Forward to next post: A Dangerous Time of Year
It’s a central narrative of Britain’s Got Talent: the shy, podgy little contestant comes out on stage and says they want to sing professionally; that they believe it’s what they were made to do. The audience titters cynically: Yeah, right. The judges don’t quite roll their eyes. “Go on, then,” they say. “Let’s hear it.” The contestant takes a deep breath and —
ZOMG, it’s Paul Potts singing “Nessun Dorma”. It’s thirteen-year-old Andrew Johnston singing “Pie Jesu”. Most recently, it’s Susan Boyle, singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. When they open their mouths, what comes out is the real thing: rich, powerful, self-assured music.
And the crowd goes wild! Amanda Holden’s jaw drops. Simon Cowell freezes in place. Piers Morgan goes from looking like a side-figure in “The Calling of Matthew” to an adoringly hopeful “Nativity with Donor”. The audience is transformed. People gape in amazement. Old ladies weep openly into their handkerchiefs. One person stands up, then another, and suddenly the whole audience is on its feet, cheering.
This is exactly what it’s like to be an editor.
Yes, you get cynical, because you see one submission after another that says “Read this, it’s great!” Only it’s not great, it’s anything but great, it’s passable at best; and the passable ones are a tiny fraction of the many, many, many submissions you see. Then one year you open yetanotherenvelope, and ZOMFG it’s the real thing!!! Overcome with joy, you fall over backward and wave your arms and legs in the air in that wholly ravished “Do with me what you will” kind of way. OMG OMG OMG it’s Maureen McHugh, it’s Stephan Zielinski, it’s Jo Walton, it’s wonder beyond reckoning. It’s the real thing. It’s what you live for.
The audience of Britain’s Got Talent reacts as they do because they’re human. So do editors.
(The above is translated and expanded from a rant Patrick ranted earlier this evening. He spoke it first, but I recognize its central truth as one I also know. So does every other editor I work with; and all the good agents, too.)