Developmental & Copyeditor
When education activist Abe Feinberg first contacted me, he had an extensive manuscript and an idea about the book he wanted to publish, but he was at a loss for how to make it happen.
The book, which we ultimately titled Every Child Left Behind: Public Ignorance is the School Administration's Best Friend, began with his childhood and indecisive early adulthood, detailed his attempts to practice individualized learning as a public school teacher in several toxic administrative environments, and led to his favorable settlement of a wrongful termination suit that almost went to the state supreme court. After retiring from teaching, Abe spent years documenting chronic administrative mismanagement in the school district of the city where he now lived, presented here as evidence of the thinking against which he'd struggled throughout his teaching career. These many sheets of paper were accompanied by a scrapbook's worth of clippings and artifacts to support both his personal story and his case study.
What's the best way to present a work that combines personal memoir, impassioned polemic, and exhaustively documented case study?
With the understanding that any life story can be an adventure if the narrator is willing to bring it alive, I helped Abe identify and strengthen the themes that ran through this work. I brought out the drama, humor, and unique details that he implied on the page or explained in our conversations. I organized his storytelling so that each chapter embraced a discrete set of events, led to a clear takeaway of his message, or provided the reader with a springboard to the next part of the story. I steered him from passive to active voice, and whenever possible, I used humor and objectivity to temper his justifiable anger at the stupidity and hostility that he faced.
Organizing the case study was much easier, although the main challenge here was couching the statistics and examples in engaging language that helped the reader flow from point to point. It helped to keep the story behind this data at the forefront. A major urban school district was squandering its resources, treating its teachers unfairly, and worst of all, ignoring the needs of its underserved student population. It was clear to Abe, and I wanted to make sure it would also be clear to the reader, that any kind of institutional reform starts from understanding and working with the facts.
I also helped him consider some of his book design options, such as how he might best use the supporting material that he'd collected over the years, and shared some of my own perspectives on self-publishing to give him a context for his decisions.
On his acknowledgments page, Abe kindly wrote, "I am particularly indebted to Alan Lipton who did a masterful job of all phases of editing. Not only did he arrange sentences and maneuver paragraphs into a more readable order, but his organizational skills and thorough editing talents were invaluable in the entire process."
The customer reviews on Amazon illustrate this book's impact on its readers, which I find extremely gratifying.