Stella Harvey, Whistler, BC
author of the novel, Nicolai’s Daughters, published 2012
I had the pleasure of working with Merilyn Simonds after I completed several drafts of my novel. She read my work very carefully, grasped what I was trying to do and came back to me with sage advice, useful comments and exercises that took my novel to a level I know I could never have taken it to by myself. She loved my characters as though they were her own. For this alone I will be forever grateful.
Many times I lost faith in myself and in the story I wanted to tell, but each time Merilyn was there to pick me up, dust me off and get me back on track. At the end of the process, when we both felt the novel was ready for the eyes of the publishing industry, she helped navigate me through that course with recommendations and a kick in the pants (gentle) whenever I doubted myself.
Merilyn Simonds is a generous mentor, a knowledgeable editor, and a publishing industry expert. I am grateful to have worked with her and would highly recommend her to anyone wanting to make their work the best that it can be.
Lynette Loepkey, Calgary AB
author of Cease: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Desire, 2015, Oolichan Books, Finalist for the Hilary Weston Prize
There are still moments when I find it hard to believe that I am working on the final edit of my manuscript. My publisher is anxious to get the final draft so that we can get advance review copies sent out. To be honest, I’m enjoying the pressure of this deadline. In a time when it is more difficult than ever to land a publishing contract for an actual hard copy book, I feel privileged to be doing this work. I wanted to stop for a moment to savour the experience and to send you a note of thanks. I am absolutely certain that none of this would be happening if it hadn’t been for you!
I could tell, from our first conversations about my early drafts that you understood what I was trying to achieve and that I wouldn’t to have to worry about you trying to impose your own agenda on my work. You offered me a perceptive reading of my work and your feedback encouraged me to dig deeper, to more clearly understand the story I needed to tell, and to say what I needed to say. Your insights and the steadying hand of your guidance were reliable and constant from the first draft right through to a fully realized manuscript.
When it came time to submit to publishers, your knowledge of the industry, your input into my cover letter and your connections with key people in the publishing world made all the difference. I’ll never forget the day I received the phone call that changed everything! A few months later I had a signed publishing contract.
My manuscript is about to find its place in the world as a book. Every time I see it on a store shelf or on Amazon or pick it up and see my words printed on those pages, I will think of you.
I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and ally.
Catherine Simmons Niven
author of work-in-progress, Storm
I am currently closing in on the end of my second novel, Storm. My first novel, A Fine Daughter published by Red Deer Press, is a Canadian best seller.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with Merilyn for a number of years. Our relationship began during an on-line course “From Desk to Book” taught by Merilyn. We covered synopsis, cover letter and biography, but when Merilyn gave me feedback on the first chapter of my vaguely-written novel, her genius for editing became apparent to me. Her edits on those fragile beginnings were respectful, intuitive, positive and sat well with me. In other words, she got me. With that, I asked Merilyn if she would mentor me, and with her “yes,” I entered the realm of novel-writing with joy and some confidence.
For me, one of the more gratifying things about writing is working to find words which reflect in some way the beauty and song that’s in my head. But with that comes fear and questioning: do my words have the power to move into someone else's head to produce the vision, the full-on orchestra that I’m trying to give them? Merilyn performs magic on this front. Gleaning where I want to go (hearing the symphony), when I miss the mark she knows it and is able to guide me to a place closer to where my intentions lie.
Naturally, in the course of writing this novel, there were occasions when I required long periods of writing time sans comment, and at such times Merilyn respectfully pulled back and waited. And too, there were times when I wandered into sloppy excuse-making, when a call to task was required. Merilyn attended to that as well – kindly!
Throughout the process of writing this newly-finished novel, I’ve had access to an intelligent, unbiased mind, ready to comment respectfully and wisely, urging me onward. Having developed a sharp eye for detail together with the ability to see one’s work as a whole, Merilyn is nothing short of an astute and gifted editor – always encouraging and available.
Danielle Daniel, Sudbury, ON
author/illustrator of Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, published by Groundwood Books and The Dependent: A Memoir of Marriage and the Military, 2016 from Latitude 46 Publishing.
I am a Métis woman from Northern Ontario who has traveled to Banff, Kingston and North Bay to further develop my writing skills with Merilyn Simonds. The manuscript I am finalizing is a direct result of the guidance I received from Merilyn, which began at the Banff Writing with Style program (2012.) The seven days spent in Merilyn&rsquso;s classes were highly planned, organized and executed. Each day began with a fluid writing activity, followed by a clear plan with key elements presented, discussed and implemented through a series imaginative exercises. Merilyn was a strong leader and keen listener. Her role as a facilitator was paramount in steering the varied types of creative non-fiction stories (and writers) being workshopped and assisted.
As an educator since 1999, I value sharp plans and innovative methodology. While I have taken several other online and in-person writing classes at Laurentian University and elsewhere, none of them compare to what Merilyn has offered me in the last two years. I have written a collection of sixteen short stories since I started taking her classes. Structure and dialogue have been the two areas in which she has deeply affected my writing.
Merilyn has taught me the importance of being true to the story while always moving the material forward through scenes and dialogue. Sitting by her side doing a line-by-line edit in an individual master class, was the most valuable experience to date. Reading my story through her eyes and all of her years of experience, changed the way I write first and second drafts. Merilyn has taught me not to be satisfied with the visible story. She encourages me to go deeper, into the sub-terrain of the narrative—“this is where the depth is.’ I learned that everything must have two or three functions in the story and they must all be working in tandem, while strengthening the structure throughout. More than anything, Merilyn has showed me the immense importance of discipline in my craft–the value of keeping my head down and pushing through the difficult writing process. Her direction and support have helped to bring my stories forward.
Merilyn Simonds is a master teacher, a generous mentor and one of Canada’s most talented writers. I have no doubt that whoever is lucky enough to learn from her will be forever changed. And so will their writing.