You stretch, You grow!
A lot of folks have asked me how I wrote a book with 3 kids and a full-time job. I did not do it all. Instead, I had the support of my husband, my publisher, the women in the book and most importantly my editor Pm Weizenbaum. Here is her journey in her own words!
Biosketch: Pm Weizenbaum is a content editor in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Having lived with computer programmers throughout her life, she is an expert in translating tech-speak into language that readers can easily act on. She has performed both technical and marketing editing for MIT, Amazon, more than 15 groups at Microso), dozens of projects for the Gates Foundation, and many other corporations both local and global. Her philosophy is: You mean everything you say – she helps you say exactly what you mean.
Mid-September 2017 brought me an inquiry from an author of a manuscript about women, tech, and leadership. She had already worked through at least three rounds of editing on the stories of more than 20 women leaders, and she was nearly ready to publish on her own. But it just didn’t feel ready, she told me; something about the transitions within her interview format just didn’t speak. This information alone told me that here was a woman determined to see her vision in print, yet equally determined to deliver the best product possible. I was intrigued enough to phone back, meet Pratima, and hear more. Although her three-week time frame sounded optimistic, the topic resonated with my own several decades as an editor in the high-tech world. My excitement began to build as I hoped this new author would want to see what I might contribute.
Luckily for both Pratima and myself, I had an upcoming window of time open for the short project that she envisioned. Better yet, we responded warmly to each other and felt we’d collaborate well. To let her get to know my style and what I could offer, Pratima had me review her introduction and one chapter; I was to return an evaluation along with a few pages of copyedits to show the types of changes I would advise.
By the time Pratima had read through my suggestions for her introduction and one chapter, each of us had realized two things. My edits would add significant value to her book; however, the original time frame would be too restrictive for making comprehensive changes in the necessary flow. We were at a crossroads. Pratima felt comfortable enough to take a brave step: she postponed the publication schedule so all chapters could receive what Pratima began calling “the Pm treatment.”
This step was not just brave; it was expensive for her. We leapt from a project we’d initially estimated as six chapters plus the introduction at a “light touch” of four hours each (28 hours), to each of the chapters taking at least double that length. Once Pratima saw the improvements in writing flow, she commissioned me to do a few more of her original 24 chapters, and then a few more. In the end, all chapters got the Pm treatment. Nevertheless, She Persisted kept me busy for over three months.
The chapters worked on me as I worked on them. Pratima had strived to capture the important elements of the women’s personal narratives as a way of inspiring other women to set higher expectations for themselves. I didn’t realize it when I took the project, but delving into the stories would be transformative for me as well. The vividness of some women’s stories unspooled in my mind like films. I could envision Orna Berryman struggling to protect her toddler in the middle of a possible SCUD missile gas attack in Israel.
I could observe Pam Kostka and Lily Chang having to ignore “dragon lady” epithets while walking the halls of their companies. I could imagine how it felt to be the only girl or young woman sitting in STEM classes. I could relish watching formative experiences of young girls as they absorbed positive messages from their parents, each other, or a teacher that had affected the entire trajectory of their careers.
The narratives in Nevertheless, She Persisted began calling up stories from my own life, most of them painful: opportunities missed by my parents for encouragement; classmates teasing me for being too smart, or excluding me for being a girl; no mentoring from anyone to choose any form of career. I hadn’t thought about any of those very personal experiences through the lens of sexism before. Because I had minored in feminist studies in college, I felt this irony keenly as I edited, and I found myself grieving for the girl I had been.
I also discovered that working on this book gave me an unexpected boost of professional confidence. My favorite aspect of the chapters was the positive advice offered by women who have made successes of their journeys. Through their accomplishments, I was able to realize and value some that I’ve achieved. The mentoring I’ve given to editors along the way took on a new impact. And I made use of several negotiating tips when I myself interviewed for a new position just a few months ago. The most valuable perspective I gained was offered by Erica Lockheimer, acknowledging the positive aspect of imposter syndrome: “When you are on that edge of self-doubt, you stretch, you grow, and you have the opportunity to improve in that moment.” Editing this book helped me to stretch my skills and my sense of self-worth, for which I thank Pratima!
Wow, Pm, great Blog entry! You should do more of these. If for no other reason than for me to learn something about you I didn’t know before, even as your sister. But also because your story is also inspiring. And I’m sure that would be true for other readers as well. Also, great photo. You’re looking most excellent.
And Pratima, congratulations on your book. It sounds like a much needed and incredibly timely contribution. I look forward to reading it. And I’m so glad you connected with my sister. It means a lot to me that you not only appreciated her skills, but also that you let her know that. Best of luck with all your endeavors,