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Editor for Life: Paul Ling, owner, Perfect English 101

Interview conducted by Indu Singh.

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.

Paul Ling

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 live west of Toronto, and I returned to Ontario a few years back, after some 20-odd years working abroad, from Australia to the Middle East, the Far East, the Caribbean, and Europe. Since I used to be a clinical professor, and I’d trained in various surgical specialties, editing insinuated itself into my life because fellow students, and even teachers and professors, would always ask me to check over their work. I suppose there’s a great similarity between dissecting treatises and dissecting tissues; in the end, one gains a reputation for being meticulous and fanatically determined to get the task done thoroughly.

In addition to editing scientific texts—and not just medical texts, either—I do a great deal of work editing business communications, such as letters, business plans, and résumés, since I used to work in private industry as an entrepreneur.

English-French translation, among other modern languages, is another area of work for which I receive many requests. My editing avocation has been going strong for over 25 years, and I retired from clinical practice about five years ago to concentrate on editing full-time [at Perfect English 101].

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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 2

by Natalia Iwanek

Stethoscope next to a laptop on a white surface.

Photo by Negative Space from Pexels

On Tuesday, November 26, we published the first part of a feature on freelance editing as an option for people living with chronic illness or disability. This is the second and last part of that feature. To read Part 1, click here.

The editing community is incredibly diverse. I hope that by highlighting our varied experiences through the following two interviews, I will inspire editors to see how life-changing this career can be.

Jane (not her real name) is a freelance editor with a PhD in a highly specialized field. She describes living with a chronic illness, while freelance editing part-time and working part-time at a research job that sometimes involves writing and editing.

What made you get into editing? Was this a career goal or was it something you naturally gravitated toward over the years?

Editing is something I’ve done on the side since high school. I formalized my editing career as a business after I got laid off from a different job in 2013. Part of the reason why I continue to edit is that I enjoy it, but another reason is that, with my niche skills, it pays well per hour and with minimal effort compared to some other work that I could be doing.

In what ways, if at all, has your illness impacted your editing career? Have you had to overcome any barriers?

I have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the digestive system and sometimes other organ systems as well. The medications I’ve been on for the past 15 years have kept most of the worst symptoms under control most of the time, but I still get sick frequently and unpredictably and also suffer from debilitating bouts of fatigue lasting from days to weeks, again at unpredictable intervals.

Crohn’s is a complete career killer. I was unable to pursue a career in academia because of the restrictions it put on my ability to do certain kinds of research (because of the immune-suppressing medications I’m on), to travel easily (because of my inflexible treatment schedule), and to obtain affordable health insurance anywhere other than Canada. (Health insurance for anyone other than full-time, tenure-track faculty often has a yearly cap at around what my medications cost per month.) I worked outside of academia for several years but had a succession of bad bosses who did not abide by the accommodations my doctors outlined. I was pressed to work more than I could handle, ended up on sick leave, and then was punished for it.

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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 1

by Natalia Iwanek

Call it a sixth sense or intuition but sometimes the human body is capable of warning us of impending danger. Although strange symptoms had plagued me for years, I simply attributed them to overwork or stress and continued with my regular routine. Unfortunately, January 25, 2017, was the start of my life-altering journey.

I woke up experiencing an unusually severe stiffness in my lower back. As the day progressed, I felt a sharp snap in my spine. The pain took my breath away. Subconsciously, I knew that something had changed deep within my body and that this was no ordinary injury. Thus began years of physiotherapy, acupuncture, hospital visits, and perplexed doctors who could not understand why my spine refused to heal.

I developed increasingly concerning symptoms, such as debilitating exhaustion, memory problems, and severe allergic reactions, but doctors assured me that this was normal for those with chronic pain.  Meanwhile, I rapidly lost weight and grew weaker daily.

The time had come to revaluate my future plans. I needed to finish my education and choose a flexible career path. What better career than editing for someone who reads voraciously and has a strong grasp of grammar?

Between appointments, work, and excruciating pain, I enrolled in Simon Fraser University’s Editing Certificate program, and returned to Athabasca University to finish the remaining credits of my degree. Both programs are highly recommended for those who require a flexible, non-traditional route for their education.

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A Discussion on the Business of Editing

Stock photo of people in a group (faces not in frame), gesturing with their hands, having a conversation

Date: Tuesday, November 26, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Viola Desmond Room (3rd floor) at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 192 Spadina Ave.
Map: goo.gl/maps/VRvEPVLumjmuHWbz8

We are thrilled to have received amazing feedback from our members through our recent programming survey. As it turns out, many of you want more of a community feel to our programs and are looking for opportunities to get to know your fellow editors. So, this month, we are hosting an evening of connecting and chatting about the business of editing.

The evening will begin with a short Editors Toronto business meeting. We’ll follow that with introductions and a moderated discussion on the business of editing. You will have a chance to present your questions to the group and share your own expertise with others. The floor will be open to talk to peers about anything related to working as an editor.

Potential discussion points include:

  • finding and keeping clients
  • pricing your services
  • training opportunities
  • dealing with challenging situations
  • managing your time and prioritizing jobs
  • working from home vs. working in-house
  • marketing yourself (e.g., website, social media)
  • leveraging Editors Canada to achieve your goals

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Recap of Screen to Page and Back: In Conversation with Zoe Whittall and Wiebke von Carolsfeld

by B.A. Tanner

Zoe Whittall, Wiebke von Carolsfeld, and Lee Parpart on stage at Screen to Page and Back

Zoe Whittall, Wiebke von Carolsfeld, and Lee Parpart at Screen to Page and Back, September 24, 2019. Photo courtesy of the author.

