Industry Q & A: Chantel Guertin, Author

Chantel taught me the basics of writing for magazines in Centennial College’s post-grad publishing program. She’s smart, savvy and sophisticated – and what better way to describe a woman who is editor-at-large at The Kit, a beauty expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, teaches publishing and writes novels? She’s also become my publishing mentor and a good friend.

That’s why I couldn’t be happier to say we’re giving away 2 copies of Chantel’s latest book, The Rule of Thirds, which came out this fall and was published by ECW Press. Following Pippa Greene’s adventures in high school, The Rule of Thirds blends the difficulty of losing a loved one with the fun of bonding with your best friend along with must-have elements of romance. To enter for a chance to win, comment below before December 27, 2013 and tell us: what is your favourite genre of book to read?

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Name: Chantel Guertin
Genres: Chicklit, YA
Astrological sign: Pisces (this is very important!)

Q:  When do you get most of your writing done?

A: When I’m not online shopping or checking my emails.

Q:  What has the querying process been like for you?

A: I queried to get an agent for my first novel, Stuck in Downward Dog. Then my publisher bought my second book, Love Struck, on a partial manuscript. When I made the switch to YA, I sent the book out to a few editors, and my publisher, ECW Press, bought The Rule of Thirds in a two-book deal, asking if I’d consider making it the first in a series. The hardest part is definitely getting rejections. Even worse? Those form rejections where they didn’t even look at your book.

Q:  Do you do writing exercises before launching into your book?

A: No. I just write.

Q:  Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

A: I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Except for a brief spell where I thought I’d grow up to be a cashier, based on my love of the Fisher-Price cashier I had set up in my bedroom when I was 8.

Q:  How much time do you spend planning your story as compared to writing it?

A: It’s probably about equal! I tend to do my best planning while on a run.

Q:  When do you feel like your manuscript is submission ready?

A: When I get the first copies in the mail and know that making changes is no longer possible.

Q: Where do you do your best work?

A: Ideally, holed up in cabin in the woods with no internet or phones. It’s too cold to go outside, so I can do nothing but sit by the fire, drink wine, and write. When I can’t get that, I’ll settle for my bed, laptop on lap, headphones in.

Q: What is your favourite colour?

A: Easy. Blue. Just ask my fiancé. I just finished picking out 17 different shades of blue (that I was certain were very, very different) to repaint our new house, and every single room looks exactly the same.

Read Chantel’s blog or follow her on Twitter @chantelguertin.

Want to win a copy of Chantel’s latest book, The Rule of Thirds? To enter for a chance to win, comment below before December 20, 2013 and tell us: what is your favourite genre of book to read?

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Industry Q and A: Amanda Jean, Editor

Amanda edited both of my works that were published through Less Than Three Press, and I am infinitely grateful for that. I learned as much reading through her comments and suggestions as I had through numerous workshops and classes. She also has a humorous and kind way of leaving those comments that I truly hope to emulate when I give critiques. I consider Amanda to be a great friend and a wise teacher, and I am so pleased to introduce her to you. She has some fantastic advice for anyone hoping to get into the industry.

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Name: Amanda Jean
Company: Less Than Three Press, LLC
Position: Editor
Genre: LGBT Romance
Astrological Sign: Cancer

Q: What is your relationship with the book you work on and the writer of that book? We’d love a brief description of what you do and how it pertains to the author.

A: I wear many hats when I edit any given project. Each requires a slightly different approach; the relationship I form with a five hundred-page high fantasy novel is different from my relationship with a thirty-page short story. My hat also depends on the strengths of the writer. Some have a great grasp of world building, and some are more character-driven. A major consideration of what my primary focus will be is the author’s level of comfort with the English language. If I’m spending most of my time correcting comma splices, fixing dialog tags, and nagging them about run-on sentences, developmental editing takes a second chair. Writers comfortable with English language rules receive a lot more nitty-gritty content edits on the first pass as opposed to those who need more help.

My personal strengths are in developmental and structural editing. I catch contradictions, weak spots in the narrative, inconsistent characterization, and even factual errors (I love research. Ask me how!). Redundancies are another big one with me. Because my focus is heavily on the content and stylistic aspects of stories, authors tend to have two reactions to my edits: great happiness or great displeasure. There’s rarely a middle ground. Editors who don’t give extensive content suggestions tend to receive less extreme reactions, although some authors do feel very protective of their comma placements.

Q: How can an author help in this process?

A: By having a history of receiving and utilizing critique, honestly. Authors new to publishing are sometimes taken aback by how thorough and unforgiving editor comments can be, though we all do our best to soften the blows. I use emoticons. And feeling words.

Discover your own method for coping with difficult edits (I suggest booze and/or .gifs of kittens) and come at the edits as objectively as you can. Do this even if you feel like the editor has it out for you and is going to ruin your vision. Really sit back and consider why the editor made the suggestion they did. If it’s an inconsistency, don’t hand-wave it away; readers will notice laziness. If it’s poorly developed character motivation, dig deep and find a way to communicate what’s going on in their head. Some authors do basic patch jobs to fix holes—expositional dialog, how I loathe you—and others use the opportunity to enrich their story and take it to entirely new places. If you do the latter more than the former, I guarantee your editor will adore you for it.

We don’t make suggestions to hear ourselves talk. Even if we do secretly hate your story, our time and energy went into it too; why would we want to risk it being picked apart upon release? Editors want the story to thrive. That’s why we’re editors.

Q: How did you end up in this field?

