Book-related activities are, by nature, solitary. I remember when the fifth Harry Potter book was released, my sister and I both attended the midnight release, and ambitiously thought we could buy one copy of the book and read it together. That didn't work out because I -- risking my sister's wrath -- continued to read instead of stopping like I was supposed to when she took bathroom breaks or eating breaks (I am not sure I took any breaks; I was committed ... in more than one way :D?). Still, I am not sure she'll ever forgive me for my teary-eyed self which gave away (spoiler alert) a significant death at the end of the book.
Editing isn't very different. Sure, I discuss my editorial thoughts with one of my interns after both of us have reviewed a manuscript, and that's interactive. But we still arrive at those initial thoughts first and foremost in a solitary, independent manner.
And yet, while book-related activities are solitary, I also love any opportunity to talk to people about writing, editing, the industry, great books they have read, etc. That's one of the reasons I have found the Ripe Stone Poetry Collective -- my poetry critique group -- such a wonderful addition to my life. We meet bi-weekly to critique each other's poems, but lately we have expanded our territory.
This past week, instead of our usual workshop-style activities, we brought one copy of short prose pieces (short stories or essays) to our meeting. We put them at the center of the table and each of us grabbed a story and started editing/reviewing. And then when we were done, we placed it back in the center for someone else to grab. The seven of us spent an hour in companionable silence editing stories. We all had different colored or types of pens, so our notes could easily be distinguished. But in the end, the stories were a palimpsest (of sorts) of editorial notes. When we were done, we went in a circle and the writer had the opportunity to ask any questions regarding the comments.
Obviously, the opportunity to get so many different thoughts at the same time on one piece -- also the chance for readers to respond to previous comments in agreement or disagreement -- is really valuable. But I think even more exciting, and more nourishing, was the companionable silence. The being there with people whose passion aligned with mine and having a community. The community aspect, I think, is what makes the publishing industry so cohesive, so unique, and so desirable. And of course writing communities crop up everywhere, along with book clubs. Despite being such solitary activities, editing, writing, and reading are about communication as much as introspection.