Imagine my delight learning my apprentice Kevin Holowick, apprenticing with me in 2018, received an offer to have his first novel published by Newest Press!
This is the second mentor I have worked with who has realized publication following the hard work of one-on-one edits of a lengthy manuscript and I find it difficult to describe how deeply satisfying this is to me as a mentor. Shari Narine, another Edmonton based author had not one by two offers to publish after we completed our partnership in 2013.
My methodology depends on the manuscript in question. After careful reading I determine where the writing needs strengthening and bring this to the attention of the student, asking them to re-write short paragraphs or sections of the manuscript in a different way. Authorial intrusion, not grounding the action in the concrete, not moving the story forward and a failure to revel internal dialogue are the most common elements that slow down plot. Telling too much is also deadly for fiction, where themes and motifs must be revealed not overtly exposed.
In both relationships my apprentices worked very hard, listened to instruction and attempted to strengthen their prose in ways that we determined worked best for the story. While this sounds straightforward, it takes a careful tone and gentle demonstration to wean students from habits acquired over time. Serving the story is my way of helping them retain control over the text thus proving the powers of revision.
We meet once every two weeks in person for a three-hour session and touch base in between via e-mail. I have found the personal sessions very intense and focused and I know the students like to drill down into the text and bounce ideas off someone who has read and digested the entire document.
The recent Covid 19 Pandemic has proven that work on-line with an apprentice is easy to do. What matters is the commitment to the others work, helping them discover themselves the applications of essential elements of fiction to their own text. I’m currently working with author Joyce Harris on her debut novel Mostly Margaret. We began in earnest six months ago and we’re now working on the fourth (and final) draft.
In short, I read closely, I find ways of bringing the student insight into their own writing and have them discover the vibrancy of their work following revision. It is all done with gentle guidance and great respect for the work, knowing that I am an invisible coach and the writing must remain fully in the voice of the author.
I’d like to help you.
Margaret Macpherson, BA MFA