August 2019. It’s a long, hot summer of editorial projects for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Renewable Energy Agency—a rythym relieved by swimming in the Long Island Sound.
What can I do for you?
Today, particularly in institutional settings, texts often are assembled rather than written. What gets left out in the process, in addition, obviously, to the author's voice and attention to the reader's eyes and ears, is the concern for elegance, brevity, sequence, rhythm, connection, and flow. I fix that. I pare text to its essentials, and match it to its audience. I help authors who speak other languages recognize themselves—in English. I impart consistency and an even voice to texts by multiple authors who write and think in different registers and with different vocabularies. I supply summaries, segues, intros, signposts, shortcuts, links, and transitions that authors, in their zeal, sometimes leave out. I'm good at speaking plainly about complex subjects. I'm logical. I choose verbs and nouns that make adverbs and adjectives unnecessary.
A decade as a successful association publications director taught me to apply the publisher’s and the reader’s perspectives simultaneously in all my projects. Often I serve as writer-editor and project manager (recruiting and supervising translators, copyeditors, designers, and printers). Knowledge of the entire publishing process improves coherence, speeds delivery, and adds value.
My fascination with translation began in college with Baudelaire and Rimbaud. In what sense, I wondered, were the English renditions "the same" as the originals? Four decades later, I still don't know. In much of my work the question is moot—the translation works if it accomplishes the same purpose as the original. With literature, art, philosophy, and rhetoric, however, the question is not moot at all; it haunts and fascinates. In a deep sense, translation, like acting, is a sort of subordinated creativity—bounded by the fact that one must operate within the bounds of the script.
You cannot edit with the TV on. Editors must continually contest the text they’re working on, shifting constantly between the author’s and the reader’s perspective. What is the author saying? What is the reader hearing? Is there a better way to bring the two together?
Editors are professional outsiders. We know that nobody really likes to be corrected, although most people are willing to listen if you show them that you can help them do their jobs better. Editors have to find ways to practice their craft gently, persuasively, interactively, and transparently. When you love what you do, it shows … and wins people over.
“You have really helped us to improve the flow, structure, and grammar of the monograph.”—Inter-American Development Bank
“Thank you very much for your great edits. They made the text much more appealing and coherent!”—International Renewable Energy Agency
“This report was never in more capable hands than when it was with Mr. Kennedy.”—World Bank