From Behind the Editor’s Curtain

August 2024,
by Barbara L. Barnes, Heirloom Editor

I’m half-way through my first year’s journey as Heirloom Editor and I’m starting to get my “travel legs” as I experience the sometimes-bumpy road conditions. This trip has been interesting, to say the least, and I am discovering increasingly level pavement with each new edition. With this more stable surface under my feet, I’ll pull back the curtain from around me, the flawed, Wizard of Oz-like Heirloom editor. I’ll reveal aspects of my travels, to date, down this yellow brick road of the monthly Heirloom publication with some suggestions for us all to make the future travels more unruffled and smooth.

Back in February of this year, I wrote an Heirloom essay titled “Behind the Screen and Scenes,” describing my journey to becoming the new Heirloom Editor. (If you want to revisit that piece, you can view it at https://huuc.net/behind-the-screen-and-scenes .) At that time, I was feeling like a teenager just granted their driver’s license and the keys to the family car. I was proud and excited about my new responsibilities. I was anxious to show the world what I could do. Simultaneously, I was hesitant if I could do it, remember all my training, and not drive into a ditch.

I acknowledge that I am a borderline Type A personality – with a detail focus and perfectionist tendencies. These traits might be good in an editor but can also drive the people around an editor to distraction! Add to this the stress of this new, rather high-profile job. I probably topped the Type A scales during my first couple of months in the job.

I believe that I’ve recently settled into a more moderated tact. With each error I created or failed to catch in each Heirloom edition, the more I’ve accepted the beauty of imperfection in myself, in my work, and in the work of others. In my very first edition, I made the major error of a typo in the next articles submission deadline date. Since then, I’ve misspelled names (an unforgivable mistake – mea culpa), misplaced titles, made format errors, and committed many more slip-ups. I’m learning to forgive myself such blunders as you have forgiven me. I’m sure that imperfections will continue, since we are all only human with minimal time to get it all “just right.” However, I am learning to “shake’m off” (to quote Taylor Swift) while noting the gaffes to avoid in the future.

As I mentioned in my previous article, cited above, I’m not new to the process of editing. I know ways to improve writings while hopefully retaining the writer’s style and personality. The perfectionist in me fights a constant battle in this aspect of editing, but I’m getting better at letting go. To the writers who feel I changed your words too extensively, I apologize for my sometimes-excessive attempts to make you and your writing look your best in my imperfect opinion.

Until deadline, I am always willing to massage an article until it is right for both the writer(s) and the potential audience. One of my editor roles involves anticipating a reader possibly interpreting the author’s words differently than the author intended. Regardless of the number of drafts, I take no offense at re-working a piece multiple times. In some cases, this process has required several, sometimes charged, exchanges until all involved understood and accepted a route to our mutually desired destination. In those cases, it was a rough road but we eventually got there in one piece.

To smooth future journeys, consider a few points while creating your upcoming submissions to the Heirloom. Most of these points are covered in more detail in the “Website and Heirloom Newsletter Submitter’s Guide” found at https://huuc.net/website-and-heirloom-newsletter-submitters-guide/. Here I’ll briefly mention some issues that come up repeatedly from multiple writers in submitted first drafts.

1.  Write as if the reader knows nothing about your subject, including defining all acronyms.

For example, not everyone knows what abbreviations, such as RE (Religious Education) or UUJEC (Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community), mean or represent.

2.  Write to answer any questions regarding how to participate in a future event.

Answer with specific information on the event’s who, what, when (including duration), where, why (including so what), and how. Provide precise contact methods that anyone can follow (such as an email address and/or phone number) so that a reader can obtain more information in case they don’t know the person(s) involved.

3.  Supply approvals, every time – even if you have supplied them in the past because things can change.

Supply credits for all graphics/photos (copyright-free and publication restrictions-free), approvals to publish pictures, approvals to publish their image from all people pictured, and approval to publish contact information data.

4.  Submit your article well in advance of the submissions deadline.

No matter how perfect your submission, Web Technologist Antonio and I both need to manipulate your submission and you may wish to review the results before release. All of these steps for the 30+ articles each month take time between the submission and publication date. Requested changes after the submission deadline date may not be possible.

I know that I haven’t learned everything in my role as Heritage’s Heirloom Editor. However, I’ve learned to drive along the sometimes-circuitous road without constantly referring to my reference materials/training notes. I’ve adopted some new methods not written in those guides. I’ve become more nimble in handling the publication needs. However, it will always take uncounted hours (by both Antonio and me) to put this newsletter together each month.

My standard response to the question of “how’s it going” for me in this new job is, “it’s a lifestyle choice.” Still, I’m enjoying the ride on this journey down the Heirloom’s monthly yellow brick road, regardless of the occasional bumps or potholes. Now, dear reader, you can go back to ignoring that person behind the curtain as I draw the drapes closed on this flawed wizard/Heirloom editor and we continue to ♫ “head on down the road” together. ♫

~Barb Barnes
Heirloom Editor

Images source: Barbara L. Barnes, a selfie/ https://tinyurl.com/23mdn6tw /