Vivian Dudro is Senior Editor at Ignatius Press (which publishes CWR). Over the last 35 years, she has written news articles, book reviews, and columns for various Catholic media, including the National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, and Catholic San Francisco. She has been interviewed on radio and television programs, both Catholic and secular, about a variety of literary and religious topics. Vivian and her husband live in San Francisco and are the parents of four grown children.
CWR: How would you describe your work?
Vivian Dudro: In my capacity as a developmental editor, I see myself as a kind of labor and delivery nurse. An author with a message he is trying to communicate is giving birth to something; and since the process can be long and painful, he sometimes needs coaching and encouragement. When I am minding titles that don’t need heavy editing, I am more like a sheepdog that nips at the work done by others while herding them toward their deadlines.
CWR: How did you end up working as an editor at Ignatius Press?
Dudro: With a background in journalism, I had been working on and off as a freelance writer for mostly Catholic publications. When an editor of mine referred me to Father Fessio, he hired not only me as an editor but also my husband as an accountant.
CWR: In regard to each book project, how long does it take from submission through to completion?
Dudro: The production process varies considerably from book to book.
CWR: How would you sum up the relationship between editor and author?
Dudro: See the answer to question 1.
CWR: When and where do you work—is there a set routine?
Dudro: In this age of the laptop and the Internet, I can edit a digital file from almost anywhere. For a variety of reasons, however, I work mostly at the San Francisco headquarters of Ignatius Press during regular business hours. In some important ways we function as a community—we pray together, eat some meals in common, and truly look out for one another. We have a very collaborative production process with regard to the works we decide to publish, the contents of certain books, the covers, and so on. There really is such a thing as synergy, and ours is the result of our regular interaction with each other.
CWR: What are the characteristics of a good submission?
Dudro: In a work of nonfiction, I look for clear, concise, and well-organized writing about a topic that interests me. The proper use and attribution of sources is also very important. In fiction, I look for believable, sympathetic characters; a plausible, attention-getting plot; and not simply clear writing but beautiful, show-me-don’t-tell-me writing.
CWR: Does “writer’s block” exist?
Dudro: Writing is work—the hard work of thinking or imagining with words. Are there times when one feels uninspired or unmotivated to write? Yes, but the remedy is to begin anyway. Words have a way of showing up when they are invited.
CWR: How much, if at all, does other media—books, music, art—feed your creative process?
Dudro: Reading good writing is one of the best ways for editors (and writers) to feed their talents. Every morning I try to read from the Scriptures and the works of spiritual giants. At night before I go to sleep, I usually read from a great book—usually something by an author in the Western canon, but sometimes something new that someone I trust has recommended. I also regularly patronize the arts by going to museums, concerts, operas, and plays—one of the benefits of living in a city like San Francisco. There is also a lot of natural beauty here, and I love to take walks and hikes. I have no doubt that my archive of aesthetic experiences positively influences the way I use words and help others to use them.
CWR: Who are your favorite authors?
Dudro: I dare not pick favorites from among our own living authors. Besides, all of them are fantastic! Three of my favorite (and dead) 20th-century fiction writers are Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, and Sigrid Undset.
CWR: What books would you recommend?
Dudro: The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk is a classic guide to good writing. Here at Ignatius Press we mostly follow The Chicago Manual of Style.
CWR: How do you understand your work in terms of vocation?
Dudro: My work is related to my calling to spread the good news of salvation in Christ, and not simply because our books deal with matters of Christian faith. Helping an author to choose his words and to organize his thoughts so that his message rings clear and true leads people to God, the Author of reality itself.
CWR: If being an editor has taught you anything, what is it?
Dudro: Less is often more.