This past Monday, UTM Scribes hosted the club’s first publishing panel. The event featured a casual discussion about authorship and publishing. Three published authors, Suzannae Sutherland, Catherine Lo, and Shalini Nanayakkara, comprised the panel. Sutherland is an editor at HarperCollins Canada, Lo is a teacher by profession, and Nanayakkara is currently a fourth-year English literature and PWC student. The questions directed at the panelists included inquiries about the difficult parts of the process, potential pitfalls, well as general advice regarding the publishing process.

Each speaker has published at least one novel through traditional routes or by self-publishing and had enlightening answers to the 10 questions that came up during the event.

Sutherland attended UTSG, with a major in English and a minor in book and media studies. To date, she has published three novels for teens; her most recent being Under the Dusty Moon. She currently works as a children and young adult (YA) novel editor, and remarked on how being on the other side of the desk, as it were, has shaped the way she approaches the publishing process.

Lo has authored two YA novels including the not yet released How It Ends. She attended Queen’s University for English and history and went on to pursue teaching college; after which, she worked as a teacher.

Nanayakkara developed and pursued her love for writing at a very early age. By the age of 12, she had self-published a science fiction novel called The Time Has Come. She is currently studying English and PWC at UTM. During her university career, she has continued to work, in some way or another, with books and publishing.

The panel also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Where traditional publishing is often a reliable way to put ones work out in the public eye, it can take a long time. Finding an agent with whom one has an amicable relationship, willing to represent the kind of work that one writes can take a lot of unanswered emails. On the other hand, the rewarding sense of control that self-publishing potentially provides can be accompanied by challenges, requiring devoted research and practice of formatting, negotiation, and marketing of or about one’s novel.

Some advice that found its way into most of the answers of the panelists was a plea to potential authors to persistently pursue their dream. Publishing a novel is a lengthy process that requires time management, mountains of editing, and an outgoing attitude. In addition, one should have a strong circle of trusted peers to read and critique, as well as the thick skin to be able to engage in many rounds of editing of their once assumed complete work.

This publishing panel offered a realistic and enlightening look into the process of becoming a published author, from concept inception to the official launch of the novel. This is partly due to the question of attendees that each addressed a different stage, from what to do after writing a first draft, to how to approach the situation if the cover work of the novel doesn’t seem to match its content. However, in some sense, this is also due to the diverse backgrounds of the panelists, which was of benefit to those asking questions.

After attending the panel, it is important to take the advice of these panelists: read and write as much as time allows you. Attend meetings and workshops in the literary world. Join clubs like UTM Scribes that facilitate discussion and provide the opportunity for small-scale publishing. Take advantage of all the services and associations that a university campus like UTM has to offer.