Writing from Scratch

Just as someone who loves good food might yearn to cook, my deep love of books has burgeoned into a need to make them. At first, I thought that meant I had to create books from scratch. I like this analogy. Writing starts with scratches, a few tentative pencil marks, a word or six and it grows from there. That’s how my notion to write a novel started. I’m not finished it yet, but while I’ve been at it, I’ve created a couple of other books not quite from scratch and I’m finding this work equally satisfying. I don’t have to can the tomatoes (or grow them) to make a good sauce. If what I love is creating books, editing is as satisfying a way to get there as writing. It’s not starting from scratch but maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.

I’ve always joked that I’m a re-writer more than I am a writer. Scratching those first words onto the page never comes easily to me, but crafting them afterwards is a joy. I recently had the wonderful experience of editing the work of over fifty other writers for an anthology I created with my friend and colleague E.D. Morin. It’s called Writing Menopause and it’s been picked up by Inanna Publications who plan to bring it out in Spring, 2017. The book is a literary anthology and the variety and high quality of work that writers submitted was inspirational. As we worked to shape the anthology, I was able to do the parts of “writing” that I like the best–revising, editing, crafting–in collaboration with the contributors and my co-editor. (And I also contributed my own piece, a short story I’ve been working on for six years. Like I said, writing is slow work for me.) One day it occurred to me that the things I find most difficult about writing like starting with the blank page and the need to work alone for long stretches of time disappear when I’m editing the work of others.

Another editing project is at the printer. I’m on my way today to check the first proof and the excitement I feel is no different than when something of “my own” gets published. The book was written by my friend Tanya Coovadia. It’s called Pelee Island Stories. These are linked short stories all set in Tanya’s childhood home, an island in the middle of Lake Erie. Tanya trusted me and my fellow members of the Crabapple Mews Collective with her work, and again, I’ve had the incredible pleasure of working collaboratively with her and with the other wonderful editors in the collective to create a magnificent book.

Books are beautiful physical objects that last far longer than we do. They speak to us while we’re here and for us after we’re gone. They reach toward immortality. Being part of making them is a labour of love for me, even when the book has someone else’s name on it, or lots of other names on it. Whether I make it from scratch or not, this is work I love. Next up after my MFA, I think I’ll take a course in book binding. I’ll probably love that too.

2 thoughts on “Writing from Scratch

  1. Pam Parker

    Jane – I found this thanks to a share by my good friend, Kim Suhr. I’m so glad she led me to this post. I am with you 100%!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Pam.

  2. Jordanne

    I wish I could say the same. I love getting my ideas out, sometimes it’s difficult to think of the words I want to have for my ideas, but editing my own stuff makes me stabby. I don’t mind editing other people’s work. But given a choice, I would write my own any day.


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