Thursday 27 September 2012

Jo Christian

Jo Christian is retiring today. She taught me everything I know about editing books, and has been a constant source of inspiration for the last twelve years or so. She's one of those REMARKABLE PEOPLE – of whom you will probably only meet a small number in your life – whose attitude to life and attitude to their craft seamlessly merge. It will certainly be a lot duller around the office without her.

I wrote this for her leaving card:

Great editors represent one of the marvels and strengths of publishing, yet they remain a rare breed. Jo Christian is timeless. She has been here since the early days, after a varied career at Vogue and as Stanley Kubrick’s researcher-cum-governess. Now, her tattered address book is crammed with every great gardener and garden writer in the country, including Penelope Hobhouse, Rosemary Verey, Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, as well as some unusual marquesses and duchesses. 
She refers to almost all of these by a well-chosen nickname, often accompanied by an impish twinkle in her eye and some whispered morsel of gossip, because she is young at heart, a breath of fresh air in a stuffy office, making even Torriano Mews seem like an elegant address. And her youthful passion is infectious. 
Jo Christian operates in a timezone all to herself. Her work day begins on the stroke of 9.53am, when she arrives clutching a Mr Coffee large latte ‘with a Jo twist’ or a hot cross bun from Crusty Bloomers, but she works often late into the night. She takes no short-cuts, either with books or with authors. Her relationships with both are deep; she is meticulous and chaotic.
She not only has her own clock, but her own calendar. She squeezes every production schedule until it squeaks, conjuring extra days like rabbits from a hat in order to put the maximum crafted care into every page. Inexplicably, bound books arrive on her desk seemingly only a few days after she has tweaked the jacket copy for the umpteenth time.
Whether at work or play, there will never be another Jo Christian: generous, patient, funny, pragmatic, mischievous, gracious: the editor par excellence.

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