September 27, 2016

Elizabeth Philips, poet, novelist, editor, (and finalist!)

Elizabeth Philips is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, A Blue with Blood in it (Coteau Books: 2000) and Torch River (Brick Books: 2007). Among other awards, she has won two Saskatchewan Book Awards, a National Magazine Award, an Alberta Magazine Award, and Torch River was a finalist for the Lambda Book Award in the US. Her poems have been anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2009 and 70 Canadian Poets (Gary Geddes, editor, 2014). The Afterlife of Birds is her first novel. She lives in Saskatoon with her partner and their dogs. [Ed. note: Elizabeth was a finalist for the 2016 First Novel Award.] OM:  Is it difficult for an editor to be edited? EP:  Actually I enjoyed the editing process for The Afterlife of Birds. I was amused, sometimes, that my editor, Barb Scott, was using similar language to get me to see what I had missed as the phrases I use to get writers I’m editing to improve dialogue or find a better word or imagine a scene more fully. Ah, I’d think, that’s how she phrases that. Being edited by a good editor makes you a better editor. I once […]
September 20, 2016

My story is perfect and your comments are stupid

If I ever feel that my story is perfect and the editor’s comments are stupid, I’ll know I have arrived at the worst-case scenario. It has never happened to me, but I have found myself in situations that were almost as stressful. In the best-case scenario, the editor catches mistakes and suggests changes that enhance and clarify my work. Editorial correspondence usually falls somewhere between these two extremes. In the murky middle ground, editors may want changes that don’t seem better than what I have written. If proposed changes work, but don’t seem to be an obvious improvement, then it’s just change for the sake of change. I’m much more likely to consider revisions if I know the reader has taken some care with my story. I knew this was the case when I received an acceptance letter from Elizabeth Philips, guest editor of Grain. Her careful, extensive breakdown of my story revealed serious attention to detail. I read my stories aloud dozens of time before I send them out for publication, but I was blind to some of the things she caught. She helped stamp out my overuse of “buts”. That’s how my mind works—thoughts in opposition— but the […]
September 6, 2016

Simultaneous submissions

Considering long turn-around times at literary journals, and my life expectancy of 80.2 years, I’ve taken to simultaneous submissions as a reasonable response to unreasonable delays. It’s true that elite athletes will have to wait four years for the next Olympics, but there aren’t many other situations where waiting for a response can take more than a year. Some journals have banned simultaneous submissions entirely, while others realize that it isn’t fair to leave writers hanging so long without the possibility of joy from other sources. My decision to go this route was based on rough odds. If less than 1% of submissions are published, it seems very unlikely that two journals would accept the same piece. I viewed the likelihood of this worst-case scenario as vanishingly small…until it happened to me. “No Call Too Small” (featured on this website) was accepted by Grain and then again by The Malahat Review. It was hard to avoid feeling guilty, as I knew Malahat had committed resources to my work as part of the selection process. Some or all members of the editorial board had read it, discussed it, and ultimately voted for it. They may have considered how the piece would […]