Today I continue my ongoing series of conversations regarding the relationship between writing and editing by chatting with Cynthia Reeser. As you likely already know, along with her duties here at Plumb, Cynthia is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of the always wonderful Prick of the Spindle as well as the Publisher of Aqueous Books.
Q: Which came first–the desire to write or the desire to edit/publish other writers’ work? Did one emerge out of the other–are they born of similar impulses?
A: The desire to write came for me at an earlier age, but then as I started reading more widely, especially the classics for some reason, I realized I wanted to do both. Going into publishing was underscored, for me, more by an appreciation for books on a creative level; it came from an appreciation for design.
In what ways has working with other writers impacted your own work?
Editing other writers’ work has impacted my own in all the expected ways–developing over time a keener eye for pre-writing, for extraneous material, flimsy characterization, weak plot and language, and so on–but it’s also been a great opportunity tosee what other writers are doing. I’m interested in trends in literature over time (long periods of time), especially regarding interpretation and theory. I write a lot of reviews, so in a way, reading others’ work, large quantities of it, on a regular basis hones a sense of interpretation, largely because of the way I read, I suppose.
Between the time and mental energy is there any conflict in your many and various roles as a literary figure? Resentment?
I think everything I do is really woven into everything else pretty inextricably. Writing, editing, publishing, design work, web design, book layouts and design, and even my own artwork–they’re all connected. I see all of these things as equally balanced in technical and creative aspects, too. I always wish there was more time for everything, but I’m a big proponent of time management. The way I see it, I won’t be around forever, so I might as well make the most of every minute. I don’t watch TV, and every minute of my day is purposeful. Technically, I shouldn’t still be around, and that’s made me really appreciate the time I do have, which is a gift. Resentment doesn’t play a part in my life; it is just a form of negative energy and basically, it’s a time waster.
How does being a writer shape your views as an editor and publisher?
Being a writer who edits and publishes is a definite advantage. Unlike editors and publishers who aren’t writers, I’m not looking at every manuscript as just a business decision. It’s also a creative decision, and because I appreciate the creative potential, and if I believe in it, I’m not afraid to take a risk on it. There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain: the writer gets his or her work published by someone who believes in that work and whether it sells 50 copies or 5,000 (or more) doesn’t matter in the end.