All in a Day’s Work – A Writer’s Life

When I first opened A Writer’s Window ages ago, one of the purposes was to ‘open the window’ on what some writers do. This after a friend said she never thought of writing as a real job, and that writers didn’t really work. I hope the author interviews I’ve done and the observations I’ve shared have shed a bit of light on how our crazy minds work and how we spend our time.

But for many of us it’s not all creating. These are the binders I’ve been – and will continue for another couple of weeks – deep diving into for the poetry and art anthology Kakalak. This is my 5th time as a Co-Editor for the anthology and it’s still a fun and rewarding – and challenging – endeavor. So this is the other side of many writers’ work. It’s not in creating, but in editing and supporting the writing community.

The binders hold a total of 626 poems, the poetry submissions for Kakalak 2022. Over the weekend I laughed at my friend Tina’s expression when she said, “You have to read all of them?!” Yes, there are three of us Co-Editors and each of us will read all the poems. They represent the work of 172 poets from all over. Last year a poet living in Iceland was included in the anthology.

So out of those 626 poems, how many will be chosen for the anthology? The average is 105 or so. I can imagine some of your faces as you say. “What?!” So one challenge for the Co-Editors is accepting going in that we’ll have to pass on some really great poems for poems that are just enough greater. And you have no idea how close those differences are. Trust me when I say we make some agonizing decisions.

The challenge for the poets and writers in general, is accepting when we submit our work anywhere, the chances of that work being accepted for publication are not in our favor. And yet we still write and submit and hope and write and tweak and resubmit and hope . . .

How do we possibly choose so few out of so many? That’s the other challenge for the Co-Editors–the actual process. We’ll read each of the poems on our own and make our notes. Some of my notes include: I like these details/specifics; vivid images; like the story/energy/emotion/mood; wow!; good line breaks/structure/word choice; perfect sonnet/villanelle/other form; good use of metaphor/concrete/abstract; I remember that feeling/setting/experience; this is original/different . . . with lots of arrows, words circled and underlined, and exclamation points. And a few question marks. So many elements go into writing a good poem helping it rise to the top.

You’ll notice there’s a dictionary with the binders. It’s an old one and one of my favorites because it holds wonderful old words and fuller definitions than some of the newer ones. Some poets include words I have no clue what they mean! It’s good to learn new words now and then, and the definitions clarify for me what the poet is saying. I also keep my phone handy because poets like to reference artwork and music and other literary works that I’m not familiar with, so researching those deepens the understanding of the poem.

In addition to the binders, I have files for 199 pieces of art – each one in color and black and white – from 52 artists that will also be judged for inclusion in the anthology. And the same challenges as for the poetry apply.

For the art we select one piece for the cover, which will be in color. The inside images will be black and white. The range of work is always fascinating. There are photos of all kinds of subjects from landscapes, nature (plants and animals), people, to ‘industrial’ images like buildings and bridges. There are various styles of putting images to paper – watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, pencil, oil. And original works of art like sculpture, mixed media, and fabric art. Here are some covers that have been chosen over the years.

2016 – Tomb, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, Paris by Jeanne Julian; 2018 – Under the Pier by Jeannette Brossart; 2019 – Tree Lights by Brittany Taylor-Driggers; 2020 – Sacrament by Julie Ann Cook; 2021 – My glass is half full . . . what’s yours? by Laura D. Hare; 2009 – New Zealand Fern by Kathleen Pompe

2017 – Core Sample by Jeannette Brossart; 2015 – Tumbled Through Time: Sea Glass, Carolina Beaches by Lynda C. Ward; 2006 – Winter Cotton, Florence, SC by Donna H. Goodman; 2013 – Mineral Deposits, North Carolina by Lynda C. Ward; 2008 – Watertrees by Patz Fowle; 2007 – On the Open Cliff by Sally B. Miller

And a few close-ups so you can see the details.

Like the poetry, the artwork also has elements that make it work. I note things like originality, balance, composition, sharpness, color, story/mood/energy. Will the color image work as a black and white one?

Each Co-Editor has their version of what I do. We come from different backgrounds and life experiences, and those influence what we see in the poems and artwork. Sometime in July the three of us will come together and make our final selections.

The magic for me is when all the selections have been made and we begin to organize the poems with the art. We don’t have a theme for the issue, we don’t organize the anthology alphabetically by contributors’ names, or the titles of the work, yet miraculously the final contributions can be threaded together by mood or ideas that flow through them. I’ve been known to get teary when I first see the anthology’s galley proof.

So there you have it. A behind-the scenes peek through A Writer’s Window of a writer ‘not working’! 🙂

I’m grateful for today’s beautiful weather as I head out to the deck for today’s work. I hope all of you have a great week.

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