Outside registration at the Seniors’ Hall on the patio, drinking a cuppa Donna’s. The Earth Club Factory guesthouse coffee bar is here.
Douglas Gibson’s workshop yesterday, on writers and editors working together, was a huge fountain of anecdotes, from attending writers (including Denman’s Del Philips, Kathie Tolson and Bill Engleson) and from Gibson himself about big name Canadian writers he’s worked with like W. O. Mitchell and others.
He told a hilarious story about Brian Mulroney a meeting in Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe. This was back when Mugabe was still sane and respectable. In friendly African fashion, Mugabe reached out and held Mulroney’s hand as they walked. Which Mulroney found somewhat uncomfortable. He attempted to hide his hands like Prince Philip in British Navy style, but Mugabe was persistent….
As a raconteur, Douglas is not, shall I say, your run of the mill stand-up comic. He has a subtle humour, with gentle delivery. Catch his shows tonight or tomorrow if you can.
Coincidence. Douglas G. just stopped by on the way to the first session this morning. Here’s a chance, I think, to ask my burning question about editing (that I didn’t fit in at yesterday’s workshop). How does an editor help a writer to take a manuscript as far as possible? Regarding substance and structure, I’ve learned that editors do well to heed the medical maxim, “Do No Harm,” especially with first time writers.
His simple solution? Proceed by questions and suggestions. Plant the seeds, and see what comes up.
With experienced writers, maybe a different strategy’s needed . He challenged W. O. Mitchell once, on the last chapter of a book. Mitchell sent in a draft–a week before deadline–that was clearly below standard. He had to call Mitchell on it. He said something like, you know I’m no use if I don’t level with you. Mitchell replies something like, OK I know, I’m still working on it. Just wanted to meet the deadline. It seems that Mitchell and Gibson played cat and mouse over many years. He was “hell on wheels” to work with, said Douglas.
So what do writers expect or want from editors? Maybe I should ask some of the writers here.