Writer, Lane Ashfeldt, describes the book Love on the Road 2015 as ‘Vivid tales of life across the globe that lets you travel while standing still.’ And this isn’t surprising when you look at the two editors behind the book. Their travels have taken them from the US to Calcutta and Kyrgyzstan while Sam has served in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan with Lois working as a defence investigator in the District of Columbia.
Explorers and scribblers, they clearly have a love for the short story and I was more than delighted to get the chance to interview them for my blog ahead of the launch of their excellent collection this month. I just hope they don’t find too many revisions on this piece after I’ve stuck it up on the blog…
even if you feel like you’ve never done much of the nuts-and-bolts of writing or editing, you can learn
How and why did you become an editor?
Sam: I suppose I got into editing after years of being a writer — or, at least, a newspaper reporter, if that counts. It just seemed like a natural progression. I was also tired of being beaten up by editors for years and thought I might like to torture a few writers myself for a while.
Lois: I’m mainly a journalist, but I do bits and pieces of editing work and I like it because you get to read stories or articles or academic papers that you might never pick up otherwise. I find myself going to the same websites, or podcasts, or the same shelves in the library, and no matter how much you try to be random you find yourself in the same place. Editing work helps me to break out of that.
Together with Lois, how did you choose the stories for the book?
Sam: We ran a contest, asking writers all over the world to submit stories about love and travel. Once we had a good-sized pile of submissions, we spent about a month of evenings and weekends reading like mad. It was a lot of fun, really, reading so many good stories.
Lois: Yes, it was a lot of fun and it felt like a real privilege that people would entrust their stories to us to read. It’s such a brave thing for people to put themselves out there. We really had to make sure that we gave ourselves plenty of time to read all the submissions, so that those further down the pile didn’t get short shrift.
Having two editors could lead to some difficulties. Did you decide on a set process for editing the book from the start?
Sam: We each independently made a list of the stories that we really wanted included in the collection and then we compared lists. The stories on both lists automatically got in. After that, it was just a matter of arguing over the remaining spots. It didn’t get too vicious, though. We’re still on speaking terms.
Lois: Yes, I guess the good thing about knowing each other so well is that we’re not afraid to speak up, or offend each other, or make each other angry. He knows I’m not going to punch him.
You’ve worked with many talented writers over the years. Are there any which stand out?
Sam: Ha! That’s like asking which one of my friends I like best. There’s no way to answer this without pissing the rest of them off. So I’ll politely decline. Or maybe I’ll say you? Is that the right answer?
(Dan: Yes. That is always the right answer.)
What advice do you have for somebody who is thinking of getting into the editing environment?
Sam: I don’t think I have any useful advice here. Read a lot? Write a lot? Find your inner pedant?
Lois: Advice? Crikey bobs, as my mother would say. Maybe: get a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and remember that it’s a skill. Perhaps I’ve forgotten, but I never remember learning much grammar or even doing much writing at school. When I tried my first essay at university, my tutor said it read like the blurb on the back of a book. But I think I’m better at it now. So even if you feel like you’ve never done much of the nuts-and-bolts of writing or editing, you can learn.
I was also tired of being beaten up by editors for years and thought I might like to torture a few writers myself for a while
Would you say that being an editor has helped with the approach to your own writing?
Sam: Yes, I think it absolutely has helped my writing. Taking things apart and putting them back together is a great way to learn how to make them. And editing is a lot like taking a piece of writing apart and putting it back together. Not only that, I get to learn from others’ successes and failures, rather than just sitting in my room in front of a screen by myself.
What are your plans for the future?
Sam: I’ve written a novel and my plan for the immediate future is to try to get it published. I am also standing by to be Lois’s all-purpose volunteer dogsbody in her next venture, launching a weekly newspaper covering the city of Dublin.
Lois: Yes, it’s bold, I know but I’m planning to launch an alternative weekly newspaper covering the city. Not so much breaking news and listicles, but in-depth stories and features. A platform that gives reporters the space and time to get out of the office, and seek out those hidden important stories about how the city ticks. If anybody out there wants to invest, drop me a line!
You obviously love travelling and new experiences. Is there any country or continent that has stayed close to your heart? And why?
Sam: I don’t know, at different times I miss different places. Lately, I’ve been wanting to go back to Kyrgyzstan, to see the rolling steppe and towering mountains and gorgeous alpine lakes. It’s just such a beautiful place.
Lois: I do miss certain places: our neighborhood dive-bar in summer in Washington DC, or the newspaper offices in Kolkata when there was something big going on, and it just buzzed. But, to be honest, it’s really people that I miss. We’ve made pockets of close friends each place we’ve lived, and sometimes I wish we could gather them all up and plant them in a commune or something. Loads of people move around nowadays for jobs, or school, or what-have-you, so I guess others feel like that too.
Love on the Road 2015 – Twelve More Tales of Love and Travel, edited by Sam Tranum and Lois Kapila is an anthology of twelve stories of love and travel–some sweet and touching, some bleak and disturbing. They offer the reader a meet-cute on the streets of Zimbabwe, a classic American road trip replayed with an elderly Jewish patient and his black orderly and an encounter between a withdrawn war veteran and his beautiful neighbour in Iran…