Welcome, Pam Chamberlain

Today I am welcoming Pam Chamberlain, editor of  Country Roads: Memoirs From Rural Canada to my blog. As I worked on my piece for the antholoy I came to respect  and admire Pam as an editor. Now that the book is out, and we have kept in contact, I am pleased to consider her a friend.

Awhile back I asked Pam if she would like to write a post for my blog, and to my delight she agreed. So, since this post isn’t about me I’ll stop rambling so that you can read what Pam has to say about compiling an anthology.

The Unexpected Rewards of Compiling an Anthology

When I first embarked on the project of compiling an anthology on rural life, I thought the main reward would be a completed book. Although (trust me!) it was wonderful to finally hold the book in my hands, the published book—Country Roads: Memoirs from Rural Canada—is only one of the rewards of such a project, and possibly not even the greatest one.

I originally decided upon an anthology format for this project because I didn’t think I alone was capable of telling “the” story of rural Canada. How could any one person do that? Yet I believed it was important that the story be told. I decided I needed help, so I sent out a call for submissions. In response, I received 150 submissions from people who had grown up in rural communities across the country. What a joy it was to read the submissions and find that there were people across the country who had shared the experiences of my childhood. After the difficult task of selecting which ones would make it into the book, I was left with about thirty texts. I began contacting the writers to ask for their permission to include their story in the anthology and, in most cases, to request revisions.

I didn’t anticipate what a rewarding experience it would be to work with authors on their text. Working together on a text is an intimate act. The editor must move carefully, respecting the author and the writing; otherwise, the writer might dig in and refuse to revise or to be part of the project. The editor must also work to build the writer’s trust. For only if the writer trusts the editor will he or she be willing to make the changes. Working together on revisions is like a dance—it requires a shared goal, mutual trust and respect, and give and take. I’m sure some of the contributors were initially disappointed by my requests for revisions; however, it is interesting that those writers with whom I worked on the most substantial revisions are the ones whom I developed the strongest relationships with.    

Through this project, I have gained not only a published book, but relationships with writers across the country, most of whom I had never heard of before this project began, and most of whom I have never seen in person. Despite the fact we’ve never met, I feel we have developed a community. I know that if I find myself in Nova Scotia, there is a cup of tea waiting for me in East Dalhousie, and one in Halifax, and one in Bridgewater, and one in Upper Stewiacke—from four women whom I’ve never met. Yet we have shared the intimate experience of working together on their writing. Long after the book is out of print, I will remember the people who so generously contributed to this book.

I don’t call Country Roads “my” book. I call it “our” book, and so do many of the contributors, many of whom were as excited as I was to see the book in print. Some of them are working at least as hard as I am to promote it. The final product is an accomplishment we can all be proud of. It is ours.

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you, Pam, for your insights…will hope the book comes to our store in the next few years (probably after it’s out of print!).

    Thanks, Laura for introducing Pam!

    Wendy

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Wendy. Pam was a real treat to work with. I’m sure she must have the patience of a saint!

      Reply
    • Pam Chamberlain

       /  July 28, 2010

      Thanks, Wendy. It’s sounds like your bookstore is out of the way. Where do you live? Pam

      Reply
  2. Lovely story. I loved to get involved with something like this in the future. Once I’ve made some respectable sales. It really is a small world, eh? Pam, I bet it was hard to stop.

    Hi Laura. Thanks for introducing Pam. I’m looking forward to the book.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joylene. There are some pretty awesome contributors in the book who are well known Canadians. It’s super!

      Reply
      • Pam Chamberlain

         /  July 28, 2010

        Joylene, Yes I wish the book could have been twice as big. It was hard to cut pieces that were very good but just didn’t quite fit. Pam

        Reply
  3. It great to hear about people colleberating successfully.
    It all comes down to respect really, doesn’t it?

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping in and for your comment. Working on a project like this does require respect, so true.

      Reply
    • Pam Chamberlain

       /  July 28, 2010

      Hi, Thanks for your comment. It does come down to respect, certainly. It’s essential for the editor to respect the writer and his/words. The editor also has to work to earn the writer’s respect so the writer trusts that the editor has the best interests of the writer and the text at heart. Otherwise, it’s hard for the writer to be receptive to suggested changes and be willing to share some of the control. It’s a tricky process, but it is fabulous when it works! Pam

      Reply
  4. Your editor sounds awesome, Laura! When she refers to the author-editor relationship as an intimate act and a dance requiring ” a shared goal, mutual trust and respect, and give and take” it’s pretty clear that she’s a rare gem. I’ve only just now ordered my copy of “Country Roads” but I know it’s going to be a wonderful read. It’s nice to get this peek at the work that went into putting it together.

    Reply
    • Pam was wonderful. It was the first time I’d worked that closely with an editor and I’m so glad it was such a wonderful experience for me. Also it was my first time editing via email, of course that prepared me for the work I did on my novel later.

      I’m sure you recognize many of the names in the anthology, Carol. I consider myself so fortunate to be a part of it.

      Oh, and is it just me but every editor I work with is so young and pretty?

      Reply
      • Pam Chamberlain

         /  July 28, 2010

        Carol, I really enjoyed this experience. During the time I was working on the anthology, when I sat down to my desk to work and had to choose between working on my own writing and working on editing for the anthology, I always chose the latter.

        By the way, Laura provided an excellent model for how a writer can choose to act when working with an editor. She originally submitted a piece that, though well written and interesting, didn’t have the right tone for the anthology. I emailed her and told her so, and asked her if she had anything else to submit or if she’d be willing to re-write the original submission. While many writers would’ve sulked and abandoned the project, Laura didn’t waste time feeling hurt. She responded enthusiastically and quickly with a re-written text that was a perfect fit for the book. I was impressed. Pam

        Reply
  5. Melanie

     /  July 28, 2010

    Great post! Thanks Pam for sharing your thoughts and insights. “Country Roads” is a truly special anthology; one I’ll always cherish and share with my own daughter someday. :)

    Reply
  6. It sounds wonderful – a great collaboration! You’ll let us know Laura when it’s released. Thank you Pam for sharing!

    Reply

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