Sunday, December 14, 2008

Carol Houck Smith

Just after Thanksgiving (2008), Carol Houck Smith died. Legendary editor at W.W. Norton, she edited numerous prize-winning collections of poems. Read her full obituary at the Washington Post (Friday, December 12, 2008; Page B07) online. In 2004 her advice to beginning writers was:
The best advice to beginning writers, she said in a 2004 online chat, is "to be a reader. To become a voracious reader. And to learn to read with your ears as well as your eyes. To read your own work aloud. And even to type out a passage from a writer you love, to really get the rhythm."
The job of an editor, she continued, "is to discover what the intention of the writer is, and then to try and stand in for the general reader and assess whether the writer has fulfilled that intention. I think it's a chemical relationship between author and editor, in the same way that you're attracted to friends when you meet them, and so the editor has really joined the book."
Read the whole thing at the Washington Post online. Allow twelve minutes.
I'm sure I would have enjoyed meeting and talking with Ms. Houck Smith.


Michelle said...

Sounds like Ms Houck Smith was a wise and wonderful woman. Thanks for this, Andrew.

Andrew Christ said...

Your welcome! I noticed several of our contacts at Facebook had wonderful things to say about her and what she meant to each of them. Without their comments I might not have learned of her as soon as I did, if ever.