Ellen Datlow was my fifth week instructor at Clarion West, a pressure cooker style workshop that takes roughly seventeen students a year. Mine was the class of 2001, and there are always five author instructors and one editor, and the editor's week is when everyone falls all over themselves to look good in the hopes of selling a piece. Ellen was editing SciFiction back then, one of the highest paying markets in the field. Every instructor spends each morning critiquing the students' work, and Ellen's critiques were blunt and to the point. I certainly didn't have anything sale-worthy, and if I'd doubted that, she set me straight.
But it was never personal. Business is business, and after critiques were done, she'd come hang out with us in our lounge on the top floor of a Seattle University dorm and often stay through dinner. One night she made us all egg creams (she's a New Yorker, after all) and that same evening, someone also broke out a giant Costco jar of Jelly Bellies. I helped Ellen pick through them to find the black licorice ones. She's one of those people who likes black licorice (and I was happy to give her all mine).
Ellen told me both that my writing needed work, but I should go ahead and invest in myself, and in the years since has sent me many short, blunt rejection letters, which for anyone not in the know, are a true kindness. Editors receive reams and reams of submissions, so any editor who takes the time to be personal is telling you that you were worth precious minutes of their time. Through brief notes and the occasional meetup at a convention, Ellen's been a continuous, honest presence in my writing life, and no, I've never managed to sell her anything. Nevertheless, she's always remembered me and has even recalled stories that I subbed years ago. It's been an honor to know Ellen Datlow; she's a big name who knows how to make use of small moments to remain a friend of mine for over a decade.
Now check out her pitch video!
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