to Ballantine; I asked my agent if she could send Self Storage there. Anika ended up acquiring my novel as her first at her new publishing house (Ballantine is under the Random House umbrella). It was such a joy to work with her--she gave me thorough, thoughtful, deeply intelligent notes that helped the book grow, and helped me grow as a writer. I loved how she understood my vision for the book; our work together felt like a true collaboration.

I had been on pins and needles waiting to hear her response to my latest novel, Pears, after I turned in a draft last September. I know I shared some of my angst on the blog--I may have mentioned how I had been worried that she hated the book and just wasn't sure how to tell me yet (ah, the neuroses of a writer!) It turns out she was just extra busy with deadlines, plus dealing with the vagaries of early pregnancy. When she did call with her feedback, I was in the middle of a workshop during the December Antioch MFA residency and couldn't answer the phone. During a break, I told my students that the call had been from my editor, who I had been waiting to hear from for a few months. They encouraged me to listen to the voice mail in front of them, which I did--my heart pounding, not knowing what to expect. Whether it was good news or bad, I figured, it would be helpful to share it with the students--a way to give them a window in life as a published author. Happily, the news was good--Anika called the book "wonderful" on the message and said she looked forward to sharing her ideas for revision. It was so cool to share the moment with my students, who were very excited and supportive.

Anika and I didn't actually have a chance to speak until after the holidays, since our schedules were both so bonkers. Over the last couple of weeks, though, we finally started discussing revision strategies. As always, her notes were incredibly helpful, and while I felt a bit daunted by the amount of work ahead of me, I was also inspired and definitely excited by the opportunity to work with her to get the book where we both wanted it to be. I am sad now that I won't get to share that process with her, but I am grateful for her suggestions, grateful that the novel will be imprinted by her touch even though from this point on, I'll be working with another editor (who I will connect with soon.)

Anika assured me that she'll be okay--the layoff is actually good timing for her, since she'll be able to spend some real time with her two year old before the new baby arrives. I am eager to keep in touch with her, to share book recommendations and writerly inspirations and stories about our lives.

Thank you, Anika, for all that you have given me. I am a lucky, lucky writer indeed to have had the chance to work with you.


Kit Stolz said...

I'm sure a lot of editors never hear that kind of "thank you"...and I admire your courage, to listen to that message in front of your students!

Jack Henry said...

and from the dust we rise, as we must, because when it rains we don't want to get stuck in the mud...

i actually think good things will come from the downsizing of the new york publishing empire...

good luck with the new one

gayle said...

Thanks so much, Kit and Jack. And yes, I believe good things will come from all of this tumult, too (especially the rise of indie presses!)