What Kind of Writer is the Editor Looking For?
Welcome, Dear Writer!
I'm Alana K. Asby, the editor of the AJIL.
Here's a short list of my favorite poets and fiction-writers, in no particular order.
A. E. Housman
Arthur Conan Doyle
P. G. Wodehouse
Robert Luis Stevenson
C. S. Lewis
J. R. R. Tolkien
C. S. Forester
W. B. Yeats
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edgar Allen Poe
G. K. Chesterton
Albert Payson Terhune
J. K. Rowling
Elizabeth B. B. Browning
Booth Tarkington (comic works)
Mary Roberts Rinehart (comic and detective novels)
Honorable mention: O. Henry, who mastered the short-story form, but frequently wrote on matters no one cares about.
I often enjoy certain commercially-oriented contemporary storytellers, such as Stephen King and Lillian Jackson Braun. The list above is meant to indicate a range covering the type of work I'd like to publish. For instance, I do not publish horror (I know Stephen King isn't really a horror writer, but many people do not) and I look for a certain elevation of style that the comfortably classy world of James T. Qwilleran doesn't attempt (he reminds me, pleasantly, of my debonair, world-traveling, slightly alcoholic maternal grandfather.)
I am not concerned with contemporaneity; your work does not need to sound like it was written yesterday. It simply needs to have a cohesive style and succeed at whatever it attempts. If you can perfectly replicate the style of Edmund Spenser, send me a sample of that, please.
My ideal writer is described below, from the point of view of personal character. However in reality, writers are never perfect, of course, and the writing matters most.
The Ideal Writer Possesses:
A Pure Heart
This writer does not show off his morality consciously; that would subvert the purpose of literature and is unnecessary.
The core of being, one’s heart, is the spring from which all spiritual and soulish streams arise. It is the stream from which thought and language arise. Its disposition colors my creative output and yours.
Viewpoint Oriented Toward Goodness
It is my belief that nothing disturbs the heart but the contemplation of evil. Therefore I eschew the mantra, "Good art disturbs."
The problem with contemplating evil is that contemplation is a sort of unity.
An Uncorrupted Imagination
This writer does not habitually play devil in his imaginary worlds. Goodness is original; evil is synthetic.
This writer's awareness of sound clearly distinguishes between beautiful and ugly uses of language. He is capable of literary music-making.
A Well-Furnished Mind
Quotations can indicate superficial familiarity; I'm looking for better acquaintance with great writing than that.
A good writer's mind is no longer a diamond in the rough. It is well-exercised by the great questions and the great answers.
However, unlike academic writing, I don't expect a literary writer to read everything in his area. That's like asking Gordon Ramsay to improve his palate by eating at Burger King. Read the best, leave the rest.
This writer fearlessly rises above the flatness and dullness of contemporary usage.
He wields words, syntax, and rhetoric elegantly, efficiently, and powerfully. He is adept at avoiding awkwardness and naivety in his work, even when he cannot avoid them in real life.
A Way With Invention
This writer astonishes the reader with situations, characters, settings, problems, and solutions he does not expect. (Often, a writer learns to do this by following John Cleese's advice and just getting past his first 20 or so ideas.)
Worried You Don't Measure Up?
Fear not. Disposition and native talent is enough to get you started. We can work with you from there.