Compassion for Editors:
The Color of August Pumpkins

by Channie Greenberg


It’s nearly preternatural how word play, relative to full body massages or ice cream sundaes, costs neither coins nor calories, yet satisfies in ways incalculable. This vast pleasure derives, perhaps, from the space neatly-built phrases harbor, from that place where secluded piles of thoughts find homes and privacy.

In the end, it’s not important whether or not verbs steal sensibilities from nouns; there are enough venues, both traditional and avant-garde, for a world’s worth of poetry and prose. What matters is how works perform in the universe of meaning.

Readers, uncoiling at school, at work, or in the quiet of a library, expect more than the tissue-thin wrenching of gist from the ether. In our collective consciousness, it is stipulated that printed sensibilities tickle, tease, or otherwise torment us up to the point where we snap our mental fingers in appreciation. Happily, there’s no lack of persons sufficiently competent to supply us with our fix.

Yet even literary phenoms, those crafters best able to evoke our feelings, suffer, sometimes, from gatekeepers’ predilections. Publication monarchs periodically rule in ways implausible to all but the most practiced writers. On occasion, those royals’ decisions seem comprehensible only to the sort of folks who have made public so many motes than even a purple orangutan suddenly filling their favorite writing chair would be just one more reason to evolve an essay or to scribble a ballad.

For the rest of us, it can seem, from time to time, that editors exist who create semantic mishaps out of the sweetest, self-twittering texts. Not even an entire hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs appeases such awkward fellows when they are filled with a proclivity toward narrowly understood definitions of “proper discourse.” At such moments, no amount of footnotes can forestall a snide remark and no extent of clipping away at needed lines will ever cause them to smile enough to buy a piece.

The epistemic upshot of such behavior is that it discourages writers. Such circumstances damage, just a tad, when issued from platforms denuded of value, but when offered by esteemed venues, those communications truly sting. Few authors want to be told that their work is as ripe as an August pumpkin.

Sure, it’s possible to tank up and to move on, to exit at the next cozy highway picnic area, but it remains a pity to have to miss out on certain vistas because one’s derriere doesn’t fit into a rollercoaster seat or because one is too short to be permitted on the merry-go-round. In brief, incommensurabilities between writers and editors cause loss.

It’s not missed opportunities to claim international or local bylines that ratchet up the cost, but the mislaid making of meaning between thoughtful souls. Semantic silly putty, at best, is a playful distraction, a channel for intellectual flirtation, or even an hour’s entertainment. Its absence, though, is measured in galaxies.

The potential to fashion links among individuals sits deeply. The possibility to share an understanding about a leaf dropping silently from a tree or about the type of poisons best used to stymie neighbors creates invaluable bridges. Without such connectors, we are reduced to lone entities.

In paraphrase, tainted word capsules, flung by those with the keys to the wine cellar enforce the type of isolation that grows from our usual habit of scary mentations. Poorly expressed reservations, and even at times, awkward compliments, can break down the integrity of writers and of their facilitators. It’s no fun, from either end, to feel misunderstood. The construction of passageways between word makers and the persons who correct, condense, and organize words is a better action.

Consider that, on the one hand, rapport with an editor is not a cosmic dice game. On the other hand, gatekeepers are fallible, too. At times, neither the details of a bit of writing nor the circumstances surrounding its submissions are at fault; rather, the reviewer’s rabbit just threw up on her carpet, her file of accepted writings just went blank despite the large amount of funds she invested in technical help, or her repeated tasting of some highly spiced salami is interfering with her cognitions. Every so often, on the receiving side, basics have to be righted before even a form letter can smell of pleasantries.

Tomorrow, when I wake, I plan to frolic with gelatinous monsters and with lovers of questionable orientation. I want to paint word pictures about the sound of dumpster cats fighting over neck bones and about the color of African parakeets migrating through the Middle East. I plan, as well, to overcome any hurt I perceive from those individuals who determine the life or death of my contributions and to reframe any related sensations, which register as indignation, as surprise, or as their cousins, as energetically wasteful. It’s vital for me to remember that editors, too, are tinted by humanity.

Such efforts at compassion will not increase the size of my publication record, but will allow me to be carried into a pleasant morning. Perhaps my improved attitude will even be caught by some of my less-than-appreciated media guardians. I’ve been told that kindheartedness is contagious.

In the least, such a sympathetic mindset will help to maintain the ongoing conversation among members of the literary tribe. Such a reference point will recall, to me, as well, that it’s tough to sort through writers’ produce and that it’s even more difficult to find a nice way to let the farmers of ideas know that their goods have not yet fully ripened.

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Author's Challenge

  1. What is the essay about?

  2. “The construction of passageways between word makers and the persons who correct, condense and organize words is a better action.”

    What happens when a word-maker and a person who does all the other things with words are not the same person?

Responses welcome!


Copyright © 2012 by Channie Greenberg

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