Goodbye with enormous gratitude to my friend and editor Marjorie Braman
"Marjorie Braman, 60, died July 2 at her home in Taghkanic, NY of complications from breast cancer. She began her 26 years in publishing as an editorial assistant and worked her way up to svp, publishing director at HarperCollins and then vp, editor-in-chief at Henry Holt. She has worked as a consultant at Open Road Integrated Media. Authors she worked with include Elmore Leonard, Michael Crichton and Sena Jeter Naslund. Most recently Braman worked as an independent editor and was a member of the independent editors' group 5e..."It's an understatement to say that Marjorie changed my life. She acquired my memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair for HarperCollins in 2001, my doorway to what was then The Big 6 and my first crack at the bestseller lists. While it was in the pipeline, she encouraged me to start a syndicated newspaper column and, even though it was way outside her job description, provided feedback and advice that shaped the direction of that column ("Earth to Joni") and a national magazine column that followed.
HarperCollins published my third novel, The Secret Sisters, in 2006, and Marjorie's feet-to-the-fire editing took my craft sense to the next level. In the years I worked with Marjorie, I learned most of what I know about the art of writing, the craft of editing and the business of publishing.
Elmore Leonard had this to say about how she worked:
"Marjorie was never a pushover, we talked all the time while I was at work on a novel. She would question the identity of pronouns wandering through a paragraph, or cite passages where I was telling rather than showing what was going on. But for the most part Marjorie liked my style and let me run with it."It says a lot about Marjorie that this perfectly describes my experience with her. She worked with a lot of big names, but she made a little nobody like me feel like my work was just as important. And she would sharply correct me for calling myself a little nobody. Every once in a while she would send me a fax (and later email) with instructions to print it out and post it on my office wall. One that remained there for almost 15 years simply said: JONI RODGERS: YOU ARE NOT A HACK.
Whenever I felt deflated by the industry slings and arrows, she would chastise me for "acting like an orphan in the storm" and remind me that an author has to be the bravest champion of her own work. We can't depend on the editor or the agent or the PR department. She is solely responsible for kicking my ass into the big girl pants that make it possible for me to thrive as an indie author and freelance editor. And I often hear myself repeating time-proven Marjorie-isms to my editing clients.
When I started putting myself out there as a freelance editor, Marjorie encouraged me and sent me some great advice in the form of this incisive PW article she wrote on the changing roles of in-house and freelance editors:
In this changing landscape, as publishers look more and more at their bottom lines and continue cutting back on in-house staff, I can envision a model in which the in-house editor is the jack-of-all-trades that the publisher requires, while still editing select projects. For other projects, the in-house editor might need to work with a trusted freelance editor to help move things along. But publishers have to acknowledge what every editor—in-house or freelance—knows: editing is crucial and can make the difference between the success or failure of a book.Marjorie's sure editorial hand made an enormous difference in the books we did together. Her advocacy and mentorship made a huge difference in my career. Her friendship made a profound difference in my life.