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.
Heather, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.
I think of myself as a “wearer of many hats.” I started my career as a marketing copywriter for Reader’s Digest Canada in Montreal and now realize that was part of my early editorial training, as the work often required the editing/rewriting of marketing and promotional material from other Reader’s Digest countries. And, of course, all written material had to conform to Reader’s Digest’s specific house style and proofreading, which was a huge part of the job. I started editing officially sometime after I moved to Toronto, and was focusing more on my own fiction writing, while also working as a freelance copywriter. It was a natural, if unplanned, progression. I learned a great deal about the book-editing process from working with a fiction writers’ workshop and, especially, from working with my fantastic editor, Shirarose Wilensky, on my two novels, Fortune Cookie (Tightrope Books 2009) and Roll With It (Tightrope Books, 2011).
I work with Tightrope Books as the managing editor of the Best Canadian Poetry and Best Canadian Essays series, and I perform a variety of copy editing and proofreading tasks for these two series. As a freelancer, I edit fiction and non-fiction projects, as well as provide individual authors with marketing and publicity services. I’m also the artistic director of Toronto’s Rowers Reading Series and I’m often called upon to edit the series’ grant applications. When choosing writers to read at the series, nothing makes me happier than authors with well-edited books.
The highlight of my editing career so far is the Gods, Memes and Monsters anthology from Stone Skin Press in the UK. I was nominated for a 2016 World Fantasy Award for my work on Gods, Memes and Monsters, which involved curating and editing the short fiction work of 60 international authors. While working on that anthology, I discovered that I very much enjoyed editing fantasy, science-fiction, and horror writers.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
Since this is fantasy, Isabel Allende. In my dream world, she hires me to edit the first novel she writes in English, and we have amazing conversations about anything and everything.
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
I love the question mark; its unique shape and the possibilities it opens. Even if I rarely use it, penultimate is one of my favourite words. It’s fabulous!
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
Paris. It’s got it all—the fashion, the food, the art, the cafés. The City of Lights also still boasts a large expatriate community of English-speaking writers to work with, and Shakespeare and Company is such an inspiring bookstore.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
All of the time! I am always juggling a number of projects and often face the difficulty of not having enough time for my own writing. Sometimes the creative energy needed for editing gets in the way of my own creativity, but at other times, the editing process inspires me and helps me to become an even better writer.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
Editing happened by accident. It evolved naturally out of my freelance writing work and my own journey as a fiction writer. It was a pleasant surprise to discover I was skilled at it.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Less is more, except when it isn’t.
Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She’s also administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.
This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.