Monday, 19 January 2009

The Anthology: III

Editing other people's submissions has finally come to a close.

Yesterday at 5:30 I sent my last critiques and edits out before heading to Navs. Today in class we determined which pieces we were including and which pieces were sent elsewhere. For the most part this was done by vote, though in one case the professor vetoed a piece and in another case one of the authors flatly said she was including something, even though it was lower in the votes. In both cases I agreed with the content of the decision, since these reflected my preferences. Some people (I suppose--no one complained of it in my earshot) might disagree with the way these decisions were made, much as someone can insist on the legitimacy of the electoral process while believing that the candidate elected was not the best one. However, I note that this work is not a constitutional monarchy and the two people most invested in which pieces go in are the author and the professor, who will be listed as editor and compiler.

As everyone in the class likely feels, I do not agree with all of the decisions we made about selection. In some cases, my least favourite piece was chosen--in one such case, that piece was long enough that it was the only piece of that author's to be included. In other cases, a piece I had really thought was one of the best was almost unanimously ommitted. As could also be predicted, some pieces which I thought were ideologically--how shall I put this?--unsound were included despite my concerns that the opinions they offered were somewhat simplistic. Those pieces I ranked nearest the bottom I did not always edit, and so I had to do some last-minute editing today in order for my work to be any use to them. For those I disagreed with on ideological grounds, I tried to best to examine the text closely and see whether simple changes could be made to nuance the view. I saw that they could; in fact, the author may have intended one of two more nuanced views but lost the subtlety in the wording. I pointed to these possibilities and indicated that they would make the worldview described more complex and mature. Hopefully I do not come off as an ideologue. I am one, obviously, but it usually works best if you keep that fact hidden. Seriously though, I don't think I ought to be objecting to pieces on grounds of belief frameworks, so I'm simply hoping my comments will give the author the head's up that his prose might offend someone or represent him in a simplistic way.

Now the effort is in self-editing. I have to take all of the critiques everyone else wrote and apply them to my own work. I've read all those that I've received (I have yet to get some), but haven't implemented any comments. Actually, I strongly resisted most of them. I need to break down the aversion to thinking I'm right about everything. That works well when you're giving advice, but not so much when you're receiving it. That's something I'll need to work on. Certain comments I can tell you already that I do not intend to follow. I know these ones because I actually said, "No," out loud, with surprising force, when I read them. I probably ought to look at where they're coming from, but these ones are obviously wrong enough to my mind that I can dismiss the suggestions immediately. Other comments I have already conceded at least mentally.

Also, there is the problem of different commenters unwittingly disagreeing with each other. I need to go through and see what each has to say and what that says about how they viewed my piece; the problem in their disagreement might be that one read the piece far differently from another. I look to see who read it 'correctly' and follow their advice, but I also look to see why the other person might have misread it and try to remedy that earlier in the work.

Alright, so the pieces selected for my section...

I had included in the package a total of two short stories and four poems. I suppose I can give a brief description of each that will allow you to get a sense of what I've written while in no way revealing anything important before the anthology is launched. The are listed roughly by length.

"Runaway": a boy runs away from home on a lark and has a terrifying otherworldly experience
"At the Schoolhouse": a series of short sections concerning a rural family
"Heretic": a poetic rant about living in conflicting paradigms--church, academia, consumer economy
"fort mcmurray weather report": the title describes it perfectly, and yet it isn't what anyone expects
"the long vesper": a three-stanza poem ostensibly about insomnia
"Frontier": a three-stanza poem ostensibly about the Wild West, but maybe about somewhere else, too

Based on length restriction, I could either publish "Runaway" and one or two of the shorter poems, or everything but "Runaway." We went with the latter, largely because quite a few people felt that "Runaway" needed more work than the others. They might be right. I know the professor was disappointed, since I think that was her favourite of everything I have written. She says it's scary and had hoped to see it in the anthology. However, she did not intervene, which means she must think the rest of my stuff is serviceable, or good enough to be published. I do plan to publish that piece eventually but I could use the time to work on it some more. Maybe the writer-in-residence here at Queen's could help me with it. I should make an appointment.

I need to get a bit more work done before bed, so I should wrap this post up now. I suppose I'll just add that my editing will conflict with the work I need to do on a group presentation due this Friday. I need around fifteen minutes of spoken content on the War of the Roses, which will not be a problem; what might be more problematic is the powerpoint slides, some visuals, and the four page report that need to accompany those fifteen minutes. I meet with my group on Thursday. I will spend Wednesday doing most of the prep for that meeting. We'll need to figure out where I'll slot in the editing--somewhere between commitments tomorrow, some on Wednesday if I finish my research in time, some after the meeting on Thursday, and some between classes, meetings, and presentation on Friday, submitted that evening? We'll see how it goes.


English Clergyman

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