This week, meet editor to the birds, Lisa White .
What do you do here at HMH?
I acquire and edit titles in the Peterson Field Guide and Kaufman Field Guide series as well as other general nature books. We’ve started doing field guide apps, so I’ve learned a lot about that area recently, too.
What was your first job in publishing and how has it evolved to what you do today?
My first job in publishing was here at Houghton, in what was then called the School Division, in 1991. (I had been a high school teacher for a couple of years before that, so it was a logical progression.) It was a contract position, and when that ended in 1992, I applied for a newly created position as assistant editor working on field guides and gardening books. I love nature and I love the books I work on, so it was a good fit for me, and I’ve been working on guidebooks ever since.
What was one thing you did today (or this week) that was part of your job that might surprise people?
I played Ping-Pong with some of my authors. (This would fall into the Author Relations catgeory, right?) I spent most of last week at a birding festival in south Texas. A lot of networking happens after the birding!
What’s your approach to office/cubicle decoration?
My walls mostly have bird art that people have given me. My office is not messy, and I prefer the adage “A place for everything and everything in its place” rather than “A neat desk is the sign of an empty mind,” thank you very much.
If you could choose a mandatory HMH book that all employees must read, what would it be and why?
I’d make everyone cook from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I know, it’s not a reading book, but every recipe I’ve ever made from it has been delicious, and if it converts even one person to vegetarianism, my evil plan will be working.
What are your top three book web sites – either author sites, book news, reviews, or whatever?
I use Amazon as a resource many times each day. I remember when we had only Books In Print! In my subject area, the Well-read Naturalist has smart, in-depth book reviews. For personal reading, I use Goodreads a bit for recommendations from friends.
What’s your go-to gift book?
I don’t have a one-size-fits-all gift book.
What’s the one book you’ve never read that you’ve always meant to, or felt that you should?
I somehow haven’t gotten to any Thomas Pynchon, and he seems like a should.
What movie adaptation of a book has really done the story justice and why?
When birders first heard that a movie was being made from the book The Big Year by Mark Obmascik starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, there was collective anxiety. That cast could easily have portrayed birders as dorky goofballs. (The anxiety was not unfounded; there are some dorky birders, though most of them are just plain intense about their passion for birds.) Although the movie bombed at the box office—it wasn’t as funny as you would expect from those three actors—the subject was treated with respect, and it was a sweet story.
Write a haiku about HMH. (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables)
Small boy on dolphin
Telling the world what to read
Hold on tightly, please!