Throwing open the gates

Today, while discussing publishing in Canada with an old friend who stayed in the business, I stopped arguing and just took a mindful breath and switched into gratitude mode. I left publishing almost 30 years ago after 16 years of editorial stewardship, which too often was thinly disguised elitism or just plain pickiness. I still cringe when I read Jane Willis’s dedication to me on her Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood: “to the pickiest editor I ever met”. Editing was all about me in those days; a chance to display how I could turn even a sow’s ear into a silk purse. (Not that Willis’s book was poorly written–I suspect she had done at least five drafts before I found her amazing autobiography in the newpress slush pile.
In 1986, I landed a full-time teaching job at Seneca, where I was able to create my own courses and clap my students through the gate free of any ego-tripping on my part. Or economic imperative. Instead, I was blessed with their gratitude at letting them tell their stories without concern for some public audience who might gag over some rough language. I wasn’t a doormat, but I could appreciate their truths and ability to tell their stories in their authentic voices.
Three cheers for creative writing courses taught by people like me. Rotten tomatoes to every professor who crushes a student in the name of perfectionism (only to prove his or her superiority). And thanks to Seneca for the opportunity to earn a living free of the need to worry whether a book would pay my salary.
I am retired from teaching, just in time to avoid the inflated class sizes that would have prevented me from working one-on-one with my students. And my pension for 26 years of doing a job I loved will allow me to write with love and publish without concern for a publisher’s bottom line. Publishing has always been a white man or woman’s game. Thankfully, writing is open to us all. And the gatekeepers are now keeping themselves in more than keeping us out.

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