Editing an Anthology

At the moment, I have some precious items in my hands (or strictly speaking in my hard drive). Some of these items have been a long time in the making, and they have a value beyond words, so I must be sure to treat them with care. They’re tie writings of Tramore Writers’ Group in Co. Waterford, who are in the process of compiling an anthology.

Most of the group are veterans of anthologies. They’ve produced two already – Ferry Tales and Tramore Tales. But in a departure from their previous anthologies, this anthology will be a mixture of poetry and prose. I’m delighted that the group has asked me to edit the anthology.

When I met the group to outline my proofreading process, they were knee deep in words and slightly overwhelmed by the task at hand. Aiming to lift a little of the mist from their eyes, I told them that I would straighten out their spelling and grammar, using the dreaded Track Marks function, the electronic equivalent with the red pen. I would do two proofreads and help them decide on the order of the pieces.

1st. Proofread

I’ve just done the first proofread. In this proofread, I’m familiarising myself with the authors’ work, the quirks of their writing, their strengths and the errors they’re most prone to. Each author will get a track-marked version of their documents, with the corrections indicated so they can see where the corrections were made, and a clean document with the corrections incorporated.They can work off this to do a final edit of their work. With each submission, I’ll send some editorial suggestions, with advice about ways to strengthen the work before the final proofread.

2nd Proofread

At this stage, I’ll just clean up minor spelling and grammar errors. More crucially, I’ll decide what order the pieces will appear in. I can choose to order them by:

  • Theme – if some of the pieces have a common thread in terms of subject matter.
  • Mood – the atmosphere of the pieces. For example, I’ll follow reflective, moving pieces with more light-hearted ones.
  • Form – I’ll measure the ratio of stories to poems and ensure there’s a good balance, so readers don’t feel they’re wading throught he material.
  • Alphabetical Order – I’ll simply order them according to the author names.

In reality, I’ll probably opt for a mixture of order and form.

Why I’m Doing It

I’m hoping that my outside perspective will be useful, as the members are familiar with each other and their work and may not spot errors such as repetition, over description and misuse of punctuation. I’ve been a little rigorous with my editorial suggestions, because I want to make sure the pieces are in the best possible condition for publishing. Above all, I need to be clued into whether the author is making a grammatical error, or just has a quirky way of wording their sentences. I will make sure I wield a scalpel rather than a chainsaw.

On The Satisfaction of Not Making Your Money From Writing

An insightful post on the challenges of making a living from writing, from the quirkily original blogger Tara Sparling.

Tara Sparling writes

Time is moneyIn this rather disturbing article, The Guardian points out (amongst other hairy statistics) that 77% of self-published authors are making less than £600 per annum. In another article, the figures are a bit different, but no less pessimistic: it states that the median income of authors has dropped from just £6,000 13 years ago to less than £4,000 per annum.  This means that for the vast majority of writers out there, even those who are actually managing to sell books in respectable numbers, they’re only making a fraction of they money they need to make in order to make a living.

Apart from the obviously negative associations with that, one has to wonder, what else are they doing? Either they must be in receipt of dole or bursaries, or they have another job.

I’d love to do a survey to find out what authors – authors of novels and poetry in particular – really do for money. Perhaps a look at the data…

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The Logistics of Creative Writing classes

When I’m giving creative writing workshops, I’m constantly beset by the feeling that there’s some detail I’m missing out on. I believe I’ve thought of everything, but there’s always one detail that escapes me. This usually relates to the logistics of running a class. It’s easy to come up with grand visions that will guide a class towards flourishing creativity. In reality, you need those nuts and bolts to be in place so that the class is relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.

Here are a few of the nuts and bolts, gathered as a result of my own hard-won experience. A lot of what I’m going to write in this post will seem glaringly obvious to sane people with brains. But this post isn’t for you. A lot of people who give creative writing workshops, or arts workshops of any kind, are dreamy types who struggle with the practicalities.

 1. Venue

This is a big one. Without a good venue, your class won’t have a good atmosphere. And if you can’t get into the venue, you’re in big trouble. When you’re choosing a venue, you need to ask about more than the price. You need to view the venue in advance to be sure it has facilities to suit your needs and that it’s warm and comfortable.

It’s essential to talk to the venue staff to find out how you’ll get in – will you be able to get a key or will someone open up for you. Make sure you’ve an emergency contact in case there are any problems. Also, make sure there are no hidden costs, like public liability insurance.



 2. Directions and Parking

If people don’t know where a venue is or where to park, it’ll put them off coming. If your students are tech savvy, supply them with a Google Map reference. Or write out directions and give them out over email and phone. If you’ve a crap sense of direction, get someone else to describe the location, write out their description and distribute it. Find out if people can park at the actual building and if it’s free.

3. Contact Details

Getting accurate contact details ensures a good flow of communication. You can tell people if there are changes to the class arrangements and they can let you know if they’re coming or not. Make sure you ask people for their phone number when they book. Even though it may come up on our mobile, it may not if they have a private number or they may use a different number. Give out your own contact details on the night and keep a record of their contacts with you at all times, in case of emergencies.

 4. Money

If bookings go well, you’ll be handling bucketloads of money – well, a decent amount anyway. Make sure you bring an envelope with you to store it in and count your notes, so the bank is satisfied that the lodgement amount you indicated on your lodgement slip is the same as the amount of money.

If it’s a one-day workshop in particular e prepared with a stash of coins and notes so you can give people change. If you’re taking rent for a venue out of the payments, wait until you’re at home to do it, when you’re able to calculate calmly.

Best advice of all. Sometimes things will just go wrong, in spite of your planning. If they do, roll with it. It’s not the end of the world and people are far more understanding than you expect.

What’s your top tip for managing the practicalities of running a workshop, of any kind.