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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Dealing with the editor,
by Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I am meeting the editor of my major, academic, book for the first time. What do I say? What do I do? Help me!!!

Anon female writer

Dear Anon female,

Repeat after me: 'I am not on trial for my life. This is supposed to be enjoyable.' 95 times a day.

You will be fine. If she didn't want to see you, she'd have cancelled the meeting, or not invited you at all.

The kind of questions you need to be willing to ask (and it might seem weird in fact if you DIDN'T ask) are:

How's the timing going?
When will the book be out?

Everything else is optional:

how is she?
How is her family?
What's her life like?
How frantically busy is she? (editors love this one)

Try to get HER to do the talking; editors love talking; this is why I have such an enviable reputation for tact (I just let them rabbit on and on about their boring selves!!!!! -- and keep my yawns hidden).

You're just there to make an impression as a good listener (she already knows you are a great thinker ...)
Anon female writer

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I am going quietly mad. I am sitting in an orchestra where the concertmaster gets a concerto every year. Now I turn this guy's pages and play about twenty times better than he does. Every year (around this time) I think I'm going crazy. What can I do to cope with this? I am completely undermined by this jerk -- and yet I'm the one who drags him through the concerts!

Fed-up in USA

Dear Fed-up,

(First, a note to UK and other international readers: for 'concertmaster' please read 'leader' -- or main violinist -- or, in this case, 'jerk' ...)

This is a testing experience (though a pretty common one) all around the world. It's often written into leaders' contracts that they get, if not a concerto per year, at least X many solos etc. Nobody gets more irritated by this than the assistant leader (unless it's the principal cello) ...

First, I'm sure you're not alone in inwardly groaning every time this happens. Behind you (I promise you) are at least ten first violins, at least eight of whom share your frustration completely. However, this does not mean that you should foment riots. On the contrary, your job is to support your leader, albeit through gritted teeth.

This is all you can do, unless you wish to gain an unenviable reputation as a jealous bitch (or bastard), and queer your pitch for his job once he goes to his reward:

  1. You damn with faint praise. When M says to N: 'What a waste of time! Why can't we hire the young stud who just won the Tchaikovsky violin concerto instead?', you say, 'Oh, I'm sure we're not up to THAT standard.'
  2. You refuse to condemn. When T comes up and slyly says, 'Hey, Miranda! Bet you wish YOU were doing the Beethoven concerto instead of him!' you smile sweetly and say, 'Oh, no. MY nerve isn't up to it.'
  3. You ignore attempts to get you to say something reportable. When the stirrer in the violas says, 'I can't believe how patient you are with all this', you give him or her a meaning smile rather than an explosive expletive.

Remember, your leader may still have some influence -- and (even if he doesn't; even if EVERYONE feels as annoyed as you) it's not becoming to seem to be pushing him aside in your favor. Your silence and meritorious performing will do that for you, amply.

Meanwhile, have faith and keep practising. Your time will come.

Copyright © 23 February 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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