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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.
Jennifer, 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’m one of those odd birds who is both a writer and an editor, and I’ve been doing both professionally for about 14 years. I attended the master of publishing program at SFU, and after graduating my first jobs were in magazines—a field where it’s easy to both write and edit. I published my first book, Fashion That Changed the World, in 2014, and began working at Greystone Books in Vancouver soon after. I’m now Greystone’s editorial director, and spend my days editing and acquiring books and managing the editorial department. I write books at night, and will be publishing my third and fourth books in 2018 and 2019.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
I’ll say Dorothy Parker. I’m sure she’d be a handful, but I’d get some stories out of it.
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
That’s a diplomatic question. Editors, from what I know, spend most of their time hating certain words and punctuation marks! I’ll offer you a favourite letter instead: ø. I just finished working on a book written by Norwegians, and I grew quite fond of the slashed o.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
From a luxurious mansion in the south of France, paid for with the millions of dollars I’ve made editing.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
Yes—in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, when I was freelancing and there was very little work. I’m very glad I didn’t retrain to become a dental hygienist.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
After I finished my undergrad degree, I moved to London, England, and looked for a job. It was the first time in my life I’d needed to consider my actual skill set. I saw a job posting for an editorial assistant, thought, “I could do that,” and applied. I had a job on my third day in the country, jet lag be damned. That pretty much settled my fate.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Just like that 1970s poster featuring a kitten hanging on for dear life, “Hang in there.”
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 Nicole North.
By Alethea Spiridon
Nicole Lapin knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wildly successful career woman who has blazed a path for herself as both a businesswoman (launching the CASH Smartwatch) and as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC. A boss bitch is the “she-ro” of her own story, Lapin writes on page 1 of the Boss Bitch: “She is the heroine who doesn’t need saving because she has her own shit handled. I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a ‘boss’ in all aspects of the word.”
That opening sets the tone and pace for this marvellous book that will no doubt empower women who need a nudge, or even an all-out kick in the butt, to take their career—and life—to the next level, and to be as successful as wanted and needed. Lapin’s tone is forthright and honest, and girlfriend to girlfriend, something she says at the outset is exactly how she intends it to be.
Her voice and approach make the content relatable and easy to digest; it’s like going for drinks with a great friend who has your back, but calls you out on your nonsense because all she wants is the best for you. Lapin has plenty of insights to share that can really help women get back on track or consider what track to finally take to become the Boss Bitch in their own lives. (more…)
by Emma Warnken Johnson
When I first started full-time freelancing a little over a year ago, I worried about working from home. Would I feel cooped up in my little apartment? Would I end up editing from my couch? Would I ever remember to leave the house again?
Luckily, I started freelancing just as the weather got warmer. After years of life as a nine-to-fiver, it shocked me to discover that Toronto is a busy, bustling place—all day, every day. This is even truer in the summer: businesses bust down their doors and windows and spill out onto the sidewalks, and people take advantage of every inch of outdoor space. Once I figured out how to do the same, Toronto summers quickly became one of my favourite things about going freelance. (more…)
By Dimitra Chronopoulos
How do independent bookstores in Toronto survive and thrive in today’s day and age? By knowing and caring about their customers, participating in conferences and community events, hosting events, and specializing. These were just some of the answers Editors Toronto and PWAC members heard during Editors Toronto’s inaugural bookstore crawl on Saturday, November 19, 2016.
We started at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street), a handsome and inviting space intentionally designed to accommodate special events. The dark wooden shelves and tables showcase history, biography, and hardcover fiction, but the store is known for carrying books you can’t find anywhere else and for fulfilling special orders. The staff know their customers and they listen carefully to match readers to the right books. Owner Ben McNally shared so much with us: what it’s like to have a TV show film in the store, why prices are printed on books (against the wishes and better interests of so many), how the economic downturn in 2008 affected his business, and why he fears Amazon but not Indigo (Indigo and McNally’s are in the same business and complement each other; Amazon is “a threat to neighbourhood culture”). One challenge of operating a bookstore in the downtown core? The lack of parking. The solution? Bookstore staff will stand on the sidewalk and hand orders to customers who drive past. Now that’s service. (more…)
The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].
