Editors Talk Poetry / Poets Talk Editing

by Elizabeth d’Anjou

2018-11-14 19.42.34It’s often the editor’s task to straddle the divide between creativity and convention. How does this unique relationship to a text play out when it comes to that most creative of media, poetry?

Our twig community happens to be uniquely positioned to discuss this question as we are fortunate enough to count among us a number of editors who are also poets (or is that poets who are also editors?).

On November 14, those at the twig gathering heard from three of them: Brenda Leifso, Bob MacKenzie, and Mickeelie Webb shared their thoughts and experiences about the writing and editing of poems, with Ellie Barton moderating.

We were pleased to hear each panellist read a few poems from their oeuvre to start out. Then Ellie led a lively discussion on topics from “How does knowing a poem will be read aloud affect your approach to writing it?” to “Have you ever had your poems edited? By whom? What was that experience like?” to “Is there much demand for poetry editors?”

Brenda Leifso

book cover of Wild MadderThe first questions of the evening were about Brenda’s office setup as attendees were intrigued by the mention in Ellie’s introduction that Brenda recently began using a treadmill desk. (She now walks about 20 km a day while working!) Brenda is, in addition to an editor and poet, a teacher, mother, yoga instructor, and outdoor enthusiast.

Her third book of poetry, Wild Madder, will be published by Brick Books in April 2019. Her previous titles are Barren the Fury, published in 2015 by Pedlar Press, and Daughters of Men, published in 2008 by Brick Books.

Brenda has an MA in English from the University of Victoria and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She now lives in Kingston, although her eastern migration from Victoria took about 20 years.

Bob MacKenzie

Bob MacKenzie has been writing poetry since his teens and has been a professional literary and commercial writer in many forms, including poetry, for more than half a century. He has eight books of poetry published, with another on the way. (He modestly refraine2018-11-14 21.07.50d from giving Ellie a list to include in his introduction, saying instead, “Blah blah blah—if you want to know, talk to me at the break”).

He has worked as a professional editor, both as a freelancer and as an employee, in print and broadcast media as well as at advertising agencies. Although he is not a current member of Editors Canada, he was an early member of its progenitor, the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada, and has been attending gatherings of this twig since its early days.


Mickeelie Webb

2018-11-14 19.04.06Mickeelie is building a career as a freelance editor here in Kingston. She completed her master’s in English at Queen’s in 2017 and liked Kingston so much that she decided to stay. She writes both fiction and poetry. While her poetry presently remains largely unpublished, it has been featured in a number of other avenues and media.

In the summer, she started performing her poetry at2018-11-14 19.52.34 the Elm Café, and her work has been featured (and was scheduled to be featured again later that week) on CFRC’s “finding a voice” program, hosted by Bruce Kauffman. Mickeelie created her first poetry chapbook for this event!



Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include

  • an introduction to macros by the brilliant and entertaining James Harbeck
  • a two-part series with Elizabeth d’Anjou, called “Real-Life Grammar,” with a focus on modifiers and parallelism

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase.

Connecting with Other Twigs: Elizabeth participated in a conference call recently with leaders of the other Editors Canada twigs in the eastern half of the country, including Barrie, Halifax, Kingston/Waterloo. She noted that several other twigs also have instituted fee policies similar to ours (Editors Canada members attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting after attending the first one). It was a good exchange of ideas and information that will be repeated a few times a year.

Coming Up in December: Holiday Social!

Wednesday, December 12, 6:30 p.m.

Milestones on Princess Street (pay-as-you-go)

Partners and friends welcome!

Please RSVP to Brenda by Friday, December 7: bleifso@gmail.com

Coming Up in January:

The Business of Editing—The Nitty Gritty

It’s not enough to just edit things; a professional editor needs the editing to pay the bills, too. Last year in January, we had our biggest turnout ever with a highly practical session about marketing. This January, let’s talk turkey about money. How do you decide how much to charge? Is it possible to keep a steady income as a freelance editor? How do you ask for a raise at an in-house editing job? We’ll spend the evening sharing information, strategies, successes, and lessons learned. You’ll go home wiser, and maybe even come back in February a little richer!

