Guest Blogger: Andy Meisenheimer

I took a bunch of your questions from the past few weeks and ran them past Andy Meisenheimer, fiction editor at Zondervan. Here’s what he had to say.

Question: What are some of your personal pet peeves in publishing? Could be in regards to proposals, plotlines, heroine’s eye color, the semi-colon, anything.

Andy says: Google me and it seems that’s all I’ve ever talked about. I’ll give you the sum up: proposals should be stories, well-told; semicolons are beautiful things; italics are a gift and a curse; eye color better mean something if I have to read about it; plot arises from character; beats are not meaningless movements—they are the actor acting; “said” is practical and invisible; withhold all but the essential; subjectivity is not always the culprit.

Question: Whose writing do you (personally and specifically) enjoy and why?

Andy says: John le Carre, for humanity in spy stories. Stephen King (the recent stuff), for tangible characters and transformed language. Orson Scott Card, for profound moral dilemmas and intricate characterization. Ray Bradbury, for being Ray Bradbury. Krakauer, Lawhead, Steinbeck.

Question: Does the current state of the economy effect acquisitions, the type of storylines they’re seeking, etc? Do people read more when money is tight??

Andy says: Never been in this situation before. We’ll see. I’m still reading. What are people who read going to do? Watch TV? Watch their stocks drop? Read the phone book?

Question: Could you possibly address what it means when someone says “Show, don’t tell.” I understand the concept, but I think there are a lot of people out there confused.

Andy says: Showing is letting the audience draw the conclusion. Eliciting emotion instead of prescribing it. Letting the audience put together the clues; presenting simply a sensory experience through the lenses of a character’s viewpoint. Passing no judgment, but allowing the characters to speak for themselves. There are confused people out there because it’s not a rule of grammar, it’s two storytelling techniques, and they are both valid in certain circumstances. Someone somewhere decided to confuse us all by saying that you should always show, never tell. And that’s not true. But it is true that showing is the more powerful—and the more risky—of the two. And that makes for a stronger reader experience, most of the time.

Question: Can you give us your thoughts about author branding? Is it necessary before one is published?

Andy says: I do not believe in explicit branding. Let’s say I branded myself Andy Meisenheimer, Editing for the World’s Best Writers. Would you believe me? Not until you read my writers. And even then you might not agree. That wouldn’t put a good taste in your mouth toward me and my writers. You’d say “oh it’s that Andy ‘World’s Best Editor’ guy, what a loser.”

Now let’s say I don’t brand myself. But I happen to edit for the world’s best writers. Then you’d read my writers and say “these are the world’s best, and they all have Andy for their editor. Huh. Maybe he edits for the World’s Best Writers.” And then no branding is necessary; plus, you’ll be forgiving if one or two of my authors don’t turn out to be the world’s best. After all, I made no promises.

Question: An editor passes, saying the writing is good, but the slots they have to fill are limited and the competition high. Explain the way “slots” are determined each year, if it’s a hard and fast number in each genre, or if it’s like the Pirate Code – more like guidelines, really.

Andy says: Pirate’s Code, for sure.


Andy Meisenheimer is beginning his sixth year at Zondervan, and his third year as an editor. Realizing that he is writing about himself in the third person, he hesitates to praise his keen editorial eye or his instinctual flair for finding great writing. And so instead he would like to call attention to his lovely wife, their adorable little boy, and his two dogs, who make their home with him in western Michigan. They are the best part of his life.

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  • Katy McKenna

    >OK, the last q and a made me laugh a LOT. I’ve always wondered about those slots myself. Slots sound firm, like the rigid grooves we all used to slide our credit cards through, back in the day. ;)

    And now you tell us slots are somewhat fluid, more like sliding one last dollar bill from a groove in your wallet, the bill you’d hidden in the secret compartment (slot!) in case you fell on hard times?

    This is good news! All is not lost. There might still be a slot available somewhere. Thanks, Andy!!

  • Richard Mabry

    >Andy,
    Thanks for giving some great advice while making me smile–even before my second cup of coffee. Your explanation of “show vs. tell” is probably one of the best ways I’ve heard it put.
    Rachelle,
    Thanks for bringing us this time with Andy.

  • Krista Phillips

    >Great info! Thanks! Andy, love the humor in your answers:-) It’s fun to get the info and smile at the same time.

    And what’s so bad about reading a phone book?? You get great character name ideas! *grin*

  • Rosslyn Elliott

    >Andy,
    Thanks for your perspective. I esepcially like your take on pre-pubbed author branding. Rachelle, let’s have a contest sometime to come up with the most ridiculous pre-pubbed author tag. LOL!

  • lynnrush

    >Thanks, Andy. Your answers are fun, but honest. I like that.

    Yeah, I’m not so much for phone books. Maybe the dictionary would work….

    Have a great day.

  • Daniel F. Case

    >Thanks, Andy. I like your perspective on author branding. I think the best kind of branding happens organically rather than by force.

    Does your pub board wear eye patches? Arrrr! :)

    D.

  • Ronie Kendig

    >Great questions, Rachelle and Andy. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  • Mary DeMuth

    >Being as how this comes from one of your world’s best writers, I henceforth praise thee thusly:

    There once penned an editor named Andy
    Who frittered away words like candy
    He edited and cut
    as he sat on his ____*
    And said, “Aye, my work it’s just dandy.”

    *removed by censors.

  • Karen Witemeyer

    >Hooray for the semicolon!

  • Jessica

    >This is a cute interview. :-) Thanks.

  • Alison

    >Very helpful insights…thanks, Andy (and Rachelle). I have to say, though, that my favorite part was the bio.
    I like Rosslyn’s idea for a contest. I could unleash my own ridiculous ideas for myself and surely win. =)

  • Matthew C Jones

    >Andy,

    I have to agree with Doc Mabry up there, that’s a great explanation of show vs tell. Thanks!

    Question: You wrote, “Someone somewhere decided to confuse us all by saying that you should always show, never tell. And that’s not true…” In your own writing, when do you like to tell and when do you like to show? Do you find there are particular instances that you tend to write in a “telling” way and others that you most often “show”? (okay, that’s two questions. sorry)

    Thanks for the post, the laughs, and for fostering the belief in all of us that editors can be fun.

    Thanks Rachelle!

  • heather

    >Sounds like branding itself is a situation of show, don’t tell.

  • Lea Ann McCombs

    >Mary, too funny! Have you considered writing a book of limericks?

    Thank you, Andy, for those morsels of information! Good post!

  • Anonymous

    >Andy,
    We’ve met a couple of times at conferences, and I love it when you eyes light up at the mention of your family. blessings for keeping the first things first.
    deb

  • Pam Halter

    >My understanding of filling slots is that the editor must totally fall in love with the manuscript. Then he can champion it with gusto and sell it to the pub board.

    Thanks for the great info, Andy!

  • Avily Jerome

    >Great interview! Thanks!

  • Andy

    >Thanks, everyone.

    Matthew: Telling can be very useful. Think about when you tell a story to a friend over coffee. “So, my brother, right? He’s totally paranoid. Get this–yesterday…” And instead of showing me paranoid, you told it to me, but that’s the only way to make the following story funny or interesting or whatever. Telling is usually reflective of your point of view character.

    Deb, thank you.

  • karen

    >Andy:

    I am so proud of you…

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