Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Author: Kate Gale

Kate Gale, PhD is Managing Editor of Pasadena's Red Hen Press and
President of American Composers Forum, Los Angeles Chapter. Please welcome her to PDP.

Most Americans do some private writing. We scribble notes on the fridge, “Feed the dog!  No parties!” Sometimes love notes. “I will love you forever,” for the formal, “And I want you to bite your toes, you little love monkey,” for the less formal. 

But bringing some of that writing from private writing to public writing, bringing it into the realm of publication and possibly the creative commons and public discourse, requires working for a level of mastery with craft, plot, structure, setting, language. It requires the willingness to rewrite a piece many times, to throw away work you were sure was finished. It requires staying power.

My libretto, Rio de Sangre, went through dozens of rewrites and hundreds of cuts even as the music was being written. My current project, a memoir, was done,­ I thought, ­having spent ten years and having written literally fifty different versions of the text. My agent thinks differently and I am hard at work to finish ­by spring­ what I hope will be the ultimate draft. But it may not be, there are still more agents, editors, and marketing directors and publicists who doubtless weigh in. And you have to be willing to keep shaping.

I stay in the world of writing and publishing because I love stories. I love feeling them emerge when I write them myself and I love working with other people. The business of publishing isn’t an easy one. The part I hadn’t anticipated was raising money for Red Hen Press. I hadn’t counted on that at all. But I’m learning. I thought it was all going to be working with authors, lines, pages. 

I also hadn’t counted on how difficult many authors would be to deal with.  Poets and Writers current issue talks about writers wanting more attention from their editors. How about we just say writers want more attention. They spend a lot of time alone playing with stories and being god in the privacy of their own room and they’re badly socialized. 

When they emerge, they want a party to start. When you accept their book, they want to know if you’re going to drink champagne with them. (Seriously? We take 20 books a year, do I look like James Bond?) They want to know if you’re taking them to dinner. (How about your boyfriend does that?) And this is my personal favorite--how much time will you spend telling them what you loved about their book. Good god! 

If you need someone to celebrate with, get some friends. If you need someone to talk with, hire a therapist. If you need someone to tell you how amazing you are, hire a cheer leading squad. And if you need someone to think you’re the most amazing person in the world, then what I always say is, your editor is not your mother, your mother is your mother.

But, seriously, I love writers. They’re quirky, creative, brilliant, and definitely not boring.


If you're writing a story, make it a great story.  If there's a horse, add wings.  If there's a woman, put her on the roof, if there's a man, let him emerge from the cellar with dirt in his hair.

Visit Kate's website


Lou Belcher said...

Ha! Nice post. Love the list. I have two cats... they are my cheering squad. When they are napping, I write in solitude.


Petrea Burchard said...

Hi Lou. I don't think Boz cheers when I write. I think he'd rather we play. But sometimes you have to do as Kate says, "go through dozens of rewrites and hundreds of cuts," and dog walks will have to come during the breaks.

Desiree said...

Filed under advice to the needy and resilient--

Petrea Burchard said...

Desiree, I'm putting it under advice to the "quirky, creative, brilliant, and definitely not boring." Call me Pollyanna.

Latino Heritage said...

Leia, I'm one of her humans, has been my cheerleader. I think having been a teacher I see editors a little bit differently than some. I see them as a safety filter: they watch for clarity of thought and ease in reading. They also catch the tiny typos and inaccuracies.

Petrea Burchard said...

I agree, Roberta. Really, most good writers are pretty good editors and I'm a really good one--I even have a degree in Rhetoric (writing/grammar/structure). But even when I return to a draft after months, I still find it needs bits of change. There's so much to be said for the trained, outside eye.

Bellis said...

Kate, I'm still chuckling about authors being badly socialized. I guess the lonely writer in the garret is craving for some encouragement and attention. Copyediting's my thing - writing original narratives is much, much harder.

Ms M said...

Great post!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and thank you, Kate for your post!

Katie said...

Very interesting to get Kate's glimpse into the world of writers and editors (oh the stories they must all tell about each other!). Writing was never my strong subject, but I actually like the idea of editing. My sister is currently taking a writing class and asked my opinion about a short story she wrote and I didn't hesitate to tell her where I stumbled a bit reading it. I definitely thank all those involved in producing excellent writing.

Laura Monteros said...

My mother didn't think I was the most amazing person in the world. I suspect this is true for many writers, as it is for many comedians. It would be very nice to have an editor think I am amazing, but I will settle for grudging respect.

I like editors who are good editors (as I was when I worked for the Her-Ex) and I would be happy just having one even if I had to do rewrites. I need deadlines like a racehorse needs a crop, and editors are good at applying it. I am not good at holing up in my messy office and pouring out prose without one.

Petrea Burchard said...

Interesting...I like editing, too, Katie. I'm editing a longer work of mine and find I enjoy it as much as the writing, if not more. When it's my own work, though, the more time between the writing and editing the better at it I am.

Laura, I think you may be right about mothers, writers and comedians. And deadlines, too.