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By Tasneem Bhavnagarwala

This world is big, and it offers us more destinations than one can explore in a lifetime. This is where travel writers step in. Whether it’s gazing into the sunset at a beach in Indonesia, enjoying a conversation with the rickshaw driver on the streets of India, or admiring a graffiti artist’s work in Barcelona, there is something in each experience that is inspiring. Travel writers bring these moments and stories to readers who want to experience travel adventures vicariously or need assistance in developing their travel itineraries.

The key challenge for travel writers is how to bring these moments to life through words. Magazines and newspapers are always covering stories about exotic and offbeat destinations. To stand out from the crowd is not an easy task, but if you, like me, love travel writing, then the guidelines below will definitely help you break in to the business.

While travelling is something I have always loved, travel writing as a career was not something I had considered. In 2015, after I made a trip to Ladakh, India, and seeing my offbeat itinerary, a friend encouraged me to document my experience, and that’s when my journey began with travel writing. After much reading, researching, and exploring, I managed to get an opportunity to work with a small travel start-up in Mumbai as a writer. Though I consider myself still in the learning phase of my career, I would like to share some points that have helped me break in to the world of travel writing.

  • Read and read more
    I cannot stress enough how important reading is for any writer. Read everything you can about travel. I started with reading travel articles in newspapers and then gradually shifted to reading magazines like Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic, and many more. If you prefer reading online, then research and follow travel bloggers, immerse yourself in blogs such as Suitcase, Culture Trip, Fodor’s—the list goes on. Spend time researching what you would like to read and follow people or publications you like. I have picked up travel magazines and books and immersed myself in online reading. Make it a habit and you will thank yourself. Reading not only will expose you to what is new and interesting in travel writing, but also will illustrate different styles of writing and unique ways to present your stories.
  • Study or intern
    If you have the opportunity to learn travel writing by taking a short course or through interning with a publication or writer, take it. Knowledge and experience are two things that will never be a waste; instead, they will give you the needed push to hone your skills.
  • Pinpoint your intention
    What is that one thing you wish to share with the reader? This is where the core of each story resides. I have struggled the most on this front. Several times, after writing down all I could about a place, I realized that the piece had lost its focus and I had to figure out why I had wanted to write it in the first place. Also, your idea must have something that is timely; e.g., if you wish to write something about La Tomatina festival in Spain it should be published close to the time of the festival.
  • Connect with the reader
    Your travel story will be worth reading also if it has a human angle. Did you meet an interesting villager during your hike in the mountains or a baker in a café during your city exploration? If so, include it in your piece. These are stories worth sharing as they not only give insight into the life of that individual, but also allow you to paint a picture of the destination as well.
  • Rely on narratives instead of feelings
    I have sometimes gotten carried away and poured all of my feelings into my travel piece before realizing that I am writing an article and not a diary entry. The reader does not want to be told how they should feel. The travel writer’s job is to use narratives, character sketches, and interesting incidents and leave the interpretation to the reader.
  • Learn other skills
    While working toward becoming a travel writer, take some time to learn other skills that can give you an advantage.
    • Photography plays a very important role in travel writing. Photos are the glamour quotient of the story. Develop this skill; it will be an added advantage.
    • Work on your communication, interview, and listening skills. Talking to strangers can be difficult sometimes, but when you do, the people you meet become characters in your travel story. Carry a notebook and camera to document all your experiences.
    • Good research skills are mandatory for every travel writer. Researching online, reading, and collecting notes, maps, guidebooks, or business cards—these all help toward writing your story. This skill will allow you to pitch articles before you leave home or, if you are travelling, “on assignment.”
    • Learn a new language that may be useful in more than one country.
    • Take online grammar tutorials to improve your writing.
    • Learn to read physical maps, as online tools are not always readily available.
  • Establish an online presence
    A blog is the best way to put your stories out there and it’s a good way to document your journey. Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook are also great tools to gain exposure for your story.I personally love using Instagram for my travel photography. Two posts that worked for me are this one taken in Palampur, India, and this one taken at Ranthambore National Park (in Rajasthan, India). These posts did well for the following reasons:
    • Using hashtags helped me get visibility. You can use a combination of hashtags: general, travel-related hashtags; regional hashtags; or branded hashtags by companies like Condé Nast and Culture Trip.
    • Geotagging (adding location metadata to the photo), so people scrolling through images of that location will see your post as well.
    • Tagging other accounts, which helps you get new followers and more visibility. In the first post, I tagged the lodge in the photo, which then shared the post on its Instagram page.
    • Using videos, which bring your travel experience to life.
    • Adding captions, which can be just a few words or a short description about the moment captured. Avoid lengthy captions; let your photograph speak for itself.

      The author in Indonesia.

