Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All That Is Gold, Does Not Glitter

Today I read some beautifully crafted and powerful pieces of writing. I consider myself somewhat of a judge, having read, perhaps, thousands of stories and essays for the publications I've worked with. But these were not submissions. This was work by the daughter of one of my dear friends, and, sadly, she will not be writing anymore. You see, the last months of this young woman's (girl's?) life were so troubled,she decided to end it.

Writing appeared to be a form of her therapy, and, as such, I could only imagine that these pieces underwent little revision. By any measure they represented some fine work, but if, as it appeared, they were simply poured onto the page with little or no re-writing, then she was, indeed, a great talent. One that, unfortunately, will not continue to grow. At the same time, she left something behind for those who shared her life, that is more valuable than gold.

However, as an editor I found myself wondering, where would this talent have gone? We like to believe that talent will out. That fine work is always rewarded. Given her shy and withdrawn nature, I doubt that this young person had ever considered exposing her work to the judgmental eye of an editor. But what if she had, under the encouragement of a mentor or friend of a friend submitted to literary journals, and what if some, if not all, of these pieces had been rejected several times, as they easily could have been, by publications seeking something of a different nature or something more polished or something more complete? Instead of bringing a small bit of light into her dark world, her writing could have become just one more burden to carry.

Not all voices are silenced in such a final way, but many are lost from lack of encouragement. Mature writers may be able to rant, and sometimes even laugh at one-liner rejections, but maybe more of us could make an effort to encourage real talent, if not with publication at least with a few words. We all lose something when truly talented voices are silenced.

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