Why the Observer's Table?

Why the Observer's Table?

Origin of the Observer's Table Editing Services

Awhile ago, a friend and client asked about the origin of the name for the Observer's Table Editing services. And when I told her the story, her only question was why have I never known this?

I started editing on on the side in grad school. I really needed a creative outlet, and a blogger I had never met was looking to grow her team of writers as her blog grew. I didn't have time (or the mental space) to commit writing, so I asked if Kasey Shuler was interested in an editor. And she was. And that was my start.

The key piece here, is grad school. I was reading all the time, and even though I was in an English program, my love of food, culture, and people from my anthropology undergrad was never far away. 

Ruth Behar, anthropologist, storyteller, and writer

When I was assigned Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza's Story in undergrad, I expected another dry and theory stuffed ethnography. Instead, I was lost in a story not my own. What I didn't understand when I first read Translated Woman was that I, much like Ruth Behar, needed to restore my faith in the power of words, written and spoken. Kasey's writing was piece on the wy to rediscovering my love of words, not just ideas. And, as with any avid reader, I kept reading Ruth Behar's work. 

Writing is a vulnerable business

And so, after graduate school, after teaching, I decided to start freelancing. I needed a name. My latest book choice was Ruth Behar's anthology, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart. In the essay the book is named for, Behar talks about the expectations and emotions of sharing something you put yourself into. And all I could think of was how terrifying it was to share my thesis drafts, a work of so many hours, with my committee and colleagues. But, as much time as I put into creating and writing my thesis, it wasn't writing I HAD to write. It wasn't a burning need to put words to the page or the result of a not-so-quiet voice calling me to share. 

We anthropologists—merely poor relatives of Pablo Neruda—leave behind our own trail of longings, desires, and unfulfilled expectations in those upon whom we descend. About that vulnerability we are still barely able to speak.
— Ruth Behar, The Vulnerable Observer


I firmly believe that editing can and should be done in way that honors that vulnerability and work that goes into writing. I have been the recipient of kind, but major edits. You deserve the same.

Editing as a conversation

You might think editing will look like getting a manuscript, web content, or newsletter back covered in scary red markings, with stern queries (editor speak for questions) asking pointed questions. Editing doesn't have to work that way. When kindness comes first, editing is a conversation. Yes, you might get a draft with significant track changes, but final changes are always up to you, because a good finished product sounds like the most clear version of you. The queries are friendly and polite, and invite context, for better rewrites and clarifications. And, with me, expect some feedback about what I loved or what stood out or what I learned. 

And of course, the best conversations happen between friends around the table.

The Observer's Table

My business name is a promise to you. I promise to respect the vulnerability of the act of writing (don't underestimate how scary it is to launch a website; it might be business, but it still feels personal). And I promise a conversation, and not just a red markup. 

Ruth Behar Observer's Table Writing Editing
Things I Look Up When I'm Editing - Volume I

Things I Look Up When I'm Editing - Volume I