Off the Stage: Editors Talking Editing, March 2016

On Thursday, March 17, Soliloquies Anthology, in collaboration with Headlight Anthology, presented Editors Talking Editing: the Other Side of Submittable, a discussion panel that launched Writers Read’s Off the Page literary festival.

Over the past few months, undergraduate and graduate students in Sina Queyras’ “Curating and Archiving the Literary Event” class have pitched panel proposals, called for and curated submissions, and invited writers to present verse, prose, and academic papers over the course of the three-day event. According to the many attendees from around Montreal and across Canada, as well as the vibrant conversations happening across social media, the festival was an astounding success.

Since the festival’s theme is that it has no theme—and the ideas, concepts, and mediums are so varied and multitudinous that they spill off the page—there’s a great opportunity to talk about important issues at the heart of the literary community. A Queer is a Queer is a Queer and Black Love showcased work that intentionally deviated from mainstream narratives, fostering an environment in which to address issues of (under)representation.  As a testament to the fact that these issues matter to readers, writers, and thinkers in the literary community, both panels spoke to overflowing audiences.

Off the Page also featured panels on various genres that don’t typically fall under the banner of literature: Writing Iconocide explored the relationship between literature and image destruction; Cursing in Cursive invited hip-hop artists to annotate and discuss verses of their work; and Blurred Boundaries Between Fiction and the Real interrogated the relationship between between fiction and memoir. These panels, paired with headline readings by Anne Boyer, Jordan Abel, Sonnet L’Abbé, and Ben Lerner, created a versatile and vital festival weekend.

Kicking off the festival, Soliloquies Anthology Editor-in-Chief Kailey Havelock and Headlight Anthology Editor-in-Chief Karissa LaRocque sat down with editorial alumni from both journals.  Larissa Andrusyshyn, Domenica Martinello, Geneviève Robichaud, and Chalsley Taylor discussed their publishing and editing experience both at Concordia and in the industry. The panel provided illuminating and honest insights that opened a discourse that continued through the festival. 

Particularly notable was their commentary on issues of representation in the publishing world. Domenica Martinello discussed her experiences as a writer who responded to a publisher’s call for writing by women, people of colour, or queer writers. Martinello explained, “It’s my responsibility to help offset [the abundance of submissions by straight, cis, white, male authors being published].” Chalsley Taylor agreed with Martinello’s claim that underrepresented writers have the power to push for diversity: “It’s important to look at where we put our call for submissions. If we don't have PoC submitting, why is that?”

The moderators also asked the panelists about other problematic aspects of the publishing world, namely the fact that the majority of editorial positions are unpaid. “It’s a labour of love, but we still have to eat, not matter how much we love it,” Taylor said. Many publications will give editors a small honorarium for their work, but it’s impossible to sustain oneself on passion alone. Larissa Andrusyshyn points out that the reading fee many potential submitters seem wary of is often a solution to this problem, and not intended as the deterrent many writers perceive. “If there’s a reading fee,” Andrusyshyn said, “maybe there is an editor out there who’s getting paid, and that’s okay.”

The panelists also offered some advice to contributors on submitting their work. “Rejections keep it real,” Andrusyshyn explained. “They remind you to stay humble.” Geneviève Robichaud added, “It’s an issue of perspective. I don’t know what good work is. They just need a reader who is receptive to the work.” All the panelists agreed that the golden rule for getting your work published is to read the journals you’re submitting to, in order to make sure that your work fits with what they’re looking for.

Taylor concluded the panel with some inspiring words about how working as an editor has encouraged her to submit her own writing—words that hit home for many of us working on journals: “Month after month, I’m looking at line by line entries of people who have been brave enough to submit their work and I think, ‘you can do this too.’”

For more insights from the Editors Talking Editing: The Other Side of Submittable panelists, see the recent Soliloquies Writes interview Kailey Havelock in Conversation with Editors Talking Editing.

For more content from Soliloquies Anthology, visit soliloquies.ca. Join us at La Vitrola on April 14 for the launch of Soliloquies Anthology 20.2.