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Prize-winner learns value of mentors

by Deborah Joy Innes

I was the very lucky winner of two (yes, two!) raffle prizes at the Editors Toronto meeting in September.

The first was the book The New Vine by author Robert Marrone. There were two authors present that night (Robert Marrone and Trevor Cole), along with their editors, speaking about the author-editor relationship.

The second was the last prize of the evening: a one-hour mentoring session with Jennifer D. Foster—editor, writer, mentor, co-chair of Editors Toronto, and administrative director of Rowers Reading Series.

Embarrassed as I was to have won two prizes, the timing of the mentoring session was perfect. (The book set in Italy was also very good.) I’d recently lost my job after 10 years as an in-house copy editor, proofreader, and writer in a legal marketing and communications department. I was now in the process of setting up my freelance copy-editing business. I had many questions.


An evening with Michael Redhill and Martha Kanya-Forstner

by Joanne Haskins

Editors Toronto hosted a special branch meeting in January, when acclaimed author Michael Redhill took the stage with his editor, Martha Kanya-Forstner, to discuss the writing and editing of Bellevue Square, the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner.

Redhill’s novels include Consolation (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and Martin Sloane (a finalist for the Giller Prize). He has written a novel for young adults, four collections of poetry and two plays. Redhill also writes a series of crime novels under the name Inger Ash Wolfe and is an editor and Editors Canada member. Kanya-Forstner is editor-in-chief for both Doubleday Canada and McClelland & Stewart. Along with Redhill’s prizewinner, she’s edited David Chariandy’s novel Brother, which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and James Maskalyk’s Life on the Ground Floor, winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

There were few empty seats and the audience of writers, writing students and editors anticipated an enlightening discussion as two of the most highly regarded figures in Canadian literature today promised to reveal the ins and outs of the editor-writer working relationship. The biggest takeaway of the evening for editors was “Ask questions.”

After introductions of both Redhill and Kanya-Forstner, each discussed their process as writer/writer-editor, and editor. The respect they had for each other was evident throughout the discussion as they listened carefully to one another, built upon each other’s responses, and focused on each other’s strengths and abilities to bring the best of the writer’s words to the page. (more…)

Ask Aunt Elizabeth: The authors I work with see me as the enemy

By Elizabeth d’Anjou

Looking for advice on editing the editing life? Whether you’re a beginner looking for tips on starting out or an old hand looking for another perspective, veteran editor Aunt Elizabeth is ready to address your queries. Submit them to [email protected]—you may find the answers you are looking for in next month’s column.

Ask Aunt Elizabeth: The authors I work with see me as the enemy

(1) Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

At my current in-house editorial job, I have to provide feedback to authors on ways they can improve their writing. This often involves using examples from their work, explaining why the examples are incorrect, and discussing possible solutions. I also rate them on the quality of their work, and these ratings are used to determine their bonuses.

While I try to be diplomatic, half the time the authors resist my suggestions and refuse to incorporate them, sometimes rudely questioning my qualifications. This often translates into no improvement in their work and the continued assignation of low ratings by me. It’s a vicious cycle that is not conducive to a good working relationship. (more…)

How to break through walls: A writer’s perspective on the infamous “block”

By Judy Ann Crawford

How to break through walls: A writer’s perspective on the infamous “block”

People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.—Anna Quindlen

So it’s time to write the thing. Topic? Check. There it is, typed out at the top of the page, a vast whiteness beneath it that you are trying not to focus on. Coffee? Of course. Donut? No. You can’t risk the inevitable crash that follows the sugar rush. There will be no crashing. It’s writing day. Time? Yes. You even have supper prepared ahead (that is, five or six supper-like ingredients tossed into a dish, including copious amounts of cheese, which you hope qualify as a casserole). So why aren’t you writing?

Writer’s block. (more…)

Five steps to successfully editing for a controlling client

By Jessica Trudel

Five steps to successfully editing for a controlling client

To outsiders, editing seems like a very straightforward process: read a document, fix the mistakes, and rinse and repeat. What we editorial insiders know, though, is that no two editing projects are exactly alike.

