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.
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’m the managing editor of the paperbacks division of Penguin Random House Canada in Toronto. I love working on books in their “second life” [Editor’s Note: paperbacks are second format editions] and am lucky to have a bird’s eye view of the company by working alongside the publishing, design, production, sales, and marketing teams. It’s always an adventure with sometimes a dozen books in different stages of production landing on my desk during any given day.
I’m relatively new in the editing game. I moved to Canada in 2017 from New York City where my previous work was managing the publicity department at the illustrated reference publisher DK. I’ve been building up a side business these last few years, moonlighting as a copy editor, proofreader, and Americanizer for several children’s book publishers in the US.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
Shirley Jackson has been a favourite writer of mine since high school English class introduced me to “The Lottery.” Steeped in American Gothic perversity, this short story prompted a deep dive into the history of the woman who created it, and I was not disappointed when I found her to be a proto-feminist and self-proclaimed amateur witch among many other things.
It would be thrilling to have deliberated over and refined her work—so ahead of its time. And really, who wouldn’t have wanted to be part of the shaping of one of the best ghost stories of all time in The Haunting of Hill House?
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
It’s not so much a favourite word as it is a love/hate relationship with the word guarantee. I guarantee I will misspell this word every time I try to type it, and probably even the second and third time doing so. Where do all those vowels need to go? It’s not often a word causes frustration and awe in equal measure.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
I certainly could get some editing done from a cabin with a wood-burning fireplace and a view of the Catskills as the backdrop. I’m happiest in nature when there is access to a big city when the need for cultural excitement kicks in.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
Absolutely. I’d imagine we as editors all have some level of imposter syndrome. It was a leap to move from publicity to editorial work, but one I’m grateful I made.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
I have a wandering mind. For as long as I can remember I routinely have what can best be described as a brain itch while reading—it’s when something in a text causes me to pause and consider whether the correct spelling, grammar, or usage was employed. Once the itch hits, it has to be scratched by checking whatever handy dictionary, style guide, or grammar blog has to say on the matter. I’m forever curious about why writers and editors choose the path they’ve taken in a piece of work, and paired with a penchant for quiet and methodical tasks, editing seemed a likely match for me.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Do no harm. I’m sure I’ve seen this motto in previous “Editor for Life” profiles, but it often reverberates as I’m working through projects. It’s my job as a managing editor to clarify an author’s words while also preserving the author’s voice. Less tinkering, more querying has always been my modus operandi.
Adrineh Der-Boghossian is a freelance copy editor, proofreader, and translator based in Toronto. Formerly the editor-in-chief of BoldFace, she is now the proofreader of The Editors’ Weekly.
This article was copy edited by Amanda Clarke.