writer seeking master

What I’m looking for:

An editor with fingers permanently stained with ink, the perspective of a hilltop hermit, a mind like a steel katana, the jaws of a pit bull, and eyes that burn like branding irons to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing. (Speaking of branding irons, I realize that this branding thing is an integral part of one’s marketing strategy today so what the hell, I’m game.)

Someone with zero tolerance for empty compliment, obtuse philosophy, or beating around the bush: A bushwhacker, a blunt arrow straight to the heart, an unvarnished idol carved in wood. Tell it to me straight, my friend.

Someone strong enough to wrestle my pages to the floor and mark them to shreds with a blood red pen. Someone who’ll find the butterflies buried in my worms, who’ll take me firmly by both shoulders and shake me like a tree until the ripest fruits rain down. (Note: I don’t require a man for all this manhandling, oh no, I’m sure a woman could do the job just fine, and she doesn’t have to wear black latex chaps to do it.)

Basically, I’m looking for someone who can screw up their eyes a little to blur the rough edges of my present tense and see the possibility of my future. I just want someone who believes in me. Yes, I’m confused, but I’m putty in your hands.

Calling all mentors, prof-types, mommies, daddies, gods, shrinks, and authorial authorities with real editorial skills: Take me, I’m yours.

What I have to offer:

Would genuflection, foot rubs, and hyperbolic yet heartfelt compliments suffice? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to see your face tattooed on someone else’s chest. I will go to Times Square, put on a sandwich board with your name on it, and sing your favorite song. I will clean out your refrigerator, organize your closets, name my children after you. I will thank you first in the acknowledgments, I will owe it all to you and never, ever forget it. Of course, if I ever earned actual, tangible money thanks to you, if you could do for me anything like what Gordon Lish did to Raymond Carver, then you could keep every penny.

Call me. 555-I-NEED-HELP.
My phone’s on vibrate for you. 🙂 ;}


This post was inspired by this funny ad I found in McSweeney’s.

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. I love your writing, and wouldn’t be able to change one word!


  2. Joel Jacobs

    I think you’re serious, but I’m still not clear what you’re looking for, although you did spell it out. Do you need a professional? What kind of time commitment are we talking about? I am a former English teacher and former professional journal editor, and I doctored a novel once (the author, a friend, was quite enthusiastic about my comments). So I may not even be in the ballpark of what you’re seeking, but if you like, I’m happy to offer feedback on something you’ve written.

  3. Utter perfection…but you may take that as an empty compliment. So let’s put it this way: once again I bow down to you for your most enviable way with words.
    XOS from Provence,

  4. Some of the most important things I’ve learned about editing/feedback: It must come form someone you trust to understand the work in question, someone who knows you and what you’re trying to say, someone with as small an agenda as you can find. It should be someone who wants to see you succeed as much as you do. And after that, it should be someone who understands what gets published and why. It’s not easy to find people like that. It will take time, but you will know in your heart when the criticism is wrong and when it’s right.

    As for what Gordon Lish did for (or is it to?) Raymond Carver, that’s a fascinating, and debatable, subject.

    • I get that it is a magical, rare, and intimate relationship. I just thought if I said what I wanted, it might come true. I don’t actually expect to find my editor this way, but I’ll try anything. (Hellloooo out there!) (Waving hand maniacally.)

      I, for one, finally understood the importance of an editor after I’d seen what Lish did. I’m sure many will disagree, but I’ll have what he had, please.)

    • What jpon said. Absolutely every word.

      And P.S. This marked-up ED is fascinating ….

  5. Anna, I happen to think you are brilliant…

  6. Er, I don’t have a mind like a steel katana (pausing here to google), or eyes that burn like branding irons—in fact, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. But I may or may not own a pair of latex chaps and I’m willing to wear them if you need a read.

    • You are sharp as a tack, girl. I wish I could join you in your artist-studio-writers-group (how is that going, btw?) and peek into your closet to see what, exactly, is hanging there. Whatever it is, I would find it FASCINATING.

      • I didn’t the writers group. I was talked out of it, by my mother of all people. She said I shouldn’t attempt friendship, it’s not my thing. Wish I were kidding about that.

