When I read a manuscript, I am looking for cumulative effect. Most obvious for its presence—or absence—in short story collections, this is the sense that the pieces (or stories), when taken together, form something altogether new. And what is newly created transcends (sometimes mysteriously) and is more powerful than the sum of its pieces. What I hope to experience when I read a collection of, say, ten stories is a sense that meaning and effect encompasses all ten, and then goes on to resonate or ripple outward, occupying a larger imaginative space than “ten of these.”
What Valerie and I are hoping to do with NA is to create—to be—cumulative effect. Because of the way we work together, because we share the view that there is no end to what we can learn, because we both work to tell writers everything we know, because we trust each other’s experience and expertise, and because we know well we have much to learn from each other—we feel we offer something greater than the sum of our added-up ideas and knowledge.
Editing—like writing—is a solitary endeavour. To really get inside a piece of writing, to apprehend the rhythm and shape and intent of the words on the page, is to enter something of a meditative state—and this has to be done alone and in a quiet place. (It feels to me that I am not just seeing as I read, but hearing too.)
Yet there is a way in which editing—like writing—can be collaborative. When Valerie and I first started talking to each other about our work as editors, I was struck by our similar sensibilities and approaches, and struck too by how much I enjoyed being pushed by this intelligent and sensitive and respectful reader to think more deeply, to focus more finely, to get closer to the kernel of truth of what I say to writers, and to examine more carefully how I say it. It was exhilarating to know I was doing more in my solitary work because of conversations I was having with another editor. It was a comfort and an inspiration to be suddenly (or so it felt) part of such a meaningful community.
And once we realized the effect we could have on each other, we developed a conviction that if we benefitted from this charge, this spark that pushed each of us to look at our practice in a deeper way, then a writer in need of feedback would have a richer experience too.
Editing (reading and feeling and noticing and articulating) is creative, and we are always examining our responses, looking for new ways in to understanding the process and results of writing, and motivating each other to be better. We transfer creative and critical energy back and forth between us, and and our aim is to share that energy with you.
We love to talk about writing—about the process, about the results. So let’s talk.
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