Why do we do this?
Why do I do this? Because I can. Because it gives me joy.
I’ve been teaching since I was four, when I taught my little sister to tie her shoes (and then to make a bow and arrow–but that’s another story). All through my 20s I was a women’s self-defense teacher. I gave my first talk about story–what it is, how it works–to a class of nine-year-olds the month my first short story hit the shelves. (I still have some of their thank-you letters.) I taught my first writing class three months later at the local women’s center, to eight women: one very young, one white-haired, the rest in their 30s and 40s. Three months after that, I was teaching a weekend course for SF writers. I’ll teach anything to anybody. I can’t help it :)
When I came to Atlanta from the UK (I was 29), I reverted to teaching self-defense for a while. (An all day date-rape class delivered to 70 Girl Scouts and their mothers was particularly memorable.) Then, in 1993, just as my first novel was published, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Teaching self-defense became impossible. Instead, I fell back on giving guest lectures and creative writing workshops (for local arts centers, for local colleges–anyone who asked).
My second novel came out in 1995 and Kelley and I moved to Seattle. About this time, I began to edit the Bending the Landscape series of original anthologies.
It was a revelation. I edited first-time authors, giants in the literary field who were trying their hand at writing speculative fiction, and some stalwarts of the f/sf field who were being brave and stepping outside their comfort zone. I was astounded at how satisfying it was to help a writer lift a sleek 8,000 word story from a 14,000 word swamp. I swelled with pride when I explained why something should be in first person and the writer said “Oh!” and then rewrote her submission piece into the best story of her life.
Teaching, coaching, and editing, then, are part of who I am. The beauty of Sterling Editing is that I don’t have to travel. Writers come to me (by email and phone and occasionally in person): writers who are a joy to work with, whose craft I can improve, whose careers I can nurture. I’m also discovering the pleasure of working with those who don’t consider themselves writers, people who nonetheless have a story–their own, another’s–to tell.
Yes, Sterling Editing work does use time and energy which could be spent on my novels–but it helps my writing in the long run. I learn from teaching. It thrills me to the core of my being. I like to connect with other artists and pass on my skills. I need it.
If you take it up, I wish you great good luck and much joy. Feel free to drop me email. I’m always happy to talk shop.
Read Kelley’s perspective here.
Posted by: Nicola