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?
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. It’s a time to reflect upon and learn the history, contributions, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their role in shaping the country. First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples have their distinct histories, and within each group, their unique stories.
Tellwell is celebrating Indigenous History Month by showcasing our talented and courageous Indigenous authors whose stories strengthen our social fabric, enrich our culture and understanding of history. Thank you for telling your stories and sharing it with the world.
They Called Me 33: Reclaiming Ingo-Waabigwan
Karen Chaboyer is an Ojibwa mother and grandmother from Rainy River First Nations, a community in northwestern Ontario. She is proudly admired by her children, who have witnessed her transformation as she worked through layers of shame and learned to embrace her identity. A second-generation survivor of residential school, Karen now shares her experiences with audiences throughout the Toronto area, where she now resides. Karen’s goal is to educate people on the extent to which the tragedies of the residential school system have impacted individuals, families, communities, and entire cultures to this day.
Grieving is the way to work through our losses and past traumas; compassion for ourselves and each other is how we move forward. Only then can we be victorious.
Calgary-based children’s author, Fred Smith, is originally from Santa Maria, California, where he served in the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of sergeant. As his military career was winding down, he met his wife and moved to Canada to start a family. He retrained as a graphic designer and photographer. His adventures in fatherhood inspired him to write and illustrate his first children’s book, My Daddy’s Legs. Fred Smith is using his artistic talents to create animated videos of his book on his YouTube Channel, Uncle Freddie’s Courtyard.
1. What inspired you to write My Daddy’s Legs?
I was inspired by playing games with my son and it reminded me how I used to play with my grandpa and uncles.
2. Did you have a number of ideas for a children’s book? How did you decide on this one?
I had one book idea before this; however, it was too ambitious for my skill level because it would have required its own app to be produced.
3. What are you most proud of in your book?
I am most proud of the rhymes and the fact that I illustrated the book myself.
4. How did you learn to illustrate and animate videos?
I got a diploma in graphic design in 2015, so I mastered Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Premiere Pro. All of those tools talk to each other and allow me the opportunity to do something different.
5. It’s nice to see more books highlighting the unique relationship between father and son, especially with Father’s Day this month. What was your son’s reaction to the book? Does he love reading the story at bedtime?
My son was excited to see the book but I don’t think he understands that every kid isn’t featured in a book. He knows that he is the lead character of the story and points out what he’s doing on every page.
6. What do you enjoy most about being a dad?
What I enjoy most about being a dad is seeing the world through the kids’ eyes when they experience something new.
7. What have you been doing to market and promote your book?