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Book Review: The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai book cover

By Jaye Marsh

In general, North Americans are stressed, overweight, stuck to our desks, and disconnected from the world we live in. With The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai attempts to help us address these issues by offering tools, including online resources and email support, to “hack” a more balanced lifestyle.

I really wanted to like this book, but it was a challenge. The writing style is the culprit here, not the content. I was pulled out of the messaging, and the information to be gleaned here, too many times not to mention it.

The Urban Monk reads as if the publishers are Millennials/Generation Y or whatever generalization is currently en vogue. Our supposed readers are the ever-taxed and ever-busy 30- to 45-year-olds replete with children, mid-career angst, mortgages, housing problems, and stuff problems, and are in need of a current version of Zen to help them find a way to sanity that allows for who they are rather than completely. To that end, this book has its place, but it ignores a huge segment of depleted populace in need of help: those who don’t live an urban lifestyle. None of the case studies offered in the book take place in non-traditional settings like freelancing, consider people juggling multiple jobs, or explore those facing financial struggles.

(more…)

An evening with Michael Redhill and Martha Kanya-Forstner

By Joanne Haskins

Editors Toronto hosted a special branch meeting in January, when acclaimed author Michael Redhill took the stage with his editor, Martha Kanya-Forstner, to discuss the writing and editing of Bellevue Square, the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner.

Redhill’s novels include Consolation (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and Martin Sloane (a finalist for the Giller Prize). He has written a novel for young adults, four collections of poetry and two plays. Redhill also writes a series of crime novels under the name Inger Ash Wolfe and is an editor and Editors Canada member. Kanya-Forstner is editor-in-chief for both Doubleday Canada and McClelland & Stewart. Along with Redhill’s prizewinner, she’s edited David Chariandy’s novel Brother, which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and James Maskalyk’s Life on the Ground Floor, winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

There were few empty seats and the audience of writers, writing students and editors anticipated an enlightening discussion as two of the most highly regarded figures in Canadian literature today promised to reveal the ins and outs of the editor-writer working relationship. The biggest takeaway of the evening for editors was “Ask questions.”

After introductions of both Redhill and Kanya-Forstner, each discussed their process as writer/writer-editor, and editor. The respect they had for each other was evident throughout the discussion as they listened carefully to one another, built upon each other’s responses, and focused on each other’s strengths and abilities to bring the best of the writer’s words to the page. (more…)

Book Review: Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau

Side Hustle

(Crown, 2017)

By Jessica Trudel

Do you find your day job fulfilling? If you answered “no,” Side Hustle is for you. If you answered “yes,” Side Hustle is also for you.

That’s what author Chris Guillebeau gets across in the early pages of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. “Everyone should have a side hustle. Even if you love your job, having more than one source of income will give you more freedom and more options.”

Who doesn’t want the freedom that more money can bring? And if you could start bringing in more money in less than a month, even better.

Side Hustle outlines Guillebeau’s five-week program to launch a successful side hustle. Besides being a veteran side hustler himself, Guillebeau is also the bestselling author of The $100 Startup.

In his book, Guillebeau targets those people who want to want to make money as entrepreneurs but who aren’t prepared to fully commit to self-employment. Perhaps they like their day job and want to keep it, or perhaps they just aren’t ready to quit yet.

Side Hustle is an easy read. Guillebeau uses accessible language, not jargon, to emphasize that you don’t need an MBA to run a successful side hustle. He includes anecdotes in every chapter, telling stories of regular people who came up with an idea for a side hustle and took immediate action. None of his subjects sat down and wrote out a detailed business plan first.

Still, there isn’t much to learn in Side Hustle if you already have entrepreneurial experience. In fact, some of it may seem downright obvious. Regardless, it’s a good reminder that keeping things simple is often the fastest route to success.

Guillebeau’s writing style is entertaining and inventive. He cleverly transitions between ideas and anecdotes. For example, after sharing an anecdote about one person’s sweater-selling side hustle, Guillebeau writes, “Like sweaters, side hustles are not one size fits all.” He also commits to his metaphors, dedicating seven pages to “the recipe for hustling success” and wrapping it up with, “A recipe is only as good as the finished product you take out of the oven.”

I was impressed with the formatting and organization of the book. It expands on the typical table of contents by including a summary of the 27-day plan with short one-to-two-sentence teasers. These teasers reappear at the beginning of the corresponding chapter, to reinforce the importance of sticking to the plan.

Guillebeau admits that he’s a bit indecisive. “If you’re like me, you may sometimes have trouble choosing among all your different side hustle ideas,” he writes. It feels as though Guillebeau couldn’t decide if he wanted Side Hustle to be a workbook or a textbook. Side Hustle includes a few workbook features: he leaves some room to make notes or answer questions in five places within the book. Since Guillebeau touts that most of the planning in his system can be done “on the back of a napkin,” it seems that he could have made room for planning in every chapter. It would have also been okay for him to leave no room for planning at all. Just make a decision, Chris!

