Whitney French participates in Canisia Lubrin’s (Dis)Order: The Single Question Series on the theme of convergence in her work. Whitney French is curating an anthology called Black Writing Matters.
What does convergence, this convergence mean for me as an editor?
Editing an anthology is a first for me.
Some say it’s like piecing together a whole, or gathering the right parts, or stitching something together. But so far it hasn’t been as poetic. So far it’s been a lot of frickin’ work. A lot of anxiety and wishing, troubleshooting and waiting. I’m waiting right now; my deadline is coming up soon, and there’s a helplessness, a lack of control in simply waiting to see the pieces fall into my inbox. My process grows as I grow.
Editing my zine series From the Root is a bit less stressful. But still, work. From the Root is a zine (think magazine meets literary journal) that has been doing its thing for over four years, showcasing writing and visual arts by women of colour across Canada. Each zine has a theme (hair, body, mind, and most recently home). There’s a story about this thing of idea to fully realized act. The zine has been alive in my mind longer than it has lived out in the world.
But yes. Editing From the Root is like Christmas when the deadline comes. At least, it feels like Christmas to me as an editor, most likely not the case for the contributors, sending in works at 2:59 a.m., hours after the exacting deadline, hoping I wouldn’t notice (I notice) but I am full of glee just the same to see new stories. I rarely sleep those nights. Those submissions are like gifts.
This anthology Black Writing Matters is very different than From the Root. It’s a collection of creative non-fiction by Black writers across the country and it’s going to be published by the University of Regina Press. It’s a book, for one thing, and although obvious, there’s not a lot of space for falter, for fumbling, for playful incompletion that a zine uniquely holds. I’ve been asked often what is the “vision” for the book and I can attempt to articulate it but much of the vision relies on what I am given.
Whatever shows up Christmas morning.
My relationship with the written word is nuanced and layered and complex and distinct from someone else’s relationship with the word.
Convergence, at least in this sense, is co-collaboration. Which is a tricky thing for a writer/editor/word-worker. My relationship with the written word is nuanced and layered and complex and distinct from someone else’s relationship with the word. I rarely experience the joy of writing deeply, fully without fear, although, the stories that I will draw upon for the anthology will testify that that is the only way they know how to write. When you say “vitality” I hear the energy from it, I recognize it on the page, yet, is there enough empty space for all those words to move with such vitality, freely, if there are so many players in one collection?
Convergence can feel organic but it can often feel forced, too. Previous knowledge and history are supposed to help, but I don’t really know which knowledges and which histories will help and when. Often, I feel like I’m like bumping into strangers (or old friends, or long-lost family members) on the sidewalk and somehow this unplanned convergence is the exact connection, the exact energy I need for this project to come about. But I have no idea how to draw that out, capture that, or make it happen on the page. At least, not on my own. I sit and watch my inbox flood with inquiries about the anthology, queries begging after a vision; one that I will only know when I see it, like a hokey dream, or an intuitive response.
And despite the unknown, I have been lucky.