Reading Into Fall

by Elizabeth d’Anjou with Anne Marie Benoit
Brenda is shown sitting at the meeting table holding the book, with papers and meeting snacks in front of her.

Brenda Leifso recommends The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

As the leaves turned red and the air turned cool in October,  Editors Kingston gathered to talk books.

Everyone had been asked to talk about a book they’d read recently, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on reads that had taught them something, about editing or otherwise.

We welcomed three newcomers: Jane Kirby, who had come to share some information about the Kingston chapter of the Freelancers Union (see under Announcements below), but was persuaded to stay for the bookish chat and excellent snacks (thank you, Brenda!); Jonathan Balcombe, a long-time professional editor and writer recently returned to Ontario, and Anne Marie Benoit, who is exploring editing as a career and heard about the group through a family friend.

Anne Marie graciously agreed to take notes on people’s picks:

  • Jane recommends Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin gives tips on writing and provides writing exercises.
  • The Childhood of JesusJonathan recommends The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, about a man and a boy who immigrate to a new land. They face many challenges from learning a new language, to locating the boy’s mother, to fitting into a new culture with varying degrees of success. Also Underbugs by Lisa Margonelli, a pop science book about termites and how they live.
  • Greg recommends (with reservations) The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. This book is about how to edit your own writing and gain the objectivity to do so. Some of the points the book makes will be frustratingly obvious to experienced editors, but it may prove useful to new editors.
  • Anne Marie recommends The Way We Hold On by Abena Beloved Green. This is a semi-autobiographical book of poetry. It is interesting because it successfully commits spoken word poems to the page.
  • Brenda recommends The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This book is based on a podcast that features an experienced editor mentoring a new fiction writer; it will be of use to editors interested in editing fiction who need to learn the conventions of different genres of fiction.
  • Elizabeth recommends The Canadian Press: Caps and Spelling by James McCarten. A book to use rather than read, this slender volume makes a useful companion to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary. It gives updated spellings and capitalization conventions and adds new words that did not exist at the time Oxford released its last Canadian edition. Also: February by Lisa Moore, which tells the story of a woman who loses her husband when the oil rig Ocean Ranger sinks off the coast of Newfoundland on Valentine’s Day, killing everyone working on it. It shows what the woman’s life was like before the event as well as the lingering effect it has on her life afterwards.



Jane Kirby shows off a Canadian Freelancers Union postcard.

Freelancers Union: Jane Kirby, visiting from the Canadian Freelancers Union (Unifor), spoke about what the organization has to offer Kingston freelance workers, which includes many editors. Health insurance, support in cases of grievances with clients, and advice related to contracts are some of the services. The union also puts on some local events, including a panel discussion, Decent Work Under Ford, coming up on November 7. We hope to see Jane again! 

Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include a four-part series on plain language led by Kate Harrison Whiteside, a well-known expert in the area.

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase, including

  • Starting a Freelance Editing Career (with Christine LeBlanc)
  • Manuscript Evaluation (with Greg Ioannou)
  • Eight-Step Editing (with Elizabeth herself)

AGM: The Kingston twig’s first-ever AGM was held on Wednesday, September 19,online using Zoom meeting software. Elizabeth gave a brief report on how the twig has fared over the last year; a few questions were answered; and members officially elected the twig leadership. Seven members (about half) and one visitor attended. The door prize of an Editors Canada calendar went to Greg Murphy.

Fee policy: The twig’s fee policy is in effect: Editors Canada members continue to attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting (after the first).

Coming Up: Editors Talk Poetry

On November 14, a panel of Kingston editors who are also poets will share their thoughts and experiences about the writing and editing of poems. Join us!

