Louisiana Press Women tips its hat to member and former president Martha H. Fitzgerald with top honors for book editing in its annual communications contest.  First prize winners compete in the 2013 National Federation of Press Women communications contest.

Fitzgerald, editor of The Courtship of Two Doctors, drew on the nearly 800 letters Drs. Alice Baker and Joe Holoubek wrote before their marriage in 1939. She worked with archivists in four states to identify the hundreds of people identified by first or last name only–physicians, professors, and patients, as well as friends and family members. “I also used Ancestry.com and other online research tools,” Fitzgerald said, but at least one person remains a mystery: a friend from Alexandria, Louisiana, identified in the letters only as Sarah. “Those letters had to remain on the cutting room floor.”

Few letters run in their entirety, she said. Certain characters and “subplots” were omitted for sake of conciseness; other deletions eliminate confusion and redundancy. “Whenever I’d select one letter to cut, I had to cut any references to it from the other letters.”

She created a stylesheet to help achieve a consistent style. Among her editorial decisions: preserving archaic spellings and punctuation, as well as contractions, abbreviations, and casual shorthand.  ”I edited with a light hand, to preserve the flavor of the time—1937-1939—and the personality of each author.”

Fitzgerald is a former Communicator of Achievement for the Louisiana Press Women.

She has previously won honors in news editing, editorial writing, feature writing, newspaper design, and photography.