Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Interior Editorial Meeting

During various times in your life, you've heard a person asked, "What's your story?"  Almost as various as the times you've heard the question asked, and indeed, even when it was asked of you, the question and the answer had different meanings.

On one of the occasions the question was directed at you, the most probable meaning was, "Why are you behaving this way?" Of equal probability, you may not have known, following some script from an aspect of your personality with whom you had little commerce.

"What's your story?" can also be a synonym for "What's with you?" another way of questioning intent, behavior, or both.  Sometimes, when the you is shifted to another pronoun, the question asks for some quick description of a person's goals, general behavior, or at-the-moment behavior.

Not long after you began edging toward your preferred life's work, you began to assess the possibility that everyone had a story.  With this in mind, you began to take mental notes, wondering what the story was so far as persons who interested you were concerned.  

This led you to a plateau of discovery.  Persons whose story interested you were either more eccentric than you,, took even more chances than you took, or wanted tangible things more than you.  This is not to say these individuals wanted material things so much as they wanted things you associated with stature.

For your part, you were becoming aware of wanting to enhance your sphere of understanding how things and people, work.  This led to a moment in your own history of growth and development where you recognized an emerging problem, all the characters who populated your stories spoke like you, wanted the same kinds of things you wanted, and seemed to have the same kind of background you had.

Among other things, this led you to weekly visits with a man who had an office on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, a street once reputed to have more psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists than any other street in the world.  The man you visited was named Arthur.  He had a trimmed mustache, an enormous take of tropical fish, and a way of making you feel he'd be disappointed if you were looking for ways to avoid talking about things that troubled you.

In consequence of you not wishing to disappoint Arthur, you spoke of such story-related things as you'd observed from the "What's your story?" question, including investigations and strategies for trying to expand your background, your understanding of individuals with stories, and your desire to add more diversity to your story.

Fortunate for you, at the time, you were a student at a university with a wider canvas of diversity   than you were used to.  This meant a broader number of individuals wanted to know what your story was, which was somewhat daunting because you were still not sure.  But a small segment began to express interest in your imagined and pretend stories.

At yet another plateau, more focused than even on your goal of wishing to have your entire income appear as a result of the stories you wrote, you became involved with two distractions, each of which you found to your liking.  Both had directly to do with the products of writing.  Each brought you in contact with yet greater diversity, often in heated contact with forces that would enhance your discovery of what your own story is.  Each of these distractions, editorial and teaching, gave you an approach you've begun to appreciate.

Editorial meetings are sometimes rancorous and frustrating, but rarely boring.  Faculty meetings are often rancorous and frustrating, but in mitigation, always boring.  That said, you could go on attending them until you were no longer capable of movement; each has given you story, diversity, energy, and a greater sense of what your story is.

From your experiences in publishing, there can rarely be a new, exciting project without at least one meeting.  From your experience in teaching, you experience ideas for new stories and awareness of which courses you yearn to teach, the payoff being you yearn to teach courses where you need to learn, assimilate, and forge your own vision.

The takeaway is the frequency with which you have to hold your own meetings, which means all the recognizable aspects of you are present, each to have his or her say, if he or she wishes.  Of the many things you admired about the television drama, The Wire, as you watched it and now as you relive it in memory, you think of Russell "Stringer" Bell, a drug kingpin, second in command to Avon Barksdale, the boss.  Bell was an ardent believer in preparedness and system.  He ran the meetings of the Baltimore drug dealers with strict observance of Roberts' Rules of Order.

Your own meetings are no less formal.  They often take as rancorous a turn as editorial and faculty meetings, but no one, not your internal editor or the resident cynic are allowed to be interrupted.  They get their say. Neither you nor the others are allowed to shout them down or boo and hiss.  This system works well enough, although, to be fair, you do have an in with the chairman.

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