Fellowship in Jerusalem

In November I found out I’d been chosen to be an Editorial Fellow at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. It would be a transformative experience, Flip Brophy, a former fellow herself, informed the group of U.S. Agent and Editorial Fellows at the orientation in January, but she could not say exactly how. Would it transform me spiritually, being in the cradle of three world religions? Would it re-inspire my love of publishing to spend time in the company of the other fellows? Or would it teach me something that I couldn’t predict because I did not yet know?

Let’s start with the thing I learned that I couldn’t predict. As a senior editor at an enormous company, I’ve never been required to attend an international fair and I didn’t really know what the fuss was about. In Jerusalem, I found out. Among the Fellows, I met like-minded editors from Spain, Italy, Israel, South Africa and the UK, a few so like-minded that we have authors in common. At my desk in New York, I can understand in theory that the agent has sold the Spanish rights to Christopher Caldwell’s book to Mondadori in Spain. It is something quite different to meet Miguel Aguilar, editorial director of Mondadori, over wine at the Museum on the Seam, and reassure him, yes, the book is exactly on schedule. Later I told an editor at Am Oved, about a book I had preempted a few weeks before that I knew would be just right for his list. Even as the web of international editors clicked into focus for me, I was also finding re-inspiration from an unexpected source. I came 5,000 miles for Martin Levin to charge me up with his presentation on My Eleven Greatest Mistakes. With wit and modesty, he reminded the Fellows that publishing is and always has been a game of risk, and that the rewards – in his case, publishing Erica Jong and Mario Puzo – can be breathtaking, even if the perils – turning down Ian Fleming and Martha Stewart – can be hard to live down. Larry Kirshbaum, in his keynote address to the Fellows, confided that, as CEO of Time Warner Publishing, he always looked to the editor’s passion for a book when making his decisions. Now, that should not be a shock, except that, as an editor, I too often feel like a humble supplicant to the sales department and the chain stores. Larry’s speech neatly reframed the scenario: the sales department, even at Barnes & Noble, are looking to me to ignite their passion.

The Fellowship program also provides an amazing opportunity to discover Jerusalem and its environs. I briefly considered converting to Judaism and insisting on my “right of return” but the impulse passed. So while I would not say I was truly spiritually transformed by my time as a Fellow, I did remember why I got into publishing in the first place (the people!) and am inspired to do my work with greater collaboration and unapologetic passion. That was a week well spent.

PT thanks Kris Puopolo, Senior Editor, Doubleday Broadway for sharing her experience as an Editorial Fellow.

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  1. By Fellowship in Jerusalem | JIBF Fellowship on December 11, 2010 at 9:15 pm

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