Friday, June 26, 2009

Spotlight Interview from the Archive: Elfrieda Abbe/Part 4

Elfrieda Abbe, Publisher/Editor/Writer

Elfrieda M. Abbe served as Editor-in-Chief of The Writer magazine for six years before being promoted to Publisher of both The Writer and Bead & Button, the world's leading magazine for the beading hobby.

Abbe began her career as a freelance writer, working for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Magazine and an assortment of business and trade journals. She later wrote features for Milwaukee Magazine and became the Editor of the award-winning Arts & Entertainment section for the Milwaukee Sentinel (now known as the Journal-Sentinel)

After working as a publications editor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she assumed the top editorial position at The Writer in 2000 and won four Folio Magazine Editorial Excellence Awards during her tenure.

Here is the fourth and final part of my exclusive newsletter interview with Ms. Abbe:

Mike: What are the traits of writers you love to work with?

Abbe: I love writers who have a strong area of expertise. But in general, writers who get their stories in on deadline and make them the best they can. Clean copy, well written, and delivered in a timely fashion is the best thing in the world for an editor.

Mike: What in your opinion is the ideal writer-editor relationship?

Abbe: A friendly collaboration. Don’t think of Them versus Us. Think of We. Because we both have similar goals. Plus, since this is a competitive business and editors only going back again and again to very few writers, I think it’s important for you to develop good relationships with editors. The better the relationship, the more your odds go up of getting more and more work.

Mike: Revision is such a touchy topic for a lot of writers. Some are very sensitive to every little change and take the whole process personally. What insight can you provide to writers on the revision process that could make it go down easier?

Abbe: The thing is, almost all editors have been writers at one point, or they may still be writing, so we know the other side. But editing is a necessary aspect of the publishing business and writers should understand that. They should also know that editors are merely doing a job.

As soon as I receive a story, I’ll usually do a quick top reading, just to see if it’s going to need anything, either in a minor or major way.

Sometimes the story needs more research or more interviewing. Sometimes it’s all there, but it’s not organized right. Or sometimes, believe it or not, the lead is at the end.

Whatever it is, I’ll get back to the writer as quick as I can and let him or her know what needs to be done, if anything. I try to be as specific as possible about what I want. I feel the better direction you give to the writer, the better it is for everybody in the end.

Writers should know that most times they’re going to be asked to revise something. It’s pretty common. And they shouldn’t get upset about that. The funny thing is, some of the biggest writers we’ve had write for us have had no complaints about revision at all.

What the writer needs to always understand is, editors truly are on their side. They want you to look good. They have a real stake in your success, because if you look good the magazine looks good and all editors want the magazine to look good. We’re not here to be obstructions to great stories.

Mike: Any final words of wisdom?

Abbe: Remember that a writing career, for the most part, isn’t very glamorous. There are a lot of nuts and bolts that go into this business.

Also, when you’re selling a story, don’t think of it as just one story but a building block in your career.

And, finally, learn things that will sustain you day to day, whether it’s something emotionally, financially, or any other way.

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