I was sitting in my favorite bar Square 1682 on a Monday night. I had just hung out with a friend who had to go, and I figured I’d have one more glass of wine. This attractive Dominican lady came up and asked if the seat next to me was taken.
“Only by you.” I said.
We start chatting and she says she’s a book editor. Of course this gets my immediate attention because I’d love to turn Phicklephilly into a book and then a TV series. Sort of Sex in the City from the perspective of a gentleman.
The bulk of her industry experience was gathered as an editor at Simon & Schuster and, most recently, a senior editor at Other Press. Her training began with internships at Penguin and Avalon Books, followed by the Vigliano Literary Agency and Kensington Books. She’s acquired and edited literary and genre fiction, narrative nonfiction, and books in translation, many of which have become national and international bestsellers and critically acclaimed award winners. She taught the Editorial Process course for the City College of New York’s Publishing Certificate Program and Simon & Schuster’s Publishing 101 Lecture Series. She has a B.A. and M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and is bilingual in English and Spanish.
I’m impressed and start to tell her about this blog. Her eyes light up as I tell her a few of the experiences I’ve had and she tells me she’d love to read it. I promise to send her the link and we continue to talk.
Sariah is passionate about books. You have to be if you decide on a career in publishing. She’s not doing what she’s doing for the often joked about low salaries. Her story is the same across the board: She comes to publishing with a love of reading, a love of stories and their power to change people’s minds and, through this, (hopefully) the world. People in the industry are idealists. But her idealist heart eventually beat up against the reality that publishing is a business, and then she has to learn to live in the intersection of art and commerce. Like everything else in life, that intersection can sometimes be unpretty and other times it’s absolutely beautiful. She spent twelve years in that place and has seen publishing take many twists and turns.
When she was an editorial assistant at Kensington, one the best bosses she’d ever had, the late Kate Duffy, Editorial Director of the Brava imprint, described, somewhat jokingly, an editor’s role as the following: “The editor represents the needs of the company to an author, and the author’s needs to the company, while lying to each about the good intentions of the other.” Kate told me there were two ways of going about the job. You’re either a company’s editor or a writer’s editor, and God help you if you’re a writer’s editor. Editors love their books and strive to keep the peace, but the fact that they are salaried employees is never far from their thoughts. She already knew that Sariah would be a writer’s editor.
This leads her to why she became an editor in the first place. Her parents came to New York from the Dominican Republic many years ago, and she is a born and bred New Yorker. She learned Spanish first and spoke it exclusively at home and learned English in school. In the conclave of Washington Heights, her parents never really learned to speak English, and in many ways she became their eyes, ears, and mouths. She translated everything for them. As an editor, she is responsible for helping writers say what they really need and want to say. She helps authors translate their thoughts for the reading world and she does this by respectfully prodding and questioning, with the understanding that she is temporarily inhabiting someone else’s world. And even though she has an emotional connection to a story, she does her best to remain objective in her comments. Her job is to help refine the writer’s voice, to help the writer clearly and effectively express his or her ideas. The relationship between an editor and a writer cannot be described as purely professional. How could it be? It starts off with Sariah falling in love with a manuscript and knowing she can make it even better. As many authors will attest, their editors often become their friends, staying in touch long after the books are finished.
After more than twelve years working for publishers, She created her own company because she’d rather work for the writer. My simple truth is that helping people say what they need to say makes me happy. So whether your goal is to be published by a company or to self-publish, she can promise she will do for you what she’s been doing for a long time–Sariah will help you tell your story.
So I’m really excited I met this lovely lady. She may help get me published! I also got a vibe that she was kind of into me. She said she was going to Underground Arts with a friend and maybe I should join them. I was tired and really didn’t feel like going at that point. Being home watching Netflix and smoking a cig sounded like a better idea to me. I felt it better if I emailed her the link to this blog and take it from there.
Who knows? Maybe this could be a serendipity step to publication.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am EST.
Instagram: @phicklephilly Facebook: phicklephilly