July 29, 2015
Bill was thinking about a mid-life career switch and wondered if publishing might be the right thing for him. He knew conventional wisdom says that you should move into expanding industries. But since he likes books and ideas, editing came to mind. So we talked.
I told him authors are like pioneers and editors are like settlers.
Authors tend to come up with new ideas and push them forward. They like to move into literary territories not explored before. Creating something new is like a shot of caffeine to their systems.
Good editors see how to improve a book, make it read better, clearer. They don't try to shape the book in their own image. Rather they see the good that is already there and find ways to make it even more effective, better organized, clearer. They can visualize what will happen if a chapter is cleared of weeds or if the flow of the table of contents is diverted around a dam of dead-end ideas.
"Are you an entrepreneur?" I asked him. "Do you like starting new ventures, new ministries at church, building furniture from scratch? Or do you like repairing broken furniture or making an church task force more effective?" He was definitely a settler, he said.
It is possible to be both an excellent author and a quality editor. James Sire, my predecessor at IVP, is a great example of this. He made his mark with over twenty books on worldviews, new religious movements and more. But as editor at IVP, he was always happy to publish good books with different ideas, different styles and different structures than he would use. But he also saw how to make them better.
Usually, though, people are mostly a pioneer or a settler. It depends on how you see the lay of the land.
Image credit: www.nps.gov
June 24, 2015
What if you had the opportunity to explain the gospel to an alien species? How would you go about it? Where would you start? That is the premise of The Book of Strange New Things, a science fiction novel that explores the ultimate in cross-cultural evangelism. While Peter is perhaps not the most likely person to be chosen for the task, he brings a winsome innocence and willingness to enter into the mental/cultural world of the Oasans. He also brings a certain optimism and faith that you wouldn't quite categorize as evangelical but is certainly deep and committed.
His challenge to explain the Bible, "the book of strange new things," as the Oasans call it, is not completely daunting because he is not the first preacher they have encountered. Nonetheless, the personal and missional difficulties are substantial.
We come to understand the Oasans somewhat better as their community is set against the human colony on the planet. Peter seems to have as hard a time understanding his fellow humans as those he has come to evangelize.
Faber sets up a number of questions that are never fully resolved in the book like, Why did the Oasans move their community after the humans arrived? And who is USIC anyway, the mysterious corporation that established the colony? Perhaps the author was setting himself up for a sequel, but there was no other compelling narrative question that drove the book except the usual, What will happen next? The closest is his very long distance relationship with his wife who remains on earth. But on the planet itself, I kept waiting for a major mystery or problem to arise which would propel the narrative forward. No such issue arose though there were plenty of opportunities for that.
The Oasans themselves were the most attractive characters in the book. Their attitudes toward life, toward each other, toward Jesus and the Bible are very attractive. By the end we suspect that they might actually understand their Lord better than their preacher does.
May 26, 2015
Forty years ago the editorial department at IVP consisted of Jim Sire and me with Linda Doll working half time. We put out about twenty-four books a year. Today the editorial department consists of seventeen people and we do about a hundred and ten books a year.Continue reading "Forty Years Ago "
May 15, 2015
William Zinsser, author of the classic book On Writing Well, died this week. I have recommended his book more often and sold more copies of it than any other of many excellent options. The first hundred pages are a must for anyone writing non-fiction of any kind.Continue reading "Ode to On Writing Well"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:23 AM
April 14, 2015
"The war tried to kill us in the spring." From the first sentence of The Yellow Birds, we know that we are in capable hands. Kevin Powers is the well-named author who uses his formidable talent with understated power.Continue reading "Understated Powers"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:10 AM
March 24, 2015
What to do with footnotes has been a problem since Gutenberg. To some they are an aggravation on par with elevator music and cable company service. To others they are the glory of the published word.
For those who want to be able to follow an author's sources, and for authors who want to make comments that don't interrupt the flow of the main text, notes are indispensible.Continue reading "Take Note"