  • Make a pitch
    If you are confident you have a story that is worth sharing, then it’s time to strategize a pitch. Pick where you want to publish your story and ask yourself these 4 questions:
    1. Is my story idea worth reading? (You can always ask your friends and colleagues to give you feedback and suggestions.)
    2. Am I in sync with the publication’s writing style and presentation?
    3. If the publication has covered this destination before, what makes my story different?
    4. Is the story angle of my article convincing?Be sure to have more than one idea to present to an editor, so if they reject the first, there are more they can choose from. Pick one publication at a time and avoid simultaneous submissions. Your story should be tailored to the writing style and audience of each publication.
  • Remember: rejection is part of the process
    Although some of your ideas may be turned down, don’t let that deter you. Take each rejection as a learning experience and continue to hone your travel-writing skills.
  • Final advice
    Don’t stop writing, reading, and asking questions. Even if your story idea gets accepted, follow the advice of the editor. They know their craft. And, always be true to the publication’s vision.Keep these points in mind when you begin your journey of travel writing. If you put your heart into it, you will always learn new things and have interesting experiences. Remember to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, and enjoy the journey!

Tasneem Bhavnagarwala is a freelance writer based in Mumbai, India. Before she ventured into the world of writing she worked in advertising and brand management for nine years. She is currently taking a travel writing course at George Brown College in Toronto. In her free time, she loves writing poems.

This article was edited by Tamara Zayachkowski.

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Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster.

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

You might say I’m a homebody in terms of my career, having spent most of it at Owlkids in Toronto, with the exception of two initial years at Key Porter Books. Over my two decades with Owlkids, I’ve had the privilege of holding a variety of positions, such as editor of both Chickadee and Chirp, senior editor of OWL, freelance writer and editor while I was home with small kids, and, currently, managing editor for both magazines and books. I’m also the author of My Canada, a picture book atlas illustrated by Lori Joy Smith. My career has given me a rare opportunity to create and edit high-quality content for kids in magazine, book, and electronic formats, and to work with so many talented and creative people.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

Madeleine L’Engle or Annie Dillard. That’s two, isn’t it? I can’t decide—I love the way both women think.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

I tend to overuse ellipses in informal writing. I have a lazy habit of trailing off…

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

Someplace warm. Maybe southern Italy. It’s been a long winter.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

From time to time, especially when the economy hit a rough patch, though never seriously. Librarian and bookseller were next in line…

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

The hare-brained dream of working on a magazine took hold of me when I was in high school, and then as I was finishing up at university I discovered Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing program. It seemed like a perfect fit at the time, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

It’s not really a motto, but I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotations from the great poet and environmentalist Wendell Berry: “What I stand for is what I stand on.”

 

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto, vice-president of the Toronto branch of Canadian Authors Association, and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Ann Kennedy.

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Interview conducted by Catherine Dorton.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand.

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Greg Ioannou, who will be talking about how to find editing work, including freelance, and Editors Canada’s plans to help editors find work

What book, movie, or TV show title best describes your life?

My brother sometimes talks about how he’s never seen or read anything that remotely resembles our lives. I may have to write the damned thing myself.

What was the luckiest thing that ever happened to you?

Getting drafted by the Australian army. They were going to send me to Vietnam. I opted for Canada instead.

What genre or type of project have you not yet had the chance to work on, but would like to?

I’ve done three books on cannibalism, and many, many cookbooks, but never a cannibalism cookbook.

What can’t you live without?

Chaos, apparently. I can’t stand a tidy desk, a completed to-do list, everything being orderly and under control. I thrive where things are about to fall apart, revel in avoiding inchoate rubble and ruin. Neatness is the ultimate evil.

What can’t you work without?

Co-workers. I used to freelance at home, and found it boring, lonely, depressing. I need an office to go to and people to work with.

More About Greg Ioannou

Greg Ioannou has a long history in publishing. He’s worked on well over 3,000 books, on topics ranging from cannibalism to vegetarian cuisine, and from science fiction to how to design a helicopter. He’s taught publishing at Ryerson University, George Brown College, and elsewhere, and served four terms as president of Editors Canada. He is the CEO of Colborne Communications, a writing and editing company, and president of the Toronto hybrid publisher Iguana Books. Through Colborne, Greg and his team have worked on everything from websites and self-published books to board games and government reports. As a hybrid publisher, Greg has helped more than 100 authors publish top-quality books in genres ranging from mysteries to political thrillers to humour, and in 2018, Iguana Books co-published with Canadian Authors Association the first in a series of planned anthologies of new Canadian writing.

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When: Tuesday, April 23, 7:30–9:30 pm

Where: Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina, 192 Spadina Ave., Third Floor, Room F

For the penultimate program meeting of 2018–19, we are pleased to feature publisher and Editors Canada co-founder Greg Ioannou, who will speak about how freelancers can generate work, and what Editors Canada plans to do to help freelancers find jobs in today’s evolving marketplace. We’re also treating members to a specially curated collection of short video presentations, by a diverse group of editors adept at generating freelance work. Please join us for what will surely be an informative program devoted to the practical and business side of the editing profession.

More about our speaker:

Greg Ioannou has a long history in publishing. He’s worked on well over 3,000 books, on topics ranging from cannibalism to vegetarian cuisine, and from science fiction to how to design a helicopter. He’s taught publishing at Ryerson University, George Brown College, and elsewhere, and served four terms as president of Editors Canada. He is the CEO of Colborne Communications, a writing and editing company, and president of the Toronto hybrid publisher Iguana Books. Through Colborne, Greg and his team have worked on everything from websites and self-published books to board games and government reports. As a hybrid publisher, Greg has helped more than 100 authors publish top-quality books in genres ranging from mysteries to political thrillers to humour, and in 2018, Iguana Books co-published with Canadian Authors Association the first in a series of planned anthologies of new Canadian writing.

