Regal is a marvelous House, founded as it is on Jaynie’s passion for involving literature and her devotion to the authors who write it. When Jaynie asked me to help her lay bricks as the Senior Editor, I was—and still am—over the moon (don’t worry; there’s Internet here and manuscripts reach me even through the sublunary atmosphere). Jaynie and I share a desire—one that drives many independent publishers—to return to a publishing ethos in which authors are treated with courtesy and respect and their works are edited conscientiously and with great care. We meld traditional, intense, editorial engagement with the technology that enables small presses to publish noteworthy literature that might otherwise languish undiscovered and unread.
Jaynie and I also share an approach that is so simpatico, it is difficult not to believe that fate brought us together. Our perspectives are almost always in sync, and when they aren’t, they neatly complement each other. We sing either in unison or in harmony. (That’s metaphorical; it is only on occasion or accident that I can even carry a tune.)
The books we publish move and astonish; they tell stories that build their own edifices in the souls of their readers. After an author has worked extensively with Jaynie, the manuscript comes to me. With a fresh pair of eyes, I look for remaining developmental issues and do a thorough copy edit. I put together a style sheet to ensure consistency in spelling, punctuation, the expression of numbers (when to spell them out and when to use digits) and dates, conformity to U.S. or U.K. conventions, and notes on authorial preferences. I check to make sure the chapter titles and the pages given in the Table of Contents match the chapters in the book and that footnotes are sequential. I correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, spacing, and usage, and make suggestions for diction, awkwardness, jargon, wordiness, paragraphing, and terms that should be defined. I note permissions that are needed, facts that should be verified, and gaps in organization or logic. I believe in the importance of a balanced edit—let’s face it, page after page of corrections can get pretty disheartening—so I also point out what makes the manuscript excel: luminous passages, apt word choices, insightful characterization, intriguing plot points, and evocative imagery.
All this happens in two stages, or “passes.” The first pass I do the old-fashioned way, on paper, pencil in hand. The second pass is done in Microsoft Word using Track Changes. As I incorporate the manual edits into the computer file, I look for errors and felicities I missed during the first read-through. For me, the combination of approaches enables a more thorough edit, one that uses different parts of my brain.
Once the author, Jaynie, and I agree that revisions are complete and Jaynie has formatted the text, I perform a final proofreading to catch the errors that inevitably creep in during re-writes and formatting. Our rigorous editing process is a vital facet of what makes Regal a stand-out publishing house.
Another tool in my editing kit is my scholarly background. I am an independent scholar of Medieval and Early Modern literature. I came of academic age at the end of the New Critical movement and was steeped in the importance of a close reading, a habit of mind I bring to bear as I edit. My own historical inquiries allow me to appreciate the time and effort required to piece together research-rich novels that give new life to past events and cultures while making space in that milieu for the characters and events created in the mind of an author.
An independent contractor, I usually work at home but am known to lurk in coffee houses for a change of scenery. Although I’m not much of an imbiber, one of my favorite editing haunts has become Conor O’Neil’s—sort of Boulder’s version of Cheers. Conor’s serves an out-of-this-world Irish Soda Bread Pudding with absolutely decadent vanilla ice cream lightly sprinkled with cinnamon (and the pudding has eggs in it and the ice cream has calcium, so they count as health food). I am sure that I edit both more accurately and more kindly while consuming this dish. However, tragedy struck when the pub recently closed when its landlord imposed a heavy rent increase. I was distraught. Fortunately, a significant portion of the community shared my distress. A petition and letter-writing campaign succeeded in bringing about a compromise that allowed the pub to re-open. Now I can continue to have my edits sweetened by the congenial atmosphere and my favorite dessert. Huzzah for the power of words to rectify what would have been a sad loss to the community and sent me on a search for a new place to lurk.
The power of words and of language to create new concepts, to persuade us to re-engage with familiar ideas, to forge new worlds and even new civilizations (yes, I am also a sci-fi geek) informs my commitment to supporting authors as they bring forth new works. I couldn’t be more proud of my association with Regal and with Jaynie, nor more pleased to have found a publishing house that shares my faith in the need for literature that opens our minds and broadens our souls.