In the mid-1930’s, in her twenties, Charlotte started as a stenographer at Harper and Brothers. By the time she retired, in the 1990’s, she’d been an assistant editor, an editor, a publisher with her own imprint, a vice-president, consultant and editor emeritus for HarperCollins. She published hundreds of books by dozens of authors, to whom she remains legendary.
Many won awards, like
Paul’s words on Charlotte the editor:
“Editors peer through both hand lens and telescope, helping shape their authors’ sentences as well as their entire careers. In both sorts of seeing, Charlotte’s vision was acute.
“On the sentence level, she was the least intrusive of editors. Her occasional comments in the margin were soft-voiced and subjunctive, not imperative, yet as deftly placed as an acupuncturist’s needles. In the Socratic manner, she posed questions and left you to answer them, never rewriting your words. Her respect for her authors precluded that; her authors gave her their love and respect in return. Future editors should study her marginalia with the care rabbinical students give the Torah.
“In matters of larger scope, she was an astounding discoverer of talent. Once she’d found you, she didn’t rewrite you any more than she did your sentences. Ideas for books weren’t thrust upon you. The latest trends in publishing were never bandied about. Charlotte operated on the theory that the best book you had inside you was the one you most wished to write, no matter what happened to be selling at the moment. Perhaps no other editor would have accepted my two-voiced poems. Sincerity and quality were her bottom line; awards and a glittering backlist followed.
“It wasn’t that she was lucky. She made her choices on the basis of respect — for her authors and the glory of the word. I’m not alone in missing the sight of her penmanship and those magical words, ‘Welcome to the list.’ “