March Speaker Night: Editing Academic Research Grant Proposals with Letitia Henville

Written by Tom Vradenberg. Edited by Stephanie Mason.

Editing research grant proposals: it’s about as specific as it gets. Most editors, throughout their careers, specialize in subjects they gravitate to, with many pulled towards the more popular genres of scientific journals or poetry (amongst others). However, editing academic research grant proposals may be the niche of niches.

During our March Speaker Night, we were joined by Letitia Henville, of BC Branch, who primarily works with academics seeking research grants and secondarily works with artists seeking Canada Council grants. Among her many achievements, Letitia completed a PhD in English in 2015, a Claudette Upton Award in 2017, and a President’s Award for Volunteer Service. 

One of the first notes Letitia made was how, though one needs to learn about the most current events in specialized academic or artistic fields, it’s also essential to know about the vastly particular bureaucratic processes and how to help applicants through it. Further, the more specific the knowledge is, the farther it will go for the “stressed-out smartypants people” that need the help and, by proxy, make the work intellectually stimulating and rewarding. Letitia cited a recent project worth $27.8 million: “They’ll go to great lengths to make their proposal look shiny,” she said.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Letitia’s biggest piece of advice was to “get narrow, find your specialty subject.” She noted how, with progress, it’s common to work with the same academics repeatedly and get to know their field. However, it’s not just about learning their jargon; there needs to be a familiarity with the field to be able to identify any gaps in their grant applications. 

She then went on to detail the rules of the grant-application process, both the written and her own unwritten rules. They go as follows:

For the written rules: 

  1. Note when granting agencies publish their rules for applying. (For example, the three federal granting agencies publish a Guide on Financial Administration.)
  2. Read those rules carefully and read them for every new project, even if you think you’ve read them before. Granting organizations will change the rules and not flag the ones that are new or changed.
  3. Expect that clients won’t read them or keep updated. Reminding clients of the rules looks professional, but don’t charge for the time spent researching. 

The unwritten rules:

  1. Know that researchers should understand what their results will be before they propose the project. The work should not be too innovative, out there, or risky. 
  2. Try to anticipate who will be on the review panel before the client prepares their application. Each reviewer serves roughly three years on a committee, so it’s a fair bet most of the reviewers from the previous year will return. Google them, look up their research profile, and explain to the client how varied their research backgrounds are.
  3. Emphasize that even if the committee doesn’t completely match the research of the client, the multidisciplinary committee is worse as they are funded at lower rates. Instead, find the right singular disciplinary field. 

The last bits of information that Letitia offered were to do with the funding landscapes that she works with. There are different levels, and she noted that in Ontario, the Ontario Research Fund is not considered a major market considering editors most often get hired for lucrative, high-prestige projects, and this fund doesn’t have the money for them. 

She instead recommended the federal level grants where, essentially, all the funds are. The three agencies of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Social Sciences, and the Humanities Research Council all have multiple funding streams with lots happening in each one. She noted that even if there’s uncertainty about having the core scientific or technical knowledge, there are likely funding streams for projects in familiar fields. 

Letitia also noted some non-government funders both in Canada and out, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust in Europe, and the Max Bell Foundation in Canada. 

A highly educational and enjoyable night for all!

February Speaker Night: Self-Publishing Night with Wayne Jones

On February 16, Wayne Jones joined us to discuss the processes involved in self-publishing. Along with going over the tasks involved in self-publishing, Wayne also discussed author services companies and their role in helping writers become self-published authors.

Wayne Jones goes over this topic in his podcast, Editing Writing, as episode 13: “self-publishing your book.” We encourage you to have a listen to learn more about self-publishing!

January Speaker Night: Educational Children’s Books with Kara Cybanski

Summary by Tom Vradenburg and Coryl Addy. Edited by Stephanie Mason

We editors like to think of ourselves as adaptable and curious about new subjects and other genres. However, our real professional lives often involve grinding through the same kinds of material day after day. 

Kara Cybanski gets to live our dream at DC Canada Education Publishing, a small firm based in — who knew — Ottawa.

On January 19, Kara joined us to discuss her many roles as an editor for children’s education. She discussed the multiple hats she wears and the facets of publishing she works on, including design, translation, content writing, and editing. As an editor for educational children’s books, she also ensures she has educational value in mind.

