here is little Effie's head
whose brains are made of gingerbread
when the judgment day comes
God will find six crumbs
stooping by the coffinlid
waiting for something to rise
as the other somethings did —
you imagine His surprise
Dear E. E.,
I was pleased to receive the first two stanzas of your newest poem, "here is little Effie's head," though I'll admit to being a bit perplexed by your unconventional punctuation. Do you really think readers benefit from the lack of commas, periods or capitalization? As these stanzas stand now, the reader has no clue where to pause, to take a breath.
While I'll admit I'm new to editing poetry, it seems that a few hints might help the reader grasp your meaning and meter more effectively.
"Coffinlid" should be two words.
Also, is it possible to be more specific in lines six and seven? I'm not convinced the use of "something" and "somethings" works here. Are you referring to crumbs? To souls? Do you really want to bump your readers out of the poem with these kinds of questions? The same objection could be made to line eight. To whom are you referring with the word "you?"
While creativity takes time, I have faith that the remainder of your poem will arrive – as we originally agreed – before the end of office hours tomorrow.
From the moment I dreamed of being published, I held an image of the perfect editorial relationship. My editor would be experienced with a marvelous breadth of knowledge about effective storytelling and the many nuances of American English. We'd have a partnership. I'd supply the nearly done sculpture and the editor would supply the kind of professional eye that would take my work to an even better level.
Perhaps this image is outdated.
I know many authors who dis their editors as being too young or not having a clue. They tell horror stories — especially about copyeditors — who correct incorrectly. I love the example Susan Slater refers to where someone in New York kept changing the word "adobe" to "abode" in a work about New Mexico.
But I also know writers who adore their editors and cherish their comments more than gemstones.
In my experience at UNM Press, the main editors tend to focus more on herding manuscripts through the process and making sure all the pieces come together on time for publication. This is a valuable service. But I've never had a discussion about broader concepts in my works, about whether a particular character is neccesary or a certain resolution works.
The copyediting is great for line edits but there's little attention paid — at least vis a vis my works — to the overall picture.
Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful. I just want more. I want to be the best writer that I can be, to be pushed to be better.
Yeah, right, Pari. Dream on. The publishing business doesn't work like that anymore.
Why not? Why not!
Sure, everyone is overworked. There are too few people to do the job. Still, I yearn for that give and take and hope to experience it in my writing career . . .
But back to the beginning of this post:
Over on the listserv at Novelists, Inc., one of the members posted this link:
Please take the time to read what an editor might do to Axl Rose's "Sweet Child O' Mine." (It's the reason I decided to toy with e.e. cummings' famous poem.)
And then let's play:
Tell me about your editor or dream editor.
Pick a short piece of literature and edit it, like I did at the beginning of this post, and share your fun with the rest of us.
I can't wait to read what you all have to say.