Welcome to our new column, Luminary, in which the Bohemian asks questions of local luminaries who kindly answer them. We begin with Petaluma’s Linda Jay, a writer and copy editor who helps authors get “publisher-ready.”
Daedalus Howell: When an author comes to you with a book project, how do you know they’re a good client for you, instead of an insane person who just gives you a phone book of gibberish?
Linda Jay: On the back of my business card, you’ll see that the genres I work in run from “Business to Zombies.” That is the truth. I’ve done at least five zombie books. I prefer to work with authors who are open-minded and will not say, “I’ve worked on this book for 10 or 15 years.” If they say, “Here it is, but don’t do too much,” well, then don’t give it to me. I am a very thorough, picky editor, copy editor and proofreader. I can see a mistake at 50 paces. I’m just one of those annoying people.
DH: What’s the most important aspect of the author-copyeditor relationship?
LJ: The most important thing is, am I able to work with this person? Edits are suggestions. It is up to the author to accept or reject them. That’s as simple as it is.
DH: In your experience, what’s the difference between a novice writer and an experienced writer?
LJ: Well, first of all, they should have learned something, one would hope, depending on how many years they’ve already been writing. There’s a quality that I look for—is the person “educable?” One would hope. I would say that being open to suggestions is important. Oftentimes, novice writers are just, “Get this book out and don’t tell me … .” They have the wrong attitude toward editing.
DH: I love that idea—that editing is, in some way, a conversation.
LJ: Yes. And I’m not a scary editor. I always say, “Look, if you have any questions or anything, just email me.” I’m from the Midwest, I’m a friendly person. No, really, I am. If I had been raised in New York, I probably wouldn’t be like this, but Cincinnati is a very friendly place.
DH: On the other side of the equation, as a writer submitting articles to editors, how do you feel about that relationship?
LJ: I’m prideful enough to think that he or she is not going to find very many mistakes, because if he or she does, I should be in another field.
DH: I would trust you’re turning in extremely clean copy.
Linda Jay can be reached at wordsbylj.com.