Coming Up October 10: Reading into Fall

Happy Thanksgiving! Fall and reading seem to go hand in hand, what with students and teachers buckling down, book prize announcements dominating the cultural news, and longer, cooler evenings encouraging curling up indoors. (It can be no accident that Canada’s most famous literary character, Anne of Green Gables, once said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”)

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After kicking off our programming year with a delightful visit from Oscar Malan of the Kingston Indie bookstore Novel Idea, Editors Kingston is continuing the celebration of reading at its October gathering with the theme “Reading into Fall.”

We’ll invite you to tell about a favourite book you read over the past year, and share something you learned from it. If you like, bring two books: one a pleasure read and one an editing- or business-related read. If you can, bring the actual book(s) for show and tell!


A book on editing fiction one of us will be bringing.

Join us on our usual second Wednesday of the month, October 10, at the usual place and time: Ongwanada Resource Centre, 191 Portsmouth Avenue, at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. Free for Editors Canada members; $5 fee for visitors (first meeting free).

You’ll come away with a promising list of recommended reads and a treasure trove of wisdom from your colleagues.

Hope to see many of you there! Bring a friend!


Talking to Oscar Malan of Novel Idea

by John Thompson


Around the big table with Oscar Malan  on September 12.

During our September gathering, Editors Kingston heard from Oscar Malan, proprietor of Kingston’s independent bookstore, Novel Idea.

He spoke about how his business managed to survive 15 years of competition with Indigo in Kingston’s downtown, how technology has changed bookselling and working in retail as a whole, and how he manages to carry such a well-stocked fiction section, among other subjects.

Malan moved from Toronto to Kingston in 1988, with the idea of opening a bookstore with a friend. That initial business soon foundered, but not long afterwards he helped launch Novel Idea, which he at first managed and later came to own.

The business took a beating when Indigo opened downtown.

“The day Indigo opened, our business declined 50 per cent. A year later, Chapters opened in the township, and business was down another 10 per cent,” Malan recalled.

But while other independent businesses shuttered during those years, Novel Idea held on. And once Indigo closed in 2013, sales bobbed back up about 40 per cent.

Similarly, this year he had a “crazy busy summer,” thanks in part to Chapters’ move to a new location in July. Immediately upon the township store’s closure, Malan says, his workload doubled.

Novel Idea is known for its comprehensive fiction section. That’s thanks to Malan spending a lot of time digging through the “backlists” of book publishers—the older titles that aren’t being actively pushed by salespeople.

“I carry all the Murukami, all the Vonnegut,” he said.

Malan can do this, in part, thanks to how quickly he’s able to reorder books today, allowing him to carry single copies of many of these books. “That’s the blessing of computer technology.”

Similarly, when Malan started out, he’d have to place an order in the summer months for howe

ver many copies of the latest Stephen King novel he thought he could sell at Christmas. Now he can get away with planning a week ahead.

Malan contends that he isn’t competing with online book sellers like Amazon. Instead, the natu

Malan in his shop. The T-shirt’s slogan is “What, me worry?” in Latin.

re of retail business itself has changed. Kingston was once home to five appliance stores, whereas there’s only one now—the same holds with independent bookstores. It’s the big chain stores that took the worst hit from the growth of Amazon; smaller “boutiques” like Novel Idea are able to operate in a different niche by offering customers superior service.

“They’ll be treated like humans and get what they want—or not, and be told why,” he said.

As well, Malan has noticed that the price gap between Amazon and his store has narrowed considerably in recent years. He reckons the big online booksellers have begun to ask themselves, now that their customers have grown used to ordering through them, “Why give it away?”

Events help. In fact, Malan’s store was hosting two book readings by authors the night that he spoke to the twig. And each year Kingston WritersFest provides a big opportunity for Novel Idea to sell books, through a pop-up shop set up at the event.

“[That arrangement] was a major cash injection that helped me survive the Indigo years,” said Malan.

Malan is now 63, and he envisions his daughter one day taking over the business.

Why does he still keep at it? “I could have stopped doing it, but then I’d need to get a job,” said Malan.

He followed that up with a sentiment that may ring true to many freelance editors:  “After so many years of working for myself, I’d no longer be fit to work for someone else.”