ENTER OUR RAFFLE! All proceeds go into our programs budget to help pay our speakers and provide professional development opportunities for our members.

Cost: $2 per ticket, $5 for three tickets, or $10 for seven tickets.

Prizes: A $25 gift card to Scarborough Town Centre, donated by Oxford Properties; a copy of Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing!, donated by Rock’s Mills Press; a $15 gift card to Chapters/Indigo, donated by programs chair Lee Parpart; a one-hour mentorship on any aspect of writing or editing with Editors Toronto co-chair Jennifer D. Foster; a one-hour mentorship on any aspect of editing or publishing with Greg Ioannou; a $50 gift card (toward the cost of a full facial) at Ici Paris Skin Care Clinic & Spa; a copy of Blood Is Thicker, an anthology of short stories by new Canadian writers, co-published by Iguana Books and Canadian Authors Association and donated by Iguana Books; and a prize pack of four books for readers of mysteries and thrillers, donated by Iguana Books.

Program details for Tuesday, April 23, 7:30–9:30 pm

LOCATION: Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina, 192 Spadina Ave., Third Floor, Room F

7:30 pm              Introductory remarks

7:40 pm              Program

8:30 pm              Q&A, and raffle

9 pm                   Mix-and-mingle (until 9:30 pm)

Free for members; $10 for non-members; $5 for student non-members

Directions, parking, accessibility, and other details about the venue are available here and here (for accessibility details, scroll down to item number nine within the second link).

Trouble getting into the building? Text the programs chair at 647-607-0416, and we will send someone to open the front door.

ACCESSIBILITY: Please note that although the third floor of CSI Spadina is fully accessible, the building’s narrow elevator (30 inches wide) may not accommodate all mobility devices. Please contact the branch programs chair at toronto_br_program_chair@editors.ca with any questions or concerns about accessibility at this meeting.

PLANNING AHEAD: Editors Toronto meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month, except in June, July, August, and December. Join us on May 28 for our final program meeting (and last branch business meeting) of the year, when we will address strategies for overcoming barriers to entry within the fields of editing and publishing—a topic of vital interest for new and emerging editors today.

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By Michelle Waitzman

Can you tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman, based only on the words the author used? Is the road to hell (or at least to bad writing) paved with adverbs, as Stephen King once claimed? Do American authors write “louder” than British authors? If you’re intrigued by these questions, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve will satisfy your curiosity.

Author Ben Blatt uses data journalism to apply statistical analysis to a wide variety of topics. In this book, literary works and bestselling fiction are subjected to his big-data approach, often with surprising results. While this isn’t meant to be an instructional book by any stretch of the imagination, writers and editors might find some of the takeaways applicable to their own work. His statistics on sentence length, repetition, gender balance, and other topics may give readers some additional things to think about when they write or evaluate a novel. But generally, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve is simply an interesting and unusual way to look at writing.

Blatt concentrates on works of fiction from the 20th and 21st centuries that are the most highly regarded (according to a number of lists and ratings), plus those that sold the most copies. He does delve back into the 19th century as well, reaching as far into the literary past as Jane Austen’s novels. Blatt uses 1,500 books as his main dataset. He compares these professional works with works of online fanfiction. The fanfiction represents non-professional writing and is used for comparison with the accomplished works in his main dataset.

Among the topics Blatt explores are some long-standing pieces of advice that authors often receive, and he analyzes whether they have been applied in the novels he examines. For example, he looks at the following advice for authors: avoid using exclamation points, minimize adverbs ending in ly, get rid of clichés, and don’t open a book with a description of the weather (as in, “It was a dark and stormy night…”). He also examines whether authors follow the advice that they give other writers.

He breaks down the content of co-written books to see if the writing style betrays which author did most of the writing. He also looks at authors who have attempted to hide some of their work behind a pen name to determine whether one can, with the use of analytics, discover who wrote the books. In other words, do authors leave their “fingerprints” all over their work even when they’re trying to hide their identity?

As the title suggests, the book uncovers the “favourite” words of many writers. These are words that an author uses in their work much more often than other writers. Of course, some authors’ favourite words are skewed by their limited literary output; for example, J. R. R. Tolkien frequently uses elves, goblins, and wizards, but this comes from analyzing only a few works: The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. For other authors, the list contains some surprises. James Bond author Ian Fleming, for example, made unusually frequent use of the words lavatory, trouser, and spangled.

Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve is a fun book for those who like to ponder what separates great writers from the rest. Blatt takes readers on a fascinating journey through literature at a microscopic level that most of us would otherwise be unaware of. While data analytics can’t replace the careful attention of a good editor, it can shine a light on common issues that we may not otherwise notice and provide evidence to either back up what we instinctively believe to be true or prove our instincts wrong. And if you’re still wondering about those questions at the beginning of this review, the answers, according to Ben Blatt, are yes, sort of, and yes.

