The unexpected joys of editing. The unanticipated amount of work—and time—involved in writing a book. The serendipitous connections and surprising finds uncovered during research. These were some of the insights shared by five recently and soon-to-be-published MFA alumni in “Nonfiction Book Publishing: Tales from the Trenches,” an online discussion sponsored by the Canadian Freelance Guild and presented by the King’s MFA program to an online audience on November 15.
The panel was moderated by MFA Executive Director Kim Pittaway and authors included Catherine Fogarty, MFA’18, author of Murder on the Inside; Tyler LeBlanc, MFA’18, author of Acadian Driftwood; Leslie Marion, MFA’17, author of Easy Money; Christian Smith, MFA’17, author of The Scientist and the Psychic; and Karen Stiller, MFA’18, author of The Minister’s Wife.
Smith, a medical research scientist who set out to explore and understand his mother’s claimed psychic abilities, counselled aspiring authors to share news of their work widely, pointing to an unexpected connection with a source he made through a Facebook group. It helped fill in an important gap in his research. Marion recounted her experiences in self-publishing, while Stiller, who was published by a large U.S.-based publisher, talked about the promotional work she has undertaken on her own to augment the initial publicity push her publisher gave her book.
“The editing experience was the most satisfying aspect of the whole process,” offered LeBlanc. “The editors I worked with were more careful, more sensitive and more precise and thoughtful than I ever could have hoped and they definitely made my book much better and something that I am more proud of than the manuscript I originally passed in.”
Fogarty recalled hearing one of her MFA lecturers talk about the length of time it took to write and publish a book. “It’s definitely a big commitment and you really want to be passionate about what you’re writing and researching because that’s what keeps you going,” she says.
The panel has become an annual event for the MFA program, bringing together MFA alumni with books currently—or soon to be—on bookstore shelves. “It’s always a delight to talk to our grads about what their book publishing experience has been,” says the MFA’s Pittaway. “Their insights and honesty in sharing both the challenges they faced and the pleasures—some unexpected—of researching, writing, publishing and promoting their books are so valuable to anyone considering tackling a nonfiction book project, or looking for some inspiration to continue with the work they’re already doing.”
The authors’ books may be found online at major and independent online booksellers, or may be ordered through the King’s Co-op Bookstore.
The MFA in Creative Nonfiction is a limited-residency, two-year program where students undertake a book-length nonfiction project. Launched in 2013, the program has graduated over 100 students, with more than 30 who have published or are under contract to publish their books. Find out more on the MFA program.