Wednesday Workshop: Editing Plus

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Editing Plus
Wednesday Workshop
14 March 2018

We all need a second pair of eyes whether we are editing our own work or when we edit the work of others. Clearly,  there are several levels (layers is also a good word) at which editing can place.

1. Self-editing: I think we are better off creating the work first and editing it afterwards. However, whether we like it or not, self-editing, and even self-censorship, often takes place during the act of creation as we shuffle sentences, change words, and search for appropriate metaphors. Finish the first draft. When the piece has been drafted, we can look at editing it. I very much like the idea of going to an unfamiliar place so that we re-read in an unfamiliar setting. If familiarity breeds contempt, then unfamiliarity can often breed better editing. That is why I like to leave pieces fallow for a while, before returning to them.

2. Self-editing: One of the best forms of self-editing for me is publishing work on my blog or reading it at an open mic session. When I publish on my blog, I think of the offering, be it prose, poetry, memoir, or criticism, in terms of the ‘other’, those other eyes that will read it. When I read at an open mic session, I think of the people who will hear my spoken word. In both cases, I usually make changes in response to the audience and the perceived audience. Sometimes I make these changes as I read … realizing as I speak my offering that certain phrases are better said in a different fashion or left out altogether. Open Mic readings: I always read my offering aloud and time it before I read in public. Viva Voce is the best way, in my opinion, to catch errors in rhythm and to improve word usage.

3. BETA Readers: Many of my friends use BETA readers, trusted friends who read and criticize their work in early format. I like this idea, but I trust very few readers. Those I do trust are often too busy with their own writing to have time for consistent BETA reading.  Trust is a key issue here. If you have a good, tried and trusted BETA reader, shower them with gifts, buy them presents, keep them by your side.

4. Copy Editing: This comes at several levels that vary from the friend who corrects the occasional error, to the copy editor who fine combs your work and corrects grammar, accuracy, and punctuation. Good copy editors rarely work for free. However, it is well worth while to prepare a manuscript with great care, and some cost, before sending it away, especially to a professional publishing house. Again, trust is an important issue here.

5. Structural Editing: The editor who can deal competently with structural issues is both rare and priceless. We often see and hear how brutal editing can be, both on the writer and the text. While structural editing  can be destructive, both to the text and the writer, if well done, it can be very constructive. I think of Ezra Pound’s notes and changes to Eliot’s Waste Land as an example of exemplary editing. There are many others.

6. Editing and Publishing: I know of authors whose first books were edited heavily by the presses that published them. I also know that in some cases they never published again and in other cases they were frozen into a ‘what will the editor say mode’ that disabled their creativity enormously. Editing can be destructive as well as constructive. Alas, if we want that elusive publication, sometimes our professional editors give us very little choice. Publish or Perish + Change OR Else = an uncomfortable situation in the course of which the original wok can change shape in ways the author cannot control. This is doubly true if the writer belongs to the Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth school. And remember, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder who just happens to be editing and then offering to publish your work.

This is an interesting topic and there is so much more to say. I hope I haven’t wasted too much of your time with this.
waiting for the snow to arrive,
in Island View.

Wednesday Workshop: Writing from Inside


Writing from Inside
Wednesday Workshop
07 March 2018

Crave More: I hate those words.  I always choose a cart with the shop’s name on the handle. I can handle that. I can’t handle a shopping cart that screams Crave More at me every time I stoop down and place another item in the wire grid. If stores were honest they would write Think More and Crave Less on their shopping cart handles. But I bet that would quickly cut into profits.

Anyway, there I was, in LaLaLand, leaning on my cart, still half asleep, when this ghost drifted towards me. “Help me,” it said. “I’m hungry. I need food.” I woke up from my dream, looked at the ghost, tall, skeletal thin, cavernous eyes and cheekbones protruding, grey face drawn with shame. The single word “Sorry” came automatically to my lips. Then I too felt shame. I looked at him again. “I only carry plastic.” The excuse limped heavily across the air between. I saw something in his eyes, I knew not what, and I turned away.

In my mind, I added 120 lb of muscle to the scarecrow frame. Took forty years away. Filled his body with joy and pride, not shame, and remembered how he played the game, hard and fast, but true. I ran my hand through the card index of former players that I coached and knew: their moves, and attributes, the way they played the game, their stronger / weaker side, their playing strengths, their weaknesses. I remembered him holding up the Champion’s Cup. But I couldn’t remember his name.

I pushed the cart all over the store in a frantic search for him. He was nowhere to be seen. I went to the ATM and took out cash. I could hand it to him. I could tell him he had dropped it. I went through a thousand scenes. I could invite him to the snack bar. I could tell him to buy what he needed and follow me to the  check out lane. A single opportunity. One chance. That’s all we get. Miss it, and we blow the championship. Take it, and we win the game.


True Love


True Love

Her voice in the night
drags me from my dreams.
But it is not her voice:
she has gone back home
leaving Clare and I alone.

