Publishing Renée

writing, editing, reading, and stuff.

Despite the Current U.S. Shit-Show, Let’s Not Ignore What’s Happening in Our Own Country

I’ve been learning more about reconciliation through the UBC course I’m taking, “Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education“. Now, I am deeply unsettled by what is happening in the U.S., but as a settler, I should be far more attentive to and unsettled by what Canada is founded on than I am by The Worst Reality Show Ever, starring The Obnoxious Orange One. And so may I be unsettled.

Let’s not get so distracted by the shit-show south of the border that we forget that truth and reconciliation is hard work, and that we need to keep paying attention to it, and if we don’t even try, well . . . we can’t think we’re any better than anyone else here in Canada, despite our superficial reputation for being “nice” and “polite”.

“I really don’t care if you feel responsible for the past. The real question is do you feel a sense of responsibility for the future because that’s what this is all about.”Justice Murray Sinclair


Book Review: Belonging, by Toko-pa Turner

Belonging (Remembering Ourselves Home)Belonging by Toko-pa Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely, heartfelt, meaningful book by Salt Spring Island dreamworker Toko-pa. I was drawn to it because, throughout my life, for a variety of reasons, I have often felt irrelevant and a bit disconnected and sad (despite some great friends and a wonderful partner). I suspect most people struggle with feeling like they don’t belong somewhere, so I am confident that this book would speak to many—primarily those who are informed about and interested in self-care, holistic lifestyles, yoga, non-traditional spirituality, the divine feminine, and nature.

I do think the reader has to come to this book with an open mind and a lack of cynicism, lest they write it off as more “woo” or new age or whatever. As far as I’m concerned, this is a perfectly lucid and reliable book that speaks to deep things. It sat on my bedside table for months before I was ready to read it, and when I was ready, it was just the right thing at the right time.

The language is nourishing, flowing, and thoughtful, and the message deep but accessible and digestible for anyone, though at times I had to reread sentences and paragraphs a few times to take in what was being conveyed (I’m usually far more inclined to appreciate plain, sparse language).

The book is self-published, which was conspicuous to me as someone who works in traditional publishing, but even so, it did not take away from the clarity of the message, which was timely for me. Belonging, or the sense of not belonging, seems to be an increasingly popular topic of discussion of late—or perhaps I am aware of it because it’s something that weighs on my own heart and mind. Yep, that’s probably mostly it, but even so, I do think this book has come to be because it’s a message that people long for.

I appreciate how Toko-pa shares not only her own lessons in belonging and “unbelonging,” but also her use of quotes from other storytellers. I dig her Jungian background and perspective, and reading her book has reignited my desire to journal my dreams so I can better understand what I’m trying to sort out in my subconscious mind. Most of all, I appreciate the notion that belonging is an act, a verb, one that we can direct, and that we can choose a lifestyle of belonging by building a set of skills or competencies in belonging.

I will likely reread this book as an accompaniment to journalling so I can process some of the ideas shared within it. Indeed, the way Toko-pa writes, especially at the book’s conclusion, inspires response and action in a perfectly quiet and unassuming way, in much the same way a very grounded and compassionate and tuned-in friend would encourage you if you’ve been in something of a rut and need to move forward.

All told, Toko-pa’s Belonging is a thought-provoking, soul-soothing, uplifting book, and reading it in bed every night felt akin to sinking into a warm, lavender-oil-and-Epsom-salt bath after a heartachey day.

View all my reviews

Review: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Harold Fry, #2)The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I initially picked this up to read on its own, but my husband told me he’d read reviews that recommended reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first. I’m so glad he encouraged me to follow their advice, because it made reading Love Song a more immersive experience. While I enjoyed Unlikely Pilgrimage, Love Song hit me in deeper places because I had greater context for this story. But even if I hadn’t had that, this book still would have kept me up until 1:30 in the morning reading to the end—and then cathartically weeping into my pillow for about fifteen minutes, as quietly as possible lest I freak out my poor husband. Yes, that’s exactly what happened a mere 6.5 hours ago, and now I have to pull my shit together and get to work.

Rachel Joyce knows how to lay out complicated emotions and motivations without it seeming obvious to the reader or even the characters themselves. I lost count of the times her words illuminated some aspect of my own emotional landscape in a way that makes the difficult and messy seem beautiful in all its wabi-sabiness. The book left me feeling like I want to be a more loving and selfless person and, in a way, see the world like Queenie did. It makes me want to craft a sea garden of my own.

Rachel Joyce is remarkably adept at telling a story by moving forward and looking back without making the arc feel jagged. Actually, “arc” isn’t the right word: Joyce’s storytelling style reveals nuances by pulling back one layer, then another, and another, and so on, until the “climax” is a thundering, aching revelation in your head and chest as you finally realize you’ve been digging towards this truth the entire time, rather than being carried along by something as linear as an arc.

By the time I was done reading I felt I’d been on a very real inner journey that went beyond the activity of reading for entertainment. No, it’s not a conventionally exciting book, but it is a riveting and exquisite book if you appreciate character study and development that doesn’t just navel gaze or indulge, but rather casts a spectrum of light on the symbiotic relationship between our multifaceted inner selves and the complicated world around us. It’s the kind of writing that can teach the reader about themselves.

Damn, this book has clearly given me all the feels. How could a book that is mainly about a dying woman in hospice be so uplifting? Somehow, it works. I’m probably going to end up talking to my therapist about it.

View all my reviews


In response to the Writers Union of Canada’s #WhyWritersMatter campaign, I got to thinking: I’ve been a (mostly private) writer since I was a child; it’s how I sorted out my thoughts and mapped my way through life as a kid and young adult. I write to understand my world and myself and others.

