Happy October! My favorite month. I plan to be outside as much as possible, but first, as promised, today I’ll outline how working as a publishing professional has overlapped with my fiction writing and publishing. In general, I’ve viewed them as parallel lines, that my fiction writing and publishing would have followed the same trajectory even if I weren’t a publishing professional, but if I dig deeper, that’s incorrect. True, at my Perseus job only a couple coworkers even knew I was a writer, and true, last year an editor sent me ten contest-winning stories to copyedit not recognizing that my own story had been among the twenty finalists for the same contest just weeks before, but also:
1) Copyediting as a publishing professional and line editing my own writing: As a new writer, I didn’t pay enough attention to my sentences. While copyediting, I have to think about sentences, their grammar, yes, but often their syntax too, and now that I’ve been copyediting eleven years, I examine the grammar and syntax in my own sentences with the same attentiveness. Without being a copy editor, I probably would have become more attentive to sentences as I continued on my writing journey, but if nothing else, copyediting has speeded up that improvement.
2) Editorial production as a publishing professional and editorial production of People Along the Sand: As a publishing professional, I’ve managed the editorial production process of close to a hundred books and more than a dozen issues of magazines, so I knew the process People Along the Sand would go through on its way to publication, and I think the process went more smoothly because of my knowledge. I knew I couldn’t quote any lyrics without the possibility the musician might sue me, I knew intuitively how many changes I could request that the publisher make to the manuscript at every stage of the process—two of many examples.
3) My new position and marketing for People Along the Sand: My new boss, who had been posting nurses’ poems in the membership magazine I now run, encouraged me to post some of my own poems there (now that I have a website, at least the people who hired me know I’m a writer). So in November I’m posting a couple poems about COVID, as well as my bio, which will link to my novel. Free marketing through my very unrelated job at least this once; a nice perk.
4) Working at and for West Virginia University Press and Bratwurst Haven: This week I signed a contract with West Virginia University Press to publish my linked short story collection Bratwurst Haven. Would they have reviewed my manuscript if I hadn’t worked in-house and copyedited for them? Possibly, since they like to champion the writing of West Virginia University graduates, but I’m sure their professional relationship with me didn’t hurt.
So I wouldn’t recommend deciding to work in publishing in order to make writing connections, but also, over time, you may, as I did, indirectly gain some benefits. In both my professional and personal lives, the best connections have come indirectly, anyway, and I’m fine with that. After all, “What could be worse than a life without surprises?” as Laura Rock Gaughan writes in her collection of stories, Motherish.
Thank you, as always, for reading. I was hoping to include a few more interviews in this newsletter, but apparently I don’t know that many fiction writers who earn their living working in publishing. If you have any suggestions of people I might interview, let me know.
Please stay safe out there.