It's strange how people affect us, impact upon our lives and leave some kind of indelible impression. And, I'm not referring to the people we've known the longest or the most intimately. Sometimes, more than we might realise at the time, these individuals are people we've met only a few times or, in some cases, only once.
I was reminded about this just a week ago when I checked my email and found one from Twitter. I get these often, as I'm sure many of you who have a Twitter account do. It's an email suggesting people for me to follow; the suggestions generated by some program that analyses trends, hashtags, followers, those who follow you, etc. Well, one of the suggestions was MHM Editorial Services (@mhmedits). It'd been a while - probably a year or so - since I'd last thought about MHM but I recognised the name immediately and my initial thought was "Don't I already follow this account?" So, I logged into my Twitter account and checked it out and, just as I suspected, I already follow @mhmedits. I further learnt, however, that MHM's account is no longer active due to the death of its account holder. Likewise, MHM Editorial Services is no longer operating.
Upon discovering this, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut and slapped in the face. MHM Editorial was an editing business run by Monica Harris. I met her at the 2009 Book Expo America and a few months later we met at the lobby of a New York hotel where my sister-in-law and her husband were staying. My wife came into New York with me. She had breakfast with my in-laws and I had a meeting with Monica.
A few weeks before our meeting, I'd emailed Monica the first ten pages of my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises. She was more of a content editor versus a line editor but she did offer suggestions in syntax and caught some typos as she made useful comments on the various red flags she found in the book's plot, character motivation and dialogue. As most editors do in this kind of situation, Monica went through these pages for free. To edit more would've required a proper business arrangement which, after considering my self-publishing budget, I could not pursue. In spite of this, Monica more than welcomed my emails that were full of general questions on publishing. She also, even months after our meeting, willingly accepted and promptly answered my questions asking for further clarification of the comments she'd made on the pages she'd read. To me, this showed a true dedication on her part of being a writer's editor; being more concerned about the writer creating the best work he or she can produce and understanding what he or she needs to do than performing quality editorial services and writer support just for a buck.
As insightful as Monica was with my manuscript, she was also ahead of the curve when it came to self-publishing. In the last ten years or so, independently publishing one's own work has grown and become less taboo. Anticipating the growth of indie published books, Monica specialised in serving the independent author, leaving her editing posts at traditional publishing houses and forming MHM Editorial.
I didn't know Monica very well, at all. I only met her once. But, the integrity in her approach to my work and the dignity she offered me as a green first-time author, has left a lasting impression on me; so much so that, when I found out she'd died, tears pooled at the bottom of my eyes. I felt like a friend had died, albeit one with whom I'd lost touch.
I'm an indie author hoping to break into the mainstream with an agent and a traditional publishing house. Thanks to Monica, I'm less ignorant about the entire process and I feel more secure about my work and vision being my work and vision. For that, I thank her. And, whether you're an indie or a traditionally published author, I hope your editors possess the character and love of her craft the way Monica did.
RIP Monica Harris. The publishing world, especially that of the indie author, misses you deeply.