Friday, March 04, 2011

Acknowledgments Are Nice

I'm extremely fortunate to work in a field that I love, and I've edited dozens and dozens of books over the years. Occasionally I even get an acknowledgment, which is a really great reward because it's freely given. Here's a sampling of some memorable projects whose authors kindly thanked me in print. I want to thank them back.

The Illustrated Timeline of Inventions. Author Craig Sandler took a very broad subject--inventions, from the spear to the Internet--and distilled it into an easy-to-follow timeline filled with information, humor, and literally hundreds of four-color photos. This was Craig's first book, and he was a joy to work with. His acknowledgment was truly humbling and appreciated.

The Secret History of the American Empire. John Perkins was a professional "economic hit man" who scouted countries around the world, looking to exploit the natural resources and labor for American corporations--one reviewer called it "international corporate skullduggery." He's outed himself and written some pretty interesting books about how America really operates around the world. Getting an acknowledgment from him was definitely a career highlight.

The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding. When my premature son was born, I was beyond scared. One of the few things I could do for him was provide the perfect nourishment. It was with a certain personal experience, then, that I copyedited Marianne Neifert's go-to resource for breastfeeding. It has been a point of pride to get her nod of approval.

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. It's a daring statement, but I stand by it: Few people know wine like Kevin Zraly does. The wine manager at the former Windows on the World restaurant has written the flagship book on wines from around the world and the many ways we enjoy them. Zraly's advice? Drink the wines you like, not the ones someone else says are prestigious, expensive, or fit for drinking. I like his attitude, but then, I enjoyed Champale and gallon jugs of wine while I was in college, so what do I know? Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be part of the editorial team for several of his books and wish to thank Laurie Kahn, an extraordinary editor and person, whose too-young death still astounds me.

This Tree Grows Out of Hell. The back cover of Ptolemy Tompkins's book says that reading it is "a dark, dangerous, but ultimately enlightening journey" to the spiritual heart of Mesoamerica--that is, the religious ideas of the Maya, Huichol, and Aztec. This book helped me gain greater understanding for those fierce and often misunderstood societies that so fascinate me.

The Land Beyond: A Memoir. Shortly after he was married, Jack D. Ives took his bride to Labrador, where he researched glaciers and eventually became the field director for the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Laboratory. His memoir of this very rugged and very beautiful landscape made me very thankful for his work. After all, scientists really aren't so different from book editors: we're a bit nerdy (okay, a whole lot nerdy!) and like independent work. In an industry where authors are convinced that editors are only frustrated writers who couldn't sell their own books, I'd like to extend sincere thanks to Mr. Ives for including me with the University of Alaska Press staff as someone with "professional excellence."

Becoming a Dad: The First Three Years. Rarely have I worked with an author like John Carr, who was so earnest and steadfast in wanting to create a book that would really help people and make the world a slightly better place. Carr has devoted his career to lifting up the modern father who may have no idea what kind of ride he's in for or the obstacles he'll face in our changing society. As a first-time author, John made me happy to edit his work and maybe hold his hand a little bit as we journeyed toward his book's publication. I finally met John at his book launch party, and the wonderful things he said (in public!) made me feel like a rock star.

Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir. You might not know the name Charles Strouse, but I bet you know the names of the Broadway musicals he wrote music for, including Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. (He also wrote the music for "Those Were the Days," the theme song for the TV series All in the Family.) Strouse, who holds Tony and Grammy awards and is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, could never quite jettison the self-loathing that I believe afflicts most (if not all) creative people. This book was special, because it was the first acquisition for a young editor who moved mountains to get the job done. It was great fun to meet Mr. Strouse at a book signing near Lincoln Center.

There are so many wonderful books out there. What are you reading?

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