In the Desert Together: Author Iain Reid Talks Editing

by Cat London

Iain Reid talks editing, film adaptations, and camels at Editors Kingston on November 13.

I don’t think anyone predicted that the November meeting of Editors Kingston would take place as a snowstorm was settling us all into winter, but living in Kingston does come with the occasional weather surprise. We were particularly excited to come together for this meeting because it is not a regular occurrence for our gatherings to feature renowned, award-winning authors — but then, another surprise that comes with living in Kingston is the extraordinary literary scene it boasts for a town this size.

Our guest for the evening of November 13 was Iain Reid, a Kingston-based author of memoir, essays, and, more recently, novels. Surprisingly humble in light of his impressive and continued success — his books have been published in multiple countries to excellent reception — Iain spoke frankly about his writing journey so far and his experiences working with different editors on each of his books, including, in one case, with two editors in two far-flung countries at the same time.

The meeting took the form of a relaxed conversation, and it was made even more interesting by the presence of Alex Schultz, an editor with over two decades’ experience in book publishing, who was an acquiring editor at Penguin when Iain began to explore the process of getting his books into print — with a submission to Penguin. Hearing the story of Iain’s initial contact with the publishing world from the two perspectives was fascinating.

Iain had many kind things to say about his experience of the collaborative relationship between authors and editors, of which this one was clearly the crowd favourite:

It’s like you’re on riding a camel on a journey in the desert, out of water, and you can’t quite make it on your own, but then someone rides up on another camel with fresh water, and they help you get the rest of the way there.

When Adrienne Montgomerie pointed out that sometimes the editor tells the author to go back another 10 kilometres into the desert and travel it again, Iain agreed, but pointed out that at least the editor has more water.

Iain described the skill set of an editor as being different from his own as an author: an editor brings a new level of thoroughness to the table, and an ability to quickly grasp the big picture of a book and identify ways to improve it.

He also talked about where and how he has found and developed ideas, as well as about his recent experiences in the filmmaking world — both his novels, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Foe, are being turned into movies. Iain is co-writing the screenplay for Foe.

With the usual lovely array of snacks and beverages and a sizable turnout of editors, would-be editors, and other word enthusiasts, the meeting was a bright spot in a gloomy, early winter night. Thanks so much to the Editors Kingston coordinators for bringing Iain to talk to us, and many, many thanks to Iain for coming, and for all his kind words about editors. (He even wrote a short essay in praise of editors for the National Post a few years ago.)

I’m looking forward to our December fête at Milestones.



Don’t forget to check out the upcoming Editors Canada Webinars: short, practical training units you can attend from anywhere with an internet connection. Registration includes a webinar recording (so you can review it any time, or catch up if you miss part or even all of it) and digital copies of any handouts. Elizabeth can particularly recommend Graphs 101 with Toronto Editor Robin Marwick on Wednesday, December 6.


It’s not too early to start thinking about attending the Editors Canada annual conference, which will be in Montreal, June 19 through 21 (much closer for twiggers than last year’s conference in Halifax or the previous year’s in Saskatoon). The theme is From Papyrus to Pixels: International Editing Trends. Building on the success of its first international conference in 2015, which included presenters and attendees from the U.S., the U.K., and as far afield as India and Australia, the association expects a full weekend of learning, networking — and fun! The conference is also a great volunteering opportunity for Editors Canada members: contact

Coming Up December 11

Come share some winter cheer with friends and colleagues at our Holiday social on Wednesday, December 11, from 6:30 p.m. at Milestones, 27 Princess Street at Ontario.

Please RSVP to Nancy Wills ( by Monday, December 9.

Pay as you go. Partners and friends welcome.

Coming Up January 8

You think Kingston is cold in January? Join us for a talk from twig member John Thompson about his work editing in and about the Canadian Arctic!

Our usual date, time, and place: Wednesday, January 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Ongwanada. Watch this space for more details.

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