Editors Toronto and Canadian Authors Toronto (CA-T) were thrilled to co-present their first event of the fall season, in partnership with the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto, on Tuesday, September 24.

The evening brought together award-winning, medium-crossing writers Zoe Whittall and Wiebke von Carolsfeld. Zoe has published four novels and three poetry collections to date and written for TV shows such as Degrassi and Schitt’s Creek. Wiebke started as a film director, editor, and writer with her directorial debut, Toronto International Film Festival winner Marion Bridge. She launched her first novel, Claremont (Linda Leith Publishing), earlier this year.

CA-T co-president Lee Parpart moderated the discussion and Q&A session. She guided an enlightening conversation focused on writing for both screen and page, and the differences between the two processes. Lee warmed up the audience for the featured discussion by showing video clips from Zoe and Wiebke’s film and TV work. Wiebke shared a trailer for The Saver, a drama she wrote and directed about an orphaned teenager with a desire to build a new life using a self-help book she found at her cleaning job. The tone switched gears when Zoe contributed a short skit called “Buffin’ Your Muffin” that aired on Baroness von Sketch Show and captured oodles of laughs from the audience.

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Editor for Life: Janice Zawerbny, senior editor, HarperCollins Canada

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.

Black-and-white headshot of Janice Zawerbny

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’ve been an editor for more than 20 years in Toronto. I’ve worked in-house for most of my career: I’ve been an acquisitions and developmental editor, who also completes the substantive and stylistic edit after the books have been acquired. I mainly work on literary fiction and non-fiction but have worked on commercial fiction and non-fiction projects as well. I think one of the best traits of a good editor is versatility.

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

I like working with smart, kind, and humorous people, so I think I’d have to choose David Foster Wallace. I think working with him would have been both fun and intellectually stimulating.

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Editors Canada conference 2019: A great way to connect with other editors and learn new skills

by Ann Kennedy

Editors Canada 2019 conference artwork

On June 7, 8, and 9, editors from across North America and as far away as Australia gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to reconnect, learn new skills, and refresh long-used ones. The annual Editors Canada conference was held this year at The Westin Nova Scotian, an ideal location for hitting the local farmers’ market for breakfast before sessions started, and just around the corner from the boardwalk for an evening stroll and a lobster roll at one of the popular waterside restaurants.

Four pre-conference seminars were offered, and though I wished I could have attended all four, I opted for Amy J. Schneider’s seminar, “Macros 101: Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

Photo of Amy J. Schneider at her seminar “Macros 101: Work Smarter, Not Harder” on June 7, 2019, at Editors Canada 40th anniversary conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Photo of Amy J. Schneider courtesy of Editors Canada

For the uninitiated like me, a macro is a computer program that runs inside Microsoft Word and enables a set of pre-defined, customized instructions to efficiently, accurately, and consistently perform tasks. These tasks can run from the mundane (such as converting two spaces to one or changing British English to American English) to the complex (such as ensuring that every instance of a certain abbreviation is capitalized and in bold). As someone who just finished a manuscript that was in dire need of consistency, I was very excited to learn more about macros and how they can save editors time by automating frequently performed tasks. The session was well worth the extra fee, for both content and quality. I came away with not only several pages of hand-outs with the session highlights, but also a list of websites and books to consult for more information.

The main conference itself took place over two days and included an opening keynote by renowned journalist and author Linden Macintyre; a closing keynote by multi-award-winning writer, speaker, and educator Sheree Fitch; the Editors Canada annual general meeting; and 40 sessions on topics ranging from managing a freelance business to editing scholarly papers to navigating language and diversity to preparing for the Editors Canada certification exams.

Highlights from the main conference programming for me included Michelle Waitzman and Jess Shulman’s “Making smart choices: Which freelance projects are right for you?”; James Harbeck’s “Translating medicalese into everyday English”; and Dean Jobb and Kim Pittaway’s “Negotiating the truth: Drawing the line in creative nonfiction”. As a freelance editor living with a physical disability whose dream is to edit memoirs, these sessions alone were worth the trip to Halifax!

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Book Review: Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging

by Indu Singh

Cover of "Elements of Indigenous Style" style manual next to photo of Gregory Younging

Exactly one year ago today, members of Editors Toronto had the privilege of hearing Gregory Younging speak about his recently published style guide, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples, at a regular monthly Editors Toronto program meeting. The standing-room-only program was one of our most popular to date.

Gregory Younging passed away on May 3, 2019. The executive of Editors Toronto was profoundly saddened by this news and issued a statement at the time. We publish this book review to honour his memory and the important work he did, and to mark the one-year anniversary of his presentation to Editors Toronto.

 

Gregory Younging—publisher, editor, poet, educator, and member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba—is known for his groundbreaking advocacy of Indigenous issues and his enduring legacy of nurturing Indigenous writing and publishing in Canada. In Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education, 2018), he assesses Indigenous literature and publishing from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples. The result is a book of 22 editorial principles that guide readers through a new approach to writing and editing material with Indigenous content.

Younging believes it’s high time to decolonize Canadian English—a trend that he points out is already underway. Problematic terms such as primitive and heathen have largely been dropped from usage, while others like land claim and Native are increasingly becoming outdated.

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