Sunday, August 5, 2018

New Essential Edits Staff

Halli Lilburn (Editor and Writing Coach)

Halli is an editor, workshop leader, writing coach, and author. She has published in Tesseracts, Carte Blanche,Spirited, We Shall Be Monsters, and other venues; was co-editor of The Dame Was Trouble anthology [Coffin Hop Press, 2018]; and is the author of the YA novel, Shifters. She is a member of The Editors Association of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta,and is part of Essential Edits' Lethbridge team. She has extensive teaching/workshop experience working with both teens and adults. Halli is Essential Edits’ lead for teen writers, YA authors, and horror, but also edits poetry and genre fiction.

Halli Lilburn's SF YA novel, Shifters.

Halli will be participating in panels at When Words Collide in Calgary this coming weekend, the Essential Edits table at Word on the Street Lethbridge (Sept 22, 2018) and is offering a creative writing workshop through CASA October 20.

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Good Month for My Fiction

After coming in second in the Hummingbird Prize, I got more good news today: my time travel story, "Sermon on the Mount" was selected by On Spec Magazine to showcase the magazine in Alberta Unbound, the Alberta Magazine Publications Association online exhibit. The exhibit only lasts a couple of months, but you're welcome to read my story for free while it lasts.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Runner-Up in Pulp Literature's Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize

The Current Issue of Pulp Literature

Very pleased that "Day Three", my second-ever piece of flash fiction, came in second in Pulp Fiction's Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize. I believe the story will appear in the Winter 2019 issue.

I am particularly pleased because getting published in Pulp Literature was one of the five writing goals I set myself for this year. Getting X number of stories written for the year was goal one, of course, and two was to see if I could get something published/sold each month (so far, four out of six, but still time to catch up), and the third was to finish polishing the novel and approaching agents—I'm lined up for a session with an agent in three weeks—fourth was selling to Pulp Literature; and fifth was writing an article for University Affairs, which is on my agenda as soon as I finish teaching for the year.

So, what are your writing goals for 2018?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Interview with Terry Fallis

Fabulous interview by Mark Leslie Lefebvre with Terry Fallis about going from self-published writer, to Stephen Leacock Medal winner, to bestselling author with one of the world's largest publishers. Terry talks about writing a novel no one was interested in publishing (a satirical novel about Canadian politics--well, duh!) but nevertheless reached the audience he needed to reach.

If you don't have time to watch, do what I did and listen to the audio podcast at the link included. It has the advantage that you can listen on your headphones as you do the dishes or vacuum or walk the dog, so you get two things accomplished in the time for one. Also, the audio version includes 15 extra minutes of Mark's commentary on HIS writing life, in this case, excellent advice on how to keep from being overwhelmed by too many writing projects or being discouraged when you (inevitably, in my view) fall behind self-imposed deadlines.

My favourite Fallis advice to writers from the interview—something I've also been telling students and clients for years—is not to chase trends:

For crying out loud, write something that you care about. If vampires are all the rage right now, don't write a vampire novel because of that. If you love vampires, by all means. But I remember meeting a writer, an aspiring writer, and she said, "Yes, I'm writing a novel about vampires because they're so hot now". (In the rise of Twilight.) And I said, "Oh, do you, are you interested in vampires?"
"No, not really."
"Do you know much about them?"
"No, not yet. But I'm just researching them now."
"Do you know any vampires?"
"Are you a vampire?"
"Are you touched in any way by vampires?"
So I could only imagine the challenge it would be to write a book that feels real, and powerful, compelling, authentic, when there is no connection at all between the subject matter and the writer, beyond the marketing imperative of the high profile of vampires at that moment in time.
So when people would say,"Why would you write a politcal satire of Canadian politics, that sounds like a terrible idea," and maybe it was, but at least it was something I cared about, and knew about, I'd lived in that world, I had some views on it and I had a story I wanted to tell to illuminate a different path we might take in how we practice politics in this country. And I think it's hard to write your best work when you're not writing about something that you care about.

I've seen this again and again: writers chasing a trend. Even those talented enough to write something half-way decent are wasting their time because by the time their book is ready, the market has been flooded by copycats, and the trend is over. Any book you can write fast enough to cash in won't be good enough, and any book that's good enough will take too long to write, have edited, go through the submission/or self-published process to appear while the trend is still there. The only authors who were able to cash in on Twilight's success, were those who already had a really fine vampire book in their bottom drawer before vampires were hot.

Similarly, there is no hope of predicting what the next big thing will be to get ahead of the curve—would you have expected Canadian political satire, for example? And even if you could predict, it still has to be something to which you actually have a connection. Certainly, every genre editor can spot when a mainstream writer has decided to "knock out a genre novel" on the grounds of "how hard can it be" and reinvents every cliché that died out 50 years ago—or worse, believes an SF or Romance novel has lower standards. No thanks!

The whole interview is awesome because Mark is a great interviewer and has known Fallis forever, certainly before Fallis was known outside of Hamilton, and because Fallis is a fascinating guy with an unusual career path. (And for older writers like myself, it's encouraging to know you can still make it as a writer after age 35.)

I'd also recommend Mark Leslie Lefebvre's Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing for not just this episode, but as an ongoing series. Mark was the founder and former director of Kobo's Writing Life program for independent authors, was a long-time bookseller and one of the first to install an Expresso Book Machine in Canada (i.e., print-on-demand before anyone else had heard of POD), and is an established author himself. He has an insider's knowledge of both traditional and self-publishing, and extensive experience as a bookstore manager. So...yeah, you need to be listening to this if you want to understand what's happening in the industry.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

VidCon Report

This year, I attended my first VidCon, since that seems to be where the new center of cultural creation is these days. If you're interested at all, here is my VidCon Review.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Editing Standards

Here is an anecdote from Greg Ioannou a professional and influential Canadian editor:

In its early days, the Editors' Association of Canada (then the "Freelance Editors' Association of Canada") sent its members a series of sentences to edit, to see which were the most common approaches to fixing some kinds of problems. We were in the very very early days of thinking about standards. One sentence, memorably, was edited by 101 editors. Only one pair of editors made the same corrections to it. So there were literally 100 different edits trying to fix a two-line sentence. And almost all of those edits worked perfectly well.

In response, Sharon Stewart mentioned that

a linguistics prof wrote an algorithm to create a sentence describing a cartoon of a phone booth out in the middle of nowhere in which a bear was making a phone call. The algorithm came up with 22 million grammatically correct ways to describe the cartoon. I used to mention that story to editors-in-training to show them that there's more than one way to say something.

The general public believes that editors are rule-bound prescriptivists dictating 'correct' English, but the truth is editing is more an art than a science, and professional editors (as opposed to your annoying cousin and some improperly trained Language Arts teachers) understand there are many ways of saying the same thing well, and that there is no one correct way that all must adopt. Indeed, the joy of English is the many different nuances of meaning and emphasis available by subtle changes in word choice, word order, punctuation, and so on. A professional editor strives for clarity while working to maintain the authors' intent and voice. Professional editors know that one frequently breaks 'the rules' to convey meaning, purpose, tone, voice, and so on--what the public has learned to call poetic license. Well, everybody has license to write as they wish, not just poets, and the purpose of editing is to up one's language game, not restrict it with arbitrary rules. Of course, there are many common errors where an author may word something that could be more precise, concise, or clearer if slightly altered, and an editor might make that suggestion. But it's always up to the client to say yea or nay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Just received my copy of Alison Lohans' Timefall in the mail from the publisher. I was the structural editor for this revised and updated ominbus edition, and am pretty happy with the results . . . and am loving the Ann Crowe cover!