Taking a (Literary) Mulligan: In Praise of the Editorial Second Chance and Other News for September at PQL

Many authors consider their manuscript to be their literary baby—understandably so—and if there’s one thing all functional humans should know by now it’s that you never, ever tell a person their baby is ugly. But the editorial process by definition presents a number of sticky situations in which an editor is forced to point out the flaws, however egregious, however tiny, in said author’s bundle of joy.

costly books
What a handsome baby! *swoons* No chance of accidentally offending a proud parent on this one.

Some authors dread the nitpickery of the editorial process. Many are justifiably protective of their voice and worry that officious editorial overlords might squeeze the personality out of their pages. Some have been working on their manuscript so long and have read and re-read it so often that they simply cannot conceive of any possible improvement. I will never forget one author’s story about feuding with a copyeditor over a single, solitary comma.

On my side of the desk, I’ve been extremely privileged to work with authors who are both open to editorial critique and strong enough to stand their ground against any wrongheaded meddling to which I have been known to occasionally fall prey. I love having a frank discussion about character motivations and storylines, and some of the most rewarding editorial moments of my career have come about when the author and I both have that “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” eureka moment that ends up tying the whole story together.

For me, the most constructive editorial attitude is one of open mindedness. For authors willing to trust, to dive in with both feet, the editorial process is really a second chance, not just to write a story, but to really connect with a reader. It’s acknowledging that one plot point put you in the water trap, that removing one character would help you avoid falling into the bunker, that a paragraph here or there leads the reader through the rough. In such cases, editorial notes allow authors to take a step back—to take a Mulligan—and look at the story holistically, through fresh eyes.

It’s rare in life—outside of golf—to get such an opportunity,

What’s happening this month…


Affect Cover

This month we’re aiming to usher two new fall books through the printing process. First up is the latest addition to The Essential Poets series, The Essential Derk Wynand, selected by John Barton. If you like reading accomplished romantic poetry that captures sentiment without being sentimental, this collection is for you.

Then, we’re moving on to Charlene Elsby’s Affect, which I think is brilliant … and insane in the best possible way.  Part love story, part philosophical thrill ride, the novel follows a hyper-rational philosophy graduate student who is obsessed with two things: death, and a man named Logan. Their relationship develops through a series of surreal events, in which corpses appear with disturbing frequency. You’ve never read a book like this!

In Kitchener.

The book launch for Robert Reid and Wesley W. Bates’s Casting into Mystery is finally happening! The event will take place at THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener on Tuesday, September 15, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Register in advance for your free ticket at Eventbrite here.

On the web.

You have two—yes two!—opportunities to hear from the fabulous Frances Boyle, author of the short story collection Seeking Shade.

First, you can catch her interview and reading as part of CKCU radio’s Asking for a Friend. You can listen in at 93.1 FM, or online on the CKCU website on September 15.

Next, be sure to listen to the Ottawa International Writers Festival’s podcast on “The Art of the Short Story”, featuring David Bergen, Souvankham Thammavongsa and our very own Frances Boyle. The conversation will be hosted by Peter Robb and Rhonda Douglas. Tune in Friday, October 2 at 12:00 p.m. for this compelling discussion.

In the world.

two children reading a book
Share the love—and the literacy—this month!

September 8 is International Literacy Day, an important for any self-respecting book lover’s calendar. Be sure to spread the love of the written word in your community.

I just know that September 13 is going to be a great day. You know why? Because it is Positive Thinking Day!

And September 19 is International Red Panda Bear Day, which gives us all an excuse to watch red panda video clips on YouTube because have you seen how cute they are?

From the Porcupette’s corner.

Working on the press
This is a representation of how productive I have been. It is not an accurate representation, by any means. Let’s face it—I sit and stare at a computer screen all day. It’s a metaphor for publishing productivity. Roll with it.

I did it. I survived August. I did the reading. I wrote the descriptions. I prepared the data. I wrote the tipsheets. It’s a good thing that the most stressful time of the year is also the most rewarding one!

Now I get to turn my attention to some other projects I’ve been waiting to start. There’s some editing on the books, a bit of online training, some website work, and, as always, a whole lot of reading. Bring it on!


Thanks so much for keeping up with our latest shenanigans here at PQL. We hope you’re keeping well, safe, and in good bookish company.



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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.