Our sleeping rhythms have changed
and we wake each other up
when we unexpectedly touch
or startle at the voices in our dreams.

True love is so much more
than an exchange of rings
or a holding of hands,
especially when our lives
are no longer ruled by hormones,
and they’re taken over
by rebellious glands.

Twits or Tweets


Twits or Tweets
(A Roger’s Rant)

Poor poets of today
sweet birds reduced
one hundred and forty letters
the song you tweet

oh twitter away your tune
your readers will not swoon
over anything longer
than the shortest rune

and if go on you must
the tv commercial calls
thirty seconds to adjust
words for everyone’s lust

sound bytes bark louder
than sonnets now beware
the dog byte of radio
and tv making a mockery
of all you once held good

no film rights for a sonnet
no actors no models
on the cat walk no talk
of moneyed contracts
honeyed words that brook

no contacts with either
upper or lower class
none of whom today
would stoop to make a pass
at passing poets
or offer to kiss their arse

Never The Twain



Never The Twain

“And never the twain shall meet.”

This was the chorus that my grandparents often chanted at me when family members started rowing with each other over one trivial incident or another.
“But what happens when the twain do meet,” I used to ask.
“Don’t be silly,” they said. “The twain never meet. Ever.”
But I know very well that they do.
I know.
I’ve seen them together.

Funny things, they are, the twain, and opposites in so many ways. But so nice, in spite of what some people, especially my grandparents, used to say about them.

Not only do they meet, but they can be happy together and very, very friendly.
“Long time, no see,” the twain say, and they often embrace quite warmly with a bunch of flowers held between them.

Mind you, the twain can also be quite awkward and occasionally very abusive towards each other. I remember my mother and father fighting “like cats and dogs” as my grandparents used to say.

Now, my grandparents had a cat. It was black and white and striped like a zebra. They called it Spot. My parents had a dog. It was an English Cocker Spaniel, gold in color, and off-spring to a famous sire, the Six-Shot Woody Woodpecker. They called the dog  Wimpy but it was by no means a wimp and fought with everything in sight, especially the cat.

So when my father and mother fought and the family cat and dog fought, I thought, quite reasonably in my opinion, that the dog (with his short hair) was male and the cat (with her long hair) was female, and that was the reason why they fought like cats and dogs. And “never the twain shall meet” as my grandparents used to say about my mother and father and the cat and the dog.

I guess it was too early to learn about the birds and the bees when, young and all too innocent, I was learning about the cats and the dogs.

And of course it’s only natural that the twain should meet. My mother and my father, like the cat and the dog, had to meet somewhere, didn’t they? How else would I be here? Now, we weren’t the sort of family that practiced contraception by throwing stones at the storks to keep the babies away.

But I could never work out why the cat always had female kittens while the dog had all-male off-spring. That was a bit too much for me, and nobody ever really explained anything I those days.





Two footprints on the dew damp chair
show that he has been here.

We know he visits at night.
The cat wakes up, jumps off the bed,
leaps to the window, and hisses.
Then she falls silent.

The raccoon steals food from the feeder
and shuffles the pottery shards
we leave out to gather water for the birds.

We never see him.
Sometimes we hear him grunt;
occasionally the wind chimes rattle furiously
as if caught by a giant gust..

We peer into the dark,
turn on the outside lights,
but his absence greets us
like a long lost friend.

Last night, nothing:
this morning, an empty feeder,
those footmark in the dew on the chair:
we know he was there.

Snowy Day


Bleak Mid-winter
All About Angels

The reverse side of a tapestry this fly-netting,
snow plugging its tiny squares,
clotting with whiteness the loopholes
where snippets of light sneak through.

Black and white this landscape,
its colorless contours a throwback
to earlier days when dark and light
and black and white held sway.

Snow piled on snow.
The bird-feeder buried and buried too
the lamps that can no longer shine
beneath their cloak of snow.

The front porch contemplates a sea of white,
wave after wave cresting whitecaps,
casting a snow coat over trees
with snow-filled nests standing
shoulder-deep in the drifts

while a slow wind whistles
and high and dry in the sky above
the sun is a pale, thin penny
drifting through ragged clouds
that threaten to bring more snow.

Snowy Day
Meg Sorick

who misses the snow
and offered to come and dig us out.

1. View from office window with IMac and pencils.


2. Bird feeders and the mountain ash from kitchen window.


2a Same scene, two hours later


2b Same scene, another hour later


3. Back porch, bird table, and picnic table from living room.


3b Same scene, two hours later


4. Cat’s eye view of snow from Princess Squiffy’s vantage point.


4a Same scene, two hours later

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5. Princess Squiffy turns her back on the snow and seeks an alternate reality



6. We finished with 63 cms of snow (25 inches), plus drifting of course. Almost shoulder high in places. Other snowfalls in the province ranged from 70-80-90-100 cms. All in all, we were lucky. A wonderful neighbor came and helped us dig / plow ourselves out earlier this evening, and now we can get to the road and our driveway is snow free. Paul: thank you  so very much.