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.
Jennifer, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.
I’m one of those odd birds who is both a writer and an editor, and I’ve been doing both professionally for about 14 years. I attended the master of publishing program at SFU, and after graduating my first jobs were in magazines—a field where it’s easy to both write and edit. I published my first book, Fashion That Changed the World, in 2014, and began working at Greystone Books in Vancouver soon after. I’m now Greystone’s editorial director, and spend my days editing and acquiring books and managing the editorial department. I write books at night, and will be publishing my third and fourth books in 2018 and 2019.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
I’ll say Dorothy Parker. I’m sure she’d be a handful, but I’d get some stories out of it.
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
That’s a diplomatic question. Editors, from what I know, spend most of their time hating certain words and punctuation marks! I’ll offer you a favourite letter instead: ø. I just finished working on a book written by Norwegians, and I grew quite fond of the slashed o.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
From a luxurious mansion in the south of France, paid for with the millions of dollars I’ve made editing.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
Yes—in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, when I was freelancing and there was very little work. I’m very glad I didn’t retrain to become a dental hygienist.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
After I finished my undergrad degree, I moved to London, England, and looked for a job. It was the first time in my life I’d needed to consider my actual skill set. I saw a job posting for an editorial assistant, thought, “I could do that,” and applied. I had a job on my third day in the country, jet lag be damned. That pretty much settled my fate.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Just like that 1970s poster featuring a kitten hanging on for dear life, “Hang in there.”
Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.
This article was copy edited by Nicole North.