A benevolent machete: Four Questions with Maria Carrillo

Interviews
Maria Carrillo

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an editor?

Listen much more than you talk.

What’s been the biggest surprise of your writing life?

How many jobs are actually rolled into this one: teacher, coach, counselor, therapist.

If you had to use a metaphor to describe yourself as an editor, what would it be?

I  really struggled with this, so I asked my three reporters.

Here’s what I got back.

One said:  “How ‘bout a benevolent machete, cutting away the stuff we don’t know we don’t need. And at least part therapist.”

Another: Mary Poppins: Fun, firm, kind, punctual, polite, collaborative, innovative … able to wrangle naughty children (and their parents) and make them want to please you … administering spoons full of sugar with each bitter dose of medicine … with all kinds of tricks in your bag

The third: My brain headed to plants for some reason. I feel like you nourish us to grow, making the conditions best so the most beautiful plants can flourish. You trim us exactly how we need it and give us darkness or sunlight depending on how we are doing. You fertilize us with a great writing road map, clearing away the overgrowth so we can stand straight up.  Reporters can grow awful healthy under those conditions.

What’s the single best piece of editing advice anyone ever gave you?

A lot of things raced through my head thinking about this question, but I think the advice that has stayed with me the most wasn’t specifically about editing— in terms of handling copy — but about managing people and it came from Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maria Carrillo is senior deputy editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, where she oversees a team of reporters and works with journalists across the newsroom on ambitious stories. She was previously enterprise editor at the Houston Chronicle and, before that, managing editor at The Virginian-Pilot. She has edited dozens of award-winnings projects, frequently lectures on narrative journalism, co-hosts a weekly podcast (WriteLane) about storytelling and has been a Pulitzer Prize juror five times. She was born in Washington, D.C., two years after her parents left Cuba in exile. She now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., with her husband, and they have two grown children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

seven + two =