Q&A with Editor Lucy Chambers of Bright Sky Press/Conference

Although meeting and mingling with agents is one of the biggest parts of WLT’s Agents Conference, there’s much more than just that! One of the other exciting options that the Agents Conference offers is introducing attendees to some of the country’s top editors, who will share their valuable expertise on what publishers are looking for, how they work with both writers and agents, and how the acquisition process works.This week, we are featuring Lucy Chambers, Editorial Director of Bright Sky Press/Conference and one of the scheduled editors at the 2011 Agents Conference. Read on to find out more about what an editor does and some exciting insights into her world!

How did you get started in publishing?
I worked for the Junior Literary Guild, which was a division of Doubleday & Co. I spent a year reading the best of new children’s literature and writing copy about it before I left the nest for adult trade publishing.

What’s the average number of submissions you receive in a month?
50+

If you could give writers one small piece of advice about the world of publishing, what would it be?

Don’t believe any rules. The industry is changing so fast that the rules can’t keep up with the reality.

What was your first acquisition?
The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird

What do you love most about your job?
Helping writers give their messages legs. And particularly, seeing a book emerge from a manuscript. I love playing with words and imagining what physical form those words should take. In fact, there is nothing not to love about my job, except that I can never do it all. There is rarely a day when someone is not disgruntled that I haven’t been able to read their submission or edit their copy or answer their call quickly enough. I’m working on managing expectations; particularly my own.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
Sweating the small stuff. Sending revisions of submissions with small grammatical changes. Not understanding the big picture and waiting for permission to share their ideas with the people who can take them a step further. If a story is powerful enough to deserve hardcovers, it will capture an editor’s imagination even in an imperfect form. Good editors should spot the potential in a submission, not the flaws.

Are you a writer yourself? And if so, what do you write?
I have dabbled in writing off and on, but I always emerge with the strong feeling that I am a better reader than writer.

What is a little known fact about yourself?
I posed naked for a book jacket once. A long time ago.

What book are you reading right now?
Reading for pleasure is unfortunately a rebellious statement in my life right now. I just finished Shantaram and felt delightfully wicked taking all that time when I could have been reading submissions and using it for personal escapism. You can tell I’m pretty far behind the curve of popular fiction. If a book is good, it will wait until I can get to it.

If you could have a beer or coffee with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
There are many literary luminaries I would love to get to know. Today I’ll say Thomas Wolfe, because his time period, his cronies, his hometown and his relationship with his editor all fascinate me. But maybe I would rather visit with David Foster Wallace. Or Virginia Woolf. Or Edith Wharton. Or Michael Chabon. Or Mark Helprin. Can we make it a party?

Beer or coffee?
Coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon. I would hope it would be a long conversation.

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