26 Orphans, and the joys of editing

- Wendy Jones

Wendy Jones shares an update on 26 Orphans, and extols the joys of editing on a 26 project – why not try it some time?

The Inheritors Book cover by William Golding
Image credit: John Simmons, to accompany his piece on The Inheritors

There’s nothing quite like opening those first drafts when you’re an editor on a 26 project. You’ve got your small group of writers, you may or may not have worked with them before, you know the subjects they’ve chosen. But still you can’t wait to see what they come up with.

We’re at that stage now with the 26 Orphans project, developed with the Foundling Museum in London as part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival. Our writers’ brief has been to choose an orphan from literature and write about them in exactly 62 words (a sestude – 26’s own literary invention).

The first drafts have been rolling in and knocking us (the editors) out with their sparkle and originality. With characters ranging from Paddington Bear to The Artful Dodger, from Roald Dahl’s Sophie to Angela Carter’s Sophie Fevvers, imaginations have been running free.

As ever with a 26 project, some first drafts look word-perfect – there’s no point in suggesting changes for the sake of it – but in other cases, writers want to work on a further draft, or drafts, and the editor is there to be their sounding board, and to take a small but satisfactory part in the final glory.

That’s the joy of being an editor – working closely with a writer, offering a second opinion where it’s needed, making sure the piece is as good as it can be.  Yes, there is a little bit of admin involved too – chasing, reminding, cajoling. But in the end it’s about getting those words into the best possible shape.

You’ll be able to see – and hear – the results on October 22 when there’ll be a tour of the Foundling Museum and readings, and before that a Dark Angels workshop. If you’re in – or can get to – London, do come along.  

And don’t forget – we’re always on the lookout for editors for our projects. Some editors also double as writers in a project, while others like to concentrate just on the editing. You need a sympathetic eye and ear, and a love of words – and if you’re a 26 member, you’ve got that already.

– Wendy Jones

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