Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Editing, with Beth Follett

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Beth Follett

Beth Follett is the owner, editor and publisher of Pedlar Press, a Toronto-based house highly regarded for their catalogue of beautifully produced, innovative fiction and poetry.

Beth speaks with Open Book today as part of our On Editing series. On Editing allows us to showcase the hard work, talent and dedication of those unsung literary heroes, the editors.

Read on to hear from Beth about her favourite projects, what she looks for in a book and the writer with whom she would most love to work.


Open Book:

Tell us about a project or a particular piece you worked on recently that you really loved.

Beth Follett:

Recently I had a chance to work with Anne Fleming on her short fiction collection, Gay Dwarves of America. As many of the stories in the collection had already been published singly and had achieved National Magazine Award nominations and in other ways been declared ‘finished,’ it was daunting to come upon and to point out to Anne places where it seemed improvements could yet be made. I thought one story needed some substantive reworking. It was the deepest kind of pleasure to have Anne welcome these comments with no sign of balking, no defensiveness whatsoever. Then it began to feel like we were both being instructed by the story itself, my dream situation.


What do you look for when you're acquiring a project?


Hard to say: beauty, maybe, and mind-blowing thinking embedded in startling images. Excellence, certainly: that might sound pompous.


What do you see as the editor's role in shaping a book, poetry collection or story?


Helper: someone who has made a very deep consideration of the writer’s intentions, who respects those intentions but is willing to point out blind spots, oversights, errors, prosody trouble, weak sections, what have you, always in the service of literature.


Tell us about one or two of your favourite editorial experiences, from any point in your career.


I enjoyed receiving Stan Dragland’s work, Stormy Weather: Foursomes, so well realized that the only thing I could do was point out his misspelling of ukulele. I thoroughly loved engaging with Martha Baillie and the style she chose — very short reports as ‘chapters’ — for her novel, The Incident Report. Other editors had cautioned her against using this style, but I found much to recommend it. Because of the previous cautions, Martha sometimes lost her nerve, and it was marvelous to talk together about the consequences of abandoning the style, or reasons to stay with it. I learned a lot about what weights of omission a novel that has spectacular imagery can bear.


Fantasy editor moment — of any writer, alive or dead, who would you love to work with?


Virginia Woolf.


What are you working on now?


I am working with a Prince Edward County writer, Annie McLurg, who has written a first novel so pitch-perfect, its minimal style so complimentary to its characters, that to change anything at all is to risk a great error.

For more information about Pedlar Press please visit the their website.

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