The Gratiaen Trust will host a workshop on editing to be conducted by Ritu Menon, co-founder of the acclaimed feminist press Kali for Women, and founder of Women Unlimited, a well-established publishing house based in New Delhi.
Menon will conduct a three-day workshop, between 1 and 3 September at the Postgraduate Institute of English, Open University, for participants already selected through an application process. This workshop is the first of a series of workshops entitled ‘Making the Cut’ offered by the Trust.
Now in its 26th year, the Gratiaen Trust is conducting several initiatives such as workshops and master classes that will help improve the pool of English creative writing in Sri Lanka.
Over the years, the Gratiaen Trust, which awards a prize for the best submitted work of creative writing by a Sri Lankan author resident in the country, has observed the lack of sustained, good editing in Sri Lanka.
In a bid to make writers understand why they need good editors, why publishing houses need to invest in hiring and training editors, and furthering the skills of those already working as editors, the Trust has undertaken this workshop, with Menon volunteering her time and expertise.
Commenting on the role of editors, Menon notes that they are often the unsung heroes of great books. They work behind-the-scenes, and no one knows who they are, although everyone can tell when a manuscript has not been edited!
For Menon, editors must intuit what the writer wants to express or communicate, and then help them achieve it. A good editor becomes, thereby, much more than a copy-editor who crosses the t’s, dots the i’s and spellchecks. He or she becomes the writer’s “best friend” based on a relationship of trust, for the writer must be absolutely certain that the editor who tinkers with his or her manuscript cares about the writing and will give of his or her best.
Menon notes that writers often over-write, thinking that every word is precious. This detracts from what is essential to the work. “I always tell my authors,” she notes, “what you leave out is almost more important than what you put in.”
This is why she invokes the late Toni Morrison who worked for 18 years as an editor at Random House, a renowned publisher based in the US. Morrison said of writing: “First drafts in number two pencil on yellow legal pads, then as many as 13 revisions!”
As Ritu Menon notes, “Morrison knew it was not merely words but the silences between them, the unsaid things and the smoke they sent up that gave her sentences their rhythm and their power.”