Resources & Blog Posts

Persistence & Partnership

The editor requires persistence, meticulousness, and also a degree of finesse in recognizing where to allow the writing to come together organically. Editing can be described in contradictory terms such that the editor must focus on a work in progress that is akin to an unfinished puzzle. The work is dull in the sense that it certainly does not go hand-in-hand with stimulus—the text is the only major stimulus welcome here. With this comes excitement from the written work itself. The editor becomes immersed into this world created by the writer, all the while heeding attention to any (macro or micro) areas needing adjustment. The editor must gently pull strands of plot, character, and voice to ensure that they are consistent and fitting to the work (i.e. novel) as a whole. Then, the editor must zoom in to each aspect of the story, section by section, in order to suss out the extraneous details and trim the remainder down to produce a clear and concise paragraph (or chapter, section, etc…). Above all, the editor must keep the writer’s style intact. After all, the editor is tailoring the suit and not designing it.

Now, the editor has an ongoing working relationship with each writer. Once feedback is handed over to the writer, the work has just begun. The editor must check the revisions and hope that all is well the next time around. The writer could very well construct yet more puzzles in her attempt to resolve issues with the text. The editor is improving the product of another person’s (the writer’s) combined ego, intellect, heart, and soul. Handling with care yet being unyielding is a delicate role for the editor to play. The process of editing and revising recycles until the writing reaches a point of equilibrium—a point at which the written piece as a whole is quite sound and where minor trimming may or may not make much difference. The exasperating part would be the unpredictability in time and effort here. However, the reward comes for both editor and writer when the piece finally moves forward. You see, the editor’s job may be described in contradictory terms because this job comes quite literally in between stages where there is a balance of opposing forces naturally occurring. The editor must work diligently to join the writer with her vision and produce a finished piece of writing to be shared with the world.

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Autumn 2018: Read, Watch, Listen

Read. 

Non-Fiction:  Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, by Rhoda Janzen

As a continuation to her Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, the author describes how she found true love and overcame a very serious illness. These are part of her overall journey. The story’s main message is faith. I can relate to a lot of what she describes, as God does things right on time at exactly the time we’re ready for the challenge. When it’s time to grow, the opportunity will arise.

Her writing is clever. I particularly enjoy the way in which she uses repetition. There’s a good measure of humour to help balance tension where the story goes deeper into her illness and treatment. Being an English professor, she includes vocabulary-boosting sentences and etymology without being a challenging sort of read.

Fiction: Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen

It’s just a cute quick-read kind of story. The characters are generally likeable, but I found the plot highly predictable. I stuck it out to the end for the big reveal—the mystery solved and conflicts resolved. The quality of writing is the equivalent of a daytime made-for-television movie. It’s a good break from my usual fare, and the author bears a striking resemblance to Stevie Nicks… by design or coincidence?

Watch. 

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens)

I simply don’t know enough about Charles Dickens to verify the story’s accuracy, but I found it intriguing how they incorporated so many fine details from A Christmas Carol into the film. A line that stuck with me was that Christmas at the time was a “minor holiday” and not generally celebrated. It would be interesting to really track the changes in cultural perception and behaviour over time.

I really ought to make Dickens’ A Christmas Carol a much higher priority on my “must read” list of literature. Although, I must say… I’ve seen a plethora of film variations (and re-watch every year), including the one starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge.

Listen. 

CBC’s 7:40am Play it by Year segment. It comes on as I approach campus on my morning commute. A good time marker to let me know if I’m early or behind schedule. An example clue song was “Hold me Now” by the Thompson Twins and it was the year that Return of the Jedi was first released. I’m usually pretty good at nailing down the clues for the 80’s and 90’s. Things get blurry into the 2000’syes.

The House Always Wins

In recent years I have signed up to receive free information from self-publishing and hybrid publishing houses. Choosing this route entails a significant upfront financial investment over and above the time and energy already allocated toward creating the manuscript itself. Many of these appear to be businesses that thrive from profit on both ends of the process. For example, Hay House Publishing offers a menu of options for self-publishing or assisted self-publishing with the promise of a full publishing contract for any writer whose online (self-published) sales exceed a certain level. This writer would receive an offer where Hay House takes care of printing, advertising, promotional touch-points, and print distribution.  I do believe there was only one example given of an author who met these conditions—I never ended up reading that book.  This lottery approach is enticing, but still boils down to an upfront financial commitment from the writer with no risk to the publishing house.

If I were teaching a course where I wished to have all of the material and notes readily accessible to my participants in one place, then I would likely decide to self-publish. In this scenario, the text may be purchased by the workshop/course participants to cover my upfront printing/publishing costs. This would be especially useful if I were teaching an online course, as I would then make use of Amazon (for example) as a distributor for my text. My audience is already set-up as per the course registration and the textbook is being sold to a specific consumer group. The self-publishing choice in this case serves a clear-cut purpose.

On the other hand, if I were simply publishing a text for the sake of placing my work into the world, choosing self-publishing could also accomplish this goal. I would expect, however, to have difficulty finding an audience for my work. The distribution would be very limited, as I would not be able to market my work and advertise on my own with the same global reach as established publishing companies have. It would be an investment with low chance of material return, especially if I were to attempt to spend more of my own resources by setting up a table at trade shows and the like. Even if the book turned out to be a real gem, I would be at the mercy of consumers’ leap of faith. The reader would be purchasing a book where the author is entirely unheard of and unknown anywhere else.  This is not to mention the lack of editorial support in terms of monitoring consistency and fluidity of the content.

