I grew up hearing my grandparents’ stories in bits and pieces. Often they’d mention their families or their lives growing up, and even if it was something I’d heard before, I still found it interesting. Occasionally they’d tell me something I hadn’t heard before, in which case I was even more intrigued. As a young adult, it began to occur to me that they wouldn’t always be around to tell me their stories or answer my questions. I wanted a tangible way to remember my grandparents and their stories so that future generations that wouldn’t have the pleasure of meeting them would still have the opportunity to get to know and love my grandparents as I did.
In January 2020, I began working with each of my dad’s parents to formally document their lives and stories via a subscription publishing service. Each week, I sent them a question or prompt through the service’s website. Examples include “What is one of your fondest childhood memories?” “Tell me about an adventure you’ve been on . . .” and “What advice would you give your grandchildren/great-grandchildren?” By the end of the year, I had fifty-two stories from each grandparent, neatly organized and formatted on the website.
Once my grandparents had written all their stories, I got to work editing them. I cross-referenced and fact-checked names, dates, locations, and other details to ensure accuracy, and I edited for grammar and clarity. Then my grandparents and I spent a day sifting through boxes in their attic to find photographs to accompany some of the stories. With my dad’s help, I scanned and formatted the photos, then attached them to the stories on the website. When the interiors of the books were finished, my grandparents and I designed their covers. This whole process took about four additional months to complete.
Included in the initial subscription price for each book was one finished, hardcover copy. Receiving those first copies in the mail after all the time and effort we put into creating them was unreal. Little did we know when we started the project that it would become a way for us to connect and bond when we weren’t otherwise able to due to COVID-19. The initial months of isolation were difficult, especially for my grandparents. Having such a meaningful project to work on kept us sane. It provided my grandparents with a chance to reflect on and take a dive deep into their lives and legacies, and it provided me with the chance to get to know each of them in a much more intimate way.
Later that year, in December 2021, we had one of our first family gatherings in almost two years. Every family member received copies of my grandparents’ books, complete with personalized, handwritten notes in the front covers. It was extremely special to share them with everyone and to see their reactions. I won’t soon forget how interesting and fulfilling the process of publishing the books was, and I’m so grateful to my grandparents for their willingness to share their time and stories with me in a forever way.
Ever read a YA novel and wondered how a teenage character was created? Developmental editors assist authors with developing characters with an empathetic approach. Peter Ginna, in What Editors Do, describes the role of the developmental editor by explaining how developmental editors look at big picture ideas such as pacing, plotting, structure, and believability of characters. Additionally, What Editors Do emphasizes how empathy is important when performing a developmental edit and when working with authors on their stories. When it comes to approaching authors on developing young characters that adolescent readers will look up to, it is incredibly important to approach the author with empathy and respect. Editors play a key role in how teenage characters are developed in the beginning stages of the process. Developmental editors can be a great resource when creating young adult fiction, and to ensure developmental edits are successful, editors must have a great working relationship with authors.
Ginna’s What Editors Do describes empathy as the most crucial part of the editing process. This means that editors must have empathy for characters in fictional stories as well as for the author. When it comes to developing teenage characters in young adult fiction, editors must have empathy for the reader and understand how readers will perceive the characters in the story. What Editors Do emphasizes how effective editors bring certain assets that are important when developing a story. These valuable assets are market knowledge and subject expertise. Editors with marketing knowledge see what is currently selling in the book market. They can suggest edits about young characters based on which young adult novels were successful and what character qualities pulled young readers into the story. Subject expertise is also important because it allows editors to see where the author is coming from. Why did the author write a young character a certain way? How can editors take what writers want to say to adolescents and develop it in a way that will not only sell but be an inspiration for young adults? Developing stories starts with good communication between the editor and author and seeing how both develop characters.
Scott Norton in Developmental Editing talks about the role developmental editors play in a story’s development and emphasizes how developmental editors sometimes coach the author on their stories as well as suggest edits to help authors form a vision for the book. When it comes to developing young characters, developmental editors should be prepared in their market research to assist authors with how the characters will be portrayed to youths. Editors can see what has been successful before and suggest edits that support the author’s vision. It is important for editors to point out how a young character may come across to a youth. Will the teenage character be a positive inspiration for youths? Will their actions teach them a lesson about life? Developmental editing can help authors develop young characters in a unique way that supports the author’s vision but also highlights how young readers will look at the story. It is important for authors to make a plan with the editor and work together on developing the book. Readers look up to characters, and editors play a significant role in assisting with characterization. Young adult fiction can be an inspiration for young audiences, and editing can assist authors with their vision while keeping empathy for young adolescent readers.