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.