Dealing With Stories That I Don’t Like

So, something I hadn’t entirely realised about this whole Being An Editor and Working In Publishing thing was that you have to deal with ALL the books that come across your plate. The Good, the Bad, and sometimes the Ugly.

(But, thankfully, we’re not talking about the Ugly today. That’s an entire ‘nother conversation.)

I’m incredibly blessed that both of the publishers I work for – Rebellion and Grimbold Books – pick Very Good Books, so the writing is excellent. The stories are good. The authors Know Their Shit.

But, because I’m not the Commissioning Editor and I don’t get to buy every book, sometimes I gotta read something that I don’t personally like.


Or read a rather unsettling book *cough*Wanderers*cough* for the seventh time.

And – and this was the thing I hadn’t entirely grasped – because I’m a speed reader, I read them. I mean, usually if you don’t like a book – it’s not for you, a genre you don’t like, the writing’s terrible – you can put it down. But not if you’re copy-editing, then checking the format, then putting proof corrections in, then making the ebook and then checking that… that’s five reads alone, even without a submissions or edit read (and I’ll usually have read at least some of the submission.) And I do skim; I do pick up enough that I’m reading. And with an unsettling book (Wanderers) or one that’s horror enough to give me the creeps (naming no names, @premeesaurus) then it’s enough that I do get affected.

It’s actually enough of a problem that I’m starting to gain coping strategies – admittedly, they’re mostly a) taking a break, b) chocolate, and c) telling my colleagues that THEY ARE DEALING WITH THIS ONE BECAUSE JUST NO, but it’s a bit of an occupational hazard that I hadn’t really considered previously!

Maybe my boss will let me have a chocolate bonus in my paycheck…

London Book Fair 2019 Roundup

I was at the London Book Fair 2019 as a Rebellion editor last week, and I’ve just about recovered…

David, Michael and I went as a free-range gang (although not corn-fed, as Ed Wilson joked) and essentially had back-to-back meetings for the three days; I think we had five official breaks in the whole time! It was hard and my feet hurt and I seriously hate people; the decision to put a bunch of people who have meetings in with a bunch of people who are Only Looking and then make the walkways narrow was not a great one, although not something that could really be avoided.

However, it was also really exciting; there were loads of good stalls and people, and apparently some really interesting events (although I missed them all!) It was so good to meet people that I’d either heard of or only briefly corresponded with, and also meet so many new faces. There are so many lovely agents, all of whom were really interested in what we do, and all of whom want to send us books! Yes, I know that’s their job, but still. They were all very enthusiastic.

The downside is that there were so many interesting-sounding manuscripts that we said “Ooh! Send it over!” to that I am probably going to be spending the next two months reading…

Things I learned:

  • Genre matters. It might be the best sci-fi book ever but if I’ve got enough sci-fi on my list at the moment, it’s not likely to make it to my pile…
  • Your agent uses your elevator pitch too!
  • It’s very interesting to see how many people dismiss the Junior Editor, and how many took the time to talk to me; it definitely made a difference.
  • Being a speed-reader is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to manuscript piles!
  • I have the best colleagues, who are all ridiculously supportive. It’s wonderful.

I have spent this weekend recovering (aka. sitting on the sofa playing Civ in between formatting jobs – the work never stops around here…) and now have a busy week that possibly involves reading manuscripts. I have the best job!

Out and About in London: London Book Fair 2019

fox fabricI’m off to the London Book Fair this week, which is partly terrifying as I have to Talk To People and Be Professional and Interact, and partly amazing – I’m going as a professional editor! I’m going to talk to agents! What The Hell?

And partly it’s just…argh. Work’s been pretty busy already this month and taking three days out is going to be frustrating…but then I do really want to go, so…

Space fabricAnyhows! I’m going to be the lady in the fox skirt – or possibly a space skirt if I get it sewn in time – and wandering around with two reprobates (Michael Rowley and David Moore, FYI) and talking to everyone. It’s going to be great!

Ps. Send chocolate, and don’t expect any interaction until, ooh, at least next Monday.

I Can Stay!

Yesterday, my boss leaned over and said, “So, I’m not going to conduct your six-month review.”


“Or any other review.”

I thought for about three seconds that he was going to fire me (hey, my brain sucks).

“You’re now a permanent employee.”


