by Sarah Anderson, editor
I specialize in editing books on Spirituality and New Age topics, many of which are memoir or autobiographies focused on the journey of spiritual growth and/or in which material was inspired by the voice of the “higher self.” Some of these are in a new genre often called “awakening,” in which the author describes his or her path to a more conscious way of living and imparts wisdom gathered in the process of a spiritual journey.
Working on such books is my passion. I have edited several books in the last year that focus on spiritual wisdom, three on the awakening experience, one that included a boomer’s life experiences with the army and the Native American path, one that shows readers how to connect and receive guidance from the inner divine (which I’ve tried—and it works!), a literary novel on the stages of marriage, an inspirational book on mindfulness, and another on connecting with the energies of the earth through barefoot running. These books are not only a delight to fill my workdays, they also have enriched my internal and external life immeasurably. Books I have edited in the last several years have won Independent Publisher, National Indie Excellence, and Illumination Book awards.
The books I edit are important to me. I live with each one for a month or more, I steep myself in the content, and my job is to ensure that the language accurately and beautifully conveys the material presented. I bring a lifelong spiritual journey of my own to the process, which means I understand the terminology, know what questions to ask, and respect the wisdom that is conveyed. My personal mission is to play a part in giving the world books that uplift humanity, whether fiction or nonfiction.
I have also edited at least two books that contained “channeled” material. Authors of such material can be concerned about changing words that “came from my guide,” in which case my sample edits need to show them that nothing essential is lost when poor syntax or wordiness are addressed, as they must be to produce a professional book. Many such authors have not been trained or gained experience as writers, and so we could say that the “channel” through which they have arrived is not as clear as it needs to be. I know how to work with these authors, and in one case, I suggested that the author speak with his “guide” about certain changes in order to gain “permission” the author felt was needed. I have no trouble adapting myself to accommodate my authors’ sensitivities.
At the beginning of my career, I was given this instruction by a revered spiritual master whose book I was editing: “Don’t change a word.” Inasmuch as my job was to rewrite an oral transcript from another language into English, my first reaction was a double take. What, then, was I supposed to do? But the author’s point was that I must not change the meaning in the slightest way, and I had to learn to depend on my intuition as I climbed into the sound of the author’s voice. This entering into the author’s voice has become second nature to me and has given me skills I use today.
Writers hope for an editor who loves their books as much as they do. It is not necessary to producing a good edit, but it surely gives them confidence in the process. I don’t just care for their babies with proficiency; I also add the ingredients of love and understanding to the process.
Sarah Anderson is an experienced editor of spiritual nonfiction titles.