Many editors with day jobs think they have a successful side hustle, but Guillebeau wants readers to understand that a truly successful side hustle brings in “passive income.” Editing is labour-intensive; typically an editor is only paid per hour or per word. Passive income is earned if, for example, you write a book about editing that continues to sell without your ever having to write another word. Guillebeau would encourage a side-hustling editor to find a way to make their hustle more self-sufficient.

Ultimately, Guillebeau’s message is this: “A good side hustle…can help support your life, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life.” I think all of us who dedicate almost every waking minute to writing and editing can all take a little wisdom from that.

Jessica Trudel has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006 and is an outspoken advocate for the arts in Northern Ontario. A mother of four girls, she is also on the board of directors of her local writers’ guild. She recently began hosting LitBulbs on YouTube.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

Book Review: Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin

Boss Bitch

(Crown, 2017)

By Alethea Spiridon

 

Nicole Lapin knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wildly successful career woman who has blazed a path for herself as both a businesswoman (launching the CASH Smartwatch) and as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC. A boss bitch is the “she-ro” of her own story, Lapin writes on page 1 of the book: “She is the heroine who doesn’t need saving because she has her own shit handled. I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a ‘boss’ in all aspects of the word.”

 

That opening sets the tone and pace for this marvellous book that will no doubt empower women who need a nudge, or even an all-out kick in the butt, to take their career—and life—to the next level, and to be as successful as wanted and needed. Lapin’s tone is forthright and honest, and girlfriend to girlfriend, something she says at the outset is exactly how she intends it to be.

 

Her voice and approach make the content relatable and easy to digest; it’s like going for drinks with a great friend who has your back, but calls you out on your nonsense because all she wants is the best for you. Lapin has plenty of insights to share that can really help women get back on track or consider what track to finally take to become the Boss Bitch in their own lives.

 

Though the book promises a “12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career” it really isn’t a 12-step approach because not all steps will apply to all women. The steps are divided into three sections: Being the Boss of You, Being the Boss at Work, and Being the Boss of Your Own Business. This is the book’s only failing. Although many women will fall into one of these categories, it seemed as though there would be a 12-step outline you should follow to become a Boss Bitch. But no. This is a little misleading, but not enough to condemn the book as a whole. Boss Bitch contains hidden gems of advice given throughout and offers much valuable insight and advice for every woman at whatever stage of her career she is in.

 

One of the book’s best aspects is what Lapin calls the “Bottom Line”, offered at the end of each chapter, tackling a piece of conventional wisdom, then giving it her spin on the “Real Deal.” The real deal is her no sugar-coating take on the situation presented, and she shows how the conventional wisdom of the topic at hand may or may not be accurate. For example, one piece of conventional wisdom is that assertive women are overbearing. Her first response to this, her Real Deal reply? “Hell no.” These insights alone, as well as the Bitch Tips and Confessions of a Boss Bitch sprinkled throughout each chapter, are worth the price of the book alone.

 

She holds nothing back, from revealing her salary level along the course of her career, to personal anecdotes of failure, to how she got back up and learned from those experiences. Her strength of character and steadfastness in her desire to succeed is utterly infectious and is sure to inspire the women who take the time to invest in themselves by reading her book. Boss Bitch is a manifesto of sorts on how to achieve your best self and best life without compromising your values, ethics, and true desires.

Alethea Spiridon is a writer and editor in Southern Ontario. Her first book, Kissing Strangers: How to Online Date Like a Boss is out now and available on Amazon. [www.freelanceeditor.ca]

This article was copy edited by Nicole North.

Book Review: What Next? by Dr. Barbara Moses

What Next?

by Karen Kemlo

Dr. Barbara Moses, known as “Canada’s career guru,” is a leading expert in work satisfaction and career success. This updated third edition of her best-selling book What Next? has something for anyone who is at a crossroads in their career or work life.

From millennials starting out in their job searches to more mature workers changing careers, this is a great step-by-step guide to making the next move. But be warned—it’s a big read with lots of homework in the form of self-assessment questions. Although likely meant to instill greater self-reflection, the detailed questions often bring the book and the reader to a full stop.

The early chapters discuss the notion of identifying one’s “core motivators” for seeking certain types of work. Based on her research, Moses has identified eight motivational types: sociability seekers, career builders, authenticity seekers, personal developers, novelty seekers, entrepreneurs, lifestylers, and stability seekers. The challenge, according to Moses, is “to find a work environment that provides the best possible match.”

It’s a unique approach to career guidance, something I wish I’d known about when starting out in the work world. Perhaps it would’ve focused my early job and education goals sooner. It might have also saved me the horror of dead-end and minimum-wage jobs. But I also know that my 20-year-old self would never have taken the time to fill out all of the questionnaires in this book.

Given the current job market, and the rise of part-time and precarious work, it seems unrealistic to assume that all workers will always have the ability to choose. Sometimes you have to take jobs and work with difficult people, simply in order to pay the bills. Life challenges, such as downsizing, divorce or illness get in the way of career goals.

