Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nina Ignatowicz

A writing teacher will have a definite influence on the work produced by his/her students. In a similar way, editors impact the professional authors they work with.
I just heard the sad news that my original editor, Nina Ignatowicz, passed away a few days ago. It's impossible to overstate the importance of Nina Ignatowicz to me as a writer. I still remember the first time she called me, out of the blue, after my agent had sent the manuscript of Fig Pudding to her. 
        "These stories are hilarious!" she said, laughing. 
         Nina became my editor. Over the next eight years I worked with her on many books including Fig Pudding, Spider Boy, Flying Solo, Twilight Comes Twice, Hello Harvest Moon, Uncle Daddy, and The Circus Surprise.  I can look back on each one of those books and see how they were improved by Nina’s guiding hand.
The dance between an author and editor is both intimate and intricate. When it’s working well it feels as natural as running water. When it’s not, well, it feels like stomping all over each other’s toes.
Good editors don’t impose their own vision on a writer. Rather, they find a way to step inside the writer’s vision and extend it. Nina Ignatowicz really knew how to do that. She could be generous but also tough when the situation demanded it. Many times she’d make a suggestion, adding: “Why don’t you think about it?” I might initially oppose her idea, but more times than not when I reread the manuscript I'd realize that Nina was right. Over time I came to trust her instincts when it came to my books.   
I always felt that Nina really “got” me as a writer. She had my back. And I know many other writers (my friend Louise Borden, for instance) who would agree with me. A skilled editor is a rare and valuable thing. I treasure Nina Ignatowicz and all she taught me about writing.
Rest in peace, Nina.    


  1. Thank you Ralph for these wonderful words about Nina. We have lost a light on our writing road. Nina was always a friend and an encourager - long after Mary Kay Kroeger and I worked with her on PAPERBOY, illustrated by Ted Lewin. She is still with us - with all whose manuscripts and artwork crossed her busy desk and with the young readers who have read the beautiful books that she published. Nina was so generous with her wise knowing. . .and a great teacher.Over the years, I loved talking with her about the children's book field, and publishing. Nina Ignatowitz was a class act. I am so sad to hear of her passing. . .

    1. Thank you, Louise and Ralph, for posting your personal memories of working with Nina. She was indeed a wonderful person and the best of editors, both tough and supportive. I worked with her at Harper, Clarion, and Holt over a period of almost 40 years. She was one in a million and a great loss to all of us who worked with her.

  2. Well said!
    Of course there's at least one interesting difference between an editor and a writing teacher. A good writing teacher (as Lucy Calkins has famously said) teaches the writer and not just the writing. Editors, on the other hand, are striving to get a stellar product. And yet I can see now that working with Nina (as well as Christy Ottaviano and Dinah Stevenson and many other wonder editors) helped me to hone my craft. Nina was "teaching the writer" in her many writing conferences with me!

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