Editor for Life: Meredith Dees, Senior Editor, Robert Rose

Interview conducted by Adrineh Der-Boghossian.

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 Five Ws: 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.

Meredith Dees

Please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I am a senior editor at Robert Rose books, where I specialize in cookbooks. My job is to acquire and edit cookbooks and to oversee the look and feel of those projects. I help to choose the book designer and photography team (photographer, food stylist, and prop stylist) and work closely with both to ensure a cohesive and beautiful package. Robert Rose is a small company, so we work with a lot of freelancers and each of the full-time employees wears many hats.

I live in Toronto and I’ve worked in editorial for ten years. I previously worked for House of Anansi Press where I managed Ambrosia, a lifestyle imprint, and Spiderline, a crime imprint.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

I’m answering this during the pandemic, so it’s hard for me to not think of Diana Henry since I’ve been cooking from her recipes often. Her food has big flavours but requires little effort, which is just what I need right now.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

I overuse the em dash. Favourite word? Honestly, I don’t know, but there are a number of words I do not like. Beguile is one of them. Cringe.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

I love escaping to nature as much as anyone, but if I’m honest I’m a city person at my core. I find myself most energized when I’m out and about exploring galleries, museums, restaurants, architecture, and public space. I’d happily relocate to Copenhagen if that were an option.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

I hope it’s normal to wonder if you’re doing the “right” thing! In all seriousness, editorial can be a solitary pursuit, which can be challenging and lonely at times for an extrovert like me, but I love working with books, particularly those that are design driven. Figuring out how to turn an author’s vision/brand into something tangible and collaborating and learning from so many talented authors, copy editors, food stylists, prop stylists, photographers, designers—the list goes on—are two of my favourite things about what I do!

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Both of my parents work in books, so I hope I can say I come by it honestly. Although when I was in my early twenties, I wavered between pursuing a career in law and a career in publishing. Once I realized that law wouldn’t grant me the creativity I was hoping for in a profession (I’m married to a lawyer and he finds this insulting), I decided to pursue publishing, and I really wanted to work in publicity. I took the first internship I could get, which was at House of Anansi Press as the data management intern. When my time there was coming to an end, a position opened up for an editorial assistant. I thought I was underqualified and felt very intimidated by the talented women working in that department, but someone working there encouraged me to apply. It’s funny now because I can’t imagine working in any other part of the industry!

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

I suppose “authenticity and clarity.” My job is to balance maintaining the author’s voice and ensuring clarity for the reader. A cookbook should have a lot of personality and invoke flavours, sights, and smells. But it’s also a collection of recipes, and it’s very important that anyone regardless of skill level be able to make any dish perfectly from start to finish. If a reader misunderstands an ingredient or a step, I haven’t done my job properly.

 

Adrineh Der-Boghossian is a freelance copy editor, proofreader, and translator based in Toronto. She is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.

This article was copy edited by Ann Nam-Tran Le.

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