Writers matter because there’s something about pen to paper that feels undeniably grounding. Writers matter because anyone who reads those ink-marks can travel together on a landscape that can include and transcend physical geography. Our worlds, within and without, are expanded, transformed, united.
As a writer, reader, and editor, I can connect profoundly with others I’ve never met in person. I am changed by what I write, and I am changed by what I read.

Writing is, to me, the most human, unifying act we can engage in, whether we’re the author or audience. Tangentially, editing is about promoting those voices, tying all the threads together, weaving together lives and people and experiences from all over the world and throughout eras.
Last but not least: I met my husband through a writers’ forum and knew he was someone to pay attention to because of a haiku he shared. Best seventeen syllables of my life.

Book review: Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott


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This was the perfect book to end 2015 and begin 2016 with. I was absorbed right from the start and couldn’t put it down (often reading until 3 a.m.!) even though it is by no means a fast-paced story. The emotional undercurrents are weighty, complex, elusive, urgent, and unpredictable—as they are in “real” life. The characters and dialogue feel authentic; I recognize myself (or someone I know and love) in each main character—even the less likeable ones—and appreciate how their respective stories, contradictions, flaws, struggles and perspectives are relevant and loosely bound to the rest. That thread of commonality appeals to me on a deep emotional level, so I got a lot of gratification from seeing that laid out with such care. I’ll read more by this thoughtful, sensitive author without a doubt—I like how she sees the world, and our clumsy, imperfect grace as we try to find our way.


A brief Malbec-fuelled contemplation on editing

Last night, while taking in this piece by NPR, I reflected on how the more I work with books, the more I realize that editing goes way beyond spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I mean, of course it does, but seriously, I don’t have enough years left on this planet to do everything I want to do in publishing. There’s so much involved! It’s exhilarating to consider exactly what goes into making a book come to life—from the author’s initial inspiration to the outline of a manuscript to the printed result in the reader’s hands. I find it particularly sweet that once it’s out there in the world, that book has a life of its own. It’s more than a product; it’s an actual living thing that touches other lives to one degree or another.


Plagiarism PSA

Most of the time, I can tell when an author’s voice changes and sounds like Wikipedia or content from an academic site. I rather delight in finding those sources and shining a great big light on where the author has copied and pasted, because plagiarism really, really gets my goat.






Because I will find it and point it out with many notes in the sidebar.

Groovy (editing) thoughts

If you find that you must separate two words (such as “will, will” “is, is”, etc.) it is better to simply choose another word or play with rewriting the sentence. Don’t let the technicality of words get in the way of the message. In a sense, words themselves must be invisible in the same way that we see the effect of the wind in the leaves of the trees and the motion of the clouds; we don’t see the wind itself, but we see what it does.Image

Proofreading for Self-Publishing

Proofreading is something that happens after thorough editing; proofreading and editing are not the same thing. Furthermore, there are different modes of editing. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume your manuscript has already been fully written, rewritten, and has had solid editing. If you want to aim for an error-free book after it’s been printed, you should perform three post-edit proofreads.

When it comes to proofreading for self-publishing, have the copy as clean as possible before layout; for the sake of efficiency, you want the designer to make as few changes as possible after it’s laid out. I aim for as much perfection as possible before then by following these steps:

  1. When the manuscript is written in full, have it thoroughly, professionally, and objectively copyedited. It’s up to you how many times you want that to happen. Once? Twice? It depends on how many people are involved and how many changes happen as a result of feedback. Once is probably not going to be enough. Ideally, I’d say at least twice. It’s worth the financial investment to have a working relationship with an editor, not just a one-time transaction.
  2. After all editing rounds are complete, have everyone involved in the project agree that it’s been edited and tweaked as much as it’s ever going to be.
  3. Give it a first proofread while it’s still in a Word document.
  4. Make corrections to that Word document as found in the proofreading round.
  5. Have the book designed.
  6. Once it’s designed, look at the PDF and give it a second proofread. Remember—one round of proofreading will catch at least 95% of existing errors, as is industry standard); 100% is not realistic at this point. Mark up any stray errors on the PDF proof with the Adobe tools.
  7. Give the marked-up proof back to the designer; they will refer to the PDF to make any revisions in the native file where the book block was designed.
  8. After those corrections have been made, look at the PDF proof again; perform a third proofread. It should be as close to perfect now as it is ever going to be, providing no new additions or significant changes have happened (beyond correcting those errors found while doing that second proofread).
  9. If you’re satisfied that all errors have been remedied, and if everything else looks good (cover, back of book bio and synopsis, design elements, etc.), get everyone to sign off in agreement that this is the version you all want printed.
  10. Authorize the designer to prepare the book design files for delivery to channels (printer, distribution channels, wherever you’re getting it printed up).

At this point, you can certainly feel free to proofread a hard copy. Let’s be real: you’re likely going to scrutinize your first hard copy and sweat bullets over errors. Your editor likely will, too. It’s just part of the whole deal—the human factor that we can’t edit away. There comes a time when you just have to let go and be human. After all those editing and proofreading rounds, you deserve to relax.

If you do find errors in the hard copy, decide how important it is; if there are a few minor ones, I’d be inclined to just let it go. I try to avoid making any changes after it’s become a hard-copy book; printers charge fees for post-publication revisions. Before you submit files to printers and distribution channels, talk to your printer about what’s involved in having a preview hard copy; that’s also a good time to find out if there are any post-publication revision fees, and what it would mean for your title’s availability while undergoing said revisions.

More than anything, edit and proofread the h-e-double-hockeysticks out of your book before it gets printed—and then trust that all is well in the universe.

Matthew Carter, Designer of Verdana and Georgia

Matthew Carter, designer of Verdana and Georgia

I love both Verdana and Georgia. It’s fascinating to see the individual behind typeface design.

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