Friday, June 22, 2012

Searching through files

Today I got an email from an interlibrary loan technician at a university library. Someone had requested an article I wrote in 1991, but the actual text of the article seemed to be hard to find, although the article has been cited in bibliographies. Hoping that I would have a copy, the library employee wrote to me.

Instantly I could picture the clipping in my mind's eye. I knew I had it, but where, exactly? In recent years I have been filing my published articles and short stories in presentation binders available from office supply stores. They consist of clear plastic envelopes bound together. I slip the items in as they get published and they're in sequence. Back in 1991, though, I didn't file too carefully. I was awfully busy back then, with many irons in the fire, and tended to throw published items into file folders or stick them in scrapbooks without putting them in chronological order.

I spent an hour going through dusty boxes and scrapbooks, and found the article. I will send a copy  by snail mail as Roger and I don't have a fax.

While searching for the article, I began to feel proud of what I have accomplished. I found poems, articles and stories that I had almost forgotten. If I ever want to publish another short story collection or poetry chapbook I have plenty of published material to consider.  I remembered the thrill of seeing my work in print and the pleasure of being paid for some of it.

A couple of months ago, in a conversation with a new acquaintance, I mentioned that I am a writer.  "It's nice that you have a hobby, " he said. "My mum keeps a journal."   I wasn't  thrilled to be categorized with someone for whom writing is scribbling random thoughts in a notebook, so I changed the subject, feeling very undervalued. "You work for years at your "craft and sullen art" and get no respect," I grumbled to myself.

Digging through my files to find the article tonight reminded me that I am a "real" writer, in the sense of a published, dedicated writer with a long resume. I've been one for many years. I should sort through my clippings more often.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm at the computer, revising...

I've been busy at the computer making corrections to a novel of mine in manuscript form.  Last week my editor/friend returned the edited manuscript to me. It was a pleasure to receive not only her feedback about the big picture, but also her copy-editing. She has a Ph.D in English, teaches that subject at the college level, has read widely, and edits for a small publishing company, so I respect her reactions. We agreed at the outset that she would feel free to find fault with anything that didn't seem right to her.

Although I didn't say so to my friend, I had already sent this novel to the editor of a small publishing company, who rejected it with the opinion that it was about too many things. I had braced myself for my friend to tell me the same thing, but she didn't. She saw how the various parts were connected!  The editor at the publishing house was a young man; my friend is a woman in the same age range as I (which is, incidentally, the age group most likely to buy books and read them.)

I didn't share with her some of my other concerns; for instance, whether the central character's project was boring, whether there were too many trips back in time to formative periods of her past, and whether or not the outcome rang true.  As it turns out, she did not find any problems in these areas.

A writer, being close to her own project, doesn't always recognize areas which require expansion; it takes another pair of eyes and another frame of reference to catch such problems, and I am very glad to have these things pointed out to me.

No writer wants a "yes" person as an editor. Such a person won't save you from looking like a fool in print. On the other hand, a writer in quest of feedback should be selective in whom you ask ask for an opinion. Find someone who has read a great deal and is familiar with various ways of presenting a story.  Long ago, when I belonged to a writers' organization that is now defunct, one of the officers of the group generously offered her skills as a reader to members of the organization.  Several of us, uncomfortable with her choppy style and sensational choice of subject matter, managed to evade her, except when she butchered our bio notes for the group's annual publication.

I feel confident that my novel is now ready to go out into the world and seek its fortune.