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Franschhoek Literary Festival

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A Writer’s Best Friend: Lynda Gilfillan, Ivan Vladislavic, Philip Gourevitch and Suzette Kotze-Myburgh Discuss Editing at the FLF

Toby Mundy, Lynda Gilfillan and Ivan Vladislavic

The butcher’s art or A writer’s best friend? Toby Mundy discussed the art of editing with Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, Lynda Gilfillan, Ivan Vladislavic and Philip Gourevitch at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Nuwe kinderverseboekFlashback HotelAccording to Lynda Gilfillan, an editor is the most attentive reader a writer will ever have, and is someone with whom the writer needs to be able to build a close relationship, particularly one of trust. Gilfillan edits the work of accomplished crime writer Margie Orford with whom she has a good relationship. Yet, while a good editor isn’t a “butcher”, a good editor should find a way to avoid defaulting to the lies that family and friends often tell writers. And, as such, Orford named a forensics expert in one of her novels “Dr Linda Ruthless”.

Yet despite all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into books, according to Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, editors seldom get the credit they deserve. Often not even receiving mention on the title page of the book not least in the acknowledgements.

Gourevitch, staff-writer at The New Yorker, noted the difference between magazine editing and book editing, describing a magazine as being more like “an editor’s book”. With a magazine, therefore, coherence is necessary. Gourevitch compared The New Yorker‘s notoriously thorough editing process to a saw mill with fifty whirling knives that keep shaving off bits of wood.

Gourevitch and Vladislavic, both established writers, discussed the interconnection of the two disciplines. Vladislavic believes that he has become a better writer by editing other people. Gourevitch, on a similar note, pointed out that “all writing is editing” and that “all of this could have been said better”.

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