Interview With My Memoir's 'Bad Ass' Editor - Barbara Ardinger
Updated: Apr 20
MYRA: In My Random Death, I talk about the time we met and the impression you made on me. It was like a speed date with an editor; we only had five minutes. Your spiky, pink-colored hair disarmed me, but I was impressed by the meticulous markups you did on my five-page hand-in for the 805 Writer’s Conference. You have a PhD in English, are a published author, and an editor, which accounts for your attention to detail. Can you explain a bit about your process?
BARBARA: Yes, it was like speed dating. I met with a dozen or so authors whose sample pages I had edited. Even with sample pages, of course, I always pay close attention, not only to what I call “gooder English” (a phrase I stole from a singer named Charo and began using with engineers when I was a technical editor) but also to logical thought and clarity. I’ve worked with more than 300 very smart people who may not be good writers. One of them, when I explained about adverbs, said, “So that’s what my sixth-grade teacher was talking about.” Whether I’m editing fact or fiction, I pay close attention to detail because I want to help my author produce the best possible book he or she can. That’s why we worked so closely together. We both worked hard, too, right?
MYRA: You like to work with an author who is engaged in the editing process of their manuscript. You’ve mentioned some clients don’t care and just dump their stuff on you. In my case, I cared a lot. We passed through my manuscript three times, looking it over, word for word, using track changes, with me accepting and rejecting your edits, as you questioned mine. I describe it as you weeding my flowers and pruning my trees. You did it without disturbing the voice of my garden. Is that usual for an editor?
BARBARA: Yes, I like to use the metaphor that an author is planting a really big garden and broadcasting seeds all over the place. My job is to weed the garden and possibly trim the trees. That’s what I did when I worked on your book. I weeded out, for example, some of your Canadianisms, like those clichéd “eh’s,” and some redundancies, too. You did indeed care a lot, and I’m always glad when an author pays attention and asks questions. My changes are not always perfect (duh!) because sometimes what I’m reading doesn’t quite make sense, so in editing, I can only give it my best shot. Sometimes I guess wrong. You (like other authors who pay attention) worked hard to clarify what you meant. That helped me, which helped you create a better, more readable, better written book. Brava.
MYRA: Thank you. To tell my story, it was a treasure to work with someone like you, who has the depth of the esoteric, the mystical, spiritual, the goddess world, and can grasp the legal mind at work, as well. I wasn’t your first lawyer as a client, and you’ve written about books on esoteric subjects. Your background as the venerable leader of a spiritual group can help others describe what seems indescribable. Can you speak to that a little?
BARBARA: Many thanks for your kind words. I’m still not sure I can “grasp” the legal mind, but I have worked with enough lawyers to understand that I should not mess with the legal jargon. What I can safely edit is the lawyer’s everyday writing, which was the content of most of your book. (Your descriptions of appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court were fascinating.) I majored in English literature for two graduate degrees, then started reading history to put the literature in context, and then somehow expanded my reading to esoteric, occult, and spiritual topics. That was maybe forty years ago, and I’ve never stopped reading. I’ve edited many books on esoteric wisdom and/or New Age philosophies, including at least two books with new ideas about the Tarot. That’s why our email conversations were so much fun. We’re on a lot of the same wavelengths. And that’s why I’m looking forward to working with you on your next book. Bright blessings!