Conference: Elizabeth d’Anjou reported that the Editors Canada national conference May 25–27 in Saskatoon was a great success and a lot of fun. (Twig member Beth Bedore was there, too!) A highlight was the stream of sessions related to editing texts relating to Indigenous people, and the pre-conference workshop with Greg Younging, author of the Elements of Indigenous Style.

Webinars: Editors Canada upcoming webinars include a four-part series on plain language led by Kate Harrison Whiteside, a well-known expert in the area.

Recordings of earlier webinars are available for purchase, including

  • Starting a Freelance Editing Career (with Christine LeBlanc)
  • Manuscript Evaluation (with Greg Ioannou)
  • Eight-Step Editing (with Elizabeth herself)

Fee policy: The twig’s new fee policy is in effect: Editors Canada members continue to attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting (after the first; we were pleased to see a new visitor, Kathleen Hamilton, take advantage of this provision).

Twig Leadership & AGM: Ellie Barton will be stepping down as one of the twig coordinators after three dedicated years. Stephanie Stone is willing to continue, as is Elizabeth; Brenda Leifso is willing to join the coordinating triumvirate.

We’ll be trying something new this year: a brief AGM, to be held online using Zoom meeting software, on Wednesday, September 19, at 4:30 p.m. We’ll share a brief report on how the twig has fared over the last year and members can officially elect the twig leadership. Everyone on the twig’s email list was sent information on how to attend.

Coming Up

We’ll be talking and sharing about books on October 10! More details TBA.

Coming Up September 12: Meet Oscar Malan of Novel Idea

Somehow it is September!

What better way to celebrate the start of the school year than by talking books? Join us Wednesday, September 12, to meet Oscar Malan, proprietor of Novel Idea, Kingston’s independent bookstore. Longtime friend of the twig Carla Douglas will host as Oscar shares his experiences of the joys and challenges of running a small independent bookstore in the twenty-first century.

If you’re a Kingston resident you’re probably familiar with the store; you can read a bit about its background, including how it weathered the coming (and going!) of Chapters Indigo, in this article for Publishing Perspectives written by our own Carla Douglas. We’re lucky enough to have Carla hosting Oscar’s talk for us.

Editors Kingston is gearing back up for a fun and productive year. We are back to meeting on the second Wednesday of each month at Ongwanada Resource Centre, beginning with a short discussion of Twig business and national announcements before moving on to introduce a discussion topic or visiting speaker.

We’re also trying something new: a twig annual general meeting, to be held online via videoconference, later in the month. Details coming soon!

Meanwhile, we hope to see you on the 12th. Bring a friend!

Join Us!

We meet at the usual place and time:


Coming Up June 20: Summer Social

Come celebrate the arrival of summer with Editors Kingston!

We have a booking at the Merchant Tap Room, 6a Princess Street, Kingston (just north of the Holiday Inn), for 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday, June 20. It’s an accessible, historic stone building and has an extensive menu of food and draft beers.
Merchant Tap House PatioJoin us for this last Kingston get-together until September to eat, drink, share our successes and summer plans, catch up on news (editorial and otherwise), and appreciate the longest day of the year as only the inhabitants of a northern country can. Partners welcome!
Food and drink are pay-as-you-go. The $5 fee for meeting visitors does *not* apply for this social event.

Coming? Please Let Stephanie Know

If you’ll be joining us, please RSVP to Stephanie Stone by Monday, June 18, at sstone4@cogeco.ca.


The closest street parking is on Ontario Street or else Clarence Street. There are also the parking lots on Ontario Street at Brock and opposite the Holiday Inn. There is a walkway just below the pub that takes one to the Brock Street pier and the waterfront park.

Hope to see you there.

Talking to Invisible Publishing’s Leigh Nash


At this month’s meeting we spoke with Leigh Nash of Invisible Publishing. Leigh summarized her career in editing and publishing and then discussed the various quirks and challenges of running a nonprofit small press.

