Beyond Editing

On the work of critical editing

Janice Sapigao

TAYO Literary Magazine’s Issue 5 will be available in your local Barnes & Noble very soon! Please look out for it and support the magazine!

TAYO ISSUE FIVE! Forthcoming in national Barnes & Noble stores in Summer 2015!

A couple of weeks ago, my editor girls Melissa SipinBel Poblador and I plunged into what would be the final round of copyediting, line editing, and combing through Issue 5 of TAYO Literary Magazine. I must have spent most of what were three days editing – you know, reading and re-reading stories written by our contributors. I usually read very critically and analytically, but this time, I was reading in a different way. I was looking for errors, typos, and other little things that most folks might skip over or acknowledge once or judge a tiny bit before they moved on – that kind of editing. I was tasked with trying to minimize those moments so that our readers’ reading experiences would be unclouded with the disdain of trying to make sense of what might not have made sense. That is, I don’t think that any story or poem I’d edited needed to be re-drafted (and also, this was not the purpose of the final round) or revised, but I wanted to ensure that the writers in Issue 5 of TAYO would be so happy and joyful and proud to have their work in our publication. I think this is the case. I think this will happen for them.

With all this considered, I knew that I just had to write about what it means to be not just an editor, but a critical editor. I am thinking about what it means to edit beyond just editing. What is beyond grammar? What is beyond punctuation and proofreading? As an English Instructor, I come across this issue all of the time and advocate for ‘correction’ in addition to process. As a writer and poet, I write against these rules all of the time, too. And now, as an Associate Editor, I am… the gatekeeper of Standard American English? Who the hell am I to gatekeep this way? What are the implications of enforcing or upholding linguistic rules? To what set of rules or cultural values are we held accountable, anyway?

Editing is so interesting and important and difficult and fulfilling. Yes, all at once. Yes, separate at times but still together. Melissa, Bel, and I throughout the editing process had intense discussions about translating words from Filipino to English. We talked about what publications or institutions needed to be italicized. We agreed on some radical things, like not italicizing some Filipino words. As writers and artists ourselves, we know how important it is to allow our contributors’ writing to live freely, especially since most folks are submitting to us because they can get behind our mission and desire to publish marginalized stories. We disagreed on things and had to fall back on the Chicago Manual of Style. We three, with so much knowledge between us and with many bouts and turns with the English language as we had each learned it and came to know it and want to work through or away from it in our own creative ways, we three came to understand ourselves in the process. At least, this is what I witnessed.

I believe our work is beyond editing. We are engaging ourselves in the discourse and work of language.

Language, then, becomes as textural as thoughts. And it seeps through when I come to my desk to write. And it comes along when I am self-editing. And it lives when I tell it to someone else. Language is a thing, you know? It is precious. It is the difference between understanding and blurring.


Janice Sapigao is a Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called Sunday Jump. She teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College. She is at work on a poetry collection, microchips for millions.