How a Graywolf Editor Edits

Graywolf is one of my favorite presses. I love its mission, its vision, its championing of bold, original voices. So I was thrilled to see Literary Hub run this interview with Jeff Shotts, Graywolf's executive editor. It's worth reading every word, but here are some highlights — sentiments I second wholeheartedly:

On the editor's role ...

JS: I don’t believe editors should impose themselves upon a book. That suggests an adversarial approach, rather than one of advocacy and respect. The writer and the editor are at the mutual endeavor of lifting up a literary work to its readers. It may seem obvious, but the writer writes and the editor edits. The book is the writer’s work, and the editor’s work is to listen very, very carefully to the work and to the writer—carefully enough that the editor makes suggestions, ideally, inside and with the writer’s voice. Looked at that way, editing becomes an act of empathy.

On the way he works ...

KA: How do you work with your authors?
JS: In a word: differently.
KA: Differently?
JS: Differently even with the same writer but with different books. It feels important that the individual book lead the process, and not the other way around. A first reading might be relatively quick, a sort of overview in order to see in all directions. And subsequent readings are about listening and getting as deep as I can into a writer’s signature style. And it’s from that place I feel confident enough to put an editing mark on a page, or to offer meaningful suggestions and responses about the title, organization, development of subject matter, shifts in style, tangents, or anything that calls for attention. And it’s about trusting the writer, sensing or calling out their intentions, and following through so that those intentions are prevalent and also available, ultimately, to the reader. In this process, I am willing to make mistakes or seem foolish if it’s in service to the work. I try to question what seems like it needs questioning, and better to look foolish in the intimacy of working with an author than having the author look foolish in the face of a tough review.