        • Averil. Your mother is wrong. (!! someday we’ll meet face-to-face and talk about mothers) and I am your friend, whether you agree to it or not and I wish I could be in your group. I encourage you to be in a real group with real faces and hope you’ll try that– real faces are very interesting and you are a good friend.

  7. Todd

    Wow, what a deal! I’m not sure my wife will like my face tattooed on your chest, and it might lead to your hubby’s boot tattooed on my ass, but I’ll give it a try. I’m not an editor but hey, I can rebuild and engine. So if words make stories like parts make motors, I’ll be your ink monkey! Alas, motors aren’t stories and greasy fat fingers upon your fine creative crystal could only mar the fine featured finish… frivolously. When you’re famous can I at least say I knew you when?

    • Words do make stories like parts make motors (nice one!) and maybe that’s what I need: a mechanic. Hello your wonderful wife, meet my adorable husband. I’m sure you guys will have something to say about spouses who spend too much time online.

      • Todd

        Your writing has inspired me to look more into the “mechanics” of writing… which I barely remember from college days. Last week I found an old book on short story structure at a used book shop. It only cost $1, the fools! It’s helping a lot in understanding how you authors craft your work… really interesting too. But, between all the forms and rules it’s obvious that a huge amount of the reader’s interpretation is still quite subjective. So, I agree with everything that jpon said (above). And I think you shouldn’t accept critiques from any and all sides. You should carefully seek out someone who’s opinion you value and respect, someone who also gets you, and the “market”. That is a task. But, as an old Pennsylvania publisher I knew of once said, “Every ten years I buy the highest quality shoes I can find, then re-sole them once a year. Because that costs a lot less than buying cheap shoes every two years” (Imeldas notwithstanding).

        • I agree completely Todd. I am aware that finding this magical guru with a pen is probably not going to happen here, in the comment section. I really wrote this to confirm and underscore what I know: I need an editor! By writing this, I’m telling myself to pay attention, although I really don’t know how I will recognize him/her if I ever see him/her– will there be a faint glow over their head? Will thunder clap? Will they know my secret name?

  8. TheOthers1

    I think your description disqualifies me as an option. Does it help that I at least believe in you? That’s all I got.

  9. If you find one, let me know, I think I need one of those too! Although perhaps not the one Emily Dickinson might have had…

  10. This goes beyond attempted humour…very clever. Love the Emily Dickinson touch…

  11. Really? I’m sure you will be inundated by offers from editors. You sound like an editor’s dream!

  12. You asked for this: There’s nothing wrong with your writing. Your problems are in the area of marketing. Unless you are dealing with small presses your dream of being published by Doubleday or Harper, etc. comes down to a crap shoot that has little to do with the quality of your writing. You are dealing with an industry that is almost monastic in its requirements. But it is one that is changing, forced to do so by the pressure of cheap self-publishing methods. Why go down on bended knee to agents, editors, publishers, and the lot of them when you can do it yourself? Why submit yourself to their rejection, when, basically, they can make up any old thing to say about your writing when they reject it with a mere glance?
    I like your ‘crows’ pieces; I’m a bird-watcher and as such like to read about birds and your short articles would make a great book. There’s 50 million bird-watchers in America and if you were to publish a book of these articles via Amazon (with their worldwide online network) using their Create Space means, you’d sell quite a lot of them. And you could turn it into a Nook and Kindle version too!
    Do it yourself, Anna, don’t mess around with all this worry and hassle. If I were your editor I’d print out all your crows pieces, look them over to see if any bridging were necessary, think about illustrations – the shadows of the crows in front of your car, the cawing outside your widow – then find someone to do a great design. In 6 months you’d be done and selling worldwide.

    • I think you must be right, Dave. This sounds right to me.

      It is hard to shake the fantasy of having a partner or a team to do it, but I could. I like the crows things, too, and I had no idea there were 50 million bird watchers in the US or that some people like you liked my crow bits the best. The idea of thinking more about the crows is actually very exciting. Thank you for chiming in here– you’ve given me a lot to think about.

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