Look in a Fodor’s Guide

Once, at Key West’s sunset celebration in Mallory Square, I watched a large man somersault through a small hoop. Writing a book is a little like that.

You set out to accumulate as much information as you can and winnow it into a manuscript. Your editor winnows it more. In response, you jam a bunch of new stuff into the book. Then it gets winnowed again. And again.img_0322

Yesterday, the Probably Almost Final Winnowing of Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way arrived back to my laptop via email. This time, it brings notes from the copy editors. Due back at the end of the month. We’re getting close.

It’s a myth about writers that we don’t like editors. We love the good ones. Just as, I’m sure, they love the good writers. A good editor will save your ass twelve times out of ten. A good editor will make sure.

Down in Gainesville, in the University of Florida’s Smathers Libraries there is what’s called the Special Areas Studies Collection. Within it reside the Jimmy Buffett Papers. In a box is a manuscript for Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions. They did final edits differently back in the 1980s. You know, before email.

That photo to the right is a good editor just making sure.

“JB, I can’t find Tulum or the spelling anywhere. Will keep looking,” Buffett’s editor wrote by hand.

“Look in a Fodor’s Guide to Mexico,” Buffett scratched in reply.

Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Waythe story of Buffett, Margaritaville and the eternal search for elsewhere will be available in May from Touchstone.



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