Friday, June 29, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Editors

I Learned the Hard Way – Editors are Good!

I was sixth grade spelling bee champ. I also have Spell Check on my computer,
photo from 384-4328
and one of my favorite pastimes is finding spelling errors and typos on restaurant menus. Does that mean I don’t have my poetry read by a trusted reader/ editor before submitting it? HECK NO!

Editors do not “steal” your poems and make them theirs. They take your poems and help make them better!

I have no idea why I once wrote a poem that had “Morse code” in it, but I never got that badge in Girl Scouts. I did not spell “Morse” correctly; my editor told me. I had no idea that “zero’s” was spelled “zeroes”. An editor told me. I had a poem published that spelled “ponytail” wrong. Should it have been caught by the journal editor? Maybe, but it should have been caught by me first!

photo from 384-4328
An editor will unemotionally read your work, find things, and ask questions. They have not lived with your poems and read them sixty five times like you probably have – you may not even see errors anymore.

When you proof your work, you should:


Make sure there is a period at the end of each poem,

Make sure there is one space after a period rather than two, and make sure all your poems are consistent,

If you’re reviewing a proof from a journal, make sure the entire poem is included. It will be your responsibility to let the journal know if anything is missing. It does happen.

Editors will also do the following, which you may not do:

They will look for duplicate words very close together and ask if that’s your intention,

Look for typos — Spell check may not catch “your” vs “you’re”, “there” vs “their” and so on. It may not catch “Morse code”, “zeroes”, or “ponytail”. If you use a foreign language for any reason, it will not catch gender. I did this too —I ended a line of a poem in French. The poem was written from a female point of view, but unfortunately the last line was male. An editor may have caught that, and may catch other typos that you just don’t see,

Check for consistent tenses. It is okay to change the tense in a poem but it has to be done on purpose. An editor will ask if that’s your intention,

Alert you to words just skirting the edge of cliché. Particularly if your poems include lines about the moon, stars, angels, someone’s appearance or description of body parts such as eyes, the ocean, descriptions of the color “blue”, holding hands at sunset (just kidding). They will ask if that’s your intention.

Their questions will point you toward places that may not be clear. It’s up to you to decide if you want to re-write anything before they’re in a journal, or in your book forever.

photo from 384-4328
No one expects you to take 100% of an editor’s suggestions, but please look at them. Fix the obvious errors, and decide if you want to make any other changes. An editor will help you perfect your poems. They will help you make a beautiful book, and yes, they do get an editing credit.



Inner Passage, Coastal Route

The air conditioner whistles Morse code;
a mockingbird, a woodpecker, it taps
and all the room sleeps except for the girl.
She does not sleep well even in good times
and now, too many personalities.
She understands why people move away,
but wants a front-row seat to happiness.

She spoons her son while her lover spoons her.
Two hands touch her face, one small and one grown,
she knows she is the luckiest of all,
despite the headache, the mockingbird,
and all the grim mistakes she’s ever made.

Halfway to Halifax, the dawn breaks sweet
and gentle, pinkish clouds and placid sea
echo her insides, breathtakingly bare.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

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