Writing a book is an accomplishment in itself.
But when the authors are aged 12 and 13, it's something Ernie Hadley wants to recognize and celebrate.
Hadley, the publisher and editor of Lunenburg-based Nevermore Press, has been working with Rebecca Canning and Catherine Khaperska for the past four months, editing a novel the two Hammonds Plains girls co-wrote during the pandemic, called Scarred.
"To me, this is such a unique thing they've done, and one of the things I wanted to do is give them some credit to the work done," said Hadley, who has been blogging about his experience mentoring the two young authors of Scarred. "It's really a significant accomplishment just to have written a book, and even more so when you've written something that's good."
According to Hadley's blog, Scarred is the story of an abandoned dog who lives in the Den, a shelter for homeless dogs run by dogs. "I'm not about to give away the plot but suffice it to say it's very much a story about what it means to be a family filled with memorable characters."
Hadley says there were a number of reasons he wanted to work with the authors to help strengthen their writing. After writing the novel, Rebecca and Catherine submitted it to the publishing company themselves.
"What really impressed me is they followed all our submission guidelines, which is something not all our adult submitters get right," he said. Looking at the first 12,000 words or so, Hadley admitted the novel wasn't ready for publication, but he didn't want to discourage the young authors. He started thinking about what he could do for them, and he decided to offer to work with them the same way an editor would an author preparing to publish, or as a consultant on a manuscript.
He reached out to the girls' parents for permission, something he says doesn't usually have to happen.
"I think they were excited to do this," he said. "We started back in late November and it's been great to work with them."
The authors decided to have Hadley edit their novel in two parts. They received their first round of comments and suggestions in the middle of December. "I did a bit of line-by-line editing, left some comments in the margins," said the editor. "What I normally would do is several pages of comments about what works with the book, what doesn't, why I don't think those things are working, and how to change things."
He gives examples of what's working and what's not that can be used as a comparison.
"It's always with an eye toward making the author a better writer," he said.
Hadley has given Rebecca and Catherine a few writing exercises to do, and the trio has video calls to give the authors a chance to ask questions about Hadley's comments.
He's been writing about his experience with the young authors as it could potentially help others in the future.
"As an editor, you hope somewhere along the line you've helped save someone's career. These girls are writing at a level beyond their age and I really hope they stick with it," said Hadley, who is also helping them refine their cover letter or query to accompany the novel.
"That's really your sales pitch to publishers," he explained.
This is the first time Hadley has offered this type of mentorship to youth. He admits it's been a bit of a difficult challenge, "but it's been fun."
"It can be difficult with co-authors, because I don't know who wrote what. One of the really strong things about their manuscript is you don't get any hint it's written by two people. Their style is consistent throughout, their narrative is consistent, their dialogue is consistent ... that really does fit together."
As a relatively new publishing company, Nevermore Press first produced a book in 2019. Its imprint, Trap Door, has published five books for young adults and middle grade, with a sixth heading out to the printers in the next few days and to be released this spring.
Hadley says it's always possible Scarred would be added to the imprint's collection.