Nuts & Bolts: If You Can Read This, Thank an Editor

I’m often introduced to people as the editor of Classic Motorsports. Truth be told, if I were the editor, we would have been long out of business. You see, by strict definition, an editor edits what other people write. And I am about as close to being an editor as the stroke victim is to being a brain surgeon.

“Wait a minute,” you may be saying, “if you’re not the editor, then why do you have this column?” That’s a good question. I guess it started when we first got into the magazine business. My wife and I became publishers with no other staff save a single, part-time layout artist, and the task fell to me to write the opening column. I have been writing them now for nearly 30 years.

A lot of people have asked me if I ever run out of things to write about, but the honest answer is no. I am fortunate because I’m constantly coming across the interesting person, situation, event or moment in the garage that gives me something cool to write about, so there is no shortage of raw material.

The key word here is raw because what I produce is not quite ready to go into print. That’s where an editor’s talent comes in. My rough copy goes into the hands of a copy editor, the person who actually smooths out my ham-fisted grammar and makes sure I’m really saying what I think I’m saying. This is a fairly thankless job: While the writers are out having fun testing, traveling, and driving all these cool cars, the copy editors sit at their desks and try to make something readable out of the mess (especially if it comes from me) that they are given.

There are other kinds of editors, too. There are managing editors to help coordinate the workflow between the copy editors and the writers as well as manage the freelance writers’ assignments. There are also technical editors, who in reality should more accurately be termed technical writers. And then there are the editorial directors, who manage the overall editorial flow and feel of a publication. (Every real publication has a style guide, an editorial plan and an editorial calendar; there actually is a real method to the madness.)

The mark of a good editor is when you enjoy what you’re reading so much that you never even realize someone has messed with it. So the better the editor, the more invisible he or she is.

My wife and partner, Margie, was our original editor. She is one of the best copy editors I have ever met. She is a voracious reader and a gifted writer, but she is an incredible copy editor. Her knowledge of the English language is hard to beat; whenever I ask her what a word means or how to spell something, she knows the answer. Seriously, in almost 30 years, I don’t think I’ve ever stumped her—but then again, as I have admitted, it’s not a very even match.

David Wallens is our editorial director. As publisher I am in the background coming up with story ideas, micromanaging and second-guessing, but it’s David who actually gets both of our publications and our contract publishing work out on time while I waltz around the country playing the bigwig. I’m always surprised that people never wonder how we produce all our issues while I’m busy racing, rallying and talking cars with the beautiful people at Scottsdale, Amelia Island and Monterey. The answer, of course, is David. I know I make him crazy, but he constantly works to produce ever-better magazines while putting up with me and my craziness—not to mention my tendency to miss nearly every deadline.

Editing apparently runs in our family, as our niece, Sarah Young, is one of our key copy editors. She’s actually a triple threat, as Sarah is also taking over a lot of the writing as well as layout and design. She is rock solid and one of the best people we have ever had on staff.

Our art director, J.G. Pasterjak, is not technically an editor, but he’s probably our best writer. He is not only a true car guy who has been here for 23 years, he is also a funny, funny guy. As Sarah takes over more of the layout duties, it is freeing J.G. to write a bit more for us, especially for our sister magazine, Grassroots Motorsports.

Our newer members of the editorial team are Alan Cesar and Jane Soliman. Alan is another car guy, while Jane is another word nerd; you need both to produce a quality magazine. As I write this, Alan is at an SCCA school getting his road racing license, while Jane is probably still recovering from our taking her out in public this past weekend at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Both are quickly finding their places on the team, and we’re getting to know them thanks to some project car work nights where they’ve both been super cool to hang out with.

Our youngest team member is our son, Tom. He has been shooting photos for us since he was a young teenager, but he’s now working part-time while he attends college. He’s been managing a project car and writing features for Grassroots Motorsports. He loves everything about this life and has pledged his desire to drink the Kool-Aid and become a lifer when he graduates from college in a few years. Margie and I are both very excited and a bit nervous, as we know how hard this business can be and how long the hours are.

I guess all this explaining has created a question: If I’m not an editor, what am I? I guess it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m the circulation marketer. Sometimes I share CFO duties with Margie and pore over spreadsheets to see how we’re doing this year compared to last year (very well, by the way). Sometimes I sell ads, put sponsorship deals together and make sure we fulfill what we promise. My official title is publisher, but as is typical of most small business owners, I do what I have to do to keep things rolling smoothly.

Lately I have been sporting a new job title, though. I have become the tech editor for this publication. Honestly, I’m happiest when I’m in the garage. I have always been a puzzle builder, so I just love taking cars apart and putting them back together. As a result of my latest “promotion,” we have revamped the tech section of this magazine in an effort to get a bit more of what goes on in our garage and in our car-crazy lives onto the pages of this publication.

Please let me know what you think. Have you noticed the changes? Do you like where we are going with this section? Do you have any ideas? I would love to hear it—good or bad—and I promise I will answer every email. Drop me a line at tim@classicmotorsports.net—and if I don’t like what you say about my work, I can always blame it on the copy editor.

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