Tim Knight is a brilliant writer.
He’s an Emmy-winning documentary-maker.
And writing coach.
Luckily for me, he’s also an excellent editor.
I know this because he taught me to write for television and edited many of my stories.
And because when I came up with the crazy idea of producing a book — at the worst time in my life — Tim calmly agreed to be my editor.
It was not a job for the faint of heart.
I first met Tim just before my graduation from journalism school. Tim Knight, head of TV Journalism Training for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was already a legend. He interviewed me for the best job a TV Journalism graduate could land: an apprenticeship with the CBC’s prestigious trainee reporter program.
Each year, CBC TV picked the top 6 students from journalism schools across Canada. That year, I became one of the six. But my journalism professor wasn’t pleased. I was a Canadian citizen, but one who’d come to Canada from Jamaica. He argued that the job should go to a real Canadian.
Tim overrode his objections and I got the job.
Tim’s been looking out for me ever since. Not that I gave him much choice.
I sought Tim’s advice before every career move. Producer-director. Executive producer. And when Tim decided to leave the CBC to write his first book, he recommended that I replace him as head of CBC TV’s journalism training. His word carried so much weight that the job was offered and I took it.
We worked together to train South African journalists at the end of apartheid. For us Canadians, this was a remarkably moving experience.
Years later, I had a car accident.
In ‘Type A’ style, I thought I could return to work soon.
Something happened to Tim when he realized the full extent of my physical, intellectual and emotional states post-accident. His cool manner slipped: he was worried about me.
Tim became one of the few people who knew just how bad things were. He’d watched me struggle — to write, speak, think.
He must have been surprised when, years later, I said I was producing a book and wanted him to edit it. Not that he showed it.
“Send me the manuscript,” he said.
“This book could be great,” he replied. “Not just good, but great. It needs more work.”
More work! I was already exhausted. How much more work?
Some chapters were excellent, Tim said. Some would need substantial work. But he would help me.
It was not easy for anyone to help me back then. Sometimes, Tim had to stop our conversations abruptly. I’d start stuttering badly again, lose track of what was being said to me, but refuse to admit I was in trouble.
His voice would become very firm. “Cynthia, we’ll talk again later.” Tim never babied me, which was important. No matter how unwell I was, I always sensed when people were trying to baby me, and I didn’t like it.
Mostly, Tim said, I needed to make the music consistent throughout the book.
The music. The storytelling. The rhythm, the pace, the cadence of the writing. And so we went to work, to create the music in every chapter.
Every good writer needs a good editor. Considering the shape I was in, I especially needed a good editor.
Tim not only edited my first book, he also edited my second.
What a blessing to work with such an excellent editor, trainer and communicator.
Thank you, Tim.