So this morning while I was flying around on Twitter, reading some back and forth, I saw the name Zack Furness – @punkademic. And I was like HOLD ON, is it possible? So I sent him a quick message:
The memories this triggered were wild. Zack had edited a little essay I wrote back in 2007. The first thing I had ever written in a formally published sense. When he did this, we had never met in person. And I never knew anyone named Zack, so even his name was a thing to me. Zack the Editor. And little did he know he had this outsize influence on my life. And so, in a way, did the internet.
I remember how tortured I was in writing whatever my emails were to him. Agonizing over them (there may have been one, maybe two). This was in the days where I think hotmail might sometimes just crash and lose everything you were writing. Or maybe that was earlier. In any case, I remember so well when I got my essay back from Zack. I read it over and over. He made my writing real. It snapped.
What he did with that little piece was a story I have told over a hundred times, easy, because I remember how stunned I was at what an editor could do. It’s hard to describe the feeling of someone doing that for your ideas for the first time but it was so special. It’s how I learned, and hold the knowledge to this day, that editors are the real magic. It’s why I know writing is more collaborative than most of us see.
What Zack did for me beyond the editing was create a space for me to feel legitimate. I think in my message to him this morning I kind of got it wrong. It wasn’t just about making me feel like I could write. It was making space for me to say my thing but also to help me say it better. To legitimize my voice. I can’t tell you how many times I read that piece online, kind of marvelling that it was out there, all accessible, on a site with so many other people doing their thing.
I remember being on a date and trying to act really casual about being “published on the internet” about political education, though inside I was bursting with pride. Still. This was months later. I remember reading the piece with the guy I was out with and him saying it was kind of like a first-year something. I remember how I tried to pretend that didn’t hurt my feelings but it did. It meant so much to me to be trying to contribute to a conversation I was on fire to have. Can you imagine finding this publication out there on the internet that wanted to have it too, and would let you have a turn to talk?
Zack and his editing, and the publication he supported, all significantly altered my life – they gave me a sense of self I didn’t have. His labour lived on in my life to this day. And this morning I got to tell him that.
I could never remember the name of the site but every year I would try and search around for it. It’s got a great history – which you can read here on Wikipedia – and there may be a chance some of the archives will be made accessible again. I’m posting a screenshot below because nostalgia.
Thank you Zack. So happy to have found you so I could tell you.
And thank you internet. Even you too, twitter dot com. <3