Ploughshares Guest Editor Advises Students to Embrace the Unexpected
The Common Agenda Interviews Jim Shepard
Tim Pratt '11
October 14, 2010
Networking and meet-and-greet opportunities are a common occurrence at Emerson College. It seems like each week, marketing professionals, film industry experts, and alumni visit campus to speak, connect, and give advice to students. On October 12, Writing, Literature and Publishing (WLP) students were invited to a Q&A session at Emerson’s Paramount Center with renowned author Jim Shepard.
Shepard, who is the author of six novels, three short story collections, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, used his wit to answer questions and give writing tips and career advice. He just finished his stint as guest editor for the fall issue of the prominent literary magazine Ploughshares, which is published tri-quarterly by Emerson.
“As a guest editor, you have faith that Ploughshares will find the quality material for you to edit. That’s the easy part. The other half of my job was to solicit writing for the magazine, and you always worry about whether or not the work you find will fit the page limit of the issue.”
For almost 40 years Ploughshares has been one of the premier literary magazines in the United States. Each issue invites a guest editor to contribute to the editing and solicitation of work that will be published. During the Q&A, Shepard reflected on his experience working with Ploughshares, referring to the position as rewarding and worrying.
“As a guest editor, you have faith that Ploughshares will find the quality material for you to edit. That’s the easy part,” he jokingly reflected. “The other half of my job was to solicit writing for the magazine, and you always worry about whether or not the work you find will fit the page limit of the issue.”
Ladette Randolph, Editor-in-Chief of Ploughshares said she was excited and honored to have Shepard’s input into the fall issue as well as have him spend time with Emerson’s aspiring writing community.
“I think that it has been really beneficial and important to have the guest editors of Ploughshares openly speak to the community,” expressed Randolph. “The printed word is the basis of all technology, and these networking and Q&A sessions with professionals is a great way to give writers exposure to their field.”
During his Q&A session, Shepard touched on advice for everything from revision to researching for stories. Perhaps Shepard’s most lasting advice to young writers involved coming up with creative ideas for their stories was to embrace the unexpected. “You need to look for the moments that don’t align with your original plan,” he advised. “That’s the best writing.”
After the Q&A, Shepard read an original work. He is currently working on another short story. The fall issue of Ploughshares is available now.
As advances in technology spur changes in the sharing of the written word, Emerson’s dynamic writing community prepares students to succeed in this evolving landscape. Students explore literature, craft stories in workshop settings, follow the written word from inception to production through publishing courses, and intern at some of the country’s best publishing houses.