Leigh describes herself as a “professional magpie,” having bounced between multiple editing assistant jobs and a few lateral moves into yoga, legal documentation, and organizing sled-dog competitions. She eventually landed at Invisible when it was located in Marmora, Ontario (where it had moved from its original Nova Scotia location, seeking the better funding opportunities in Ontario). Invisible relocated to Picton in 2017 and Leigh gradually slid into her current role as its sole publisher.

Prompted by questions from Ellie and the group, Leigh gave us an overview of the process at Invisible Publishing. Invisible’s status as a nonprofit press supported in part by public funding means it can focus on first-time authors and offbeat, experimental projects like Fairy Tale Museum by Susannah M. Smith — a poetry-short-story-novel anthology… thing.

Its small size, however, means a press like Invisible will always be the “farm team” for the larger publishing landscape; successes like Giller-nominated I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters are likely to carry their authors away to larger commissions at the big publishing houses.

Leigh also told us a bit about Invisible’s approach to working with authors. She discussed the process of finding the right editor to help a new author develop their voice, and how that often means being able to recognize when one is not the right editor for a given work. Leigh said the number-one thing she looks for when evaluating a new manuscript is a distinct voice — minor details like plot and theme can be fixed later!

This emphasis on authorial voice is also reflected in Invisible’s approach to design: authors are given direct input on the cover art and designs. This is evidently working out well, since all of the books Leigh brought to show (and give to!) us were gorgeous.
Talking to Leigh offered some key insights into an area of publishing and editing that many of us are unfamiliar with. Personally, I was pretty intrigued by the work Invisible is doing and am looking forward to reading the copy of Fairy Tale Museum I managed to snag.

Coming Up: Meet Leigh Nash of Invisible Publishing

Invisible PublishingWhat’s it like to run a small, nonprofit indie publisher located in a town of 4,800 people? Join us at the Editors Kingston gathering on May 9 and find out. We’ll be welcoming Leigh Nash, the publisher of Invisible Publishing, which has its offices over the bookstore in Picton, Ontario.

Invisible produces “cool and contemporary” Canadian fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. As a not-for-profit publisher, its aim is to publish diverse voices and stories in beautifully designed and affordable editions.

Even though we’re small in scale, we take our work and our mission seriously: we believe in building communities that sustain and encourage engaging, literary, and current writing.

— Invisible Publishing

Trophy ShelfIn addition to fiction (including last year’s Giller-nominated I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters), the catalogue at Invisible includes works of graphic fiction and non-fiction, pop culture biographies, experimental poetry, and prose. The publisher is also home to the Bibliophonic series (music bios) and the Throwback series (reinvented reissues). You can read more about Invisible Publishing in this Literary Press Group article.

Leigh will give us an introduction to the organization, then answer some prepared questions in conversation with Ellie. She’ll also be happy to take questions from attendees.

Leigh NashLeigh Nash currently serves as chair of the board of directors for eBOUND Canada, as treasurer for Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), and on the Association of Canadian Publishers’ (ACP’s) board of directors. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Communications from York University and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her first book of poetry, Goodbye, Ukulele, was published by Mansfield Press in 2010.

Join Us!

We meet at the usual place and time:

Reminder: New Meeting Fee Policy

After much discussion and with overwhelming support from the group, we began in March to ask nonmembers of Editors Canada to pay $5 each when attending our meetings. Newcomers are invited to attend their first meeting for free.

Coming Up Wednesday, June 20*: Summer Social

*NOTE unusual timing (this is the THIRD Wednesday of June).

Join us for a pay-as-you-go meal and/or drinks in a casual Kingston spot.

All welcome!

Location & time TBA.

Diagramming Sentences: A “Punk Rock” Approach to Grammar

Sentence diagram

A sentence diagram (reproduced from the English Grammar Revolution website by kind permission of Elizabeth O’Brien).

by Gregory Hicks

On April 11 we had a small but animated meeting on the intricacies of sentence diagramming. Ellie had put together a short lesson on the topic wherein we watched a couple short videos about the history and process of sentence diagramming. We spent the rest of the meeting working through and discussing a set of examples prepared by Ellie based on the English Grammar Revolution book and website.

