Editor's Spotlight
Urban Book Source
February 2006


Leah WhitneyLeah Whitney

Leah Whitney’s editing career began with a chance meeting. Showing support for a close friend at a book signing, Leah was approached by an author who wanted his material as clean as possible before he submitted it to his publisher. With no prior experience Leah took on this task, making the same changes that would be later made by the publishing house. Impressed by her work this author introduced Whitney to a screenplay agent who later assigned her the task of editing Road Dawgz by K’wan. Since Road Dawgz, Leah has kicked in the door to an unrelenting industry, going on to edit works by Kashamba Williams, Victor L. Martin and Erick Gray.

UBS: What authors have you worked with? Which books?
Leah:
K’wan Foye—Road Dawgz, Kashamba Williams—Blinded , Vickie Stringer—Imagine This, Victor L. Williams—A Hood Legend, Victor L. Williams—Ménage’s Way, Erick Gray—Booty Call *69

UBS: Have or would you ever put a book down while editing if the story wasn't good?
Leah:
That just happened to me. I called the publisher and expressed my concerns. It was simple in this case because the publisher already knew before giving me the manuscript that it needed lots of re-working. After editing the first few chapters, I realized that I would have been spinning my wheels and that the work would still need lots of attention, if not more, after my efforts. But generally I read the first 30 pages or so of a manuscript before accepting it from a client. This eliminates any misunderstanding down the line, where an author has possibly become comfortable with me as their editor, only to find out that I’m not the right person for the job.

UBS: What do you look for in the writing when editing? What is the hardest thing you encounter as an editor?
Leah:
I immediately look for clarity and direction, and then I look for the main theme. By the time those elements are in place, I’ve already gotten a pretty good feel for the author’s voice, which is always my ultimate goal. The hardest thing I’ve encountered in editing is the need to re-write from time to time. This always makes me a little uneasy, because I realize that I’m taking creative license here. However, the author is usually quite pleased with my changes, and that always makes my day.

UBS: How do you feel after reading something you spent countless hours working on and then you come across something you missed after the work has already been published? Maybe a typo or spelling error?
Leah:
I’ve experienced that before, and I admit I am a little hard on myself. But because I consider myself to be somewhat of a perfectionist, I try to prevent errors as much as possible by carefully proofreading my work after I’m done editing it. I also have come to terms with the fact that no editor is one hundred percent perfect, and once a book is in print, that’s it and there’s nothing I can do at that point. But there’s always a chance to clean up something for the next printing.

UBS: Is there a side of editing that outsiders may not know about, that you can share with us?
Leah:
Well, in my case, editing is a spiritual experience. I actually wear and truly become a part of the work until the project is complete. I really care about the author’s work as much as he/she does.

UBS: Any tips for writers? Anything to make their writing better?
Leah:
Read, read, read! There is no way to get around that if a writer is serious about becoming known as a really good scribe in today’s competitive book market. But I’ve never met a writer who didn’t enjoy reading anyway. It’s a natural thing.

UBS: What do you think of urban literature as of right now?
Leah:
Urban literature is the hottest genre on bookshelves today, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

UBS: Will you ever write a book?
Leah:
I’ve recently written a teen novel, and I’d like to see that in print. I hope the publisher reads this!

UBS: What is the best book you have read in a long while?
Leah:
The best book I’ve read in a long while is the one I’ve just finished editing: Booty Call *69 by Erick Gray. It’s hot!

UBS: What can an author do not to get on your bad side? And what can they do to become the dream client?
Leah:
What an author can do to not get on my bad side is to understand that I prefer to be the one to make the phone calls. Constantly calling me will only make me feel that there is a lack of trust. Additionally, if I’m continuously answering the phone I can’t remain focused. I usually don’t find myself in this situation because I’m very detailed and I like to be totally sure about what the author wants or is trying to say, which causes me to be in frequent contact with him/her.

UBS: Do you ever find yourself re-writing a lot of any one authors work?
Leah:
I have found myself re-writing a good portion of an author’s work, but not to the point where I felt that without my re-writing the story would be horrible or wouldn’t sell. My job is to make an already-good read even better, or hot if possible, so it’s all good.

UBS: What books are you working on now, if any?
Leah:
I’m working on two manuscripts right now, one of which is an urban tale for a private client who lives in Los Angeles.


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