For May’s Mental Health Awareness month, we are acknowledging some of our Tellwell authors whose books include themes of anxiety, depression, insecurities, and emotional expression. These books aim to give the reader a better understanding around mental health and how to recognize and communicate various feelings.
I Don’t Want to Go To School is a book that is intended to help children and families deal with separation anxiety, especially when it’s their first time at school. For some children, every day is like the first day because they are afraid their families will not return to pick them up. I wrote this book to reassure children who are still working on a secure attachment, that school is fun and families always come back because they are loved. Most books that address these issues use animal characters, but I chose real-life illustrations that the children can relate to. Lastly, this book will help teachers present classroom transitions to little children more effectively.
A story about a young girl who has a worry bully that keeps visiting and making her tummy and her head hurt. Whether it’s when she’s trying to join a game with friends, speak in front of her class or go for a check-up, he keeps showing up. He seems to be EVERYWHERE! But with help from some people who care and a big dose of bravery, she begins to learn just how to send her worry bully away.
We aim to take the piece of art they have shed blood and tears for and polish it into its most beautiful form, and we do this by being the author’s greatest champion.
Simon Ogden, Tellwell Publishing’s lead editor
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a recent Toronto transplant after a two-year residence on Prince Edward Island (Canada’s cuddliest province), but I was born and cultivated throughout British Columbia, mostly Vancouver and Victoria, the latter being where I joined forces with Tellwell in 2017. In Vancouver, I spent many years wearing the various hats one does in pursuit of a theatre career, mostly as a playwright and director, and I ran various hospitality establishments, from ridiculous night clubs to nerdy classicist-cocktail lounges, finally accepting my birthright and inevitable career as a book editor (I’m the youngest son of a pedantic linguist, who passed on to me his deep love of the English language and its best literature).
You’ve been an editor with Tellwell for several years now. Tell us about your role.
I began with Tellwell as a contract editor and soon assumed the post of head editor, or assistant to our beloved managing editor, Alison Strumberger. I have recently moved into the position of in-house editor, which delightfully allows me to interact more with my colleagues populating the other departments in our little publishing mothership, and it lets me keep a more structured schedule than is typical for freelance editing, which I refer to amongst the team as “the craft that never sleeps.”
The bulk of my duties still entail working with our authors to strengthen their manuscripts before we put them to print, but I’m also a handy resource for the rest of the team to make sure processes are on track, and the often esoteric world of the editing department is approachable and clear when needed.
What approach do you take when editing a manuscript?
Working with an editor is a very trusting and intimate relationship, so my first and abiding goal is to get in sync with the author’s style, intent, and rhythm. One of the glorious aspects of the job of the professional editor is the opportunity to work with many unique and personal voices, and it’s our main job to support them. All authors need support in unique ways, so we begin by identifying each manuscript’s overarching strengths and weaknesses, and then decide where best to apply our resources.
For example, a manuscript may present a truly original and fascinating approach to its plot, but its sentence-level syntax isn’t making the plotting as clear as it could be—that becomes the area we would prioritize toward bringing all the elements into alignment. Or the author’s sentence styling might be nuanced and gorgeous but various plot points are in conflict—we would then be looking to smooth them out a bit while maintaining the sentences’ natural euphony … each book has its own needs, and a great editor has to be able to tweak all the dials as necessary.
What is the end goal when you are editing a manuscript?
It’s always the same: to help the author produce absolutely the best final version of their book, one that they can for the rest of their lives be proud to offer to the world in exchange for the cover price. We aim to take the piece of art they have shed blood and tears for and polish it into its most beautiful form, and we do this by being the author’s greatest champion.
Some authors worry an editor may change their words too much, and the book may no longer feel like it’s theirs. What would you say to those authors?
It’s exciting to finally get to see the author’s book live and published, and to share in that joy, knowing you had a part in making their vision a reality.
Redjell Arcillas works as a project manager at Tellwell. He guides and assists authors throughout the publishing process – from their book submission to distribution. Redjell liaises with designers, editors, illustrators on behalf of the author and then, once the book is ready, distributes it so it can be purchased on various online platforms.
