Editing & Coaching Services
My name is Neil Aitken and I’m a professional creative writing coach and editor, as well as an award-winning author and translator. I have a really odd background which you read about here. For a full list of publications, honors, and prizes, please refer to my CV.
I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from USC. I’m also a Kundiman poetry fellow and serve as the co-director of De-Canon, as well as the editor-in-chief of Boxcar Poetry Review.
I have 14+ years experience teaching creative writing in universities, in the community, and privately. I’ve helped current and past clients get published in literary journals, successfully apply to MFA and PhD programs, and find homes for their book manuscripts.
I enjoy working with writers wherever they are in their writing journey—whether you’re at the start, well on your way, or somewhere in the middle, I can help. I’ve worked with poets, fiction writers, creative non-fiction essayists, and even the occasional lyricist and a screenwriter.
The son of librarians, I grew up reading fairly omnivorously and continue to read pretty much anything that interests me: contemporary poetry, literary fiction, sci fi, fantasy, western, historical fiction, steampunk, mystery, spy novels, travel literature, paranormal history, comparative religion, mythology, history, biography, science, geography, art, architecture, typography, design, literature in translation, etc.
I read quickly, see patterns, and usually can quickly and accurately identify inconsistencies and weaknesses, as well as strengths and load-bearing elements.
Whether you’re looking for a writing coach, a mentor, a manuscript editor,
or a workshop facilitator, I’m ready to work with you.
Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage’s Dream (Sundress 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), which won the Philip Levine Prize. His poetry chapbook, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press 2016) was awarded an Elgin Prize for Sci Fi Poetry. He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, creator of Have Book Will Travel (a web resource for authors and reading series), and host of The Lit Fantastic, a podcast about authors and their obsessions. He also co-directs De-Canon: A Visibility Project, a web resource examining and interrogating the intersections of race, literature, canon-making, education, and publishing. New YouTube projects include: Fantastic Descriptions (a deep dive into narrative description for roleplaying games) and The Hermit Poetry Series (a thrice-weekly reading of contemporary poetry). A past Kundiman Poetry Fellow, Neil has coached other writers through AWP’s Writer to Writer program, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild’s Mentorship program, and The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Mentorship Microgrant program. He served as the Virtual Writer-in-Residence for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild during Fall 2020 and worked remotely with rural writers throughout the province. Neil currently lives in Regina where he works as a creative writing coach and manuscript consultant for writers all over the US, Canada, and beyond.
Neil has published poetry, essays, and translations in many literary journals and anthologies, as well as on buses, in a mathematics journal, and even as the center piece of a high concept fashion magazine. His poetry has appeared in The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, I.T Magazine, Lantern Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Poetry Review, and many other literary journals.
Neil holds a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California and an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, as well as a BS in Computer Science with Mathematics minor from Brigham Young University. He has collaborated with a number of talented music composers, including Juhi Bansal, Brandon Scott Rumsey, Jeffrey Parola, Zhou Tian, Zhao Zixiang, and Daniel Gall. He also co-wrote the narrative poem used as the voice over script for Libangbang, an animated short by Tseng Chia-Chi.
As a Chinese-English translator, Neil has worked with poet-translator Ming Di to translate The Book of Cranes: Selected Poems of Zang Di (Vagabond 2015) as well as many of Ming Di’s own first selected poems, which were published as The River Merchant’s Wife. His co-translations of Jiang Hao, Jiang Li, Jiang Tao, Lü De’an, Lü Yue, Sun Wenbo, and Zang Di are also prominently featured in New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, 1990-2012 (Tupelo 2013). He was awarded the DJS Translation Prize in 2011 and serves as a contributing editor and board member of Poetry East West.
Of Chinese and Scottish descent, Neil was born in Vancouver, BC and grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and various parts of western United States and Canada. His first book explores the themes of home, exile, and return through the lens of memory and forgetting. The poems in his second book draw heavily on the history of the computer, the life of 19th-century mathematician Charles Babbage, various AIs from film and literature, the lyric nature of programming language, and his own experiences as a computer programmer. These topics also figure prominently in both the creative and critical parts of his dissertation on 19th-century literary and popular representations of artificial intelligence.
Neil is an active member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Performers), AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), The League of Canadian Poets, PEN USA, Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and Writers Union of Canada. He serves as the International Regional Chair for Kundiman and the Chair of the Nominating Committee for The Writers’ Union of Canada.