What Next? is still a great resource for people at different stages in their careers and touches on some of the issues that everyone has to deal with at some point: how to overcome job burnout, how to deal with difficult bosses, what to do if you’re fired, how to write a resumé, and the benefits of networking. These chapters are shorter and less detailed than the ones on self-assessment and motivational types. As a consequence, the author—and the reader—spend more time inside the world of ideas and ideal jobs than in the real world of work.

Karen Kemlo is a freelance editor and writer in Toronto. 

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer

Notes on New Directions in Self-Publishing

Editors Toronto paired with PWAC Toronto Chapter to present a panel on self-publishing. The following post is from freelance editor Michelle MacAlees’s blog Many thanks to Michelle for giving BoldFace permission to cross-post this post.

by Michelle MacAleese

“Self-publishing [used to be] a scar; now it’s a tattoo.”— Greg White

Last night [Tuesday, March 27, 2018]  four of Canada’s most savvy publishing professionals addressed the subject of new directions in self-publishing together with Editors Canada (Toronto branch)PWAC Toronto Chapter, and the U of T School of Continuing Education.

This morning I am reviewing my notes, and I share them here:

  • Many in the biz draw a distinction between self-published authors and hybrid-published authors; both are “independent,” but the self-published authors are a special breed, who understand art and business and (usually) gladly develop proficiency in all the technical and administrative details of the process.
  • Not surprisingly, options for authors continue to change rapidly. What worked best in 2011 is irrelevant today. Many quality companies offer publishing services and hybrid publishing deals. (Many companies will pretty much just steal your money. One must read up before signing up.)
  • The best publishing option for e-only genre fiction won’t be the same as for a debut hardcover business book. It’s a wide world of independent publishing.
  • Authors: If you don’t love technical things (formatting ebooks, working Amazon’s categories, tweaking descriptive copy), you probably won’t enjoy starting a publishing house of one.
  • Editors: Working with self-published authors is a specialty and those editors who are good at taking on that relationship and guiding the process are worth their weight in gold. (Isn’t it about time we begin to mentor each other in why this kind of author-editor relationship is unique, and how it borders on the agent role at times?)
  • Editors who already specialize in working with self-published authors: Let’s talk about how to partner with reputable publishing services companies as well as with other independent designers and book marketing professionals to launch great self-published books that sell!

Thanks to panelists Stephanie FyshMeghan BehseMark Leslie LefebvreNina Munteanu, and to my audience buddy Bronwyn Kienapple. Let’s keep sharing!

Book Review: Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar by David Crystal

Crystal against crystallization

by James Harbeck

(Oxford University Press, 2017) MAKING SENSE

How can we have crystal-clear language spoken by people with a crystal-clear understanding of how it works? For one thing, don’t try to crystallize it—just Crystal-ize. Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal, is for anyone who wants to get Crystal clarity on the function and uses of English. Crystal is a world-renowned British linguist, academic, and author. He is one of the leading lights of popularizing linguistic understanding; he has written, co-written, or edited more than 120 books, including the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, The Stories of English, Language and the Internet, and, most recently, a series of books beginning with Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling, continuing with Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, and now adding Making Sense, which gives us what is effectively an introductory course in English linguistics—syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, and history—written for people who want something readable and usable. And he adds some extra details that you’re more likely to get in a course in effective writing.

It can be difficult to review a book that has nothing wrong with it. Honestly, in real life I would normally just say, “If you’re interested in grammar, read this book; if your work in any way involves grammar—and of course it does—read this book; even if you know a lot about grammar already, it will still be worth your time.” But let me give you some more details so you know why I’m recommending it. (more…)

Editor for Life: Jennifer Croll, editorial director of Greystone Books and author

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So, we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Jennifer Croll

 

Jennifer, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’m one of those odd birds who is both a writer and an editor, and I’ve been doing both professionally for about 14 years. I attended the master of publishing program at SFU, and after graduating my first jobs were in magazines—a field where it’s easy to both write and edit. I published my first book, Fashion That Changed the World, in 2014, and began working at Greystone Books in Vancouver soon after. I’m now Greystone’s editorial director, and spend my days editing and acquiring books and managing the editorial department. I write books at night, and will be publishing my third and fourth books in 2018 and 2019.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

I’ll say Dorothy Parker. I’m sure she’d be a handful, but I’d get some stories out of it.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

That’s a diplomatic question. Editors, from what I know, spend most of their time hating certain words and punctuation marks! I’ll offer you a favourite letter instead: ø. I just finished working on a book written by Norwegians, and I grew quite fond of the slashed o.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

From a luxurious mansion in the south of France, paid for with the millions of dollars I’ve made editing.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Yes—in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, when I was freelancing and there was very little work. I’m very glad I didn’t retrain to become a dental hygienist.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you? 

 After I finished my undergrad degree, I moved to London, England, and looked for a job. It was the first time in my life I’d needed to consider my actual skill set. I saw a job posting for an editorial assistant, thought, “I could do that,” and applied. I had a job on my third day in the country, jet lag be damned. That pretty much settled my fate.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

Just like that 1970s poster featuring a kitten hanging on for dear life, “Hang in there.”

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Nicole North.