As a project manager, Redjell is part of every author’s publishing journey. His role is to bring to life the author’s work by making sure the cover is even better than the author envisioned, and the content of the book is ready for publication. Redjell considers the authors goals and works within their budget to produce a top-quality product.
Prior to Tellwell, Redjell worked at a large indie publishing company as a project manager.
1. What do you enjoy most about working with authors?
Working with authors is a great privilege. I enjoy being able to access their personal anecdotes during the writing process as well as seeing the progress of their work, especially after a series of recommendations. It’s exciting to finally get to see the author’s book live and published, and to share in that joy, knowing you had a part in making their vision a reality.
2. How would you describe your personality? What are your strengths?
I value success, achievement, and quality. This drives me in life and helps me push forward to keep improving myself. I believe the key to success is persistence. I don’t allow obstacles to stand in the way of my goals. I’m proud of my achievements and I’m grateful to be able to pass those opportunities on to my children.
3. What advice do you have for authors going through the publishing process?
First, trust the process, and know that no matter what, your book will be published. Second, know that your project manager will always be there for you. Third, always aim for a quality product rather than rush the publication of your book.
4. What is the most common misconception authors have about the self-publishing process?
I find many authors focus on marketing their book and pay less attention to the editing. When you do this, you miss out on improving your manuscript. You have to keep in mind that reviews will definitely affect the ability to successfully market your book. Neglecting editing before publishing your book is like offering readers something that is not worth reading at all. The professional publishing standard is to have very few spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Reviewers can be brutal if they see too many of these errors. But they are also savvy enough to comment on plot lines, character arcs, pacing and the writing.
I am a family physician and researcher practicing in Vaughan, Ontario and I published my debut novel, On Loving, last year. I was born and raised in Iran and continued my medical education and research after moving to Canada with my husband and daughter in 1996. My particular interests are women’s and mental health.
2. What inspired you to write On Loving?
I’ve been a huge fan of literature for as long as I can remember, and one of my dreams as a young girl growing up in Iran was to become an author one day! Persian poetry has always been intriguing for me, and Forugh Farrokhzad, the late contemporary Iranian poet, who was also a women’s rights activist, remained a great inspiration to me since the day I first started reading her works. “On Loving” is the title of one of her famous poems written in Farsi.
My occupation has been another source of inspiration for writing “On Loving.” Working throughout the years as a family physician enabled me to explore the effects of different basic emotions on people’s physical and mental health and to assess the role these feelings play in controlling people’s interpersonal relationships. I finally decided to share my experiences in both fields by creating “On Loving” and focusing on a young woman’s complicated life journey, a turbulent journey full of twists and turns, which ultimately helped this strong yet fragile accomplished woman achieve self-awareness.
I trust that literature can act as a sturdy bridge connecting different cultures, so by using this bridge and the pages of “On Loving,” I introduced my readers to the rich Iranian culture and heritage, its ancient history, and, more importantly, real Iranian people through the eyes of On Loving’s main protagonist, an adopted Iranian-American physician.
3. What is the main message you share in your book?
I’ve always been amazed by how we, as human beings, react in our unique and different ways in similar situations or circumstances in life. Many of us never know who we really are and what we really stand for until it is too late. In other words, we may never get to know ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our true potentials until the last day we live! Understanding the importance of achieving self-awareness – most possibly the hardest task to succeed in life- through working on our pure feelings and emotions, was one my main messages to reflect upon and share with my readers.
You may remember Ayn Rand’s famous quote from TheFountainhead: “To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.'” In fact, for many of us, most “emotions,” such as love, hatred, jealousy, joy, trust, sadness, … are so difficult to process and act upon in proper ways. It is essential to understand where they originate from and how they can morbidly affect our behavior, mental, and physical health.
To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I’.
4. How has your work as a physician impacted the story in On Loving?
As a family physician with a keen interest in women’s and mental health, I tried to draw more attention to the issues that I’ve found more prevalent and profoundly disturbing for most people. Common conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, suicide, homicide, bereavement, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), kidney failure/transplant, breech delivery, breast cancer, domestic violence, … were among the topics discussed in this novel.