Michelle Waitzman is a freelance non-fiction writer, editor, and proofreader in Toronto. Before she started editing, Michelle survived careers in TV production and corporate communications. Between these, she ran away to live in New Zealand for seven years.

This article was copy edited by Grant Brooks.

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By Raya Morrison

In January, Editors Toronto, Canadian Authors–Toronto, and the Creative Writing program at the University of Toronto (UofT) School of Continuing Studies struck gold, bringing Esi Edugyan, two-time winner of the Giller Prize, for Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018), to speak in front of a packed audience of writers and editors. The brilliant Edugyan took the stage along with four of her editors—Patrick Crean, Marie-Lynn Hammond, John Sweet, and Jane Warren—to discuss their collaborations and the editing process.

The event, which took place at UofT’s Sidney Smith Hall, started with an introduction by Lee Parpart, program chair at Editors Toronto, and was followed by Edugyan reading the opening passage from Half-Blood Blues. The audience was then treated to a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the editorial process as structural editor Jane Warren and copy editor Marie-Lynn Hammond shed light on the different stages of editing, from the first structural edit to the minutia of copy editing.

Here is a short video of Jane Warren discussing the crucial part a structural editor plays in shaping a novel, and how honoured she was “to work on something that’s going to be read and re-read for the decades to come.”

Marie-Lynn Hammond talked about dialects and tics in speech that help with character development. In her example from Half-Blood Blues, one character used “a” as a determiner for nouns starting with a vowel sound (“a answer,” “a hour”) in the passages of the book that take place in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, but in the passages taking place in the 1990s, the character shifted to using the correct indefinite article, “an.” She said that copy editors may not always get direction on certain linguistic nuances, but they should always pay attention to characters’ unique usage of language.

Hammond also relayed an anecdote that emphasized how an editor’s personal interests or hobbies might come in handy in their work. Half-Blood Blues includes a plot detail involving a musical recording that had to be transported from Paris to the US. Because of her musical background and friends in the industry, Hammond was able to point out that the record material described in the draft was not the right kind for that particular time period.

When the conversation turned to Edugyan’s most recent work of fiction, Washington Black, structural editor Patrick Crean commented on how important it is to try to preserve a “fresh-eyes” perspective on the text: “You always want to keep that first impression.” He later added, “When I first read something, I listen to it. I’m not using my intellectual, left side of my brain. I try to listen to it, how this plays to me as a reader….and then the logic and the left brain comes in at a later time when the editing process begins.”

Copy editor John Sweet at first jokingly complained that the carefully written prose of Edugyan required little editing. “I’m not doing anything!” he exclaimed, but later corrected himself: “There are things to do: chronology, family relations, anachronistic issues….” He confessed that as a young boy he used to draw up lists of characters in the books he read and then chart their relationships to each other. Employing this same technique with Washington Black helped him catch an inconsistency in the relationship between two characters in the manuscript.

The cozy discussion which had the atmosphere of a casual fireside chat between five old friends added another personality when it was discovered that Edugyan’s managing editor from HarperCollins, Noelle Zitzer, was in attendance! After being drawn into the conversation from the stage, Zitzer recounted her exhaustive investigation into the name of a popular liquor that appeared in Washington Black, thereby confirming the importance of research in the editorial process.

As it happened, research was the main topic of the Q&A portion of the evening. Questions from the audience focused on Edugyan’s research process: Did it stop when she started writing and did it involve travelling to the places described in Half-Blood Blues and Washington Black? Edugyan stressed that while she had not been to many of the locations mentioned in the books, she had done a great deal of research before starting the novels and continued to do so throughout the writing process. Patrick Crean joined the conversation, adding that “the research didn’t [and shouldn’t] show. It should feel naturally blended in.” Edugyan agreed, stating that while there is always a compulsion of “I learned it, I should put it in,” not everything will make it into the pages of the manuscript.

The editors agreed that showing each other their notes and getting the author to read through them is a crucial part of giving coherent feedback. Edugyan claimed that she has “never had a case when there’s been contradictory feedback. It just never happened to me…at least not yet.” She added, “Different editors will notice different things, and that is so helpful.”

The evening, with its intellectual discussions and lighthearted spirit, proved to be both enlightening and entertaining. One can only hope that Editors Toronto and the Creative Writing Program at UofT (now with Canadian Authors–Toronto on board as well) will turn this two-year trend of hosting Giller-Prize winners (last year’s program showcased the 2017 winner, Michael Redhill) into a permanent tradition.

Raya P. Morrison is a Toronto-based editor, writer, and tarot reader, specializing in short fiction, non-fiction, marketing, and magazines. She is the webmaster for the Editors Canada conference committee, and frequently volunteers for Editors Toronto, including assisting the programs chair in 2017–18. She is also the editor-in-chief of local literary journal Blood & Bourbon.

This article was copy edited by Amanda Clarke.

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Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster.

