Editors, the conductors of the publishing world

6 Mar

I was recently asked by a potential employer to describe the editor’s role within the publishing process. I immediately thought of Swiss conductor Mario Venzago, former Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Music Director.

mariovenzago001_webEach time I have attended a performance by a symphony orchestra, most memorably those directed by Venzago, I have sat through most of it in tears. Whether Bruckner or Wagner, Schubert or Liszt, Dvorák or Ravel, the music always moves me deeply. But the emotion comes more from the fact of identifying so strongly with the conductor, and seeing what he does as the quintessential metaphor for what I do, and what others do, when we are editors in every sense of the word.

We put it all together. We choose the material. We set the pace. We communicate and network with all the community stakeholders involved. We choose the players we feel can contribute the most effectively to our ensemble.

We coach others on minute details of their style and performance and somehow keep them feeling not criticized, but motivated because we are working together for something greater than us.

mariovenzago003_minWe hear and see the big picture of how everything needs to come together in the giant whole of a publication. And yet we orchestrate every single detail of everyone on the team pulling together to make it all happen as perfectly as possible.

We cross t’s and dot i’s a lot of the time. But we also plan, prod, goad, think at 20,000 feet so others can focus on smaller parts, coach, mentor, teach, challenge others to reach their potential, juggle all the balls at once – all the while keeping time for the entire group.

Even now, having gone several years without seeing Venzago in action, without hearing the product of his amazing vision in the musical realm, I’m still stirred and motivated by remembering the times I was in his audience. And although he was released unexpectedly and inexplicably from his duties in Indianapolis, I know I join throngs of others in wishing him well as he continues to inspire those fortunate enough to see and hear him in Newcastle, Bern and beyond.

mariovenzago004Not long after being asked to reflect on the editor’s role, I attended a networking luncheon in Asheville, North Carolina. After everyone took turns delivering one-minute introductions, a woman came up to me and provided the name and e-mail address of someone she knew in publishing. “He might not be much help, though,” she said. “He’s just an editor.”

Just an editor? No, I thought. No one is just an editor. Our role is akin to that of Socrates, whom Plato described in his Apology as having said, “I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, all day long… arousing and persuading and reproaching… You will not easily find another like me.”

Perhaps like Mario Venzago, I continue to be amazed at our current economy and life’s unexpected crescendos and diminuendos. But in the face of uncertainty, and when I wonder what comes next, I know one thing, and that is that I am proud to be an editor.

We are the conductors, the visionaries, the directors and the gracious gadflies of the publishing world.

Learn more about Mario Venzago.



7 Responses to “Editors, the conductors of the publishing world”

  1. Frances Figart March 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    One of Maestro Venzago’s assistants made him aware of my blog and he answered, “I love EVERYTHING. I feel very much honored.” Wow!

  2. Jacquelyn Markham March 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    I am intrigued by your words and metaphor for the editor role. I can see how beautifully the comparison works for you as an editor of a large and active publication like you have “orchestrated” before (and I am sure will again). As readers often do, I began to muse on how the conductor/editor comparison related to me as I am currently editing an ambitious scholarly work—a collection of poetry of an amazing writer at the turn of the century (name to be divulged after my manuscript goes to the publisher). Much of the work is tedious, detailed and tiring; some of the work requires that kind of vision you speak of, but alas! I have only a few loyal helpers and no team of creative people to support me. It feels a little like being a conductor without the orchestra just now. Do you have any thoughts on how an editor/scholar with this mission—rescuing lost poets from obscurity—might be inspired or find support with a fresh approach?

    PS~ Wonderful that you reached Venzago with your words!

    • Frances Figart March 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Thank you for the feedback, as people of my ilk so need that. I also appreciate what you are doing, and know others who’ve taken on similar tasks. Know that I am currently just as alone in my work as you are. I desperately seek to be able to work again with a creative team, but this has not yet come into play in my life. The time I sacrificed to my mother set back my career, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For you, perhaps joining a group of other poets and scholarly writers on LinkedIn would provide the constant sounding board and support for your creative spirit. Thank you again for taking time to read my work! It means a great deal to me. Blink Blink

      • Jacquelyn Markham March 12, 2013 at 1:37 am #

        I understand, Frances. Certainly, your time with your mother has influenced everything you do from this point forward. It’s deep and rich–the experience you shared. I like the creative independence you are now experiencing and I know it is good for your writing. Of course, a writer’s work is solitary by nature, but support and feedback keeps us going. I do belong to a local poet’s group and that does help to keep us all motivated. (I invite you to visit our newly launch blog at:http://otramslabess.wordpress.com/)

        I am sure we will both land in the conductor’s position again at some point! Until then, we will keep on writing!

  3. Jason Eiker-Wiles March 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Superb…thanks for the eloquent words of wisdom and inspiration!

    • Frances Figart March 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      You are so welcome, Jason. Thank you so much for taking time to read my work.

  4. trustkb January 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi there, yeah this article is really pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging.


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