Rumination: Hot dog condiments

Painting of a hotdog next to a saucer of mustard
Wayne Thiebaud, Hot Dog and Mustard (1961)


Dear Reader,

Ever wonder what editors do in a publishing house? What books are they reading, how do they feel about the ampersand, and are they all mad? 

In our new monthly series, 
Rumination, our editors will answer your questions on just about anything. We invite you to send us your question to with the subject “Rumination”. We will pick the most interesting one and answer it here next month.

What does your typical work day look like for you? Also mustard on your hot dog or no?—Crystal

You know that Twitter thread where people poorly explain what they do for a living? My less hilarious version of this is: I cut words. Sometimes people read what’s left. The longer, more ruminative answer is that I’m not sure if I do have a typical work day. Sometimes I am working through a plot problem with an author, finding the pulse of their vision and searching for solutions that serve their intentions. Sometimes I am turning a Word document into a full layout in InDesign, transforming a manuscript into the form that you now read in paperback or on your devices. Other days, I could take hours just to draft an email to an author. What is typical though, is that thankfully my cat accompanies me while I work almost all the time. 

P.S. Am I a debbie downer if I say I don’t like hot dogs? The only kind of mustard I like is honey mustard dressing in my sub. 

How do you know when you’re “done” with a manuscript?—Patricia

I like that you put “done” in inverted commas, because you’re right, how is a piece of work ever complete? A few months ago, I had asked Zining to expand a certain thread in her book, The Orchid Folios. When the manuscript came back, I had thought that the collection was ready to go, perhaps it just needed one more round of copyediting. I enlisted a second pair of eyes, a trusted friend, mentor and ally, Divya Victor, and under her editorial guidance, Zining’s vision had become so much fuller; we had allowed the book a more organic growth, tended by collaboration and a desire to see what poetry could be. Is it intuition? A sense of having cultivated something worth your time? I’m still trying to figure it out. But I guess it’s safe to say that I’m hardly deciding this alone.


(From November 14, 2020)