I’m official. My probation period’s been ended two months early, and I’m a permanent employee of Rebellion! I’m officially a Junior Editor (although the Commissioning Editor is still determined to get rid of the Junior, which I think makes him feel like The Responsible Member Of The Editorial Team) and I did squeak. And nearly cried. And then got The Highest Of High Fives from my editorial colleague, a cup of tea from my boss, and a frankly terrifying editing project in my inbox…

(On which note, I did have a small panic over it. We’ve got some stories in from an author that I seriously admire: I took their books around the world with me, they are the author that I want to be when I grow up, I absolutely adore their style and worldbuilding and language, I know I will never be that good, and I have to tell them where their writing could be improved.

Hah. Ahahahaha. *goes off to cry in a corner*

My editorial colleague has expressed full support and it’s a serious level-up for me, so I’m going to do it and absolutely rock it, but…. *is mildly terrified*)

Anyway! Job. Editor. That thing.

It says a lot about my brain that a) I seriously thought I was going to get fired, b) I spent most of the afternoon in shock and it hasn’t sunk in yet, c) I got some annoying news (I’d made a typo on a project) and that promptly overshadowed the whole You Can Stay At Rebellion until I told my brain to get a grip, and d) it feels completely overwhelming.

And it’s a relief.

I spend so much of my time fighting my brain as it’s telling me I’m stupid, I’m not perfect, I’m doing everything wrong, I’m going to fail or already failing: and it’s wrong.

I can do this. I’m doing ok. They like me. I love this job, I love this team, I love reading and commenting and organising and deciding and laughing and just being able to be part of something so interesting, so exciting, so frustrating and wonderful. I love Oxford: I’ve found beautiful gardens, odd tucked-away houses and intricate carvings, elegant buildings and busy streets, gentle streams and wide rivers, fields of waving grass and built-up estates, and the red kites soaring overhead every morning. I’ve made so many good friends already and I’m making more; I’ve found a games group to play with every lunchtime, people to plot world domination with (while eating cake, obviously), someone to share burgers and Romans with, someone I can sing along to 90’s pop and talk about nothing or everything with, someone who is amazingly interesting and so intelligent that I feel stupid in the best way possible, and so many people that I’ve only just started making friends with…

It’s saying that it’s ok. This little fragment of stability that you’ve found in a beautiful city – you can keep it. You can add to it. It’s real.

It’s another layer of perfect gold across those cracks in my heart, another layer to the shield against the anxiety and the fear and the depression, another set of voices supporting me when I can’t do it on my own; and it’s wonderful.

I am absolutely, thoroughly grateful to everyone who has made my first few months in Oxford and my job so brilliant, and I have found my place*.

I can do this. I can.


*My anxiety promptly tried to qualify that. Shut the fuck up, brain. I know it won’t last forever: just be happy for five minutes, m’kay?

Terra Nullius: editing an anthology

terra nullius coverHave I mentioned that I’m editing an anthology for Kristell Ink? With Ellen Crosháin? That’s a sci-fi collection focusing on life at the edge of the universe, with fabulous cover art by Nele Diel? And after a LOT of reading we’ve finally picked 12 amazing stories for it?

Well, I am, and we have.

Land belonging to no-one. An anthology of speculative fiction that explores the colonisation of our Solar System and far beyond, where pioneers carve out a new existence under other stars.

New worlds and new challenges bring the potential for rich stories filled with alien races and strange technology, but against this backdrop we want to experience the many facets of human emotion during the struggle to make a new home. Show us human life on the final frontier.

The contents list is…

Regolith – Nina Johnson
A Salt Moon – Jessica Reisman
Reaper – Matthew Pederson
Terra Incognita – Jessica Rydill
The Chlorophyll Run – Erica Eastick
Countdown to Deliverance – Thomas Spargo
My Sister’s Grave – Jonathan Oliver
Tap – Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe
Wind and Stars and All Creation – Gregor Hartmann
No-Name – John Bayliss
The Brides of Rack and Ruin – Jill Hand
First Contact – Will McMillan-Jones

It was SO HARD to choose. Seriously. We managed to get the list down to about 20 stories, and then went “Sammy’s going to kill us if we ask her for a 200k anthology. Or a 150k one. We gotta shorten this.” So Ellen and I sat down and hammered it out…we both had some favourites, and the compromised on the rest – which I actually love, as it means it’s a mix of both of our favourites. The stories range from horror to humour to pure sci-fi, and I love them!

We’ve got a bit of tweaking to do, but the anthology is due out later this year. Keep an eye on the Kristell Ink Facebook page for news!