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Honoring Editors

As we near the end of Be Kind to Editors Month, Alternating Current staffers talk about their favorite editors, editing experiences, and small presses out there doing the kind of good work we can all get behind. As an independent press, we know how valuable editors are, and we want to take this opportunity to say thanks for all you do.

I thought long and hard about editors in my genre (queer romance) that I’d like to work with—SARAH FRANTZ and NICOLE KIMBERLING come to mind—but honestly? Working under SAMANTHA DERR has engendered loyalty that’s hard to overlook. I’ve edited for a few houses, and I haven’t had any particularly unpleasant experiences, but I’ve never felt as much support as I have at Less Than Three Press. It doesn’t matter whether I’m emailing Sam another obscure style question (or something I’m too scatterbrained to find in the CMoS) or dealing with a finicky author: she’s always patient, thorough, and knowledgeable. Most loyalty-inspiring of all, she’ll go to bat for her editors and keeps us editors far away from conflict.

WOLFGANG CARSTENS of Epic Rites Press/Tree Killer Ink doesn’t fuck around. He’s the hardest working editor I know of. I published my novel, Bullshit Rodeo, myself at Lulu in 2010. It was on Blunt Trauma Press for a few seconds, then I gave the manuscript to Wolf for Tree Killer Ink. He put his ass on the line to publish my novel. He takes risks and he produces books that spit in the face of anything churned out by Simon & Schuster. In a sea of mindless mediocrity, Wolf fights the good fight. He does the work.

Usually, and I don’t know how this came to be as it goes against what is in most cases common sense, I don’t utilize readers while working on a story. So when my story, “Stewardship,” was accepted for publication by JENNIFER ACKER, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Common, I’d taken it as far as I was capable. By and large, up to that point at least, most of the stories I’d had published, for better or worse, weren’t given much more than a once over or two before it was put out into the world. So when Jennifer wrote me to ask if I’d be interested in working further on the story with her, I was intrigued, then excited. I was also a tad worried as part of the reason why I don’t use readers on my work is from the more-than-a-couple worthless review exchanges in grad school and beyond. But, as I’d been an admirer of The Common and the quality of work it showcased, I put my worries aside, and I was glad that I did. When I received my story with Jennifer’s copious and detailed notes, I dove in. It was amazing how many instances I’d overlooked an opportunity to add depth to a scene or to a character. I was also amazed at the manner in which these shortcomings were laid bare. The comments were instructive without being demanding: a question here, a suggestion there, that kind of thing. For several weeks, the story was passed back and forth. Entirely new scenes were created; the journey of the characters charted new and unexplored territory. When the final stamp was put on it, I knew that the story had been vastly improved. This was possible due to the patient and steady eye of Jennifer.

I’ve never had the pleasure of working with MICHAEL J. SEIDLINGER, but I admire the hell out of him. If there were a face of indie lit, he’d be it. If there were no Michael, it’s hard to imagine what indie lit would look like. His passion for the community is indefatigable: Through Civil Coping Mechanisms, he (and his wonderful staff) puts out incredibly brave books. He regularly reviews books to raise awareness of fellow writers. Through social media, he promotes other authors and other presses. Oh, and he also writes, publishing nearly one novel a year. It’s as if he battles daily for the rest of us writers. So I’m sure I speak for thousands of other writers and editors and publishers and readers when I say, “Thank you, Michael, for being the backbone, brain, heart, and cigar of indie lit.”

A couple years ago at AWP, I was being a shy writer who didn’t know many people and didn’t feel much like approaching new people in the book fair. It seemed too difficult. KEITH REBEC, Editor-in-Chief at Pithead Chapel, changed that. We had a quick discussion about Pithead, and a few weeks later, I became a reader for the site. Soon after that, ASHLEY STROSNIDER became the Fiction Editor. Those two showed me what it was like to run an online literary journal. They ground through the large submission queue, looking for that intangible “it,” the thing that made a piece a match for us. They showed me the strange dynamic where, even though almost every piece is rejected, almost every piece is given the benefit of the doubt up front. They looked for the good more than the bad. They showed me their unwavering commitment to that good even if that meant the monthly journal would carry two fiction pieces rather than four.

