What to feed your book editor


Anne Lamott
July 22, 1996 12:26PM (UTC)

here is why I have not written anything new for this column: It's
because my editor has been here at my house endlessly editing my new book.
The book is a sequel to my second novel, "Rosie," and there was a lot of last-minute work to do, like trying to come up with a plot, and taking out all the
really poorly written passages and the less believable characters. It went
really well. It was a lot of fun, having my editor here at my personal home,
working together all day, watching her brush her long, angry teeth in my
personal bathroom. She's a great editor and really, it went very well. LOTS
of people are violently allergic to cats, and I am not going to hold that
against her. Nor does my cat. My cat was just fine about being shut out as
often as possible so that we could keep a hermetically sealed freshness about
us, in which my editor might thrive, to better do the important work of
cutting out all the boldest, funniest sections of my novel. God forbid that
the cat should get inside and turn the house into a petri dish of hairy filth
and dander. We got a lot of work done together. I feel very loyal to my editor and so
wild HORSES couldn't drag a single detail of her personal health and toilet
habits out of me, although maybe she wouldn't mind if I just mentioned one
tiny dietary detail that I found sort of interesting. Oh, I really shouldn't.
OK, OK, I'm just going to go ahead and blurt it out.

There was this THING, this product on the kitchen counter -- I don't even
know how to describe it. A kind of ersatz Twinkie/Ho-Ho/raspberry Pinwheel
thing, visibly filled with pink paste -- maybe some sort of mixture of
marshmallow cream and something your dentist might use to scour film off your
teeth. A vanilla cake pinwheel with this pink caulking shit spackled through
it. Look, I am casting no aspersions here, but I just want to mention that
even my son would not eat this product. And it had been sitting there for a
couple of weeks, in its little sealed plastic sheath so, who knows, maybe it
had improved with age, like a fine Scotch. But just to be honest here for a
moment, the thing is "food" in only the very loosest sense of the word. It's
actually a petroleum product. It doesn't even have a name. The wrapper is
clear plastic and has no writing on it. It's a dessert Russian spies would
be issued, so nothing could ever be traced.

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The only reason no one had thrown it out was because no one wanted to
touch it. To actually pick it up.

Until, that is, my editor flew in from New York City.

Now, we had been sitting outside in the shade of the old banyan tree or something, for the fourth day in a row, going over my manuscript yet again, winnowing out more and more BAD, STUPID, POORLY WRITTEN moments. It was wonderful how many of them my editor was able to point out to me and then get rid of. With one rapier slash of her pen, just like that, eradicating every pretentious no-plot moment. Fabulous! Out, out, damn spot!

And I guess all that exercise made her hungry, even though we had had a
large and perfectly delicious lunch an hour or so earlier. A lunch I had prepared lovingly with my tiny princess hands. Maybe 10 minutes earlier. Whatever. It doesn't matter. But all of a sudden she's hungry again, and she asks if there's anything sweet. I say, fluttering about, in my delicate Geisha way, "Shall I get you some sorbet?" And she waves her pen through the air, like it's the sword of truth or something, and says no, no, damn it, she'll get up and look around.

OK, fine, I have no problem with this. I have nothing to be ashamed of. There is approximately 20 pounds of chocolate in my kitchen at any given time, because I am not following the Zone diet quite as rigidly as other adherents. "Help yourself," I say enthusiastically, lovingly.

Because, believe me, I am not at ALL bitter about her work on my manuscript.
Not at all. Pas du tout.

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So she goes into the kitchen, and returns with the thing -- the raspberry
pinwheel thing that not even my son would eat. My son, who will eat peanut
butter with Strawberry Quik sprinkled on it, M&M's flattened to the shape of
dimes that have been through the wash in the pocket of his shorts. She takes a demure little bite, and then -- God's own truth -- gobbles it down. Like a dog. Then she pats her mouth with a napkin, picks her pen back up and gets right back to work on that rascally manuscript.

She just left earlier today, and I have had no time to write anything for the column. So I thought I would paw around the wreckage and see if there were any paragraphs around that survived her visit, and we could run them here as the world debut of my new book.


Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of "Help, Thanks, Wow"; "Small Victories"; "Stitches"; "Some Assembly Required"; "Grace (Eventually)"; "Plan B"; "Traveling Mercies"; "Bird by Bird"; "Operating Instructions" and "Hallelujah Anyway," out April 4. She is also the author of several novels, including "Imperfect Birds" and "Rosie." A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

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