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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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Editing the work of English language learners in higher education

by Summer Cowley

Two laptops open side by side facing right. Stack of papers in between them. A set of hands holding a pen pointing at the papers while another hand (belonging to another person) is also holding a pen pointed at the stack of papers. Image implies one person teaching or reviewing material with another person.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

As classes in universities and colleges move forward, we ought to consider the process of editing the writing of post-secondary students. For me, this has largely meant checking the work of English language learners (ELLs). In my work as a writing centre tutor and as an English as a second language (ESL) instructor at four higher education institutions in Canada, I have noted two common pieces of advice given by instructors to ESL students and three higher-level concerns that editors might consider. ELLs are generally advised to use spelling and grammar software and to have their written work proofread by native English (L1) speakers/writers. For editors, a few higher-level questions may arise concerning the development of a writer’s voice, the question of how much editing is too much, and how editing for ELLs requires an approach different from editing for other groups. Below, I discuss how we might approach these issues when working with ELLs at post-secondary institutions.

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