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A conversation with Esi Edugyan and her editors: Another successful collaboration between Editors Toronto, Canadian Authors–Toronto, and University of Toronto

by Raya P. Morrison

In January, Editors Toronto, Canadian Authors–Toronto, and the Creative Writing program at the University of Toronto (UofT) School of Continuing Studies struck gold, bringing Esi Edugyan, two-time winner of the Giller Prize, for Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018), to speak in front of a packed audience of writers and editors. The brilliant Edugyan took the stage along with four of her editors—Patrick Crean, Marie-Lynn Hammond, John Sweet, and Jane Warren—to discuss their collaborations and the editing process.

The event, which took place at UofT’s Sidney Smith Hall, started with an introduction by Lee Parpart, program chair at Editors Toronto, and was followed by Edugyan reading the opening passage from Half-Blood Blues. The audience was then treated to a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the editorial process as structural editor Jane Warren and copy editor Marie-Lynn Hammond shed light on the different stages of editing, from the first structural edit to the minutia of copy editing.

Here is a short video of Jane Warren discussing the crucial part a structural editor plays in shaping a novel, and how honoured she was “to work on something that’s going to be read and re-read for the decades to come.”

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Editors Unplugged: Get to know our panellists for Winning Two Gillers: A Conversation with Esi Edugyan and Her Editors

Interviews conducted by Catherine Dorton.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand.

This month, we are honoured to be joined by not only acclaimed novelist Esi Edugyan, but also four (!) of her editors: Patrick Crean, John Sweet, Jane Warren, and Marie-Lynn Hammond.

Patrick CreanPatrick Crean

If you could travel to any fictional world, where would you go?

If you mean an entirely made-up place in fiction, then I would love to visit Alice in Wonderland! Oddly enough, I wouldn’t mind visiting Orwell’s 1984 (Orwell is an all-time fave of mine) as long as I didn’t get stuck there…. But if you mean real settings in fiction, I would want to visit the Alexandria in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and/or the Morocco of Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky.

What’s your favourite way of procrastinating? And how do you get back to work?

Procrastinating? I can’t say I do a lot of that, but if I am having a tough start to an editing day, I’ll make another pot of coffee and clean up the kitchen before heading back to my manuscripts. A good way to reboot for me is to power walk five km around the Central Tech track near our house! Or I might do an aural tune-up by reading something by Chekhov or W.H. Auden or Elizabeth Bishop or J.D. Salinger or James Salter.

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Winning Two Gillers: A Conversation with Esi Edugyan and Her Editors

Flyer for event "Winning Two Gillers: A Conversation with Esi Edugyan and Her Editors"

When: Tuesday, January 22, 7–9 pm

Where: University of Toronto, Sidney Smith Hall (amphitheatre), 100 St. George St., (Room 2102) 

Co-presented by Editors Toronto, Canadian Authors–Toronto, and the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), University of Toronto

This special event will bring acclaimed novelist Esi Edugyan together with four of her editors — Patrick CreanMarie-Lynn Hammond, John Sweet, and Jane Warren — for a discussion about the writing and editing of Ms. Edugyan’s two Giller Prize–winning novels, Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018).

Have you wondered what it’s like, editorially speaking, to work with an author who has won not one but two Giller Prizes? Would you like to know more about the author-editor relationship on these celebrated books? Esi Edugyan and her panel of accomplished editors will address issues such as these during their talks and the Q&A.

We’ll hear from editors Patrick Crean, Marie-Lynn Hammond, and Jane Warren about the scrambling that ensued when Key Porter Books, the original publisher for Half-Blood Blues, closed down during the edit. And we’ll find out why Montreal editor John Sweet is still talking about the amazing experience he had copy editing Washington Black for HarperCollins imprint Patrick Crean Editions.

This event will feature a reading and a brief talk about the author-editor relationship by Ms. Edugyan and short presentations from her editors, followed by a Q&A. We’ll close the event with a raffle, and time will be allowed for Ms. Edugyan to sign books.

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