I saw Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird, a documentary created by Mary McDonagh Murphy, that explores the enduring power of Harper Lee's story. I love the title of the documentary; "Hey, Boo," the greeting given by Scout when she sees Boo keeping vigil over Jim, along with the rest of the family, near the story's end. That simple greeting is at once inclusive and boundary breaking in its warmth; the outsider, who was always one of us, is humanized with a child's voice.
The late editor, Larry Ashmead, tells a wonderful backstory about Lee's novel. Ashmead was part of a panel, An Evening with Legendary Editors, at the Women's National Book Association in January of 2002 when he shared this publishing story:
Tay Hohoff, with Lippincott, was the editor for To Kill a Mockingbird. The manuscript came into the firm and was first handled by a reader, who brought the manuscript to Ms. Hohoff's attention. The reader thought that the book needed a lot of work, but that it contained the seeds of a wonderful story -- a diamond in the rough. Hohoff agreed and asked her boss for three months off; she intended to help the author edit the book. Hohoff and Lee went through the draft, line by line, and that's how To Kill a Mockingbird came into being! Can you imagine? It just proves that editing is vital to the process of writing, and necessary in shaping a story. Good editors are invaluable.
If you'd like to hear Larry Ashmead tell the story, you can cue it to 1:14.
To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition by Harper Lee
Here's the DVD by Murphy:
Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird
Here's the book by Murphy:
Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird by Mary McDonagh Murphy