Retha Powers of Henry Holt Recommends...

I edit fiction, nonfiction, and graphic narrative, and what unites all of these projects that I’ve had the pleasure of working on is a really strong point of view. My job is not to interfere with that and to protect voice above all else. It’s important for the author to remember that the editor is a proxy for their future readers. Editorial feedback is the opportunity for the writer to hear an unfiltered, immediate response to the work, which reveals not only what requires revision or restructuring but also what is working. Of course, the book is the author’s work. But I think the writer benefits from paying attention to that deep input because working with an editor offers a safe environment and place where they can get feedback in a manner that respects their artistic intentions before the book is in its final form.

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Lorraine Hansberry: “In order to create something universal, you must pay very great attention to the specific.” This sentiment almost always comes up during the editing process. As an editor, I am reading closely and looking for where specifics sing and where and how the writer can reach for more. 

Retha Powers, vice president and executive editor, Henry Holt