Squeezing the best possible version of the story out of the universe…

Alexandra Zayas interviewed by Chip Scanlan about editing:

Editing isn’t about fixing the copy in front of you, it’s about squeezing the best possible version of the story out of the universe by helping the writer to see it and capture it. What that help looks like will vary between individuals and fluctuate for the same writer at different points in the process. A big part of the job is removing obstacles, especially those that are self-imposed. One writer may need help seeing the forest for the caveats. Another may need reminders to get inside subjects’ shoes and hearts. Editing is knowing when to stay out of their hair and when to give them a nudge, when to insist they keep pushing for the impossible and when to let them cut bait. It’s making sure they feel comfortable arguing with you and recognizing when they’re right — but also recognizing when, amid a nasty bout of 11th-hour second-guessing, the writer is just tired and hangry; then, you send them a sandwich. You can’t do this job without legitimately loving these people and living for their victories and growth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about finding an editor: we bloggers have, to our detriment, steadfastly held onto disintermediation as a inviolable tenet; my writing can be better, and involving an editor is one way to get there.

A Summer Place

My father had this uncanny ability to take broken things, figure them out, despite knowing nothing of them, and fix them. I saw him do it with lawnmowers, tractors, shavers, radios, MP3 players. He was indefatigable.

We four boys, his sons, have each inherited some of this quality. Not at Dad’s high level. But we’ll tread into realms we know nothing of, and bang away until we find a solution.

One of the delightful side-effects of dating L. is that she has a camper by the shore, meaning that, for the first time in 29 summers on the Island, I’ll have a summer place.

Campers are a completely foreign realm for me: we had various tent trailers when I was growing up that Mom and Dad knew the ins and outs of, and some of that must have rubbed off. But this is a camper of a completely different scale, with a dishwasher and a shower and an outside kitchen.

Despite its sophistication, the camper’s Achilles heel, or at least a significant point of possible failure, is its 12 volt battery, a deep-cycle battery in its “basement” that’s responsible for running the lights, the “slide out” hydraulic pumps, the refrigerator, and the ignition system for the furnace. Because the camper is designed to be, well, mobile, it’s designed to be able to exist off-the-grid, and so although it will happily plug into the Maritime Electric mains, the 12 volt system is integral to its operation.

When we arrived at the camper this spring to open it up for the season, the 12 volt battery was dead (the multimeter is a required piece of the standard issue Rukavina-boy repair kit). It was dead enough that it needed replacing, so I pulled it out, hefted it to town, and near-$300 later at PEI Home & RV Centre, and a trip out to the camper, we were back in business.

Until the next week, when we returned to find the battery half-drained and none of the mission-critical systems operating.

Fortunately the online forum for the RV has copious owner-written documentation, including an electrical system troubleshooting guide. 

And so I learned that upstream from the battery is a “converter,” a box that converts mains electricity to 12 volts, charging the battery.

Exactly where the converter was proved something of a Saturday afternoon mystery (the owners manual is frustratingly missing such helpful details); I eventually located it behind a wall in the basement, under the stairs. I put my multimeter on it: dead. I pulled it out and took it to town.

Another trip to the parts department this morning: they generously tested it and confirmed that it was dead. And then sold me a replacement for near-$600.

I drove out to the shore this morning with tools aplenty, and carefully followed the instructions for installing the new converter (a process punctuated by a call to the helpful techs at the home office in Marshall, Michigan to confirm some finer points).

Once it was installed and the power turned back on, presto, the camper sprang back to life. Light! Ice! Hot water! Furnace!

I was 100% channelling Dad through this entire adventure: I know next to nothing about RVs and batteries and electrical systems and converters. Or at least I used to know next to nothing. Now I know quite a lot.

What I learned from Dad, most of all, was how to learn: it was a a great gift.

Blogging is Back

Paul Capewell pointed me to the blog of Phil Gyford, which I have quickly come to love:

This week I went to the latest Punchdrunk immersive theatre event and it was completely convincing: a recreation of London as if Covid had never happened. I saw thousands of performers behaving exactly like people in the before times of 2019, barely a mask in sight anywhere, and everything just how it used to be. If there was a narrative somewhere I missed it, which is nothing new, but as an experience it was incredibly impressive and a lovely reminder of times past.

Ha ha, no, I actually went to actual London where no one is actually bothered about actual Covid any more! Satire!

I’ve long been sceptical of “blogging is back, baby!!” pronouncements. But blogging is undergoing a renaissance, in part because of fatigue from the web becoming an interconnected garden of surveillance capitalism, manifested by the pain one feels simply wanting a recipe for corn chowder and finding the recipe buried under a stack of 4,000 surgical words of SERP-bait.

Genuine unsponsored voices, writing personal essays about the everyday, all of a sudden seem novel and compelling anew.

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