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I am a freelance writer and editor based mostly in Toronto but also in Victoria. I have been doing this work since 1996, and I have been self-employed since 1998. I write for and edit magazines, mostly custom and trade publications now, but I have a few consumer magazines on my resumé. I especially enjoy launching and rebranding publications; it’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting and fun. I also help businesses with websites, marketing materials, and anything else they have that might need new words or better words.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

Wow! I am not that kind of editor. I wouldn’t even know where to start with a book, let alone one written by a famous author. On the other hand, I would love to interview a famous author. Someone pleasant and interesting, like Michael Ondaatje or John Irving, though I would need to be very well prepared, so I wouldn’t just stare at them, awestruck and speechless.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

Fave punctuation: the so-called Oxford (serial) comma. Yup, I’m on that side of the fence.

Fave word: dog, in any language.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

Actually, Toronto has been a dream come true. I have been here for only five and a half years, so I’m not at all tired of it. I love this city! I even love the TTC! It might be nice to work somewhere else someday—maybe where I can wear flip-flops year-round—but I am very happy to be in Toronto.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Oh, my goodness, yes. For the first few years, especially, I felt like, any day, the work could just dry up, and I would have to find something else to do. It was stressful. I always had a backup employment plan ready. I still have moments like that. I still keep a list of backup job ideas. I still wonder if my life would be more balanced if I had just kept teaching ESL.

And, sometimes, when big projects are particularly challenging—and there are so many different reasons a project might be challenging—I get a bit dramatic, thinking, this will be the publication that kills me! Colleagues I’ve worked with for years laugh when I get to that stage and remind me that I’ve said that many times before.

But that joyful moment when a publication is sent to press or when a client says they’re happy or the thrill of new project or even just the delight of sending an invoice—and suddenly everything seems completely manageable.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Editing definitely chose me. In all honesty, it had never occurred to me to be an editor until I was one. I was looking for a teaching job in Victoria, when a temporary opportunity with a publishing company turned into my first editorial job. That was in 1996. The publishing company produced mainly custom publications for the B.C. tourism industry. For me, it was a trial by fire. I learned fast and on the job. But I was extremely fortunate to be working with very talented and experienced people, and we had some great clients.

When the company unexpectedly closed in 1998, projects were still underway and needed to be completed. Several of us quickly formed independent businesses—I fulfilled the editorial component—and we all just kept working. That was 21 years ago. I still work with many of those same people—they are a fantastic group—and many of the clients I have today can be traced to those early days.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

Onward. Better busy than bored. (I know, I know! Those are two mottos which, with a colon, could easily be made into one.)

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto, vice-president of the Toronto branch of Canadian Authors Association, and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

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Interviews conducted by Catherine Dorton.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand. 

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

Photo of Ranjini George by Fred Loek for Mississauga News

Ranjini George 

We hear you use a gong. What’s that for?

Sound is a wonderful way to centre oneself and move beyond the carousel of non-stop thoughts. It is a way to be present to the Now, the Present Moment. The gong is a way of coming home to oneself. I love the words of Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh regarding the bell/gong: “Listen, listen to the sound of the bell that calls you back to your true home.”

Try this: If you walk by the lake, listen to the sound of the waves. If you’re taking a neighbourhood walk (yes, spring is here!), listen to the sound of the birds. Notice your breath. Feel your feet on the earth. Breathe. Be present.

Listen to the lovely bell chant offered by the Plum Village community.

Why do writers and editors need mindfulness training?

I think it’s not just writers or editors who need mindfulness training. I think mindfulness is something that can help anyone. We enter this life with our first breath and transition from it with our last. So, we always have our breath.

Mindfulness is a way of using our breath—it is a way of being awake to our lives. Mindfulness is a practice: it is a simple and profound way of creating peace in our hearts. In our work as editors or writers, mindfulness helps create focus and clarity. We can bring the energy of mindfulness into our home, our workplace, and the world.

What’s the secret to life, the universe, and everything? 

I don’t think there’s one secret! If there were, we would be fundamentalist and dogmatic about the way to that secret. If we knew that secret, we would think ourselves superior to others and want to convert them to our way of thinking. All we can do is to live our lives fully, try to figure things out, make mistakes, pick ourselves up, and cultivate warm-heartedness and kindness.

One of the secrets that I’ve discovered is that happiness is a practice. Writing is a practice. Cultivating compassion and patience is a practice.

Life is a precious gift. If there is one secret, it is perhaps that! Mindfulness is a way of being awake to our lives and becoming familiar with ourselves. Mindfulness offers a way of working with our difficult emotions and circumstances so that we come closer to happiness and peace. For me, that was transformative wisdom—not a secret, but a moment of illumination, a realization that there is something out there that could help me profoundly and help me to help others. I discovered that I could be the light of my soul.

Here’s a song for you to enjoy: “I Am the Light of My Soul” by Sirgun Kaur and Sat Darshan Singh.

Photo of Rebecca Higgins by Hayley Andoff

Rebecca Higgins

Some people think short stories are just tiny, unfinished novels. Is this fair, and what would you like to say to those people? 

Didn’t William Faulkner say something about this? “I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.”