By Savanna Scott Leslie
- Online tools make plagiarism easier to catch, but plagiarism is still a delicate subject to broach with writers. Adrienne Montgomerie shares some tips that you might find useful next time you query plagiarism. (Copyediting.com)
- Beyond plagiarism, sharing feedback with writers can be tough in general! Emma Darwin offers some great advice for ensuring that your feedback is not only respectful, but useful. (This Itch Of Writing: The Blog)
- Bryan Garner’s The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation came out this month. If you’re not sure whether to pick up a copy, you should check out Richard Adin’s review. (An American Editor)
- Following up on Adin’s April post about the value of editing, Karin Cather calls for uniform copyediting certification. She proposes universal testing because “it does the profession an injustice when we say that anyone should be able to say they are an editor, even though they have no education, training, or experience.” (Plainly Spoken)
- The value of editing services may not always be as clear to potential business partners as we’d like, but it becomes especially evident when a grammatical mistake completely reverses the intended meaning. Is that always such a bad thing? Here’s one example where a lack of editing may have changed the Texas Republican Party’s homophobic platform for the better. (NPR)*
- Rachele Kanigel, the Society of Professional Journalists, and other contributors have released the Diversity Style Guide. This guide to best practices for discussing ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, and more is available for free online. (Diversity Style Guide)
- Conference season is almost upon us! Have you registered for the Editors Canada National Conference on June 10–12 in Vancouver? If you’re on the fence about professional conferences, check out Carol Fisher Saller’s “Should You Attend an Editing Conference?” (The Subversive Copy Editor)
*Thanks to Sara Scharf for submitting this link.
Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant based in Hamilton, Ontario. She’s also a new and enthusiastic co-coordinator of Editors Hamilton-Halton, and she can’t help but shudder at the word co-coordinator.
This article was copy edited by Nicole North.
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.
Erin, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.
I’ve been in publishing since 2001. I had acquired my BA in English with a minor in publishing from SFU. I found a job as an editorial assistant in Hamilton, Ontario, on Workopolis; the interview was via telephone and it went very well. So I packed up my Honda Accord and drove across the country to my first “real” job. It was in medical book publishing, which was a far cry from my dream of being an editor at Random House, but I thought, perhaps naively, that it was just a matter of time. Needless to say, 15 years and only two jobs later, my current position is nowhere near what my 25-year-old self dreamt of, but I’ve since discovered that I am immensely satisfied by completely different aspects of the job.
I now work as managing editor of co-editions, meaning that I take books written for foreign markets and make them suitable for distribution in North America. There are so many different changes that need to be made to each book, from language and style to content and imagery. I liken it to a bunch of balloons that are constantly being pulled at by the wind, and I need to maintain a firm hold on every string. It’s much more project management than editing, but I manage to fill my creative well by designing book covers and interiors on a frequent basis. I’ve been fortunate to mould the job to my interests. (more…)
By Nina Munteanu
In my previous article, “The writer-editor relationship, part 1: Editors preparing writers,” I focused on clarifying expectations between editors and writers from the editor’s point of view. Part 2, this article, focuses on this same relationship from the writer’s point of view.
Clarity of expectation, honesty, and mutual respect are key features in a productive and successful writer-editor relationship. Writers expect editors to inform them if their expectations are out of line, and writers rely on editors’ honesty and transparency to let them know if they are comfortable with the task being asked of them. This, of course, is predicated on the editor’s full understanding of what that task is; again, it is the responsibility of the editor to determine the scope of work from the author—just as a doctor will ask key questions to diagnose a patient. If an editor has reservations, caveats, or limitations with the project, these should be shared upfront. Honesty is always best, and it should start right from the beginning so that mutual respect is cemented.
Below is a list of five things that writers wish editors knew—and followed.
1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue
Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.
A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback. (more…)
(Released October 2015)
By Nicole North
This latest book by world-renowned linguistics authority David Crystal showcases his talent for instructing writers of English while entertaining them with great wit and a punchy narrative style. Punctuation is the focus of Making a Point, and Crystal gives a detailed and straightforward history of its use as well as effective advice.
For Crystal, punctuation is about improving legibility, avoiding ambiguity, reflecting the natural rhythms of speech, and clarifying complex sentences. Editors and writers of all sorts will find this book helpful. Crystal uses examples from an impressive array of works—short stories, poetry, novels, essays, advertisements, and emoji-laden text.
Each example illustrates topics pertinent not only to specific genres of writing but also to greater points about today’s uses of punctuation. This study of punctuation as a window into linguistics in general and effective communication in particular elucidates a key aspect of writing and editing. (more…)