Editor Series: David Bennett on the impact of storytelling
This year I’m starting an occasional series of interviews with editors. I’ve had the privilege of knowing, writing for, and learning from many fantastic editors in my writing career. In my view, good writers are good because they have good editors. Today I interview David Bennett.
My friend David is a terrific editor. He serves at Lifeway Christian Resources as managing editor of Homelife, where I’m privileged to write a monthly column. I’ve been working with David for many years and am grateful for the way he’s sharpened my writing.
Dan Darling: Let’s talk about your calling. Has writing and editing been a lifetime pursuit or something you picked up late in life? And if so, what first interested in you in words?
David Bennett: I’ve always loved stories. From my earliest preschool memories, I spent a great deal of time spread out on the floor of my family’s living room illustrating and writing. I could have gone either way, but writing began to consume me.
DD: We live in an age when anyone can be published instantly via social media, personal blogs, book reviews, etc. Explain, then the value, of a good editor?
DB: The role of editor is more than proof reading. Editors can help writers tell their stories or get a message across more effectively. They also provide accountability, which is necessary for many creative types. In the end, everything is about relationships. The writer-editor relationship can provide friendship, encouragement, and challenge.
DD: Is there a distinctly “Christian” way you do your work? In other words, does your personal theology affect the practice of writing and editing?
DB: Although I often fail miserably at it, Christ’s compassion motivates much of what I do. The work I do does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but I find myself more and more giving someone “that chance.” I am aware of the truth that my ideas, relationships, and work should honor God. Working with faith-based publications can either keep me focused on my relationship with Jesus or give me a pass on my personal time with God … I mean, after all, I encounter God’s Word everyday, all day as I work as an editor, so do I really need to take time to spend time alone with my Father? (Yes, I do.)
DD: When you are making decisions about content to publish, how are you evaluating the writer, the piece, and the publication?
DB: Trustworthy content is the key. Conservative evangelical is the message. More than ever before, I go to social media to prayerfully consider if a prospective writer is (intentionally or unintentionally) distracting from God’s message of grace, love, and forgiveness. Once printed, the smallest distraction can turn into a huge ordeal. I feel like I need to be a good keeper of the Word.
DD: Who are some of the formative writing influences that have shaped the way you go about your work?
DB: The piece I am editing at the time teaches and influences me. At one time it was curriculum. Then it was short-term studies. Now it’s magazines and devotionals. Each format is unique. My favorite writers don’t seem to impact the work I do. I seem to have formative writers that have shaped who I am and then other influences that inform what I do. Writers —mostly classic and “dead poets” — make me who I am. Unnamed processes guide the actual work I do.
DD: What is one piece of advice you would like to give aspiring writers as they seek to get published?
DB: Your work will be rejected, but don’t take it personally. You aren’t being rejected. There are many ways to get your message out. Don’t just shoot for the big publishers. And whatever you do, hit your deadlines.
Previous posts in the Editor Series: