Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes beauty is in the eye of a writer, a photographer, an illustrator. It’s an editor’s job to discern if the author, or other, has communicated that vision adequately before we publish his or her work. When it comes to writing, we try to improve it. If we improve it a lot (in our eyes), we consult with the author to be sure we haven’t changed the meaning.
Ah, but there’s the rub! When should we just leave things alone and respect the author’s voice? After all, it is our rich offering of so many voicesÑexperts, observers, people with moving personal experiences, and moreÑthat makes St. Anthony Messenger worth reading.
This all came up at a recent editorial meeting, as we talked through one of the expressions that occurred in last month’s “Six Lenten Pitfalls. ” In writing about how to avoid getting discouraged and giving up on our well-intended Ash Wednesday promises, freelancer Patricia M. Robertson mentioned her own dilemma. Attending a lunchtime meeting well into Lent, she found, in her lunch, a very large chocolate chip cookie. “I slipped it back into the box lunch, ” she wrote, “trying to avoid eye contact with the temptress as others around me munched on their cookies. “
“Wait a minute! ” one of our editors exclaimed. “You can’t make eye contact with a cookie, even one with chocolate chips! ” That was enough to ignite, once again, our editors’ spirit of debate, honing the quality of your magazine. “No, cookies don’t have eyes, ” said another. And someone else wondered about calling a cookie a temptress. But you have to admit, isn’t it a colorful analogy? Wouldn’t we be, to use another analogy, sticks in the mud, squelching this author’s voice?
After hearing ourselves out, we decided to leave it alone. Or, in the language of copy editors, we marked it stet, “let it stand. “
Sometimes our debate at editorial meetings is about the weightiest of issues, but, as you can see, we sweat the details, too. Each of us wants this magazine to be the best it can be; we want you to enjoy something of the highest quality. Looking forward a few weeks, it’s the difference between a discount egg and the finest of Easter chocolates. Bon app tit!