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.
Patrick, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.
I became editor of Outdoor Canada in 2000, and, in 2011, I took on the additional role of brand manager as we delved further into brand extensions and other media. However, the bulk of my workday remains focused on planning, assigning, packaging, editing, and writing. I’m also active on social media under the Outdoor Canada banner. I grew up in Bracebridge, Ontario, so the magazine’s subject matter—fishing, hunting, and conservation—is close to my heart. I guess you could say this job was made for me. I began my editing career in 1984 (see below) and have since worked in a variety of media, both here in Canada and abroad. But it’s at Outdoor Canada where my career has been at its brightest: the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors named me Editor of the Year in 2005, 2011, and 2012, while Outdoor Canada itself was named Magazine of the Year. I’m very proud of that and of my team.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
That’s a tough one, because even famous writers can have lousy first drafts, creating a lot of work for their editors. As Ernest Hemingway once famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” At least Hemingway admitted that, however, so I would go with him; he surely would have expected, and perhaps welcomed, revisions. Plus, he had many interests that I share, including fishing, hunting, adventure, and good liquor.
What: What is your favourite punctuation mark and/or favourite word?
My favourite punctuation mark is the period, if only because I loathe the often ridiculous overuse of the exclamation mark. There’s something to be said about the neutrality of the period and letting the words rather than punctuation evoke emphasis and emotion. As for my favourite word, that continually changes. But right now I do like to work the odd gobsmacked into conversation.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
I’m quite happy to be working in Canada, but I think it would be fascinating to work for a few years in New York City, which is arguably the publishing capital of the world.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
There are always those dark hours, when your back is up against the wall on a deadline and you’re grinding away on a painful edit, and you think, There must be a better way to make a living. But then you get through to the other side, take a breather, forget about the bad bits, and start all over again. I think editors are surely what I’d term “cerebral masochists.”
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
I didn’t choose to be an editor, so much as I got lucky. For my work placement at college back in 1984, I landed an actual paid job as assistant editor of Muskoka Life magazine. I had fully intended to be a reporter/writer at the time—indeed, I’ve also held a few of those positions over the years—but that first job showed me I had a knack for editing. And from there, having the title of “editor” on my resumé made me eligible for that many more job opportunities.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
My editor’s motto? Leave the reader satisfied, not asking questions because the language was unclear.
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 Jeny Nussey.