This isn’t exactly “new” news, as it happened about a week and a half ago (September 17, to be precise), but it does bear further explanation here: I recently became an intern for Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s e-book publishing company, Cheeky Frawg Books.
I’m thrilled about this, to say the least. I’ve been a huge fan of the VanderMeers for a long time. They’re excellent editors, responsible for bringing out some of the weirdest, steampunkiest, most fantastical, most curious anthologies and books I’ve ever read. Jeff is also one of my favorite writers, having encountered his work shortly after my senior year in college (I read his Cities of Saints and Madmen; I would recommend everyone do the same).
I’m a firm believer in the mission of Cheeky Frawg Books, having looked at their line-up of releases for 2011 (take a gander if you haven’t seen it; it’s staggering). Their dedication to releasing some of the weirdest, most distinctive and imaginative fiction on the planet is heartwarming. I also admire their willingness to bring translated fiction to a larger audience. I don’t think American readers take part in enough speculative/weird fiction from foreign writers. This is a shame; this means readers have been missing out on writers like Leena Krohn and Karin Tidbeck, who have stories included in the first volume of Cheeky Frawg’s weird fiction anthology series, ODD? (yes, that’s the title).
I want to take part in what I consider learning experiences. Information itself can be useful payment for a task well done, especially in the world of publishing. I’ve talked before about my goal to make a comfortable living as a writer. I’m also interested in assuming the role of an editor at some point in my career, quite similar to what Jeff has done for himself. So, when Jeff put out an all-call on his Facebook page asking for people to volunteer as interns for Cheeky Frawg, I let him know I was interested. He welcomed me aboard shortly after and assigned me with my first two tasks: 1) proofing a large chunk of the first volume of ODD? and 2) creating promotional materials for his and Ann’s upcoming mega-collection The Weird, which is devoted to a historical overview/sampling of weird fiction in all of its international permutations and genre variations.
The experience of proofing ODD? has already led me to some new understanding of what it would be like to take on editorial work:
- It’s exhaustive. I pored over 12 of the 19 stories in detail, trying to catch even the smallest misspelling, missing word, or unnecessary run-on. It challenged me to exercise both my surface reading and deep reading capabilities at the same time.
- It’s tricky. Part of editing is gaining an understanding of the story you’re proofing as you read it. Doing this gave me a contextual understanding of the story, which in turn helped me figure out issues such as consistent verb tense.
- It’s easier than grading papers. I noticed that part of it straight away. Now, this would likely be different if I was a slush reader, where I would be receiving stories from people who may not be as polished or confident in the understanding of their own work; I’m sure of that. At this stage, however, I was struck by how much easier it was to proof these stories. By and large, they were incredibly polished, which in turn made it easier to spot the actual errors. Sometimes when I grade papers and there are frequent, consistent errors all throughout the paper, it can be easy to miss some weak spots.
Working on ODD? turned out to be a pleasant experience. It also made me think about what it would be like to assume key editorial control of such a collection. What would it be like to be in Jeff and Ann’s positions on something like this? What are they seeing and doing that I’m not? What does it take to compile and publish something like this?
The truth is, I want to put my own anthologies and collections together some day. I want to work as an editor-in-chief at a magazine or publication, reading some of the finest, freshest voices in fiction and bringing them to light. So, in that regard I’m very fortunate to have gotten this work with the VanderMeers. They’re the ideal people to learn from for my career goals. Moreover, they’re willing to help me with whatever questions I might have for them. Thankfully, I have a lot of questions.
I am receiving some lovely compensation for my work on Cheeky Frawg books (among the many items, I’m getting free books, boxes of them; I’m pretty sure receiving boxes of free books was one of my childhood dreams). Chief among those benefits, ultimately, is information and experience. I believe my work with Cheeky Frawg is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the publishing industry and the life of a writer and editor. Knowing more will make be more effective at spotting good opportunities and taking advantage of them when they come around. So, here’s to a new gig that will hopefully lead to many more.