Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Airship Ambassador: For the aspiring writer, what suggestions do you have as an editor, regarding their submissions, your feedback, and general collaboration?
Jaymee Goh: Firstly, I would advise all aspiring writers to read as widely as possible. It’s good for stimulating one’s writing. It’s also good to have a think about how one wants to write in response to the stuff one reads.
Secondly, as an editor of short fiction, I say, submit! Do you love this one magazine? Does it inspire your writing? Submit to them! Maybe you’ll get rejected, maybe you won’t—it’s not your job to determine whether your writing is good enough. Got a thing which might fit an anthology? Submit! Don’t worry about wasting the editor’s time with your submission (I’ll get to this in a hot minute). The worst thing that happens is, we roll our eyes, sigh, and send you a form rejection. The best thing is, over time, as you keep sending things out, as you keep writing and honing your craft using the feedback you get from us editors, you will improve. Joyce already said don’t self-reject; I’ll repeat it, and share with you an editor’s perspective, Rose Lemberg’s, who originated the motto #dontselfreject.
Thirdly, the way to waste an editor’s time? Is by arguing with them! It’s also a waste of your time! Don’t do that. Just keep writing, and keep submitting, and keep improving your craft. Take your time! We are not all geniuses off the bat, and there are few of us who start so strong early in our careers. Your journey is yours.
AA: You’re also a writer. What do you do to keep a balance between writing, editing, and the rest of your life? Any new projects coming up?
JG: Uhm, I flail a lot. I’m not a full-time editor, so that’s one thing. I’m also not a full-time writer (yet; hope springs eternal). I do write a fair amount in the rest of my life as a graduate student who is dissertating. Since my research feeds into my creative work, and my creative work is what spurs on the academic stuff, I don’t really get to separate them very much. And while I am capable of multi-tasking, I’m actually not good at keeping it up for too long. Since I live with mental illness, I also have to walk a fine line between being productive and tiring myself out, which could lead to a disastrous crash.
So, I set myself goals and deadlines, and carefully portion out my energy. I’ve mentioned that I didn’t start reading the submissions until after I was done quals—quals is dreaded in the graduate student’s world as being one of the hardest tasks to accomplish, with a lot of mental energy dedicated towards studying and mastering one’s material. After I finished it, I rested my brain for several weeks before I started reading submissions. Fortunately, editing an anthology has an end-date: when the book is out!
I tend to let my creative work percolate in my brain until such a time as I have a good chunk of time to write. I write a draft, and then either revise it immediately for sending it out, or leave it alone for some amount of time and go away to do something else.
A strategy I use is to switch out the kind of thinking I have to do, so in between writing sprees, I may do something which requires a different kind of problem-solving skill, like baking, or sewing. You follow a plan, and there’s an end result which is usually immediate, unlike writing where you send it out and hope the end result is you get paid.
I’ve had a pretty good run recently of fiction—two of my short stories recently came out, one in Interfictions Online, and another in Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. I have another short story coming out in Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation in Spring 2017. There’s another short story which I wrote under a different name… I have no idea when the book is coming out, and I shan’t tell you what my other name is, but the story will be in one of the Like A Spell anthologies coming out from Circlet Press! See if you can find me!
Right now, I’m quite focused on finishing my dissertation, tentatively titled “Steampunk Semiotics: Entrenched Eurocentrism in the Steampunk Aesthetic.” It is an exploration of psychological affects generated by popular steampunk iconography and how white supremacist narratives are reiterated through the quest to create these affects, and how it plays out in the discourse surrounding multiculturalism in steampunk and the resulting popular fiction. The final chapter looks at how centering the non-white perspective changes these affects. Technically this should become a book at the end of the day, but I may slowly release it onto Silver Goggles… for a crowd-funded price! At the same time, I have to apply for jobs so I can graduate as a fully-functioning adult who has a steady income to look forward to. That is also a project.
But I have not abandoned my fiction! I have several short story drafts, mostly from the Clarion workshop I took, that need tending to. I also have a standalone novel, a steampunk fantasy trilogy, and fantasy romance quartet on the backburner because the universe hates me. In the meantime, I’m quietly jangling poetry in my head for a poetry collection about a generation ship.
AA: There’s my reading list getting longer! I’m eagerly looking forward to reading your dissertation. Do you get to talk much with other writers and editors?
JG: I wish. The problem with being in grad school and having bad brain at the same time is that I never have the time or brainspace to exchange critiques with other writers and editors. And I like to be thorough in my critiques so I always put it off for when I have more time, except, of course, I don’t. Not unless I get to pay or be paid!
The last time I had such an opportunity was at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, which is a full-residency program. For six weeks, literally all we had to do was write and critique, and it was a very intensive thing where every single weekday morning was spent in critique so we had to make sure we did the work of reading everybody else’s work the day before! And write a new story every week to boot. However, the beautiful thing was, we didn’t have to cook or clean or do anything else, really, so it was a lot easier than if we had been working full-time alongside it.
But brainstorming new ideas is a joyous thing to do, and I recommend it 100%.
AA: Be paid to do something you love? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could be in that position? The world might be a better and happier place. Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too. What do you think about that and what would you say your ratio of reading to writing is/was?
JG: Goodness, if you don’t read, where would you get your words from? Even if you don’t read within your genre, you still need to read. The way I see it, writing fiction and poetry is about encapsulating experiences with language, and there is no room in a single person’s life to experience ALL THE THINGS. So, to compensate for this limitation of the single lifetime, one reads widely to learn as much about the world as possible. This enrichens the writing, because otherwise, you’re just regurgitating half-baked ideas and it doesn’t make for good fiction or poetry.
I don’t read as much or as widely as I would like, and in graduate school, it’s guaranteed that for every seminar paper you write, you probably read (or at least skim) maybe 20 articles. I have of course read more novels than I have written them, and I try to read a lot of short fiction to compensate for having no energy to read whole novels. But I also try to keep abreast of new literature, just to see how the genre changes.
We’ll pause here in our chat with Jaymee. Join us for part five when she talks about editing and changing over time.
You can support Jaymee and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.
Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.