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The Heart Is a Lonely Editor
A bit of editorial license

By Greg Coyle

I'm an editor. But I have a heart like anyone else. Many think us too fussy for love, over-endowed with the chilly precision of a painter of miniatures and the swagger of an IT professional. But we can love.

The truth is I sometimes wonder if we love too much. Can it be a coincidence, after all, that commas look so like tears?

I met and fell for Rebecca Watson-Stroud-Pinkney when I was assigned to edit her novel, The Taxidermist's Mistress. There had been a great deal of buzz around the book. Susan Sarandon had just optioned the rights.

That first day, Rebecca breezed into my office with all the mystery of an ellipsis. She brought me Rice Krispy treats wrapped in wax paper.

“For the person that's going to make my words read so sweet,” she said.

I realized that I didn't mind her using “that” when she should have used “who” or the adjective/adverb confusion. I loved that the freckles on her cheeks and forehead resembled a sprinkling of commas and periods. I loved that the long, delicate hands blooming from the cuffs of her bomber jacket curved like parentheses. She had conjugated me.

The Taxidermist's Mistress was, I'm afraid, a total disaster. Rebecca had beauty but barely an immigrant's grasp of the language. She applied apostrophes with all the care of someone scattering popcorn for pigeons in the park. The role of the semi-colon entirely eluded her. But I didn't care. I threw myself into the work as if patching a leaky boat we would one day sail away together.

Our relationship developed quickly, perhaps the way a nurse's can with a patient. Lunch meetings turned into dinners, and before I was to chapter 5 I had a drawer at her place. She would lovingly clean the red ink stains from my shirts and make me Rice Krispy treats.

The book became a smash hit. Oprah loved it. To celebrate, we flew to Ft. Lauderdale for a week. Unfortunately, Rebecca received a terrible sunburn, making of her face one red smear. I took it as a sign.

Certain relationships are born with the seeds of tragedy in them: loving cousins, politicians and interns, prison cellmates. To this list I add editors and abominably poor writers. This morning, as she waited in makeup before her appearance on “The Today Show,” I told her it was over.

“But Dermot, why?” she cried.

I handed her the love note she had left me that morning next to the coffee maker.

“But this is the note I...” She unfolded it, her freckled brow furrowing in confusion. “You edited my note?” she asked.

“‘Lover,’” I intoned from memory. “‘I lied down and kissed you but you didn’t wake. See you at the studio. OXOX.’ It's ‘lay’! ‘L-A-Y’!”

Looking back on it now, it all seems like one beautifully doomed run-on sentence. Last I heard, she'd moved to Hollywood.



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