By Tim Ljunggren
it's the ready-made structure that plays such a crucial role
in nonfiction writing, "If you're working on a chronicle
of some sort there's a natural arc you can follow: time."
Stephen Power says that much of his personality was shaped
by listening to the album The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters.
Power's wit and intelligence are unmistakable.
As a senior editor at John Wiley & Sons, Power puts that
wit and intelligence to work every day-and he never stops being
"When I read a book, I invariably think about what I would
have suggested to the author that takes something in a different
direction at some point. I can't look at a bookstore the way
I used to, which is a shame. And everything is a potential book
Power believes that nonfiction writing, which is his editorial
forte, is a different animal from fiction writing. "Nonfiction
is easier to structure because all the pieces are there to see
and you can arrange them however you feel is most effective"
Power points out that it's the ready-made structure that plays
such a crucial role in nonfiction writing. "If you're working
on a chronicle of some sort there's a natural arc you can follow:
time. It's easier to see where the holes in the story are and
how they can be filled-hopefully-through research. And if you're
stuck, some research in a new direction could help you out.
Sure, fiction, whether literary or genre, relies on considerable
research, experience and background material the reader never
sees. But the writing relies so much more on nuance and carefully
woven threads of plot that it's tougher to manipulate and easier
to get lost going in wrong directions. Nonfiction is not easy,
but fiction is tougher, I think."
In getting ideas to paper and books to print, Power relies
on several role models to help him with his editorial decisions.
"As an editor, my old boss Mike Greenstein gave me my best
bit of negotiating advice, 'Always be ready to walk away from
a deal.' George Gibson at Walker is another role model, because
he does great books that look good and sell well. And my number-conscious
sales rep friends who keep the idea-loving editor in me honest:
a book can't just be well written, it can't just be a good idea.
There have to be quantifiable reasons sales can use to sell
it into bookstores."
At the same time, Power believes that a writer's finest impulses
are marketable. "To generalize Art Buchwald's assessment
of Gary Trudeau, an author doesn't have to sell out to sell
Power doesn't have many regrets so far in his career, other
than "the ones that got away and worked as well as I thought
they would." There was Tuesdays with Morrie, when
he was under-bidden by a dime. There was also Flags of Our
Fathers-in that instance, Power was under-bidden by a dime
and a nickel. Then there was Rocket Boys: "got
the manuscript on Monday afternoon, offered on Tuesday morning,
got outbid by the end of the week." Power also opted on
The Millionaire Next Door, and bid long before everyone
else, but was eventually outbid again. "At least I lost
that one by nearly a million dollars," he says.
And what's the worst piece of advice that Power ever gave to
"This isn't so much a piece of advice as an occupational
hazard: I had a fun little book of wisdom and inspiration based
on the life of Ben Franklin and I edited all the spirit out
of it trying to make it read better. The read wasn't the point.
The spirit was, and I messed it up," he says.
The company was founded in 1807, during the Jefferson presidency.
In the early years, Wiley was best known for the works of Washington
Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and other 19th century
American literary giants. By the turn of the century, Wiley
was established as a leading publisher of scientific and technical
information. The company went public in 1962 and was listed
on the NYSE in 1995.
is a father, a husband, a son, an Episcopal priest, and a writer.
He founded and publishes the e-zine insolent rudder, known for
outstanding flash fiction. Tim believes in the power of creativity
to change people's lives, and he believes in the importance
of finding one's voice. He leads creativity seminars in order
to encourage others to purse their creative dreams. Tim's ability
to transcend linear space and time is legendary. This year,
he is moving in a linear direction to Montana to teach and write.
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