In any government department, specialized teams handle each of those roles. We’re told we should ‘collaborate’, but specialists are usually reluctant to step out of their lanes. 

DC Canada, like many small businesses, doesn’t do lanes. But it’s not a brand-new startup, either. Founded in 1999, its first title was an ESL book for Grades 1 to 12.

Kara highlighted the editorial process for DC Canada’s small team by noting that before reviewing submissions, searching for illustrators, and finally getting to designing and printing, the team ensures that their materials meet two criteria: 1) it’s a good book for children; and 2) it has educational value. Kara highlighted that a wide variety of materials can be considered “educational”, with recent release, Recess in the Dark, focusing on cultural education. 

Every new title goes through a similar submission process: three to five staff will read a manuscript and recommend accepting or rejecting it. As with all book publishers, marketability is a consideration, as well as whether it’s the right book for the company at the right time.

DC looks  for a balance of good storytelling and educational value, which may not always be apparent in the theme or subject of the book.

Recess in the Dark, for example, is about children going to school in the North; its title refers to winter school days of little or no sunlight. It does explain that dog teams are still used in the North because they’re more dependable than snowmobiles. But much of the text is poetry, and Recess in the Dark walks readers through the fundamentals of verse.

A notable asset of DC Canada is that it showcases educational materials in English, French and Chinese. The company began as a resource for teaching ESL learners and has since grown to include books, games, read-alongs, and a wide range of multimedia resources for children.

Kara also shared a few favourites she would recommend, including Our Farm in the City, which details the experimental farm in Ottawa to talk about science and nature, and One Story a Day, that illustrates a different topic for each day to stir a new conversation each day with your child (365 stories total!)

Kara’s  advice to children’s book authors was inspiring: “When you’re coming up with a concept for that children’s book, think about what’s unique about your book.” She went on further to say, “You have this responsibility to share important messages” about ideas like kindness, respect, immigration or historical events, for example. 

We ended our time with Kara by engaging in a short question and answer period, in which one of the interesting questions posed to her was, “Have you found guidelines or resources on ethics for children’s publishing?” They then noted that the issue they were pointing to is ‘massaging’ to ‘cover up the truth.’ Kara noted that it’s a fine line to tread, especially when introducing heavy topics, such as slavery, in an age-appropriate manner. She also noted that a story about a child with two mothers might not sell in countries that frown on homosexuality.

Overall, a wonderful and engaging night spent musing about the inner workings of an important piece of the publishing industry!

Speaker Nights: January, February, and March 2022

Welcome to a new year, everyone! We’re so excited to announce our next three Speaker Nights to kick off 2022.

On the third Wednesday of every month, we host a free Speaker Night to hear from a wide variety of hosts and to discuss topics related to editing, publishing, and more.

Speaker Nights are currently conducted through Zoom and are free of charge. Speaker Night runs from 6:30pm to 8:00pm EST.

January 19: Educational Children’s Books with Kara Cybanski

Join us for our first speaker night of 2022! To kick off the new year, we’ll be speaking with editor Kara Cybanski of DC Canada Education Publishing, a small innovative publisher of children’s books, games, and music in Ottawa.

February 16: Self-Publishing Night with Wayne Jones

Join us for an overview of the self-publishing process by Wayne Jones! The evening will include discussion of technology, editing, publicizing, and sales; so if you’re working with self-publishing authors or hope to self-publish your own book, don’t miss it.

March 16: Editing Academic Research Grant Proposals with Letitia Henville 

Join us for a conversation about editing research grant proposals led by Letitia Henville (she/her), an award-winning instructor and academic editor. Letitia will share some of her favourite tips and resources for editors looking to expand into this field. You can send questions ahead of time to Letitia on Twitter @shortishard or through her website at shortishard.com/contact.


If you’re planning on joining us for Speaker Night, let us know by emailing publicrelationsog@editors.ca with your name, your Editors Canada branch/twig, and the Speaker Night you intend to attend. You will receive the Zoom link via email in advance of the event.


Stay tuned for our upcoming seminars for 2022 as well! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses, so be on the lookout and register early for these opportunities for professional development.