Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Anthology: V

Last night I sent away my work to the editor/compiler for last-minute changes and formatting, and then it goes to the publisher.

I had until midnight, but did not use it. After enough of the insane, full-speed dash that characterized much of the last weeks, I finally decided I had had enough and would send it off. I cannot each literary perfection, and so I must live with what I've got.

There were two issues (other than grammatical and minorly stylistic) which I had needed to deal with.

The first was the presence of particular lines; the concluding lines of 'Heretic' and 'fort mcmurray weather report' were the source of much disagreement between editors. Some people said these were necessary or strong lines, while others thought they either undermined what I had previously written, or forced the readers to draw unfair conclusions. In the end, I included neither line. I'd rather end ambiguously and suddenly than campily or didactically.

The second was what others conceived as the lack of an overarching theme or direction to 'At the Schoolhouse.' They say, very pretty, very enjoyable, but what is the point? What are you trying to do with this? It seems that it ends suddenly, or could have its parts all rearranged to no effect.

So I paced a lot, away from the computer and the words themselves, fretting and stewing and mulling. What were my objectives with this piece? They wanted development, growth, or even some sort of trajectory. They liked one section, and seemed more critical of another. Why? What did this have which that didn't? More conflict? New characters? Less plot? How could I inject development, growth? Did I want to?

Eventually I stumbled upon what might have been an answer. Not a cure-all, but a start. One person liked a certain section more and asked me to develop the ideas of protection and safe/unsafe space more. Another person had asked to more clearly indicate the passage of time in the last section, to indicate how much time has elapsed since the first. Others wanted development of some sort; what were the characters getting out of all this? Well, I changed one line--a phrase, even--to emphasize that these characters were not just "leaving for school," but "returning to their campuses." I underlined that they were now going to a post-secondary institution, which makes them older than before. I also underlined that they were returning to these institutions, but were not currently there. They were instead emerged into the space of their childhood; while the text says they are returning to school soon, this indicates that they are currently returning to their old home from their new lives. So we see the more explicit creation of a space (safe or unsafe I'm not sure, but you could work with it), but we also see the effect of the experiences on these characters' lives once they've left the environment. We also get a clearer indication of time having passed. Obviously this is not a huge solution, and makes only a quiet difference, but it does make a slight one.

After making this change, and a few other minor ones, I used some coupons at McDonald's. Walking there, I mentally revisited my objectives in this piece, and came up with different things than most people had been looking for. I had wanted to construct a mythology of my childhood's landscape; this I had completed. I had wanted to indicate ways you could interact with that landscape, and I think I succeeded at that. I wanted to deny by counter-example the claims scholars make today that deride the pastoral, locating art and sophistication in urban environments alone. Development, growth, or what have you weren't my intentions in the first place. I decided that it was fine as it stood. As editors, sometimes we look at a text and ask how we could make it better. Once it's published though, etched onto the page, then perhaps people will read it as permenant and complete, and then find the themes they missed when trying to improve it. I can hope, right?

Now my tales of editing are over. I will keep you up-to-date on other things (preparing for the launch, etc.), but lessons in practical literary theory are over. Class dismissed!

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