I love reading novels. I know how amazing it can be to fall into a novel that grips you until its end. Short stories can grab us like that, but the whole experience is much quicker. They may be short. Sometimes they’re even tiny. But that doesn’t mean they are unfinished. A short story is a glimpse at a life, a snapshot of a moment or small chunk of time, and sometimes when they’re over, we wish they weren’t, yet. A short story, to me, is a gulp of life: brief, nourishing, sharp, maybe unsettling, but not a failed novel. Is a tiny house an unfinished mansion? Nope. They’re different things.

Hotel or tent? Museum or beach? 

Hotel, always. I love nature, but I don’t want to sleep in it. Beach, but ideally with a trip to the museum when the sun goes down.

Who is your favourite short story writer?

Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, George Saunders, Bronwen Wallace, and Andre Dubus, to name a few.

Photo of Erika Nielsen by Shayne Gray Photography

Erika Nielsen

What’s the funniest or oddest thing that has ever happened to you in a professional music setting?

Three vignettes come to mind:

  1. A costume that involved wearing a bonnet with an enormous pretzel on my head.
  2. Performing in a national broadcast commercial for birth control.
  3. Hurrying backstage for something before an opening magic show, passing a butcher chopping huge chunks of raw meat with a cleaver, then remembering that backstage was strictly off-limits because of the live tigers.

You’re a musician, you’ve just published your first book, and you’ve exhibited your visual art. To make us feel better, please confess one thing you’re not good at.

I’m not a good storyteller at parties! I really can’t spin a good yarn on the spot. I get my chronology mixed up, forget the point I was trying to make, or give away the punchline too early. All too often, the tales I wish to tell fall into the category of “you had to be there!”

 What’s one thing you wish you could have told yourself at sixteen?

There are a lot of tough things that are a normal, healthy part of growing up, but the symptoms you are experiencing are not. There is better help available, and there is nothing wrong with getting it. You are worthy, and loved, and you are enough: exactly as you are.

More About Our Speakers

Ranjini George holds a PhD in English (Northern Illinois University, DeKalb), an MA in English (St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi), and an MFA in Creative Writing (University of British Columbia, Vancouver). She won first place in Canada’s inaugural Coffee Shop Author Contest for her travel memoir, a work-in-progress called Miracle of Flowers. For 13 years, she was a professor of English at Zayed University, Dubai, where she ran the Teaching with the Mind of Mindfulness series. She currently teaches a meditation and writing course and another called Pilgrimage to the Sacred Feminine in the Creative Writing Program, School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. Her 2016 book Through My Mother’s Window was published in Dubai. She can be contacted via her Facebook page facebook.com/TheKuanYinStoryCafe.

Rebecca Higgins is a mental health educator and writer based in Toronto. She has worked in social and community services for 18 years, specializing in mental health education since 2010, after her own experiences with depression led her to change her professional focus. Rebecca designs and delivers independent workshop sessions for groups and conferences, and she facilitates workshops on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Visit mentalhealthworkshopstoronto.com for more information about her mental health work. A graduate of the University of Toronto (BA), Ottawa’s Carleton University (MSW), and Humber College’s School for Writers in Toronto, Rebecca has published stories in such publications as The Toronto Star and The Antigonish Review. Her debut collection, The Colours of Birds, was published by Tightrope Books in 2018. Find her at rebeccahiggins.org.

Toronto-based cellist Erika Nielsen has a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, collaborative artist, orchestral player, and educator. Her musicianship spans baroque and classical traditions to contemporary and popular genres. She has performed with artists such as Kanye West and Johnny Reid, and she is a graduate of The Glenn Gould School in Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Erika is a blog contributor to BPhope.com and the author of the mental health blog soundmindbook.com. She published her first book, the memoir and wellness guide Sound Mind: My Bipolar Journey from Chaos to Composure, with Trigger Publishing in 2019. A passionate educator, Erika maintains a busy private studio and is on faculty at National Music Camp of Canada. She is also a visual artist. Learn more at celloerika.com.

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When: Thursday, March 28, 7:30–9:30 PM

Where: Room 1050, Earth Sciences Centre, 33 Willcocks St., University of Toronto

Important notice: This month’s program meeting will take place on Thursday, March 28, not on our usual date of the fourth Tuesday of the month. Please mark your calendars. The location is also different this month as we’re meeting at the University of Toronto (UofT). We’ll return to the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina for our April 23 meeting on poetry editing.

Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music is geared to helping cultural producers across a variety of fields (including writers, editors, visual artists, and musicians) learn about mental health challenges and adopt new strategies for wellness, mindfulness, and creativity. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a mindfulness session at the beginning and end of this event.

This special event is a joint production of Editors Toronto; Canadian Authors–Toronto; and the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto.

Our featured guests this month are Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

Well-known Toronto mindfulness expert Ranjini George will open the event with an introduction to the practice of mindfulness as a way of cultivating well-being. She’ll address the specific needs of freelance editors and writers who find themselves alternating between too little work and too much work, or juggling multiple projects with overlapping deadlines. Ranjini will also talk about the power of stories as a means of healing, referencing her 2016 book, Through My Mother’s Window: Emirati Women Tell their Stories and Recipes.

Next, we’ll hear from Toronto author Rebecca Higgins, who will speak about the intersections between her 2018 debut collection of short fiction, The Colours of Birds (Tightrope Books), and her activities as a mental health educator. Rebecca will do a reading; share insights from her mental health work; and discuss her journey through the writing process, from first draft to a published book.

