It might seem a bit fanciful, but I recommend that writers consider cadence—that modulation of voice and pace that produces a work’s rhythm.
I was lucky to discover cadence early, in my large public high school in Kentucky, when an English teacher gave us Dylan Thomas and Goethe and T. S. Eliot. I found “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” so mesmerizing that I tracked down recordings of the poet reading both (no small feat in the early nineties) in his tremulous baritone. In college I would hole up in the record section of the library, listening to writers reading, certain that even Beckett would begin to make sense if I found the beat. In graduate school I discovered how cadence could unite the epic and the lyric in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee. Writing just has to have that drumline, no matter how subtle. What would The Great Gatsby be without cadence? A lot of reckless drivers and a bond salesman having a quarter-life crisis, that’s what.
When reading a submission, if I am moved to read a passage out loud, I know I am in for the night.
—Melissa Flashman of Janklow & Nesbit AssociatesPortrait: Sylvie Rosokoff