Monday, October 6, 2014

art, writing, and trying to grow a backbone

A while back, Stephen and I were contacted by a publisher about collaborating on a coffee table book of sorts pairing a number of Stephen's paintings with flash fiction inspired by those paintings.

The biggest thrill for me was being asked by the publisher to curate the group of writers, each of whom would take one of Stephen's paintings and use it as a prompt to write a tiny original story.

Right away, lists started in my head. Who would be good candidates for my writers (they would be my writers - for this project they would be my writers):

Writers I admire
Writers Stephen admires
Writers who admire Stephen's work

This project was perfect for me. I mean, I personally knew so many remarkable writers.

Writers who excel at short fiction
Writers who excel at working from prompts
Writers whose sensibilities seem to fit with Stephen's aesthetic

Lists and lists and lists, and of course I realized somewhere in there that I couldn't invite everyone.

Oh no.

Maybe this project wasn't for me. I mean, I personally knew so many remarkable writers. Too, too many remarkable writers.

Making a new computer file and combining all the names into a master list doesn't help. It just makes it easier to see that you have four times the number of writers than you can squeeze into one book.

Part of being a good editor, if I was going to be a good editor, was narrowing down the list. All I had to do was remove a few writers here and there, just whittle down my incredibly long and beloved list, just hack it to pieces, leaving writers I admire, leaving friends in my wake.

A Friday night, Stephen and me at the hairdresser's, me with the big glass spaceman-suit bowl breathing hot air over my head, and my master list in my lap.

Next to me, Stephen named names and made comments that I couldn't hear over the drone of my spaceman-suit head. We decided against one of the names, someone we both know well, and running my ink pen across that name was like running that ink pen across the face of that friend.

Backbone. That's what you're suppose to have if you fancy yourself an editor of a book. If you make your decisions based on personal consideration, you're not editing a book, you're just fooling around.

Backbone. That's one of the benefits I hope to get out of my role in this project. Don't ask me how I got to the point in my life where I'm taking things on for the right reasons, but the aspects that scare me the most about doing this - are why I need to be doing this.

Under the drone of my spaceman-suit head, I crossed another name off. The friction of the pen moving across the paper was a bee squirm at the base of my spine. Each and every name I had to cross off, people who I knew would be great for the project, people I'd long admired, each and every name... hurt.

Great writer but better for nonfiction
Great writer but maybe too modern
Great writer
Great writer

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