In which I talk with my editor, Andy Ward, about the new book
One of the parts of publishing a new book that I always look forward to: I often get a chance to sit down publicly with my editor, Andy Ward, and talk about what we’ve done. We recently did just this.
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Andy and I have been working together since he (then editing at GQ) sent me to Dubai, back in 2005. After that, he sent me drive the entire length of the Mexican border, and to Nepal to look in on the young man they were calling “Buddha Boy” (who had, at that point, it was said, gone without eating or drinking for going on four months) and to live incognito in a homeless camp in Fresno, California. In 2007, we traveled to Africa together to report on the work of the Clinton Foundation. A few years after that, he moved over to Random House and published my story collection Tenth of December. Since then, we’ve worked together on Lincoln in the Bardo, Fox 8, Congratulations by the Way, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, and now, a new collection, Liberation Day.
Working with Andy has been one of the greatest and most beneficial blessings of my life. He changed everything for me – got me a bigger audience and has helped me keep trying to grow my writing outward – to make it more expansive and generous. His great gift, in my view, is to be able to combine his aching love for good writing with an equally intense sense of rigor. This allows him to urge his writers to greater heights – I always feel buoyed by his praise (the quality of his enthusiasm is specific and generous but needs to be earned), buoyed enough to dare more – to take bigger risks, knowing that the result will be received in the most generous spirit. Weirdly, I also always find myself buoyed by his critiques – even in these there is a feeling of confidence and hope, a dedication to the work’s best self; they are precise and loving-hearted and actionable.
Beyond being “on my side,” Andy is an integral part of my creative process; I find myself writing to him, and for him, trying to delight and impress him and crack him up, even at the early stages of a project, knowing that, if I imagine him over there on the receiving end, I’ll be aiming my work at the most insightful, generous and curious reader there could possibly be. In short, I think he’s one of the greatest editors we have – that we have ever had.
Every writer should be so fortunate.
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