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Editor for Life: Wilf Popoff, freelance editor, owner/founder of Executive Editorial Consultants

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Wilf Popoff

 

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

I edit and write technical material, mainly in law and engineering, disciplines I believe central to our civilization: law fosters its political accord while engineering creates its physical structure. I enjoy having a small role in both camps.

My wife, a non-fiction writer, and I live in Saskatoon, a prairie city with decent libraries and insufferable winters.     

I’ve always been an editor or at least since the last glacier retreated. Volunteering for my university weekly hooked me, and I spent 35 years at two daily newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Eventually, I no longer edited copy but supervised a newsroom. But at all levels one is still an editor.

When newspapers began to atrophy and no longer needed me I set up a freelance company. And I’m still editing after more than 55 years.

 

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

I am in awe of famous authors, but for me reading them can be upsetting. I frequently pause and say, “I could never write anything so brilliant.”

Therefore I would be reluctant to touch the MS [manuscript] of any famous author. Only a brave and confident editor could change something Orwell, Waugh or Atwood wrote. A seemingly unnecessary word may have an artful purpose.  (more…)

Editor for Life: Patrick Geraghty, editor, Whitecap Books

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

 

Patrick Geraghty,/ Photo by Jon Vincent

Patrick Geraghty/ Photo by Jon Vincent

Patrick, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I am the editor at Whitecap Books, a Vancouver-based publishing company that produces cookbooks and kids’ non-fiction. Mostly cookbooks. I’ve worked here for a few years now, before which I wrote for a few local arts papers and edited a bit of film criticism, sort of. I enjoy my current situation because editing cookbooks feels more like doing a Highlights puzzle than doing an actual job. For the most part, it’s just about looking for mistakes and things that aren’t like all the other things. It’s like doing a word- search, or a jumble. When I find incorrect conversions, an incomplete methodology, or something that disagrees with the overall style, it’s exhilarating! Plus, I don’t know anything about cooking really. I never cook, so trying to make sense of recipes is like . . . I get to ask a lot of dumb questions and everyone thinks I’m just playing devil’s advocate. Failing upwards I guess.

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

I would love to have edited one of those Doc Savage pulps from the sixties or, from the present, maybe one of those Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child? It would be fun to edit a book where the bulk of your criticism is just things like, “You should mention how tall the main character is again.”

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

I used to really like the square bracket and I would use it incorrectly all the time in college papers just because I felt like it had a cool austerity to it. But I got made fun of by my profs and now it’s not really in my life at all anymore. I haven’t really liked anything else much since then.

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

I feel uncomfortable answering this question in case it’s a monkey’s paw–style situation. I mean, I’m sure it would be lovely to edit books from a beach in the south of Spain, but not if I had to wear a horsehair shirt, you know what I mean? I guess it would be nice if I worked somewhere with free bagels and energy drinks.

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

I was previously working as a baker (I wasn’t good at it), and my boss told me I was a terrible baker and that I should try to get a job with my English degree. That sounded easier said than done, but then she fired me and so okay. I asked some friends for a job and they helped me out, then later I asked some other friends for a different job and they were like, “Do you have any experience” and I said, “Yeah I had that first job.” I feel extremely lucky to have a job where I don’t have to wake up at 4 AM, so I haven’t questioned much since then.

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

I used to really like writing when I was younger, and I even went to creative writing school in England. I wrote some poorly received Medieval fiction, but it took so much time and energy, and then no one liked it after all that anyways. Writing is hard work . . . you have to generate so much text, and you get so little feedback along the way. Being an editor is much easier. You can delegate all the ideas to other people, and they generate the text for you! Just kidding, sort of. Maybe this would be a good place for an emoticon.

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

Do whatever you want, don’t do whatever you don’t want.

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Afara Kimkeran.

Editor for Life: Sara Scharf, freelance editor

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Sara Scharf

Sara, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’ve been editing for pay for more than 20 years. My specialty is academic editing, especially for clients in the sciences, engineering, and medicine. I have many interests and have switched fields repeatedly, completing a PhD in the history and philosophy of science and technology, working as a medical market analyst, and then, as a postdoctoral fellow in engineering, studying how to increase innovation in extremely multicultural environments. I thrive on variety and intellectual engagement, which is probably why substantive editing, stylistic editing, and fact-checking are my favourite editing tasks. Of course, I copy edit, too, but I nearly lost my mind earlier this week putting more than 700 references into APA format on a tight schedule.

Journal articles, grant applications, promotion packages, and PhD dissertations are my bread and butter. While I help my clients further their careers, they give me the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research in a wide range of disciplines, from paleontology to polymer chemistry to sociology to electrical engineering. Since many of my clients are not native speakers of English, I often learn about their languages and cultures, too. They also inspire me to learn more about my own language and culture when I explain the origins of English idioms and the subtle differences among expressions. I love how some of the questions they ask really make me think. For instance, one client asked me to explain how possible, probable, potential, and putative are different from each other.

