I’m handing the blog over today, until next I post, to the very lovely and talented Jodi Cleghorn who’s not only here to tell you all what she’d done and does (read: cool stuff – she published me once which clearly means that I’ll love her forever), but also about an exciting little course she’s running. Deadline for applications is THIS SUNDAY so if it’s something you fancy then you’d best get your skates on! Apologies for the briefness of my appearance here – I am, quite literally, busy doing everything. Over to you, Jodi…
Mentor: An Accidental Destination
I’ve never considered publishing and author development as mutually exclusive to each other. However, I never considered myself a mentor even though I was a publisher! As a destination, it has come about as an organic, hit-and-miss, lead where my heart follows kind of journey. Like a road trip where sometimes you decide where you want to go and other times roll a dice. This is latest detour and pit stop on the ‘path less trod’ as a publisher, editor and writer.
When Paul Anderson and I set up eMergent Publishing in late 2008, we were interested in working with new and emerging authors as a first priority. Not because we had an altruistic imperative, but because we felt the collaborative ideas and the projects we planned on rolling out lent themselves better to writers who were still honing their craft. Writers who might be more willing to have others tinker with the characters and plots lines of their stories.
Additionally, I was pretty firm in the idea that you grow your business outward with like-minded people for the best results. At the inception of eMergent, Paul and I were still very much emerging writers ourselves, and it was from our peer cohort we filled the spaces on the first Chinese Whispering’s project.
• at least three characters
• have a link to an event/the main character in the preceding story
• stand alone as a story in its own right
Together we worked alongside each other, as editors and writers, to develop stories and then connect them.
The success of one crazy idea, lead to a second one – a mated anthology set in parallel European airports exploring the repercussions of a stolen painting falling into the hands of the receivers of a fictional airline. We upped the ante from 10 stories to 22 and paired writers with each other, but let them work out what they did with that pairing. Ten months later we launched The Yin and Yang Book.
Working this way, in close partnership with writers, lay pretty strong foundations for how I wanted to work as an editor and the future direction for the business.
Literary Mix Tapes
I joked in 2010, what does an editor do on her vacation: start a new imprint!
Literary Mix Tapes began as a Christmas filler project. I offered nine places on a web-based anthology then expanded it to 19 (one of those places was for me!). The stories used the lyrics of the carol ‘Deck the Halls’ as prompts.
There was no way I was going to be able to develop stories the way I had with Chinese Whisperings on such a tight turn around though. It was the holidays, and I was meant to be on holiday, and the deadline was absolutely nutes (less than three weeks from start to finish) so I set up a Facebook group and asked if the writers could all help each other out with beta reading (by that time I was a passionate advocate of beta reading and had taught my first workshop on it). People stepped up and helped each other out. I did fleeting edits and two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, the first of eMergent Publishing’s music inspired stories were released into the wild.
What began as a stop-gap, save-my-arse measure, became one of the defining characteristics of Literary Mix Tapes. Why writers signed up to be part of it. They enjoyed working together in this way. Tom Dullemond dubbed it ‘collective submission’. It also solidified something for me as a publisher and editor. I wasn’t interested in reading slush from open submissions and curating an anthology from the best 10 or 20 stories. What I wanted to do was work directly with a group of 25 writers to help them write the best story possible. That’s really what made my heart sing. So we kept on with the way we’d done it in the past. I’d release the idea for an anthology, ask who of my existing authors were interested in being a part of it and then open the rest of the places to anyone who was quick enough to put their names down when the call for nominations opened. The last anthology, From Stage Door Shadows, filled 16 places in 12 minutes!
There are currently four volumes of Literary Mix Tapes: a revised and extended Deck the Halls (which the rather talented Nik Perring appears in with his story ‘Weather Boy’), Nothing But Flowers, Eighty Nine and From Stage Door Shadows. I hope that sometime in the future, there’ll be more.
Supporting Grass Roots
It seemed to me, the experience and skills I’d gained over the years, paired with the structures we had set up through eP, were a potential base to assist other online publications and grass roots groups in achieving a print publication. I wanted to be able to assist them in gaining the skills, structures and confidence necessary to create publications to show case the work they were doing with new writers.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside Vine Leaves Literary Journal with the power-house of an editor and author Jessica Bell, the Friday Flash community alongside the founding patron
of the #fridayflash hashtag Jon (J.M.) Strother and the In Fabula-divino mentoring project founded by the multi-talented, multi-published, Nicole Murphy.
In 2012 I was invited to sit on a mentoring panel at the Australian Science Fiction convention. At the time I had no idea why on earth they’d ask me. It took my lovely friend, Jo Anderton, to point out I ran an entire business based on mentoring writers. It was so embedded in everything I did, everything the business did, I didn’t see it at ‘mentoring’. It was just how we did business.
Some Things Change, Some Stay the Same
In all the editing, publishing and supporting of new writing talent, I neglected the one thing I loved more than anything: my writing. I knew that I needed to nurture myself as I had nurtured others and I dialled down my project output, focused on finishing off what I had started and set about falling in love with writing again. Dispensing the same pearls of wisdom to myself, as I did the writers I worked with. Physician, heal thyself!
As the Universe is wont to do, it turned my world upside down late 2012, just as I was completing the last of the Literary Mix Tapes volumes, finalising the details on the partnership with Jessica Bell and waiting for my first novella, Elyora, to go to print.
Just when I thought I might have everything together, my son stopped going to school. He pretty much hasn’t been back to school since then and I pretty much haven’t edited or published anything since.
While I don’t miss the mental deadlines or the stress of getting contracts in, edits finalised, books to press. And I don’t miss the dynamics of working on 25 odd stories with 25 odd authors and all the vagaries (good and bad) inherent in that model, I do however miss the spark of the new. I miss the possibility in the unknown, of chasing down ideas with people and watching stories bloom. And most of all, I miss working closely with writers to see all that happen.
When my husband was made redundant at the start of last month it bought home something I’ve known for a bloody long time, but been willing to ignore, ‘cos I could: my family’s budget can’t sustain the status of ‘patron of the arts’. Gratefully my husband found a new job fairly quickly but our budget has absolutely no fat on it any more. If I want to publish future anthologies, it has to be via an income I’ve crafted.
And I don’t want to freelance edit if I don’t absolutely have to (I am still very much aware the give and take that underlines the polarities of being a writer and an editor). And I was lukewarm, but okay, with freelancing book design. But the passion burned hot, when the idea expectantly presented itself, to mentor writers.
FOR THE ASKING
That’s how For the Asking came about. It’s not really a creative writing program and it’s not really a mentoring program. And it’s not creative recovery. Yet it has elements of all of that in it.
I’m offering four places on a 12-week course where I’ll curate a space to:
• hone existing skills
• help writers find their voice
• deepen their understanding of themselves as creative individuals
• understand their processes better
• spark writing and creative adventures
• work one-on-one (with me) to complete a nominated project
And like everything I have done in the past, it’s part group work, part individual work and part in-partnership-work. I’m looking specifically to work with new and emerging writers. It’s something I am equally terrified and excited about. The very same feeling I used to have before launching a new publishing project!
The course is by application only and the form can be found here. Applications close this Sunday, 6th September and the course begins the following week on Sunday, 13th September. For more information people can email: mentor(at)jodicleghorn(dot)com
The philosopher Plutarch said: the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting. My matches are lined up and waiting. This journey is due some bonfires!
JODI CLEGHORN (@jodicleghorn) is a writer, poet, editor and small press owner with a penchant for the dark vein of humanity. Known for big ideas that get her and others into trouble, she’s currently on a 105-day social media sabbatical, learning to walk the slower, quieter analogue path.