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Esi Edugyan and her editors

Last night, a really interesting event produced by the Editors Association and the writing department of U of T: hugely successful novelist Esi Edugyan and four – count them, four – of her editors, with another piping up from the audience, discussing what went into the preparation of her two Giller prize-winning books. What a terrific, if depressing woman Esi is: she’s 41, has various degrees, published her first novel in her twenties and is now the only writer to have won back-to-back Gillers, plus being nominated twice for the Man Booker. PLUS she’s married with two small children, is pretty and trim and judging by last night, an extremely nice person! Honestly. The nerve.

What we learned, though I’m sure most of us in the sold-out room knew, was how incredibly much behind the scenes thought and care goes into a successful book. We heard from two substantive editors and two copy-editors about things they caught and changed or fixed – one, for example, told us that a scene took place in the 1840’s with the sound of clacking typewriters. But, she said, typewriters weren’t popularized until the 1870’s. Not to mention the substantive stuff, including changing one ending from a character’s death to his happy reappearance. And then the rights were sold to London and New York – more big-time editors chiming in. Esi said she welcomed all this input.

She apparently does a huge amount of research on era and place, reading many books. When asked if she had advice for writers starting out, she said, “Try to find a regular time to write. Despite whatever else is going on, I try to keep the five and a half hours when the children are in school as sacred writing time.”

Sigh. I have to say that though she was inspirational, I left feeling like a giant slug. I also had two children but did not carve out five and a half hours to write prize-winning books. Mind you, I was a single mother. But to tell you the truth, though my children are long gone, I still don’t carve out five and a half hours to write. Most days. A few days, yes, particularly when there’s a real deadline or I invent one. But many other things usually take precedence. Which is why I am a giant slug.

Well, it doesn’t help to be negative, does it, Beth?

A lull in the reno – Kevin still working somewhere else. It’s nice to be alone in the house for a few days but also there’s a sense of entropy – the chaotic ruin upstairs and nothing happening. I’ll be glad to welcome them back tomorrow and get this thing on the road, so I can one day move out of the basement and clean the dust from my office and begin carving out many many hours at my desk.

Yes we can.

A hideous day – snow yesterday and rain today, so slush and muck. And many arguments online with friends about Covington Catholic schoolboys. Tonight the sharp-tongued Sam Bee is back after a hiatus of a few months; Bill Maher was back last Friday. Perhaps I’m reaching a point where I have to stop reading papers and watching sharp-tongued comedians. Maybe I need to retreat to the page.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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