I had my very first real life meeting with Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press on Friday. Nine Arches is based in the Midlands and I live in West Wiltshire, on the border of Somerset in the west of England, so we met in the cafe of the Friends House, by Euston Station in London. It’s not a halfway point but it is somewhere that we can both easily reach by public transport. I’m very lucky to have family in London so there’s always somewhere I can stay overnight (I travelled up the afternoon before).
It was so lovely to meet Jane but I felt I knew her quite well because of our very many social media and email conversations over several years.
My book is scheduled to come out in June and there is still some work to do on my manuscript before its publication date. I’ve lost track of how long the whole process has taken so far but I first submitted the manuscript to Jane in 2016 during an open submissions window. Before then, Jane had published some of my poems in Under the Radar, the poetry and short fiction magazine published by Nine Arches Press.
There have been several back and forth email conversations since 2016 and the manuscript has changed shape and is still changing shape. It wasn’t until last year that Nine Arches firmly offered to publish my book. Since then, I’ve added poems to the manuscript and taken some away but it took a face-to-face meeting with my editor for me to start to think more in terms of themes and of how the finished book might look.
There is a lot of work to do which is exciting and terrifying (what if I don’t finish on time??). There is a lot of negotiating, interrogating, scrutinizing, and compromising involved in editing. Jane has over a decade of experience of reading other people’s manuscripts so I feel confident in her judgments about ordering, line-breaks, titles and other line-by-line editing decisions. At the same time, I have a strong sense of what I want my poems to do and how they should look, so there are some points where there is an amicable and rigorous tussle over editing decisions. And some poems feel more treasured to me than others but it took a cool eye cast over my writing to truly learn which are my darlings and which are mere lodgers in my poetry house!
The beauty and wonder of another person’s viewpoint is that I am now able to read my manuscript from a different perspective. This is so valuable and I am lucky and privileged to be able to do this, however daunting the process feels.
I’ll write more about the process of what I’m doing as time goes on. You might be interested in knowing about a new book, How to be Poet, co-authored by Jane Commane and Jo Bell and published by Nine Arches Press, which offers practical advice and information about writing, editing and publishing poetry.
For now, for me, it’s time to roll my sleeves up and get under the hood of my manuscript again.