Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Editors Suck; But We (really) Need Them

But back to the poetry.  Having edited two journals for the Connecticut Poetry Society and having several manuscripts in hand worthy (IMHO) of publication, I decided to publish one on my own.  I downloaded Scribus, an open-source program very much similar to MS Publisher, and went to town on the thing, ultimately printing (at Staples) “Ten Short Addresses to My Grandchildren” just in time to miss Christmas.

The experience was wonderful once I got a handle on how to go about it and I had one of those lessons in humility we all need every now and then.  Despite my every belief in my skill, there was a lengthy learning curve.  We all complain about editors but I can assure you that even though I was working with myself, I as an editor brought my self as a writer into several unanticipated internecine struggles and an equal number of shaky agreements.

What did I learn? 

Editing is difficult. 

Anyone can get published.

I have on my bookshelves any number of self-published volumes, some by close friends, some of the books are pretty good and some (most) really crappy.  The gatekeeping function of the editor may be saving us from slogging through even more mediocre poetry than we dare imagine.   A couple of good editors have saved the world from some of my most pedestrian work.  But those editors also gave me the most focused, concentrated lessons in writing that I’ve ever had.

The moral then is to get your work in front of serious editors for their consideration.  It’s part of the process of learning to write, even more than a process of getting published.  No matter whether the editor is a fellow-writer (never family), a trusted reader, a professional.  Then, once you’ve gone through that gauntlet with your manuscript, go ahead and publish it yourself, or any other way you wish.

Next time I’ll tell you what to expect once you publish.

So long for now.

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