Lastly, we’ll hear from concert cellist and debut author Erika Nielsen about what it was like to be diagnosed with bipolar illness just as she was hitting her stride as a professional musician. Drawing from her newly published memoir, Sound Mind: My Bipolar Journey from Chaos to Composure (Trigger Press, 2019), Erika will talk about the wellness strategies and regimens she has used to walk herself back to a place of balance and stability. She will discuss some of the obstacles and challenges she faced in writing her memoir and why she felt she had to write her story. In a special addition to the evening’s celebration, Erika will also perform on cello.

All three speakers will take questions during a Q&A.

This event will include a raffle with prizes relevant to the evening’s theme. Prize details will be released through the event website as they become available. All raffle proceeds will support emerging writers through the Creative Writing Bursary at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto.

Raffle tickets are $2 each, $5/three, or $10/seven, and can be purchased on the event website and at the venue. Raffle winners must be present at the event or be represented by someone who holds their ticket to claim their prize.

Ticket information:

ALL TICKETS FOR THIS EVENT (FREE AND/OR PAID) MUST BE BOOKED THROUGH OUR EVENT WEBSITE. Click HERE and follow the prompts.

This event is FREE for members of Editors Canada; members of the Canadian Authors Association; and students, faculty, and staff in the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies. (Your association or department will send you an ACCESS CODE by email, along with directions for how to use it to access your free tickets.)

$10 for non-members, and $5 for non-member students in all other programs.

This event also includes a Pay-What-You-Can (PWYC) rate for non-members. We ask for a $2 minimum, online or at the door.

How to book your ticket(s):

  • Visit the event site, and click on the blue GET TICKETS button.
  • Select your ticket type (e.g., EDITORS CANADA MEMBER and/or GENERAL ADMISSION if you are buying a ticket for a non-member) from the menu of ticket types.
  • If you don’t see your ticket type, but you have an access code, click on HAVE AN ACCESS CODE? (in small light-blue letters at the bottom of the screen) and enter the access code.
  • Click on UNLOCK TICKET. The correct ticket type should now be visible.
  • In the drop down menu to the right of the ticket type, select the number of tickets you want. Free tickets are limited to one per person, whereas non-members can buy unlimited General Admission tickets (the venue seats 400!).
  • Click on the blue CONTINUE button at the bottom of the page.
  • In the dialogue box that appears, enter your full name and email address.
  • Below that, select the option that describes you (e.g., Editors Canada member, Authors–Toronto member, etc.).
  • Follow any prompts to pay for your tickets or raffle tickets.
  • Click the blue REGISTER button.
  • You should receive a confirmation message.
  • Your ticket will be sent to you by email. Please check your spam or junk folder if you do not see your ticket in your inbox.
  • You may print your ticket or check in at the event by showing the digital ticket on your phone or other device.

Please be sure to check in and present your print or digital ticket to a greeter at the event. This will help us keep track of attendance in relation to ticket sales.

Problems booking?  Contact programs chair Lee Parpart at toronto_br_program_chair@editors.ca.

More about our panellists:

Ranjini George holds a PhD in English (Northern Illinois University, DeKalb), an MA in English (St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi), and an MFA in Creative Writing (University of British Columbia, Vancouver). She won first place in Canada’s inaugural Coffee Shop Author Contest for her travel memoir, a work-in-progress called Miracle of Flowers. For 13 years, she was a professor of English at Zayed University, Dubai, where she ran the Teaching with the Mind of Mindfulness series. She currently teaches a meditation and writing course and another called Pilgrimage to the Sacred Feminine in the Creative Writing Program, School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. Her 2016 book Through My Mother’s Window was published in Dubai. She can be contacted via her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TheKuanYinStoryCafe/.

Rebecca Higgins is a mental health educator and writer based in Toronto. She has worked in social and community services for 18 years, specializing in mental health education since 2010, after her own experiences with depression led her to change her professional focus. Rebecca designs and delivers independent workshop sessions for groups and conferences, and she facilitates workshops on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Visit www.mentalhealthworkshopstoronto.com for more information about her mental health work. A graduate of the University of Toronto (BA), Ottawa’s Carleton University (MSW), and Humber College’s School for Writers in Toronto, Rebecca’s short stories have appeared in such publications as The Toronto Star and The Antigonish Review. Her debut collection, The Colours of Birds, was published by Tightrope Books in 2018. Find her at www.rebeccahiggins.org.

Toronto-based cellist Erika Nielsen has a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, collaborative artist, orchestral player, and educator. Her musicianship spans baroque and classical traditions to contemporary and popular genres. She has performed with artists such as Kanye West and Johnny Reid, and she is a graduate of The Glenn Gould School in Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Erika is a blog contributor to www.BPhope.com and the author of the mental health blog https://soundmindbook.com. She published her first book, the memoir and wellness guide Sound Mind: My Bipolar Journey from Chaos to Composure, with Trigger Press in 2019. A passionate educator, Erika maintains a busy private studio and is on faculty at National Music Camp of Canada. She is also a visual artist. Learn more at www.celloerika.com.