Submitting work to an established publisher (the traditional method) does come with a set of benefits that are in the best interest of the writer, the prospective audience, and the manuscript itself. Once a working relationship is established with a publisher, the writer has the support of an editor who is able to review the manuscript to ensure cohesion. In The Artful Edit, Susan Bell shows examples of the working relationship between the writer and the editor. Self-editing is important, but there comes a point where another set of eyes is essential to the final stages prior to publication. Having a trained professional scrutinizing a manuscript with the author’s best interest in mind is an obvious advantage.  In addition, the author would then be represented by a business that is designed to advertise and distribute the publication. The writer may then concentrate his or her energy toward the quality and integrity of the written work. Yes, the house always wins which means that the writer is expected to submit work of a certain caliber. The benefit for all parties involved, though, is a protocol already set in place to represent the publication on the market as a well-crafted consumable resource that falls within a genre. This includes a recognizable publishing house brand. The bar is raised in terms of work submitted, but it is well worth the struggle for those who wish to pursue writing as a serious and thriving career.

Your Favourite Author…

To be honest, my taste most definitely changes with time. While I would be able to offer a top ten, or perhaps venture a top five, I simply do not have a single favourite author. I usually have a non-fiction book and an array of fiction novels on the go simultaneously. The non-fiction selections usually take more time to read and absorb. I take notes, highlight certain points, and require breaks of a couple days to a few weeks in between sections. This is where the fiction selections come in handy. These authors provide me with a brain vacation.  That’s not to say that I choose beach reads, but simply that I prefer novels with a narrative that catches my attention on the first page and introduces at least one character with whom I can identify.

Once I find a selection that I fully enjoy, I tend to binge-read that particular author until I’ve exhausted the supply. Then I wait like a predator, ready to snatch up a new release. I’m particularly in love with that intoxicated state after having completed a truly mesmerizing read and wishing to have another chapter magically appear. There’s something to be said about the in between phase of finishing one book and beginning another.

An author who impressed upon me the experience of a true journey through reading is Cheryl Strayed. In particular, my favourite selection is her first novel, Torch. This memoir and fiction fusion is crafted with characters who envelop the reader. The emotional turmoil experienced by each character and his or her personalized coping method is entirely compelling. Revealing the story in a non-linear fashion also embodies the sense of timelessness that is so attune to human memory and has the power to pluck out strands of the reader’s own personal history to form a kinship with the characters. Strayed’s writing style is what I imagine I would like to emulate in my own attempts at fiction. I do believe that there are real-life events that I would like to showcase and explore more deeply in my writing, but I also do not wish to write a true memoir. Fiction-fusion is intriguing to me, as it also seems the most challenging. Writing of any kind can be a cathartic process. Choosing to probe specific elements of one’s own life experiences through writing can certainly make for the type of intensity that Strayed’s characters possess. The result is a well-crafted healing journey for both writer and reader—each now different for having been a part of the process.

Best Wishes,

Pauline

 

Summer 2018: Read, Watch, Listen

Read. 

Normally, I have a fiction and non-fiction on the go simultaneously. Of course, the fiction selections are generally completed at a much faster rate than the non-fiction. Many of my recent non-fiction selections have given me pause and require time for processing and reflection. Fiction selections are good for a change of pace while I set down the non-fiction. I tend to binge-read novels by fiction writers whose style I find compelling.

Non-Fiction:  “Knowing Woman” by Irene Claremont De Castillejo

The author, a Jungian analyst, explores the meaning of masculine and feminine. In particular, she describes the concept of feminine consciousness and the relationship within and among human psyche. One of my favourite parts is where she discusses the marked difference between acting from a sense of duty and those who perform labours of love. The best way to support Relationship with others is to consciously work on the relationship within.

Fiction: Binge-reading Anna Quindlen this summer. Top picks: Miller’s Valley, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, and Every Last One.

I’m a sucker for Bildungsroman novels, especially when there’s an unpredictable twist of fate or circumstance. Toss in a country or lakeside setting, a female protagonist, a sprinkle of romance, and a dash of magic, and I’m there!

Watch. 

Okay, so I’m a Trekker. My recent binge-watch has been the movies, starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Most certainly not the most action-packed or riveting of the Star Trek movies, but worth viewing (even if you do use the fast-forward function in certain spots of the film) for the intrigue and plot twist. I don’t want to give away the answer to the plot’s riddle, but if you can get past the boring spaceship and docking-bay shots, you’re well on your way to a “fascinating” exploration into creation, consciousness, and life’s mysterious ways.

Listen. 

My morning commute radio station recently played Live’s Lightning Crashes. Sometimes a song from your youth just catches up to you (or maybe it’s the other way around) and you turn it up and listen intently. They repeated the playlist again a few days later and I cranked it encore! Have you heard this song lately? The lyrics are absolutely genius and overwhelmingly beautiful; the natural cycle of life in all of its passion and splendor. It is fittingly performed in the B major scale, expressing the very fullness of the sacred feminine.

 

Objective

An Excerpt From The Homework Project, 2013

One of my favourite household objects can come in many shapes, sizes and colours. The most common style in my home is silver with a small amount of detail along the ridge, and always rectangular to ensure an easy fit. The large ones get hung on the wall for all to admire, and the smaller ones are placed in visible places around the living room, bedroom, and office. In my home, I use the larger ones to contain great works of art that bring me joy. The smaller ones contain treasured memories and the smiles of loved ones to brighten up my home. My favourite household object can hold the identity of others by way of photographs, paintings, and documents, but can you figure out this object’s identity?