Everybody had an easy time picking the process up until we started running up against the nuances of participles and subordinate clauses. This led to Elizabeth to crowd-source some expert opinions via Twitter (special thanks to Editors Toronto member James Harbeck, a.k.a. @sesquiotic, and to U.S. editor @MadamGrammar, for sharing their grammar wisdom). It should also be reported that several Twig members temporarily lost their ability to apply normal English syntax, erupting into vaguely poetic declarations like “Dough is!” and “Socks had gone where was mystery.” It was a good time, overall.

Working through the examples, many of us were at first struck by the elegance of the system but then perplexed by its ambiguities. The system is not particularly interested in designating tense or differentiating adjectives from adverbs, for example, or in signalling the order of sentence elements; it remains relentlessly focused on the relationships between sentence elements. As one of the interviewees in the clips above pointed out, it does indeed have a bit of a “punk rock” aspect, as it forces the diagrammer to question and dismantle everything they take for granted in a sentence.  


Elizabeth d’Anjou announced that early registration was open until April 19 for the Editors Canada national conference coming up May 25–27 in Saskatoon. The theme is Bridging Communities: Bringing Together Communications-Related Professions. One particularly interesting element is a stream of sessions related to editing texts relating to Indigenous people. Greg Younging, author of the Elements of Indigenous Style, is presenting one of the pre-conference workshops on Friday. The conference room rate at the Radisson Hotel is $139 for single or double occupancy.

The upcoming webinars include

  • The Mighty Verb Under the Microscope (May 2)
  • Starting a Freelance Editing Career (May 5 & 12)
  • Manuscript Evaluation (May 14)
  • Demystifying Permissions (June 5, 6, & 7)
  • Eight-Step Editing (presented by Elizabeth herself)

Stephanie Stone reminded everyone that the twig’s new fee policy was now in effect: Editors Canada members continue to attend twig meetings free, and visitors are charged $5 per meeting (after the first).

Coming Up

Meet Leigh Nash of Invisible Publishing, a non-profit indie publisher located in Picton, Ontario.

Coming Up April 11: Diagramming Sentences

“It was a bit like art, a bit like mathematics. It was much more than words uttered, or words written on a piece of paper: it was a picture of language.”

— Kitty Burns Florey

For nearly a hundred years, diagramminSister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming sentences ,by Florey, Kitty Burns ( 2007 ) Paperbackg sentences was a standard part of the English curriculum in North American schools. (There is even a description of a teenaged Laura Ingalls diagramming sentences in Little Town on the Prairie.) Like much of the rest of formal grammar education, diagramming fell out of favour in the 1960s, but it is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Elizabeth and Ellie know and love grammar and have always been curious to try sentence diagramming. Come explore this wonderfully word-nerdy pastime with us! We’ll focus on modifiers (one of the most useful aspects of sentence structure for editors and writers, as it can help clarify what elements go with what).

If you enjoy playing with language and grammar, if you like charts, diagrams, and other graphic organizers, or if you just want to snack and socialize with the Editors Kingston gang, come on out!

If you’d like to investigate sentence diagramming a bit in advance, check out the Grammar Revolution website.

Reminder: New Meeting Fee Policy

After much discussion and with overwhelming support from the group, we began in March to ask nonmembers of Editors Canada to pay $5 each to help cover the costs of room rental, gift cards for speakers, and refreshments. Newcomers will be invited to attend their first meeting for free.

Join Us!

We meet at the usual place and time:

Coming Up

Wednesday, May 9

Meet Leigh Nash, publisher of Invisible Publishing, an independent, not-for-profit publisher, located in Picton, ON (population 4800) that is committed to publishing diverse voices and stories in beautifully designed and affordable editions.

Wednesday, June 20

NOTE unusual timing (this is the THIRD Wednesday of June).

Summer social. Join us for a pay-as-you-go meal and/or drinks in a casual Kingston spot. All welcome! Location & time TBA.

Picture Credit: Sample Diagrams by Tjo3ya, used under Creative Commons Licence 3.0.