Program details

Doors will open at 7:10 PM promptly. Please arrive early to get a good seat.

7:30 PM Introductions

7:45 PM Ranjini George leads a mindfulness session geared to writers, editors, and artists

8 PM Rebecca Higgins talks about her work as a mental health educator and reads from her book of short stories, The Colours of Birds

8:20 PM Concert cellist Erika Nielsen shares (through music, words, and visual art) how she walked herself back to stability and a thriving music career after a diagnosis of bipolar illness, as told in her new memoir and wellness guide, Sound Mind: My Bipolar Journey from Chaos to Composure

8:55 PM Ranjini George closes the event with a mindfulness session

9:10 PM Raffle

9:20 PM Book sale and signings

Accessibility Room 1050 of the Earth Sciences Centre at UofT seats 400 people and is fully accessible. Details about the venue are available here.

Anyone with specific questions about the accessibility features of this venue is invited to email the Editors Toronto programs chair at toronto_br_program_chair@editors.ca.

Privacy and media coverage

Portions of this program will be videotaped. Please let us know ahead of time if you wish to avoid appearing on camera, by emailing the programs chair at toronto_br_program_chair@editors.ca.

Thank you for your interest! We look forward to seeing you.

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By Summer Cowley

As an editor with editor friends, I find myself often reading works by authors who use citation styles other than the ones I regularly use in my own writing. Even though I become more comfortable with different styles every time I see them, many styles are unfamiliar in my APA-dominated world of the social sciences. Many times, I have wished there were an easier and more reliable way to quickly learn citation styles than running internet searches. Luckily, I’ve recently found Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles—MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More (2018) by Charles Lipson.

Cite Right is a short book (180 pages) in which Lipson provides summary explanations and examples of many citation styles. The book is divided into two general sections: “Citations: An Overview,” which contains introductory material and a general explanation of the practice of citing, and “Citations in Every Format: A Quick Guide,” which addresses Chicago/Turabian, MLA, APA, CSE, AMA, ACS, AIP for physics/astrophysics/astronomy, and mathematics/computer science/engineering citation styles.

This book is targeted toward students and writers who are novices to either the publication process or a particular citation style. The tone of the book is inviting and leans towards casual as the author advises writers to write citations that help the reader find information rather than “prance about showing off your knowledge without adding to the reader’s” (p. 4). Lipson informs the reader that Cite Right can be used as a reference for various citation styles currently in use, pointing out that each chapter is labelled by citation style and by the fields that commonly use that style. Although a wide variety of styles is represented, the list is not exhaustive. The Vancouver citation style, for example, is omitted from this book. However, this may be due to the inclusion of the AMA reference style, which (like Vancouver) is used in publications in the medical fields. Given that the two styles are highly similar and are used in the same field, it is possible that Lipson found them too similar to warrant the inclusion of both and chose the one more commonly used.

Lipson defines Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and APA as citation styles that the reader will likely have to use eventually and points out CSE, AMA, ACS, AIP, and various other styles as relevant to specific disciplines in the sciences. Lipson takes readers through the first section as a protective coach and guide, stating that the book will explain how to apply each style discussed so that “…you can concentrate on writing your paper, not on the type of citation you’re using” (p. 6). Throughout the introduction, he presents the basic goals of all citation styles and argues for basic citation-writing knowledge over using online citation generators (p. 7), defines and explains the use of hanging indents (p. 9), and explains the organization of the book and of each chapter (p. 10–11).

In the second section, Lipson introduces and explains each of the citation styles—one per chapter. Chapters 3 through 10 begin with a short introduction to the history and major reference works associated with each style.  In the chapters dedicated to Chicago, MLA, and APA, he provides an index of the citation formats exemplified in each, so that the reader can easily flip to the right page when using the appropriate style for their work. This organizational set-up is highly welcome as it is consistent with Lipson’s advice to use the book as a reference manual rather than trying to memorize each citation format for each style. In every chapter in this section, bullet-point notes are provided (after each example of a citation format) that explain how the reader might alter the citation to apply to various circumstances.

Cite Right is a valuable resource for a varied readership. Secondary and post-secondary school instructors will find the book helpful as a resource when preparing lessons on the differences between various citation styles or on justifications for the use of citations at all. In chapter 11, Lipson addresses frequently asked questions about citing in general that may be particularly useful to instructors. Writers who must use a new citation style will also benefit from the ease with which this text can be read. For editors, this book is an invaluable tool for addressing issues of unfamiliar citation styles in authors’ work. Rather than searching through longer citation-style references, such as the APA manual or MLA Handbook, editors can refer to this guide to styles.

This book’s examination of the various citation styles allows readers to quickly identify an unrecognized citation style and to provide appropriate and helpful feedback on the author’s application of it. As such, this book is especially useful to editors who work with material from various fields and specialties. Additionally, editors will recognize when authors are using styles inappropriate for their field. With the addition of Cite Right to their reference libraries, editors will find themselves able to work confidently far beyond the most commonly encountered citation styles.

Summer Cowley has worked in writing centres across Canada and is currently a PhD student (Higher Education) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

This article was copy edited by Vanessa Wells.

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