A: My original career goal was to do something in abnormal psychology, but the long and short of it was that I realized that clinical work wouldn’t gel with me. I reassessed my skillset. My knack for the written word, along with my history of informational article writing and editing, academic editing and tutoring, and nearly a decade of experience as a beta reader all added up to one potential field. I changed my major from psychology to communications and consulted a few people I knew in the industry. Journalism is not for me, so that left fiction.

I joined up with LT3 when a friend of mine who publishes with them discussed an editing experience she’d had with the company; she thought I would be a good fit, and so I sent a query letter and joined the team within a month.

Q: Do you have advice for others who want to get into your field?

A: Be sure this is the avenue you want to pursue; even in what is considered to be a niche corner of the wider publishing world, the reality is that the work is hard, the hours are long, and the opportunities are limited. With the Big Five publishers, editing positions are fiercely competitive and require novel-length resumes just to get a foot in the door. My niche, digital-based publishing and specifically LGBT fiction, is not nearly as cutthroat (and doesn’t require me to relocate, bonus!), but I got lucky; I was hired with around a year and a half of industry-relevant experience, despite the fact that most companies call for at least two, and that’s for entry-level work.

As for how to get said experience? Take every composition class, every technical writing class, every esoteric class that deals with words. Depending on location, finding opportunities to develop editing skills may be difficult; online workshops are useful, if pricey. Freelance. Beta read. Academia is a great place to start. Join college literary magazines, newspapers. I never had to take an unpaid internship, but nearly everyone I encountered recommended it to me. If the world of academia is long gone, learn independently, and find small digital publishers to get involved with—zines are great for this. Poetry, straight fiction, stories long and short; any experience is good experience. When I freelanced, I wrote and edited a lot of copy for internet-based businesses. No paying gig is too small when you’re learning to navigate professional editing and building your resume accordingly.

More generally, my advice would be to read widely, as it keeps you sharp. Develop an appreciation for pedantry. Understand that editing is a craft entirely apart from writing, and that talent in one area does not necessarily denote talent in the other. Learn a swift work ethic if you haven’t already. Have patience and empathy for the emotions of authors. Buy copies of TheChicago Manual of Style and become intimately acquainted with its hefty pages. And send query letters. At worst, they’ll say no.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of your work?

A: Receiving the manuscript back after the first round of edits is usually an interesting time. It’s when the evolution from a rougher draft to a more refined story that is starting to resemble its ultimate form begins. Seeing my nit-picking comment or suggestion spark an idea that improved the narrative in an unexpected way? Cool feeling. Probably my favorite.

I also like the part where I get to hold paperback copies of something I’ve edited in my hands. That’s super nifty.

Q: What do you listen to while working?

A: I’ve made several “editing” mixes, and the key to a good one is including music that is already very familiar to you. Low-key tunes don’t hurt, either. My staples include Elliott Smith, Neko Case, Rufus Wainwright, and a lot of instrumental soundtracks. But sometimes dead silence is the best ambiance.

Industry Q & A: Erin Hagget, Assistant Editor in Publishing

Name: Erin Hagget
Company: Scholastic Canada Ltd.
Position: Assistant Editor in Publishing
Genre: Early Reader to Young Adult
Astrological Sign: Curious minds need to know

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Reading! Yay!

Scholastic is one of those publishing companies that most Canadians grow up with; children flip through book orders looking for what may become their new favourite book and then grow up with fond memories of Clifford and The Magic School Bus. Any author would dream of having their books make their way into schools.

Erin is one of my closest friends from the Book and Magazine Publishing certificate program at Centennial College; since then, we’ve worked together on the online pet magazine Petpourri.ca and meet up once in a while to attend industry events, such as book launches and Book Camp TO.

Team Tweak TO connected with Erin Haggett, assistant editor in publishing at Scholastic Canada Ltd., to ask for her insight into finding jobs in the publishing industry.

Q: What is your relationship with the book you work on and the writer of that book? We’d love a brief description of what you do and how it pertains to the author.
A: I’m an assistant editor, so I tend to work on a variety of projects. I usually work on books in the later stage of the publishing process, particularly the proofreading, ebook development, and reprints stages. Because I come in so late in the process, I rarely have any direct contact with authors.

Q: How can an author help in this process?
A: I can’t speak to specifics because authors aren’t usually directly involved in the type of work I’m currently doing, but being open, accessible, and enthusiastic is always great! As is meeting deadlines 🙂

Q: How did you end up in this field?
A: I graduated with a BA in Media, Information, and Technoculture from the University of Western Ontario before completing the Book and Magazine Publishing program through Centennial College.

Q: Do you have advice for others who want to get into your field?
A: Read everything you can, don’t be too intimidated by the tough job market, and talk to others in the field—nearly everyone you meet will be willing to give advice and/or assistance.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of your work?
A: I work in children’s publishing, so I love the variety of books I get to work on—they can be anything from picture books to YA novels. I also love that I have a part in encouraging kids to become lifelong readers!

Q: How do you start your day?/What do you like to drink while working?/What do you listen to while working?/Where do you do your best work?/What is your favourite colour?
A: I generally start my day by catching up on email, then jumping right in to my project(s). I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love tea, so I usually have a couple cups a day. I don’t usually listen to music or anything else while I work. I prefer a quiet environment, without a lot of distractions, particularly if I’m proofreading. I don’t have one favourite colour, but I tend to gravitate towards cool colours: purples, blues, and greens are my go-to palette.