The Oxford Dictionary gives one definition of carousel as “A tournament in which groups of knights took part in demonstrations of equestrian skills”. The riders moved on horseback in a circle, attempting various tests of skill for the approval of judges and audience. Sounds like an academic writing competition. I survived a few of them, even went home with the trophy in some cases, but I was always left feeling a bit beat up and dizzy by the process. Publishing of any kind is a carousel, and sometimes even working up the strength or self-esteem to attempt this challenge can often be overwhelming. However, the euphemism of the carousel can be taken one step further when you imagine the amusement park carousel in connection with competition in publishing. Its a carousel in that there is an endless loop of writing, editing, putting it out there, rejection, editing, putting it out there, rejection, editing…you get the idea.
I love the amusement park carousels as they are one of the tamer rides, and often these carousels are quite old. I like the historical restoration and even the design adherence of the newer carousels, respecting the traditions of the old. Painstakingly maintained and restored, the galloping or flying horses and chariot or carriage type seating are colorful, the lighting is bright and magical, and everything is tied together with the musical sounds of the organ. The themes of carousels are often very different, but in the end they all accomplish the same thing. The rider gets on, chooses a seat whether horse or cart and starts to ride around and around. Publishing carousels are a different ride altogether, and not always as amusing.
When I think about publishing in a number of different genres, I get a similar carousel image. Old rules, painstakingly maintained, structures and themes trotted out, characters restored, and all the bright flashy promises and dreams seldom attained as the writer moves around and around on the publishing carousel. Whether its a romance novella, or an academic paper, the carousel is the same. The writer chooses a genre, writes in adherence to the tried and true rules of that genre, builds characters based on the historical success of different character types in that genre, works within themes that have proven successful, and submits said writing to a publisher. It will often get rejected, need further editing, and then submitting to yet another publisher. The ride goes around and around, until the writer either chooses to jump off, or finds a publisher willing to slow the ride down to let them off.
Whether a competition of skills, or an endless magical ride, there is no doubt that a carousel evokes images and memories of sounds and feelings. I think that the next time I get on a carousel, I may take an extra ride, just to see where, if and how it ends.