Around this same time, I heard about a new online journal called Wyvern Lit because their first issue carried stories by two of my other favorite editors: JUSTIN DAUGHERTY and LEESA CROSS-SMITH. I read the issue, loved their stories, and loved the aesthetic of the Wyvern site. I submitted a piece to it and was lucky to be in the second issue and to get to know its founding editor, BRENT RYDIN. His commitment to promoting the writers in his journal might be matched by other editors, but I doubt it’s ever exceeded. His enthusiasm and commitment to the art is contagious. I’m so glad I made it over my introverted hurdle and got to know all of these editors. Knowing them all has made my writing life so much better.

Most of us writers have lovey-dovey feelings for the editors who publish our work. Getting an editor to say, “Yes!” is an affirmation and a justification for all those long nights and frustrating days working on our craft. When editors go the extra mile to make us feel loved, we simply go weak in the knees. TROY PALMER and AMANDA LEDUC, the editors behind the beautifully designed literary imprints Little Fiction / Big Truths, are two such editors. Up until recently my primary genre was fiction (That’s what I focused on in graduate school.), and the piece that eventually ended up in Big Truths was my first real stab at a long-form personal essay. Formally stepping into the nonfiction game felt like jumping off the high dive, and both Troy and Amanda took beautiful care of my piece and me throughout the editorial process. The edits they gave were so thoughtful, streamlining sections and clarifying meaning in ways that I, as the author, didn’t even know I needed. Upon publication, so many personal touches—a unique cover designed for each piece, a video trailer, promotion on every social media platform available—made it clear what good hands I was in with the two of them. It’s clear that they love what they do and that publishing good work, no matter a writer’s background or prestige, is their true passion.

I want to highlight the fact that Little Fiction / Big Truths is currently crowdfunding for a few forthcoming print anthologies. Getting published by Amanda and Troy was such a pleasure, and theirs should be a literary institution for years to come. Check them out, consider donating, and definitely submit!

LISE QUINTANA and ALLIE MARINI BATTS are not only amazing people, but also great editors. They pour love and countless hours of labor into NonBinary Review, a journal available through the Lithomobilus platform. The sense of community they have created within their contributors is a writer’s dream. They encourage and foster collaboration between and amongst the community. The environment is one that creates success, not competition, which can be a difficult feat at times with so many delicate writer egos. For me, it’s a place where people are proud of the work they’ve done, but also welcoming of new voices. I’m constantly finding myself encouraging people to submit to them. They treat your work with care, and you with respect.

Of all the editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with (and there have been many over my 23 years of publishing and writing), the one who brought the most excitement to a collaboration was TRISH HARRIS, co-head of the Remaking Moby-Dick project (and also editor of Pea River Journal). She herded over a hundred writers, photographers, artists, poets, filmmakers, and experimentalists to remake the Melville classic, Moby-Dick, using artists’ own words and media, chapter by chapter, then publishing it as an interactive collection both online and in print. Not only was the project wicked fun and imaginative, but Trish’s zeal for it was contagious. I wrote an epic metered verse of Chapter 71: The Jeroboam’s Story, wherein Pequod encounters the Jeroboam, and Trish had endless patience with me. I was “that author”—needing more time, needing little things fixed, unhappy with this line and that line—until we had a perfect end result. To this day, that piece is one of my favorite epic metered verse poems I’ve ever written, and it wouldn’t have happened without Trish’s enthusiasm for the project. The final attribution to her awesomeness? She made the whole thing available for free online. How’s that for asskickular?

• Opinions belong to their respective authors. • Permalink • Tag: The Spark

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