My name is Hudson Cleveland, and this year I’ll be The Tribe’s Creative Writing editor (again!). This article is a rundown of who I am, what I do, what I plan to do, and probably the most important, what I look for in submissions as well as what you can expect in submitting to the Creative Writing subsection.
Last year, we had the Creative Writing Contest (coupled also with Photography and Art). While the turnout was relatively small, we had some excellent submissions – you can check out the winners on this very website – and it had the promise of becoming a much bigger event some years down the line. What I want to do is continue to lay the foundations for a better (and more consistently submitted-to) Creative Writing section when I’m gone, and one way I see that happening is through the now-annual Contest.
The Contest, for me, was also a way of showing my personal dedication to editing for The Tribe: while several other editors did the judging along with me, I went through every individual submission, editing and providing feedback to each writer. That was not something I saw as a one-off job: if you submit to the Creative Writing section, as part of the Contest or just as an individual submission, I will edit what you send, provide extensive feedback, and workshop with you one-on-one (or in group with other editors, if preferred) until we’ve got a bulletproof piece to publish (while this can be arduous, it is not so arduous as it sounds).
My goal is to let in almost all submissions – I don’t discriminate by genre or by media type, you can submit a fictional short story, a Spenserian sonnet, even a nonfiction work that might not traditionally fit into our nonfiction writing sections. In return for almost definite publication, all I ask is that you put up with my pedantry for a short while. I do it not only so that we will have a fully polished work for publication, but to improve you as a writer (and me as an editor, and, as a writer myself, editing helps me also with my own writing in terms of awareness) and encourage further collaboration both in The Tribe and, I would hope, outside and beyond St Andrews.
So what do I look for when I edit creative writing? I usually find three primary opportunities for change.
- Cosmetic changes. This includes general grammar, syntax, metrical, rhythmical and continuity errors to be smoothed out, or, on a more important level, ways in which certain sentences/phrases can be changed to correlate (or contrast) more strongly to other sentences/phrases.
- Things to shrink. I tend to have a rather heavy hand with my red pen and strikethroughs when editing – Alexandra and Elliot have been a good buffer in making sure I don’t go too far in this – but my usual idea behind cutting larger segments of the story/poem unrelated to the general errors listed above is to declutter and enhance the focus on parts of the story/poem I see as more important. When I cut, my intention is that you should definitely be looking further into what I didn’t cut. If I cut it straightaway, that just means the sentence/phrase was a distraction, some clutter, disharmonious, etc etc.
- Things to grow. I’m someone who when reading pays attention to themes – and themes can be expanded and connected very subtly through objects, minor actions/tics of a character, patterns and shapes, the world being built and the verbs being used. So in “things to grow,” I’m noticing one of these things in particular in your story/poem, but which could be given more presence, or repetition, or accompaniment by similar things, to further strengthen the theme which it could be (however incidentally) representing.
These of course assume some things about a work – different submissions will be given different levels of cosmetic changes, things to shrink and things to grow. Beyond simple cosmetic changes, I provide reasons for any larger edits I make – I won’t leave the strikethrough alone and leave you to assume why something was cut. Additionally, I will always leave the door open for contesting changes or suggestions I make, that is, my edits and comments are not set in stone.
While my credentials aren’t so long just yet, I’m not some random guy who claims he can edit pretty well. I went into university with the idea for an English degree straightaway, and starting my first year I began editing my close friends’ essays. I was formerly in the William and Mary Joint Degree Programme, so for my second year I went to Virginia – there, I worked as Literary Editor for the College’s Winged Nation literary magazine, mostly organizing a creative writing contest. That summer (that is, last summer break) I also worked briefly as an assistant copyeditor for The Journal of Hip Hop Studies online, and, in less official capacity, I did full edits for two novels. Now, I continue to help close friends edit their essays, as well as infrequently editing two friends’ novels. I also am on the Owl Eyes Magazine team in St Andrews (another great student publisher to check out and submit to – drop by my Wanderer travel section some time!) In my spare time, I do almost nothing but read; in other words, my academic career thus far has been devoted to reading, writing and editing.
2018-2019 will be my final year at St Andrews, studying English Literature (my dissertation this year will on Thomas Pynchon’s first three novels, a clutch of books I love rambling about), playing ultimate frisbee and working on shaping this Creative Writing section into a place where any St Andrews student can come and submit what they want, into a place of interconnected free expression.
You can contact Hudson with any contributions or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.