Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Editors, The Quivering Pen and “My First Time”

Imagine if your dad once made editorial suggestions to Flannery O’Connor.

Novelist Elizabeth Stuckey-French claims this in her blog post, “My First Editorial Confab.”  Elizabeth teaches at Florida State University.  Her most recent work is The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, a comedy about a whacked-out 77-year-old woman set on murdering the doctor who poisoned her with a government-issued radioactive cocktail.

I did not learn of Elizabeth’s literary heritage until I happened upon her post on the literary blog, The Quivering Pen.  Her essay was part of a series on that blog entitled “My First Time,” in which writers talk about their first experiences with things like having a story published, signing a book deal, earning money from writing, etc.  Elizabeth writes about working with an editor and realizing that the biggest illusion of a good story is that it appears “to be effortlessly formed, springing right out of the ether like a gift from a benevolent goddess.”

My First Editorial Confab

Before my father died, he told me an amazing story.  When he was younger he’d been a student of the novelist Caroline Gordon, and as the years went by he and Ms. Gordon became good friends.  When I was a child, she was hired as a visiting writer at Purdue, where my father also taught in the English Department.  (She was a frosty woman who disliked children, so she’ll always be Ms. Gordon to me, even though my father named me after her—my middle name is Caroline.)  While Ms. Gordon was at Purdue, another of Ms. Gordon’s mentees, Flannery O’Conner, living in Milledgeville, Georgia, was revising her short story “Revelation,” and had sent a copy to Ms. Gordon to be critiqued.  She was an amazingly generous and helpful reader, and her letters to Flannery contain some of the most useful bits of advice about fiction writing I’ve ever read.

Ms. Gordon showed my father Flannery’s story “Revelation” and asked him to read it and offer some suggestions to Flannery, which he did.  And, he informed me, after the story was published he noticed that Flannery had taken his suggestion and changed some of her wording and used his!

(read the rest at The Quivering Pen)



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