Thursday, February 8, 2018

"The Luck of Charles Harcourt" and "Sermon on the Mount"

My 1989 short story, "The Luck of Charles Harcourt", has been reprinted in the current issue (#5) of Polar Borealis (above left). The timing pleases me greatly because the story originally appeared in the very first issue of On Spec magazine (pictured above right), and my second story in On Spec, "Sermon on the Mount" came out just last month (January, 2018) in #106 Vol. 28 (3), pp. 88-105 (pictured below). So there is an opportunity to compare first and last, as it were.

Note that although Polar Borealis is a paying market showcasing new and established Canadian authors, it is available free to subscribers: Download Now

I must confess that reading my story from nearly thirty years ago makes me wince a little bit at the now obvious sexism, and it seems strange to read about people lining up at the bank tellers instead of using the ATM, and that there were no cell phones yet. I was tempted to update the story, but editor Graeme Cameron argued that "every story is a time capsule, capturing the context of the time it was written. Which is why I don't believe fiction should ever be reprinted with alterations designed to appease changing tastes and views. Let the past speak with the authentic voice of the past, I say."

It's an intriguing issue. Lorina and I left Hargreaves' stories as they were when Five Rivers reprinted North by 2000+ because they were authentically awesome, though the future he predicted for 2000 was not quite the one we got. In my preface, I told readers to just read the stories as if they took place in a parallel universe where American and Canada had merged (to take just one example of what hadn't gone the ways Hargreaves had predicted in the 1960s) but some readers did indeed complain about the anachronisms. Though it should be noted how many things Hargreaves got right, and therefore went unnoticed.... On the other hand, we updated Leslie Gadallah's books to take out the long explanations of the Internet, because we actually had the Internet by the time we reprinted her books. Perhaps the most interesting issue I've had as an editor with anachronisms is an author who wanted to disguise that the story was based on their own life by setting it in modern day, but then the action didn't make any sense, because much of the storyline depended on the confusion arising from characters not being able to reach each other, which just can't happen that way in an era of smartphones.

The story in the current issue of On Spec is "Sermon on the Mount", a time travel story. I always thought the time travel genre was kind of mined out, but then the idea for this one popped into my head, so there you go. Though now Krista Ball mentions it, I should probably have had a few more female characters in there....But, you know, reflects the times...

Anyway, pleased with to have the two stories out at once. Waiting to see if any of the five currently under consideration get picked up.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Impostor syndrome

Many of our clients are students writing theses or dissertations, and many struggle with impostor syndrome, the sense that they have finally reached the limits of their knowledge/skills and are about to be exposed as the impostor they are, because they are struggling writing their thesis or dissertation. What they don't realize, of course, is that everyone struggles with any sustained piece of writing—if one isn't struggling, it's probably not going to be their best work.

High achievers are susceptible to Impostor Syndrome, says psychotherapist and author Dr. Aaron Balick, because they push the bounds of their professional areas, often working at the edge of their area of expertise. "It can be said that the more successful you are, the more likely you are to experience this, since your experience at the top of your field is, by its very nature, unusual."

—from an article by Bonnie Burton.

Grad students writing a thesis or dissertation are by definition out at the edges of their disciplines, creating new knowledge. A thesis or dissertation is usually the largest, highest-stakes project they've undertaken yet, so struggle and angst are pretty much inevitable. That one bumps up against staring at the blank page or having to rethink one's approach multiple times or not having the pieces all fall into place instantly is all perfectly normal because the processes of creation and writing are both complex and difficult—for everyone.

Which is where, of course, writing coaches come in. A little moral support can go a long way, starting by reassuring the writer that the angst they are feeling is normal and healthy. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. To do it well, is to put in effort, and effort requires struggle.

To help grad students with their struggles, Essential Edits has commissioned a 32 page guide by Dr. Runté on Thesis Writing Strategies which addresses the issues of dealing with the angst of writing (and more specifically, of rewriting) a thesis or dissertation, available FREE from the EssentialEdits.ca website.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Stephen Fry on "Correct" Language Usage

and why being pedantic about correct usage is small-minded and betrays a true lack of love of language: Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography: Language. Worth a listen.

At EssentialEdits.ca, we try to strike the appropriate balance between 'correctness' and the author's 'authentic voice'. A question of context, largely: Memoir or textbook, dialog or formal essay, this character or that one in a novel—diction makes a very useful character tag . . .

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Editor as Secret Weapon

Toronto Star article that notes Giller Prize and Writers' Trust Award winners had top editor as a secret weapon:

Meet the secret weapon behind three award-winning Canadian books photo of Martha Kanya Forstner with award-winning titles

Editors are secret weapons because their work often goes uncelebrated, and because a good editor can weaponize your manuscript.

The article does a good job of describing the role of an editor and what it is like to work with a great structural or developmental editor.

We can't promise we can turn your initial draft into a Giller Prize-winner, but we can promise we can take it to the next level.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Editor is Not Your Enemy

Good post from Inside Higher Education by Rob Weir that explains the difference between copy editing and developmental editing, and especially how an author should react to editor feedback.

The Editor is Not Your Enemy

Spoiler alert: Chucking the whole project is not the solution.

Rob is talking about book publishing, but the same advice applies to theses and dissertations, just change "editor" to "supervisor" in the article, and it applies.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Greetings at Joe Mahoney Book Launch

I was the acquisition and developmental editor on Joe Mahoney's book, A Time and A Place for Five Rivers Publishing. Neither the publisher, Lorina Stevens, nor I were able to attend the Toronto book launch, so we made brief selfie-video greetings to be shown in our absence. If you want a glimpse of my boss at Five Rivers, and hear me talk about my role as an acquisition editor and developmental editor on the book, watch this three minute video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-v06fHzxMg&list=PLYyla3aTwM9R5f3nVHfTficSyOHajIIZj

Thursday, November 2, 2017

An editor's view of clients

A good depiction of an editor's view of clients for Halloween: Boo! These Are the 10 Monsters Your Book Editor Fears the Most by Blake Atwood.

Blake concludes by saying "Now, this isn’t a complaint article about editing clients. Rather, it’s meant as a curtain-parting glimpse into what editors deal with in terms of unprepared, underprepared, or naive clients. It’s what not to do when working with an editor."

He goes on to say, "Additionally, many of these 'monsters' come by it honestly. Because they don’t live, breathe and eat writing and publishing as editors do, they just don’t know what’s conventional or expected. Most editors understand this and are glad to help new authors learn the ropes—so long as the author is receptive to expert advice."

Of course, most clients are not like those described. Most are reasonable people looking for expert advice on their manuscript and open to input to ensure their manuscript is as good as it can be. They are happy to learn about the process and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their writing so they can eliminate any bad habits for next time, and pleasantly surprised how good their writing is after an editor as been over it. The editor-client relationship is almost always positive, Blake's occasional monster notwithstanding.