Helping people from a variety of backgrounds express themselves clearly and appropriately in contexts requiring vastly different tones draws on my creativity and is very rewarding. (more…)

Editor for Life: Heather J. Wood, freelance editor, author, and artistic director of the Rowers Reading Series

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Heather J. Wood

Heather J. Wood

Heather, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I think of myself as a “wearer of many hats.” I started my career as a marketing copywriter for Reader’s Digest Canada in Montreal and now realize that was part of my early editorial training, as the work often required the editing/rewriting of marketing and promotional material from other Reader’s Digest countries. And, of course, all written material had to conform to Reader’s Digest’s specific house style and proofreading, which was a huge part of the job. I started editing officially sometime after I moved to Toronto, and was focusing more on my own fiction writing, while also working as a freelance copywriter. It was a natural, if unplanned, progression. I learned a great deal about the book-editing process from working with a fiction writers’ workshop and, especially, from working with my fantastic editor, Shirarose Wilensky, on my two novels, Fortune Cookie (Tightrope Books 2009) and Roll With It (Tightrope Books, 2011).

I work with Tightrope Books as the managing editor of the Best Canadian Poetry and Best Canadian Essays series, and I perform a variety of copy editing and proofreading tasks for these two series. As a freelancer, I edit fiction and non-fiction projects, as well as provide individual authors with marketing and publicity services. I’m also the artistic director of Toronto’s Rowers Reading Series and I’m often called upon to edit the series’ grant applications. When choosing writers to read at the series, nothing makes me happier than authors with well-edited books.

The highlight of my editing career so far is the Gods, Memes and Monsters anthology from Stone Skin Press in the UK. I was nominated for a 2016 World Fantasy Award for my work on Gods, Memes and Monsters, which involved curating and editing the short fiction work of 60 international authors. While working on that anthology, I discovered that I very much enjoyed editing fantasy, science-fiction, and horror writers. (more…)

Editor for Life: Stephanie Fysh, freelance editor and fine art photographer

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Stephanie Fysh

Stephanie, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I work from a home office in downtown Toronto, where I live with my husband and the last of my three kids. In that office (and occasionally in local cafés), I fill a wide range of roles, from structural editor of YA [young adult] fiction to proofreader of university textbooks, working with both independent authors and established publishers. One month I might be sorting out reader-friendly sentence structure in trade non-fiction that tells a complicated but important science story; the next month could see me revelling in the latest volume of a regular client’s erotic science-fiction series. Between the variety of the work and the ease of getting laundry and baking done, I can’t imagine what it would take to get me to give up my home office for someone else’s corporate one.

For a number of years I taught editing as well, and was co-coordinator of the Ryerson Publishing Program where I’d once been a fledgling editor. Nothing hones your craft better than teaching it to others! I stepped away from that to give more time to other parts of my life—actual leisure time, volunteer work (I sit on the board of the Book and Periodical Council), and photography. Just don’t ask when my next show will be. I’m still working on that “more time” thing. (more…)

Editor for Life: Suzanne Sutherland, author and children’s books editor at HarperCollins in Canada

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Suzanne Sutherland

Suzanne, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a roster of phenomenal authors as part of HarperCollins Canadian children’s program. Because our list is quite small, I’m able to take on an active role in each stage of a book’s development—from acquisition through to publication, working both with internationally bestselling authors as well as with first-time novelists. It’s not a bad gig at all! (more…)

Editor for Life: Sally Sparrow, editorial and production manager, Master Point Press

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

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 W5: 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.

Sally Sparrow, Master Point Press

Sally, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I work for a small independent publisher in Toronto called Master Point Press. We’re pretty niche. We publish books about bridge. Yes, the card game. While a big part of my job involves working in production, I’m very hands on with the books from the beginning. But I’m no bridge expert—bridge is something that can take years to learn well, and I’m only starting out. (more…)

The Twelve Days of Editing

Holiday Tree Lights by Carol Harrison

Photo by Carol Harrison

By Jennifer D. Foster

Here’s a little twist on the holiday classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to get us all in the festive spirit!

On the first day of editing, my true love gave to me: a brand-new dictionary.

On the second day of editing, my true love gave to me: two Tylenol and a brand-new dictionary.

On the third day of editing, my true love gave to me: three boxes of herbal tea, two Tylenol, and a brand-new dictionary.

On the fourth day of editing, my true love gave to me: four spiffy writing journals, three boxes of herbal tea, two Tylenol, and a brand-new dictionary. (more…)