So this appears to be the fourth in the three-part blog-a-palooza I embarked on recently with Sally Murphy and Anna Branford.
Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.
I’m adding this coda simply to say that although it was fun, I doubt I’ll be doing something like that again. I have no idea how anyone keeps to a regular posting schedule and still manages to keep up with all the regular aspects of work and life and writing and all of that. Impossible.
I really enjoyed thinking about all those topics, and there’s a satisfying discipline in committing to setting my thoughts in order for public consumption. But when writing time is at a premium, I’d rather be chipping away at stories than composing blog posts.
So this is the third in a three-part series I’ve been working on with Anna Branford and Sally Murphy.
I’m not entirely sure what approach the others are going to take to this topic. There are, of course, all sorts of ways of defining ‘recognition’. There’s the formal recognition of awards and the informal recognition of people such as peers and readers and random strangers at the shops.
Very early on in the scheme of things, I remember being full of excitement because someone had found my website on purpose, by searching for my name, rather than accidentally, via some variation on “goldfish + ponds” or “hydrocodone”.
Once, I was doing laps at the local pool, complete with swimming cap and goggles, when I was stopped, mid-turn, by a lifeguard who wanted to know if I was “that writer-woman in the paper”.
More recently, after writing a letter of complaint to a local business, I was asked during a follow-up phone call whether I was “the” Meg McKinlay, putting me in the unlikely position of having to say, “Define the.”
These things are all recognition of a sort.
So this is the second post in the three-way blogapalooza I’m sharing with Anna Branford and Sally Murphy. Because it’s part of a series, I’ve followed the same format for the title, but the first thing I should say is that I think it’s misleading.
You don’t ‘get edited’. I’ve never ‘been edited’. It’s not a passive process in which the writer sits back and waits for the editor to tell them what needs to be done. It’s a dialogue – a back-and-forth that begins with the text, moves to the editor, bounces back to the author, who returns to the text, then bounces it back to the editor, and so on thusly for the term of your natural life (or so it can seem).
When I show people the six-page editorial letter for Annabel, Again, or a marked up draft of Surface Tension, I get some interesting reactions. Some people actually draw back in horror. But isn’t it your story? How can you let them? From time to time I hear people – often aspiring writers – talking about the way publishers insist on ‘changing’ people’s work, to shape it to fit their own set of parameters.
But really, that’s not how it works. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. If a publisher were to take this approach, I too would walk very quickly in the opposite direction.
I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be reviewed. Partly in response to recent conversations with some other writers, and partly in response to, well, being reviewed.
The result is a three-way blogapalooza in which myself, Anna Branford, and Sally Murphy, decided we would gather, and post, our thoughts on this topic with a view to starting a conversation between ourselves, and perhaps others. So after you’ve read this, it might be interesting for you to head over to their blogs, too. I know I’m about to. I haven’t read their takes on the issue, and I’m sure we’ve all taken a very different approach to things.
To begin with, I suspect I’m not alone in having a somewhat ambivalent relationship to reviews. Writers need them, of course. We need people to notice our work – to read it, engage with it, hold it up to the light for others.
Maybe I should re-frame that: to pass judgement. Isn’t that what a review does, after all? Isn’t that what a review is for?