Think about it. Each project you work on involves a new and different

  • client
  • document
  • intended audience
  • purpose

Your editing process will have to adapt to these and many other factors. (more…)

A week in the life of an academic editor

broken-pencilsBy Kerry Fast

I get odd responses when I say I’m an academic editor—from fellow editors, that is. Everyone else I say that to seems vaguely impressed, though not quite sure how to carry on the conversation from there. But other editors, even those who edit academic writing, seem to think that academics enjoy nothing more than deliberately obfuscating meaning on a topic they’re valiantly trying to sound as if they know everything about.

The truth of the matter is that academics who write well know how to construct complex sentences that convey meaning beautifully. It’s the ones who don’t know how to write that hire editors. And it is in this bunch that I find clients who make editing academic writing stimulating and enjoyable for me.

I spent hours this week removing italics from a thesis proposal and then when I had finished that job, I started all over again with removing italics, this time from a thesis chapter by Annabelle, a PhD student. I do not enjoy this part! But I did enjoy the work I did for Annabelle in other ways — hers was a challenging piece of work. Her ideas were sophisticated, but poorly expressed because English is not her first language.

Editing can be a delicate business of not putting words into someone’s mouth, but making sure that the complexity of the ideas is adequately communicated. In a phone conversation, she wanted to know why I had removed all the italics. She also wanted clarification of my comments about jargon. A half-hour later we both had a better understanding of what jargon was and how and when to use it. I appreciated the way she ended the conversation: “We’re a team now.” The hour-long conversation had been hard work on my part, but deeply meaningful.


Q&A: Linden MacIntyre on the author/editor relationship

What do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Linden MacIntyrePreviously, BoldFace asked internationally bestselling author Mary Lawson about her experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to Linden MacIntyre, a renowned journalist whose work has earned him multiple awards and a long-time co-host of CBC television’s the fifth estate. He is also the author of Why Men Lie and The Bishop’s Man, among others.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

I’ve had a variety of experiences. In my first, I never met or spoke to the editor at all about the manuscript. We spoke of many other things: life, music, the struggles of creativity. Eventually he requested, as I recall, no changes in my manuscript, and I believe he farmed it out to a freelancer for what I now understand to have been a line edit. I was then given the marked-up manuscript and advised to accept the changes proposed, none of which were substantial. My next experience involved long meetings (over tea) with an editor who explained just about every change, no matter how minor (such as why “St. Catharines” is spelled with an “a”). My last few experiences were with my editor-publisher, Anne Collins, who is constructively brutal, in painstaking detail. Many of her suggested cuts are, at first glance, fatal, but, on second glance, crucial to the flow and clarity of the story. So I unquestioningly believe everything she says. (Most of the time.)


Q&A: Mary Lawson on the author/editor relationship

mary_lawsonWhat do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Previously, BoldFace asked children’s author and illustrator Jeremy Tankard about his experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to London, United Kingdom–based, internationally bestselling author Mary Lawson, who penned Road Ends, The Other Side of the Bridge, and Crow Lake.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

I’m in the slightly unusual position of having three editors: one in Canada, one in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom, all of whom have to agree on the final version of each book. It’s a complicated set-up, and if any of them were unwilling to consider the views of the others, the whole business would be impossible. Fortunately, all three are outstandingly good editors and genuinely want what is best for the books and, therefore, they’ve been open to suggestions from the others.

For me, the chief disadvantage of the arrangement is that I have three different sets of notes and comments to work through, which is exceedingly time-consuming! But the advantage is that if all three of the editors agree on a particular point, I know for certain that they are right. If they don’t agree, I feel able to stick to my guns and go with what feels right. I have huge respect for all three, and they have been wonderful to work with.

What is it like as an author to work months, or even years, on a book and then have an editor read it critically and suggest (sometimes major) changes?

Inevitably, it is an anxious time. It takes me roughly six years to write a book—a significant chunk of my life—so there’s a lot riding on it. But I find it very difficult to judge my own work, and, therefore, I do welcome comments. So far I haven’t been asked to make any major changes. (more…)