Celebrating International Writers’ Day: Editors Deserve A Day for Themselves
Looking forward to International Writers’ Day on March 3, Staff Writer Pho Vu ’23 urges us to not forget about the editors in our lives, who bring out the expressive potential of our writing.
At Amherst, we arduously carve out a path that sets us apart — a major, an on-campus job, clubs, the list goes on. All these distinctions on campus are in part possible thanks to the personal statement in our college application. While it is undoubtedly a product of our hard work and determination, it also reflects the effort of the editors — those who restructured our essay to emphasize our potential.
After we got admitted, we continued to write — reading responses, film scripts, essays, and poems for publications like The Indicator and The Lilac. As we do, editors continue to play a consistent role in guiding us through our uncertainties as we try to express ourselves with words. Personally, I made sense of how precious they are through my time at The Student.
I came to Amherst in February of 2022. Here, alongside the cohort of other students who had just arrived on campus, I spent my time figuring out how to register for classes, making mental notes of my favorite dishes at Val, and exploring the communities I was interested in joining. Given poor weather conditions and a cramped class schedule, the task of searching for a particular place that fit my niche presented a challenge. But as luck would have it, my prayer was finally answered: As March neared, I stumbled upon a post in the Daily Mammoth bulletin from The Amherst Student looking for a news writer.
Having read The Student’s articles, I understood that the actual task required more than what I was capable of. I had never done news reporting before, and I saw The Student as a place where people delved into strenuous work without days off. I got scared and swiped through the post. One week later, I happened to see the post again while browsing my laptop towards the end of my COSC-111 lecture. This time, my instincts told me to peruse the content. The moment I saw the line “no experience required,” I gathered up the courage and sent an email to one of the news editors at the time. It was this random attempt at trying new things that led to a new land of self-discovery and new friendships.
During my first drop-in meeting with the news team, I handed in an eight-page report of an “Alumni-in-Residence” event with so much excitement. The editors praised the piece, which made me feel very happy, but I was aghast by the number of edits that they left on the Google document. Reading through the editors’ comments, I quickly learned that an article was not just about the information. Unlike essays, it was more about delivering key events and people within a limited amount of words. But the meticulous feedback on that document set off my motivation, and continuing to write for The Student based solely on that factor turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Fall 2022 quickly approached and the weather became much more pleasant. Like a puzzle with all the edge pieces placed, everything started to settle in for me. Thanks to the endearingly encouraging words from the editors’ weekly emails, I was hurled into a world that fostered new ideas for the stories that I wanted to share. For the first time, I entered the newsroom of The Student, where I saw how they produced impressive articles and made revisions to other writers’ work against the ticking clock every Tuesday night. What took me hours to get done took them half the time, and witnessing this flawless clockwork made me want to be a part of the team.
Talking to the editors about my potential writing topics was similar to sharing an academic plan with a counselor, but what was invigorating about it was that I gained access to their life experiences and their inner souls. They were perfect examples that demonstrated the possibility of pure joy in any corner of the world, as long as you have the passion and purpose for something you do.
As I was creating my own voice, I found myself not making any progress. The emphasis on style differed as I jumped between sections (from News to Arts and Living to Features to Opinion), and these people were guiding me from day one. They gave me advice that would later feed into my work. No AI writing service would be able to do that properly. Together, we worked out something that both alluringly invited readership and saved for me a core memory about specific parts of my college journey.
By staying open to new suggestions from my editors, I got to savor the merit of collaborative creation in literary works — something that I took away from the first chapter of Jack Stillinger’s “Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius” in ARHA-155 during the fall 2022 semester. Readers may see me as the only author of the narrative, but the substance of its finalized version is inseparable from multiple modifications and rewordings. Clearly, even a teeny-weeny change in punctuation has a significant influence on the original text — and this is vital to every well-structured story.
My time spent on campus with the editors was brief, but I finally understood what it meant to be in a tight-knit community. It is a community within a community, and getting to know these people who have a great sense of humor and exceptional work ethic was a saving grace for the unpredictable weather and notorious high-stress culture at Amherst. I read somewhere that we might not have an innate talent for doing something, but what we all have is the aptitude to learn. During my short time writing for different sections of the newspaper and talking to different editors, they showed me that my opportunities to learn and improve are limitless. For the first time, I found out how much I loved writing, and became serious about embarking on a career that had writing as a central element.
March 3 is International Writers’ Day and is annually observed to appreciate writers of all kinds in the world. On that same note, editors begin as writers. They work their way up through trial and error, and as their writing skill becomes solidified, they take care of other writers’ work. They do not only make edits to our drafts, but they ask questions that challenge writers to rethink sentences and word choices more logically. To me specifically, the task of an Amherst Student editor goes beyond refining words: They carry on their shoulders the legacies and traditions of one of the oldest college newspapers, reinforce the freedom of the press, and shape the standards for stories worth telling for generations to come. Because of them, fresh incoming writers walk in feeling supported and ready for the mission of keeping the college community well aware of its surroundings. For these (and so many other) reasons, editors deserve a day just for themselves.
As we celebrate all writers from all around the world, I urge us to leave some space to express our gratitude to the editors — editors from your literary organization, associates from the college’s writing center, and advisors for your thesis, and anyone else that has helped elevate your writing skill to where it is today.
To my editors, thank you for working endlessly, rain or shine, to make sure my work is nothing short of its best version. No matter how much time has flown by, nothing has changed about the fact that you amplified my voice and that you forever changed my life. That effort has never gone unnoticed.
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