Monday, January 31, 2011

An Editor's Job

By Verna Dresibach

Since its publication, I have been asked a number of questions related to the anthology, Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives. Many writers are either creating a collection of their own, or hoping to get published by submitting their work to any number of anthologies. Some writers (and readers) believe that editing an essay collection is relatively easy. If you’re solely choosing stories and sticking them together in a book, then sure, that’s easy. I doubt it will bring much success or positive reviews, so I’d advise against it. An editor’s job is tedious and time consuming. One of my primary goals was to make sure that the stories I chose were diverse and unique enough for an entire collection,
one that would keep the reader entertained and not feeling as if they’ve read the same story over and over again, 27 times. I had an innumerable amount of “first horse” stories and stories about horses that helped their owner through a traumatic event such as an injury or health issue. An editor is also at the mercy of the stories that are submitted. Because there were so many similar stories, I had to search out stories for a greater variety. Unfortunately, this is typically at the end of the submission period when an editor discovers that there might not be enough of a variety. And, if there’s a deadline to the publishing company, it can be a stressful time.

Of equal importance is to choose stories that are written well. As an editor, we have the option to include a wonderful story that isn’t written as well as it could and take a greater role in the writing of that particular story. An editor can’t do that for every story. There just isn’t enough time. I had to balance my time between those that needed very little editorial help, with those that I would have to ghost write myself. Only a few were submitted in near perfect condition. I did happen to have two writers who refused to make any changes to their stories and subsequently, they were not included in the publication. I didn’t feel as though they had gone deep enough into their story, lacking that necessary connection that would make enough of an impact on the reader. We can all enjoy our horses, but I was looking for the stories about the horses that helped shape us as women – helped to change the way we looked at the people and the world around us. As you can imagine, my job as an editor is far easier when I’m working with writers who are willing to revise and edit their pieces. And, my job as an editor is to work in conjunction with the writer so that they feel they’ve maintained the scope, purpose and voice of the story intact throughout the revision process – if it’s a major revision. All of the writers in the collection who worked with me and made the revisions themselves believe that they walked away from the experience with a stronger story. It is truly a collaborative effort and I enjoyed the experience immensely. I also believe I walked away from the experience a much stronger editor. I am grateful to the many women I worked with on this project.

Thank you!

If you missed the opportunity to submit to Why We Ride, you do have the opportunity to participate in the second annual Why We Ride contest sponsored by the San Mateo County Fair literary arts division.


Sponsored by Verna Dreisbach


$100.00 for the winning piece

Special Note: Verna Dreisbach is an author, educator, and literary agent. She is the editor of the Seal Press anthology, Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horse in their Lives.

Eligibility: Submit between 2,000 (minimum) and 3500 words (maximum). Open to all writers. Share an inspirational, funny or touching story that speaks from the heart and demonstrates our unique bond with horses. Submit according to the same entry guidelines for the general writing contests, using standard manuscript formatting, 12 pt. font, double-spaced; include word count.

Note: If you are new to writing, please review Why We Ride or other anthologies and literary journals to get a sense of the type of work that is being published. Website: and Blog

Here is the latest link for the literary section: They are in the process of building a new and much better web site that promises to be user friendly. The catalog is being printed and as soon as that is complete, they will also post the actual entry requirements online. The deadline for entries is April 29th, no exception. I am told that submissions are accepted electronically, as long as they are also mailed in hard copy to the fair office, or “walk in” until 7 pm on April 29.

Here is the address:

San Mateo County Event Center

2495 S. Delaware St, San Mateo, CA 94403

650 574-3247

Good luck. I look forward to reading your stories!



Alison said...

Thank you Verna for writing about the editing side of the writing business. Too many writers want to write but don't want to go the distance and revise and edit for a market. Your explanation of the process was eye-opening. Thank you as well for giving writers a chance to publish in a tough market.

Jami Davenport said...

Verna, that sounds really interesting and a book I'd like to read.