Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Category: How-To

30 Days of Reviews: An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!

editors_guide_working_with_authors_coverTitle: An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors
Author: Barbara Sjoholm
Publisher: Rainforest Press
Format: eBook
Rating: 5 out of 5
Where I got it: I bought a copy from Kobo.

Ok, I’m back. I’m going to keep on with this even though the news has got me lower than a snake’s belly in a ditch. Because I said I would.

This is going to be a different review from normal because I read today’s book, An Editor’s Guide to Working with Writers by Barbara Sjoholm, as a form of professional development.

The work I do as an editor is for the web— websites, mobile apps, email templates, landing pages, all that B2B and B2C stuff. I originally thought when I started out as an editor that my niche would be working with individual authors, specifically those of the SF/F persuasion.

Two things that stopped me from going all-in on that:

  1. Corporate communications pays a lot more in general, and
  2. Working with individual authors is not actually a strength of mine. It requires a lot more empathy and psychology and handholding than what I generally think I can give.

I bought Sjoholm’s book with reason #2 in mind. Reading someone’s book and providing feedback about how it could be improved is really fraught work! Yes, there’s ego in the corporate communications world, but at least in my industry, you can use research and analytics to justify certain editorial choices. Not so when working with a book’s author — it seems a lot more intuitive and liable to bruised egos and power trips.

Sjoholm is an excellent communicator, and is adept at accomplishing the very meta task of taking an editor by the hand and showing them how exactly one takes an author — someone extremely invested in their work — by the hand, doing so gently and thoroughly. All while reading the book, I was highlighting certain passages and saying things like “I really need to remember this” or “THIS PART IS GOLD” or “Keep this on file for later”.

I rarely make annotations in my eBooks, so that’s very high praise indeed.

Double Review: A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett and Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise

Alright, so my plan to read and and get book reviews ready to go for 2016 kinda fell with a thud when I didn’t post anything last Tuesday. However, I have read two books, so let’s do a capsule review for both.

But! I also want to mention that last week I was interviewed by Jonah Sutton-Morse of the Cabbages and Kings podcast about my book reviewing habits and my reading goals for 2016. Wanna hear me talk about diversity, SFF, and Watership Down? Have a listen!

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

a_hat_full_of_sky_coverI came to Pratchett very late in his career — the first book of his I read was Good Omens about a decade ago, but I didn’t start delving into Discworld until about three years ago. Since then, I’ve read only a few Discworld books, but I loved The Wee Free Men when I read it last year. My husband, who is very wise, bought me the last three Tiffany Aching books for Christmas, so I decided to prepare by reading A Hat Full of Sky.

A Hat Full of Sky happens about two years after The Wee Free Men, when Tiffany Aching rescued her brother from the Queen of Fairyland. Now, she’s been officially apprenticed as a witch to Miss Level, a caring but eccentric older witch. But when Tiffany uses a particular magical skill without understanding its rarity or its full import, her body gets taken over by a ravenous collective consciousness called a “hiver”. Tiffany, trapped within her own body, must find a way to regain control. Luckily, the Nac Mac Feegle and Granny Weatherwax are there to help.

I found the climax of A Hat Full of Sky to be very similar to its predecessor — Tiffany overcomes the antagonist of each book by tapping in to her witchy powers and “opening her eyes” twice to figure out its true weaknesses and desires. Both books also had a very cosmic quality to them — in The Wee Free Men, she became an incarnation of her homeland in order to cast an invader out to the alternate world where they came from, while in A Hat Full of Sky, she gave the hiver the ability to die by opening a doorway into the realm of death, something it didn’t know how to access on its own. In both instances, Tiffany ends the book by feeling empowered but also more aware of just how much of her power resides in her sense of empathy and humanity.

One thing I’m hoping that the remaining Tiffany Aching books will expand upon is Tiffany’s tendency towards egotism, and how that tendency could get exacerbated as she goes through adolescence. The hiver is a creature of untrammelled id, and its possession of Tiffany is a way for Pratchett to look at things like peer pressure, but I think there’s a lot more territory to explore here.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

mini_habits_coverAh, and now we come to the obligatory It’s-New-Years-Which-Means-It’s-Time-To-Read-A-Self-Help-Book book. I found out about Mini Habits through a podcast by Ed Gandia, a popular online coach and mentor for freelancers. One of his podcast episodes talked about how it’s often productive for freelancers (like me) to switch from making goals to building habits. One of the resources he recommended towards making this shift was this very book.

