Quills & Pixels Acquisition Editing
Clark Harris submitted "Finding the Rite Fitting" for consideration to Quills & Pixels 2014, to which Dr. Charles Anderson and I collaborated as acquisition editors.
Quills & Pixels is the peer-reviewed, nonfiction publication created by UALR students and funded by the Writers’ Network, an organization "dedicated to spotlighting the importance of writing in society."
The primary audience for this piece is the UALR community as a whole—including students, faculty, campus departments/organizations, and potential donors of the public, metropolitan university that serves 13,000 full and part-time students who are diverse in age, nationality, race, and socioeconomic background. The secondary audience is anyone with an interest in nonfiction writing.
The purpose of the acquisition editing was to prepare a manuscript for pre-production in Quills & Pixels 2014 as part of the course Editing for Publication.
Through editing this piece for Quills & Pixels, I learned that editing is all about building relationships.
After Clark’s piece was selected for consideration into Quills & Pixels 2014, I sat down with the Executive Editor, Dr. Charles Anderson, to discuss the edits that would have to be made. Something magical happened as we sat at the computer desk in his office and raked over the unformed masses of words. I learned about identifying coronas (or thematic loops) and finding the line of the story. I saw the radical difference paragraphing makes and the way to activate a text by pulling direct quotes out to stand on their own. I couldn’t believe it, when, a mere hour-and-a-half later, the mass of words we had started with had transformed into a cohesive, compelling story that I could actually envision in print.
One of my greatest challenges in regards to the editing process was figuring out how to conduct the editing meeting with the writers. It was difficult for me to embrace the hands-on editing process since I was so used to the hand-off philosophy practiced in the Writing Center. How can I tell the author she should move the entire paragraph to the beginning? I wondered. What right do I have to suggest this change? How can I possibly offer a suggestion to this sensitive part in the story? These were the questions that I wrestled with. In the end, I learned that editing is a delicate balance between pushing an author hard enough and not pushing him or her too hard.
Next, it was time for me to meet Clark in person and show him the edits. Because my first author had been resistant to the proposed edits, I was worried that Clark would be discontent with the process as well. To my relief, Clark was a delight to work with from day one.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” he said the first time I met him. “I’m easy to work with.”
After a leisurely introduction, Clark proceeded to read the Edit 1 draft aloud. He stopped frequently to release a burst of laughter and ask, “I wrote this?”
“You sure did,” I’d encourage. “The only thing we changed was the paragraphing.” Clark readily accepted our proposed edits, which mostly entailed minor stylistic issues and paragraphing in order to activate the text.
As I learned through the acquisition editing experience, if the process of writing is about dealing with the dissonance of different voices as John Trimbur tells us, then editing is about shaking the hand of the voice that speaks to us. Sometimes, we move the voice to a different part of the story. Other times, we save the voice for a different story altogether. The idea is that we are making a lasting relationship with the voice so that we can use it again in the future. Whether referring to words on a page or live authors sitting in front of us, editing is all about building relationships.
Clark's Original Submission
Edit 1 with Dr. Anderson
Final Pre-Production Copy