Neil Aitken

Regina, SK, Canada
Poetry, Fiction,
Creative Non-Fiction

Contact Information

About Neil Aitken

I’m an award-winning author, translator, and editor with a background in computer science, Victorian technology, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. A former computer games programmer, I hold both an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from USC, as well as fellowships from Idyllwild and Kundiman. I’ve been working as a professional creative writing coach since 2015 and have taught creative writing classes and led creative writing workshops in for a wide range of non-profit organizations, universities, and private individuals since 2005. My primary genre is poetry, but I also have training and experience in fiction, creative non-fiction, and literary translation. Aside from writing and editing, I also build websites, write interactive fiction, and  run D&D games online.

What I've done

I am 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. My poetry chapbook, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press 2016), won an Elgin Prize for Sci-Fi Poetry.  As the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, an online journal that’s been running for over 13 years and a contributing editor to Poetry East West, an international journal of translation, I also bring extensive experience and perspective on literary publishing and journals. I’m currently serving as the Virtual Writer-in-Residence for the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

Who I work with

I enjoy working with writers at every stage of their writing journey.  Whether you are just getting into writing for yourself and others, or you’re working on sending things out for publication, or you’re wrestling with a book manuscript that just isn’t quite there yet, I can help.  

I am especially happy to work with other writers of color and with anyone who comes from a non-traditional education or work background (I used to work as a computer games programmer). 


  • Writing coaching/mentoring
  • Developmental editing for individual pieces of poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction
  • Manuscript consultation (poetry and fiction)
  • Publishing and marketing strategy for new authors
  • Literary journal advising (how to start and run)
  • Occasional online classes & workshops for groups of 4-8.


“Neil helped me immensely and I am so grateful for his time, skill, and advice. I consulted Neil when I needed help with ordering my first full-length poetry manuscript. The manuscript was making its way to the finalist round of a few contests, but it wasn’t winning, and I was starting to feel like it was time to move on from the project, at least temporarily. Luckily, a friend referred me to Neil. I told Neil that I needed some assistance finding the right order for the poems. Talking with him was not only fun, but extremely helpful—he is a genius at ordering poems, finding narrative arcs and giving the poems a beautiful trajectory that I didn’t originally see on my own. Sometimes we’re too immersed in our projects to see the broader picture. I came to trust his arrangement skills so much that I scheduled a second session with him. He was the first person to suggest the book’s title. When we landed on it, we laughed—it suddenly seemed obvious. We discussed how some editors would love it and some would hate it, but it had to be the title. I slowly began to submit to contests again. Shortly after our second session, my manuscript was selected as a winner of Trio House Press’ open reading period. It will be published in 2020, and Neil will definitely be in the acknowledgements! I am so grateful for his time and help and highly recommend working with him. He helped me achieve a lifelong dream, giving me hope and assistance at vital times.” —Madeleine Barnes, poet and author of You Do Not Have to Be Good.
“Neil was like a breath of fresh air, someone who got what I was doing, sometimes even before I realized what I was about. Neil enjoyed complicated material and wasn’t afraid of the exploration that could in the end arrive at unexpected places. I believe he went with his gut and recognized our obsessions. What made Neil so special was his ability to pick up on the imagery, tone and narrative of a poem quicker than anyone I knew.”
Barbara Maloutas, author & poet

I worked with Neil at a time in which I was stuck with a particular short story. I had done at least ten revisions and had workshopped it at least five times. What I wanted from Neil was not only a fresh pair of eyes, but also a poet’s precision with language. Neil offered more than I could have hoped for and I am indebted to his edits. He also identified key themes in my writing that few could see, myself included. He was kind, attentive, thorough, and most importantly, very patient with his edits, encouraging me always to dig deeper with each character. I recommend him without any hesitation.
Zahir Janmohamed, fiction writer & journalist

Neil is simply phenomenal. His extremely diverse background and experiences allow him to be very well-versed in a large variety of different subjects, much more than can even be imagined for one person. He’s like the ocean: always more layers, more depths that haven’t been previously seen (and all this at your disposal for your own creative journey!). I’ve used him for both creative nonfiction and screenwriting – two very different genres and I have to say each time I have felt understood, nurtured, guided and renewed with purpose.
Elaine Wang, poet & essayist