I will agree that the premise of Guise’s book is sound: that to create long-term, durable habits, you need to start small. I also appreciate that the book contains several references to both current and past neurological research regarding willpower and habit formation.

However, like many self-help books, Guise’s prose is so full of hyperbole that I had a hard time finishing the darned thing. It doesn’t help that he spends a full chapter of Mini Habits talking about how depending on “willpower” and “motivation” to achieve goals will result in failure but he fails to define what he means by those two terms. To someone like me who doesn’t keep track of the latest neuroscience research, “willpower” and “motivation” sound synonymous, but Guise makes it clear that he considers these two concepts to be at odds with each other. A quick paragraph on what his personal definitions of those words are would have been helpful. This book could have easily been improved by shortening it even further from its already-short count of 127 pages.

The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard

tea_book_coverTitle: The Tea Book
Author: Linda Gaylard
Publisher: DK Publishing
Format: Print
Rating: 4 out of 5
How I got this: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.

It seems that the boom in tea culture in North America has been accompanied by a boom in tea publishing as well. I’ve read a few books about tea already, like the one published by Camellia Sinensis Tea House and For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose. However, I’m a sucker for new books on the topic, and Linda Gaylard’s primer is a fine one.

Linda Gaylard is a certified tea sommelier, a professional who pairs tea with foods much like a “regular” sommelier does with wine. (She also lives in Toronto, like me. Hi, Linda!) The Tea Book is her guide to the world of tea for those interested in its history, cultivation, and integration into cuisine.

I found this to be a fairly comprehensive primer — it contains a lot of knowledge for beginners (eg: what all the different types of tea are and how they are produced), but enough specialized information beyond the tea basics that I felt like I learned a lot of new information. In particular, I appreciated the look at tea production across the world. Gaylard covers the usual places like China, India, and Japan, but also discusses tea agriculture in more far-flung locales like Turkey, South Korea, and the United States. (Yes, the U.S. actually does produce tea!)

I also appreciated the multi-page spreads on various tea ceremonies across the world — there’s a lot of info about how these rituals are practiced not only in China and Japan, but also Korea and Morocco. The photography is very vivid and well-done.

In addition to its look at tea cultivation, history, and consumption around the world, Gaylard’s book includes a large variety of tea recipes for things like tea cocktails, chais, kombucha, and more. The recipe section takes up nearly half the book and includes a large variety of recipes for ways to prepare black, green, oolong, white, herbal and pu’erh teas in new and interesting combinations.

I decided to try this myself, actually. Here’s the recipe I followed.

Grape Goddess Tea

Green grapes lighten this infusion in taste and color, and give it a fruity sweetness suggestive of a dry white wine. The fragrant tea anchors the infusion with deep, sweet flavours.


  • 15 seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2/3 cup of boiling water, plus 3 cups of water heated to 195°F (90°C)
  • 2 tbsp Tie Guan Yin leaves (I used these ones from Yunnan Sourcing)


  1. Place half the grapes in a teapot and muddle them gently with a muddler or pestle to release some juice. Add the remaining grapes, then add the boiling water and set aside to infuse.
  2. Place the tea leaves in a separate teapot, add the heated water, and infuse for 3 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea into the grape infusion and leave to infuse for an additional 3 minutes.

Recipe results

I chose this recipe because the ingredients were much easier to source than some of the others in Gaylard’s book. Other recipes include more obscure herbs like woodruff and lemon myrtle, as well as produce like kumquats, dried figs, and Asian pears.

The resulting brew of grape/oolong blend was pale golden with wisps of grape pulp. It tasted quite sour, actually. I could taste the Tie Guan Yin underneath, but it didn’t play as well with the seedless grapes as I was expecting.

Also, I have to admit that I raised my eyebrows quite a bit at the quantity of leaf being recommended in this recipe. Two whole tablespoons of leaf for 3-4 cups of tea? I suppose you need that much to have enough body to go up against the grapes, but it sounded like a lot.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Linda Gaylard’s willingness to explore tea across the world, but the recipes might be hard for others to follow, since they require a lot of leaf and possibly some trips to the fine foods store.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén