||Interview with Sidney Rickman
Anyone that knows me know how much praise I've given to Sidney Rickman
over the years. Believe me that praise is well deserved. Finally I've brought
her to you. I hope some of the questions are the ones you've wanted answers
Dyanne: Sidney, please give the readers some background into your journey from teacher to
Sidney: I was an English teacher for a long time, most of the time in senior high teaching
12th grade and AP English Language and Composition. I always felt comfortable teaching
writing skills and was successful in teaching many students to become good writers. When my
mother who lived out of town had a stroke, I decided I needed to retire and supervise her
care. I had always wanted to try professional editing and shortly after returning to Columbus,
Mississippi, I saw a Genesis Press ad in the local newspaper, responded to it, and was hired.
So ten years ago, my second career was launched.
Dyanne: Some of the readers may not know that you’re a writer as well, would you care to tell
us about your books. And please tell us, did you need an editor, and if so how hard was it for
you to be edited?
Sidney: A year or so after going to work as an editor, I decided to try my hand at a novel and
wrote "The Joker's Love Tune," which is romantic suspense set in the casinos of the
Mississippi Coast. At that point the casinos had only been in existence on the Coast for about
six years and there was a great deal of curiosity about them. It was published by Genesis
Press which at that time published general fiction in addition to romance. I wrote a sequel
which has never been published. By the time I finished it, Genesis was no longer publishing
general fiction and I found that other publishing companies weren't interested in sequels
unless the first book had been a best seller. I have written a third book for which I actually do
have a market. It, too, is romantic suspense. As for the question of whether an editor needs
an editor: Yes. A good friend of mine who is a former English teacher who has also done
some editing was kind enough to edit my first book. How hard was it to be edited? I had
worked on writing projects with my friend and therefore had absolute trust in her judgment.
She pointed out things to me that I would have never thought about because I was too close to
the material and made a wonderful plot suggestion. Nevertheless, it was a little painful to have
occasional phrasing thrown out the window as "too cute" or "too cliché."
Dyanne: Angelique Justine constantly praises your skills and readily admits to being your
protégé. I am so amazed at the way you can take a paragraph, delete words, add words, and
still have it mean what the writer intended. How are you able to accomplish this?
Sidney: I think Angelique gives me way too much credit. I'm always just an English teacher
with a special interest in creative writing. Some background: From the time I was in
elementary school I took an interest in my own writing and constantly wrote and re-wrote,
trying to improve what I was saying. I was taught that your first version should ALWAYS be
considered a rough draft and that good writing usually goes through many revisions. I tried to
pass this along to my students, working one on one with them in the revision of their work. I
discovered in teaching that in order to help a student, I had to "get inside his/her head" and
figure out what they were trying to say. This is true in editing novels as well. However, I've
found that it's easier to get inside some heads than others. LOL. And, of course, there
actually has to be some workable material to start with.
Dyanne: How are you able to work the magic that you do while finding the right words to keep
the story as the author had intended and to keep it theirs? (Although I believe your name
should be on the book with mine)
Sidney: It's a tremendous help to get to know the author.
Dyanne: Sidney, I’m aware that some of my questions to you are repetitive. Would you
please show the readers what you would do with that?
Sidney: I would probably point out that the question immediately above covers basically the
same ground as the question above it.
Dyanne: How is it for you having to work with first time authors who are not used to the
editing process and for the first time receive an annotated manuscript?
Sidney: It's usually a difficult experience. I'm convinced that occasionally I get a manuscript
which never went through any revision process at all. That's always bad news--for me and for
the author. I usually warn authors the first time I work with them that I'm very direct in my
remarks. Being direct is the only way I know to help writers. My remarks are never intended to
be personal. I see the author and the editor as having a joint goal: to make the book the
strongest it can be.
Dyanne: How do you deal with authors that you’ve worked with for a time?
Sidney: I usually enjoy that. It's like hearing from a friend--some more casual friends than
others. I have some idea of what to expect and we usually have a good working relationship. I
try to indicate to them what I think will sharpen the book. I don't see myself as having all the
answers and I often tell them that some of the things I'm suggesting are just that, that it's
actually their decision. At the same time, if I think something just flat out won't work, I say that
Dyanne: Which do you think is easier to work with and why?
Sidney: First books are usually harder. Writing is a learning experience.
Dyanne: As a reader, teacher, writer and editor, has the reading for pleasure been lessened
with having so much editing work? Are you even able to read for pleasure?
Sidney: I don't get the chance to read as much for pleasure and yes, to a degree it has
lessened my pleasure. I sometimes find myself "parsing" a sentence, wondering why an editor
didn't fix it. I have my favorite writers, however, and I usually try to do a little reading during
the same time period I'm editing. I often read for an hour or so before starting to edit, just to
get the words "flowing."
Dyanne: I know you’re highly sought after as an editor. As much of a compliment as that is,
what kind of impact does that have on your own writing career? It "enables" me to
Dyanne: Do you believe that after working with an author you develop this symbiotic
relationship? If so why?
Sidney: I absolutely believe that happens in some cases. To some extent I think it's based
on life experiences and age, and, of course, trust. However, there are individuals in the world
that we just "connect" with, and when it happens between writer and editor, it's as if one is an
extension of the other.
Dyanne: Lastly, there are so many aspiring writers wanting to tell their stories and we both
know how hard it is to break into the field. Because of this many authors decide to publish their
own work and they are given what to me amounts to a public flogging for a poorly edited mss.
Is there one piece of advice that you can give to writers that decide to self publish that might
help them keep the insults to a minimum?
Sidney: I think that the first thing skilled readers notice is poor spelling and poor grammar.
Unless you KNOW that you are A+ in these areas, get help. The story gets lost when writing
skills are below par.
Dyanne: As busy as you are I know you don’t have much available time but are you available
for freelance editing? If so where can the aspiring writer reach you?
Sidney: I'm available for occasional free lance work. However, I've learned to screen
manuscripts before accepting them. I will not accept a manuscript which is not in standard
manuscript format and which does not exhibit reasonably good skill levels.
Dyanne: What makes you crazy when editing a mss?
Sidney: The impression that somebody sat down at the computer, typed the story off the top
of her head, printed it and mailed it with no thought of revision or even proofreading.
Dyanne: When you’ve worked with an author for a long time and keep seeing the same
errors do you pull your hair out?
Sidney: Yes, if it's something simple.
Dyanne: I know that we might have some people out there that want to follow in your
footsteps and become editors, please, please, Sidney, would you give a word of advice on
anyone wishing to make that step?
Sidney: Don't attempt to become an editor if you don't have good English skills.
Additionally, prepare yourself for some hard and tedious work. Editing is a lot more than being
paid to read. Often what you edit is not something that you would choose to read.
Dyanne: Last question: Did you automatically edit this interview? LOL.
Sidney: Just what I wrote.
Dyanne: Sidney, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to introduce you to my
readers. Behind every book that is well edited there is a great editor. You are my Simon
Cowell. And like the contestant on American Idol who have their hopes penned on winning, no
matter if the criticism is harsh from Simon they all work toward his praise. For in his praise
there is respect. And it means so much more because it is hard won. Thank you once again,
Sidney, for teaching me, and for having that psychic bond. You are indeed in my opinion, the
world’s best editor. Now please since I want to end this with your voice tell the readers where
they can contact you, and anything else that you might like to say.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't open e-mail from
unknowns, so the subject line should indicate that editing services