Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Editing qarrtsiluni

The issue of qarrtsiluni that Kate Abbott and I guest-edited is now complete. We’ve concluded the issue with a real cracker of a poem (with a terrific photograph to match). Don’t miss it! I thought I'd try to say something here about the experience of editing.

As experiences go, this was a good one. At first submissions were slow in coming and I was a little concerned. However, it was probably a positive sign that people were thinking about the theme and working on their pieces rather than rushing them in.

We received a few strong pieces early on, but it was only after the first few weeks that things began to take off. It became vital to deal with submissions in as disciplined a way as possible so as they didn’t build up in too large quantities. I was surprised at the amount of high quality material we were sent, particularly on the poetry side (we could have done with more quality prose). I had expected far more bland stuff and we had to reject pieces that weren’t bad to make room for the ones which had something extra about them, that indefinable quality that demanded attention.

In the vast majority of cases, Kate and I were able to agree quickly on pieces we wanted to accept and reject. Some kept us in discussion late into the night. A co-editor is valuable. I would have rejected a few pieces of real worth had Kate not persuaded me otherwise and I think the same is true the other way round.

In a small number of cases, we worked with authors and suggested ways of improving their submissions. Some pieces needed a tweak here or there, others needed more substantial changes, but it was great when writers revised pieces and sent them back in a far stronger form. I guess that if qarrtsiluni continues to grow in readership and in numbers of submissions, this co-operative element might prove more difficult.

Rejecting submissions from friends and Internet colleagues was hard, and we had to do a fair bit of that. However, receiving brilliant submissions from people with whom we’d previously had no contact made up for it. I was so impressed by one poet’s submission (well, OK, Claire Crowther) that I went online to purchase her collection the very next day, and it’s excellent.

So it was great to be part of an online magazine that’s gaining a reputation for eclectic, quality literature and strong visual design. I hope you enjoy the issue and might consider submitting to qarrtsiluni in the future. A new theme with new guest-editors will appear sometime in early November.

8 comments:

Dave said...

A new theme with new guest-editors will appear sometime in early November.
On November 1, in fact. But I'm sure that at least a week with no posts will follow, giving people plenty of time to catch up on the last issue and ponder their submissions for the next.

Rob, I really enjoyed working with you and Kate over the past two months. I was chuffed when you agreed to do it, and have been thrilled to see so many high-quality contributions, especially considering that the over-all level of submissions has remained manageable, as you say. Beth and I are especially pleased by how well qarrtsiluni is bridging the Atlantic now, and we hope to increase participation from writers in other parts of the Anglophone world in the months ahead.

Cailleach said...

I thought you two did a terrific job - there were some really outstanding poems in the mix - I've just read the Claire Crowther one and I'd have to agree with you.

Also loved the guidelines for the National Poetry Comp ;)

Beth said...

This issue definitely set a new benchmark for quality at qarrtsiluni; many thanks to you and Kate not only for your excellent editing but your effort to attract submissions from a broad group of writers of your own acquaintance (not that all those writers made it through the selection process!) This is one of the strengths of having guest editors - fresh eyes for the work, and a bigger network of readers and writers who are interested in what we're trying to do. Thanks so much!

Jane Holland said...

I said Claire Crowther was good. Wish I could have sent some stuff for the mag. but I'm pathetically slow at the moment, both writing-wise and in sending out. That is, I'm writing but none of it will be ready to be seen for weeks yet, maybe months.

Good luck with it, anyway.

RcL said...

Claire Crowther is fresh, surprising and intriguing. I think she is among the most interesting poets in the UK right now - very hard to place and hurrah for that.

Roddy

Rob said...

Dave and Beth, it was great to work with you too.

Barbara - glad you enjoyed the issue and I thought your poem might get people's brains ticking over...

Jane, Roddy - I agree. I read Claire Crowther's poems in Magma a few months back and had seen a few other poems too. Her submission to qarrtsiluni came out of the blue - as an editor, it's just great to receive stuff like that!

I'd definitely recommend Claire Crowther's collection, titled Stretch of Closures. It's off-beat and highly original without being in any way obscure or pretentious.

Rob said...

Oh, and I meant to say, Stretch of Closures has a fantastic cover too!

Pica said...

As one of the people who thought about this theme and actually started a couple of pieces that never made it to submission, I wanted to thank you both for an outstanding edition.

A Central Valley mist
envelops me, this day:
like smelling Scotland