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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Editor Interview: Malaika Adero, Atria Books/Simon and Schuster's VP and Senior Editor

Malaika Adero is truly a woman of many talents. She is not just an editor but also a writer. She has written for several magazines and anthologies and is the author of ‘Up South: Stories, Studies, and Letters of This Century’s African American Migrationsand also a co-author with Dr. Lucy Hurston, ofSpeak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston’.

Not just this, she is a literary and culture consultant among many businesses in New York City. She is also an artist and a dancer! 

In this interview, she discusses what she looks for in a book, and challenges the writer to write and rewrite, asking questions, so as to support writers to accomplish their goals. I know, it is not enough space for this artistic editor, but read on…. (for now).

What are you looking for in a book, when it first comes to you?

The questions I ask when I receive a submission are:

1) Does it categorically fit—in terms of genre, audience, formats-- into what we as a publisher do and do well?

2) Is it well executed, i.e., well-crafted, compelling, innovative?

3) Is it marketable and to whom?

What, according to you are the qualities of an ideal writer?

There is no one ideal kind of writer but, fundamentally that person must produce the work and be willing to cultivate an audience.

They must of course be talented, have passion, a strong point of view and voice.

But, if they can’t see a project through to completion, they can’t get anywhere with or without the resources of a publisher.

They must be willing to engage with their readers, i.e., be among them, hear from them—in other words promote their work and ideas.

What are the first few things, you would you tell an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many tips as you would like)

1) Read widely, deeply - a lot.
2) Write – everyday
3) Rewrite everyday

What do you think an editor can add to the writer’s work?

An editor can help you see consider your work and your intention for your work with an experienced eye

We can help a writer, better structure a story or narrative and challenge the writer asking all the questions that a reader or critic might.

How would you tell a writer, who comes to you with a manuscript that you cannot take his/her work?

The best you can be is honest and kind.

What are the main skills, an editor would need to do their job well?

Discernment. The ability to carefully read and analyse a narrative, a passion for the work, communication skills, etc.

What sorts of project(s) are most likely to get an okay from you?

Work that inspires and displays great creativity.

What do you like most about the entire editing process?

Getting inside a narrative to understand what makes it resonate, solving the problems that emerge from the creative process.

What are you working on, currently?

Too long to tell (see www.homeslicemag.com “My work in 2013 is Your Good Reading in 2014)

What are your top three favourite books?

If I have to name three—today (tomorrow is another story):

 ‘Sula’ by Toni Morrison and

What is your favourite thing about being an editor? And your least favourite thing?

Supporting writers and other creatives to accomplish their goals is my favourite thing.

My least favourite thing about being an editor is the tremendous amount of time it takes away from being with family and loved ones.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

The greatest challenge a publisher faces is to publish high quality work that earns enough financially for us to keep doing our work.

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