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Editing & Coaching Services

About Me

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.

Creative Writing Coaching

I work with you one-on-one via video conference (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc), phone, or by email to help you achieve your personal writing goals and improve as a writer. Each 60-90 minute session or email exchange will cover:

  • Commentary on 5 poems or 20 pages of fiction/creative non-fiction
  • Supplemental reading chosen for your interests and needs
  • Tailored generative writing and revision exercises
  • Suggestions on where to send work (literary journals, anthologies, presses, etc)
  • Professional advice on applying to MFA and PhD programs, writing retreats and residencies, etc
  • Strategies to  increase your writing & publishing productivity

When you hire me as a writing coach, you can count on me to focus on you and the goals of your writing, rather than seek to impose my own voice and agenda. I bring a wealth of workshop and teaching experience to the table, as well as a keen eye for detail, a trained ear, and a deep intuition for image and language. I believe in being honest and clear. If something isn’t working, I’ll tell you. But I’ll also help you find the way to make it work again—or in some cases, identify what is really at its heart that needs to be said.

Standard rate:  $150/session  | 60-90 minute session (Rates negotiable)

On a tight budget? Let me know and we’ll find a rate that works for you.

Writing is a notoriously solitary endeavor. Working with Neil is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be so. Neil helps bring accountability and structure to my writing practice. His insightful and intelligent feedback has prompted me to hone in on central questions and themes in my work. He also has terrific advice on where to submit work, and keeps me motivated to send my work out into the world. Neil is extraordinarily well-read and knowledgeable about all things poetry and literature and I can count on him to recommend just the right book at the right time. If you’re feeling stuck, or want a fresh set of eyes to help you unlock new possibilities in your work, Neil is the writing coach to call.

Annette Wong, poet and mindfulness coach

To schedule a coaching session or request more details, contact me here or by email at

Manuscript Consultation

Manuscript not quite where you want it?  Or have you been sending it around for a while and need a fresh set of eyes? Whether it’s a first book or your 15th, I’d be happy to work with you to find the right shape, rhythm, order, and material for it to take its final form.  I bring years of experience as an editor, decades of experience as student of creative writing, and lifetime as a close attentive reader with excellent insight and intuition.  I can provide macro-level developmental editing as well as finely tuned individual line edits. 

  • Line editing
  • Developmental editing
  • Sequencing, ordering, and manuscript architecture
  • Identifying outliers and problem pieces
  • Advice on presses and contests to target, as well as overall viability

Not certain if I’m the right person or if I can help?  Just contact me with a description of the manuscript, a few sample pages, and the type of help you’re looking for and I’ll let you know if I can be of service.  Read what past clients have to say here.


Standard rate:  Varies depending on type of editing and assistance required.  

“Neil has helped me develop a novel manuscript that I have been struggling with for years. Thanks to his detailed notes and clear and helpful explanations, I have revised my manuscript and it’s now ready to send out. Neil is kind, brilliant, and insightful. He wants to help _you_ make your manuscript everything that it can be, and he’s a kind of writer-whisperer in his ability to draw you out and get you thinking more clearly about your project. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Stephanie Barbé Hammer, author

Contact me here or by email at

Online Workshops & Classes

Interested in something more structured? I offer a variety of online writing workshops and classes throughout the year.  My current offerings include:

  • Generative Writing Workshops [60 min, 90 min, 120 min] – If you’re looking for a good way to jump start your writing or to switch things up from your usual routine, consider signing up for a group writing experience where participants will write in response to exercises and prompts, then have the opportunity to share and get feedback on their work.  Three different workshop lengths offered.
  • Poetry Feedback Workshop [ 120 min] – If you have poems already written, but want some feedback from me and a group of peers, consider signing up for one of these workshops.  Participants will submit their 2-3 poems in advance to provide everyone in the workshop an opportunity to read the poems and prepare comments and notes.  

If there’s something else you’d like to study (images, narrative description, literary translation, etc), just let me know and I’ll put together a class or workshop.

On the fence? Read what past participants have to say about their experiences.

Standard rates:  

  • Generative Writing Workshops  [$15/hour per person] 
  • Poetry Feedback Workshop [feedback on 2-3 poems] (120 minutes) – $25/person
“I don’t have any formal training in the art of poetry… so my decision to take the workshop was not for the poetry, but for the topic of sorrow and joy and my hope to connect with these emotions on a deeper level. And I did! Neil has a great gift of making poetry accessible to someone like me who may not consider herself a trained poet but has a need to express ideas creatively and poetically from time to time. What I believe makes Neil a great teacher is that he does not have a compulsive need to ‘teach’ and lecture, but rather allows and trusts his students to reach into themselves for their unique truths… I left feeling like Neil was part teacher, part psychotherapist, part magician”
—Anonymous, Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival

Contact me here or by email at