On average, Jackie edited ten to twelve books a year. Her titles were primarily nonfiction, with an emphasis on history and the performing arts, especially ballet and music. Her eclectic tastes were reflected in the books she oversaw, including Bill Moyers's Healing and the Mind, Michael Jackson's Moonwalk, and Edvard Radzinsky's The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II. She published a number of children's books by singer Carly Simon, who was a neighbor on Martha's Vineyard. Her passion for Egypt prompted her to acquire and publish the translation for the Cairo Trilogy — Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street — by Nobel Prize–winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz.
Working with Jackie
Jackie gave her authors much more one-on-one time and attention than a typical editor. She would conduct editing sessions either at her office or at 1040. Since she chose books that reflected her interests, she was passionate about each project and very knowledgeable. Jackie was also considerate and made sure not to hurt an author's feelings if she had a negative criticism to make. All her authors spoke of Jackie's attention to detail and her bottomless curiosity. She had found a career that was perfectly suited to her both intellectually and emotionally.
In April 1993 Jackie agreed to an interview with Publishers Weekly editorial director John F. Baker — as long as their conversation was not tape recorded or photographed and there would be no questions about her personal life. She also received copy approval.
The interview was arranged at the suggestion of Doubleday president Stephen Rubin. Jackie was just happy to talk about her work and explained to Baker that being an editor was a natural fit — she majored in literature in college, had many friends who were writers, and, most importantly, loved books. Plus, in publishing it was the author and the book who were promoted — not the editor. Baker sent Jackie a copy of the article, and Jackie only made two changes: one to correct a name and the other to correct his grammar.
THEY SAID …
“One would not associate her with a book of articles from Rolling Stone or a comic book history of the universe…. She is extraordinarily devoted to the books she has edited, especially the looks, the esthetic appeal. Her greatest enthusiasm is devoted to finding the books and making sure they are designed and produced as elegantly and pleasingly as possible….”
— John F. Baker
SHE SAID …
“In the city parks we feel Atget's humanity. He photographs with tenderness and melancholy. In the Tuileries, the park chair, as French as the croissant, lies overturned beside a leering faun … we find these photographs troubling because we connect to them…. Our grandfathers sit in black serge suits along the paths laid out by kings and queens.”
Jackie's involvement and support surprised many of her authors. Canadian writer Robertson Davies recalled the time he was being honored at an American university. He looked out from the podium and was stunned to see Jackie mingling in the crowd. Jackie was particularly interested in showcasing the contributions of African American writers. She encouraged another Martha's Vineyard neighbor, Dorothy West, to work on what eventually became The Wedding. West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, published the book in 1995, and three years later Oprah Winfrey adapted it into a television movie starring Halle Berry.