Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster
A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.
Julia, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.
Editing chose me. I started with a decor magazine as an editorial assistant but took the job hoping to assist the editor with her TV show. This was a long time ago—and I never did get anywhere near the TV studio. But I discovered that editing and writing was a natural fit for me: I had always been a voracious reader and majored in English lit, so this was a good career choice. From editorial assistant, I worked as a copy editor and senior editor and finally managing editor for consumer magazines, and about 10 years ago, I took a position with the Ontario Dental Association as managing editor of their professional journal and editor of their consumer magazine.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
That’s a hard question to answer—I have many, many favourite authors, but I can’t imagine ever feeling worthy to edit their books. In terms of hanging out with an author and perhaps reading the first galleys (do they still call them galleys?), I can’t imagine anything more blissful than working with the author of my all-time favourite book, Gone With The Wind. I am a history buff with a strong interest in the Civil War and a great admiration for feisty heroines. Tomorrow is indeed another day.
What: What is your favourite punctuation mark and/or favourite word?
Anyone who has ever received an email from me could tell you that I am exclamation mark crazy—probably to the point of serious annoyance. I am also addicted to the dash—and colleagues would tell you that I tend to go on and on about em dashes versus en dashes and how they are not hyphens!
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
Preferably somewhere warm and sunny—I am writing this on a cold, grey December day, and I really, really hate winter.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
Daily. Hourly. Minutely. On a bad day when things are not working out.
On a good day, I love everything about my job. I love the idea of polishing and improving—taking good writing and making it even better. An added bonus for me has been the wonderful colleagues I have worked with throughout my career. Many of my mentors—editors, managing editors, copy editors—have become great friends of mine.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
See above. Plus, I have a BA with a major in English lit and a minor in history.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Tomorrow is another day. Or, damn the torpedoes.
Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications.
This article was copy edited by Valerie Borden.