Ryleigh Walsh is emerge 15′s Copy-Editing Team Manager. She is the kind of writer you wish you were. She writes and never complains it’s too hard. She sits and figures out her stories, draft after draft, until they’re polished. What’s her secret—a writer who can edit and an editor who can write? Let’s find out more about this phenomenon.
You’re both a writer and an editor. Is there one role you identify with more than the other?
Writer. Definitely. I would call writing a vocation and editing an occupation.
What made you get into editing?
I wanted to work with words, if that makes sense. I wanted to spend my time around things I love (books, words, writers); that way, to me, it doesn’t feel like work. Also, I like helping people tell their stories. It’s very gratifying when I can help someone clear away the clutter so the story is in focus.
Has editing made you a better writer? Do you do that thing where you write and edit at the same time?
It has… sort of. I am definitely more concerned with structure and making sure things are right, which helps in the long run but can be counterproductive if I think about it too much. I do not edit and write at the same time. I try to be accurate when I’m writing, but if I worry about editing at the same time, I never get anything done.
How has it been to work on emerge 15?
I have really enjoyed this experience. Janet [Fretter] and Andrew [Chesham] have given me a number of great opportunities to see behind the curtain during the production of emerge 15. The most interesting part, for me, was meeting with the interior designer, Blaine [Kyllo]. I was able to see his process, which takes place after the editing is done, enabling me to better understand the editing I do.
You have become an unofficial editor to many of your classmates. What advice can you give to writers to help themselves so they don’t have to undergo such a process?
Geez, what a question… I don’t know if that’s true, but I would say: Remember that what you want to say is just as important as how you want to say it. Read a few books about structure and grammar (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is good, so is Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares). Even though it sounds boring, take a grammar class. (SFU and UBC both have some really good style and structure classes. If you can take an editing class with Caroline Addison do it; you won’t regret it.) If the “rules” become second nature, you won’t have to think about—or be scared of—them.
What projects are you working on?
I’m working on a couple of things. I’m in the final stages of putting out a literary journal called Skirt Quarterly. That’s the priority right now, because it’s coming out mid-October. It’s taking up a lot of my time and needs a lot of attention and patience, so everything else has taken a back seat, but I just started outlining a novel and have a few short stories in rewrite. I started at UBC last week too, so I guess I’ll also be writing papers soon.
Interview by A.J. Lin