Interview conducted by Alicja Minda.
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 senior publications editor at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a think tank located in Waterloo, Ontario, where I grew up. I’ve worked there since moving back to the region more than 10 years ago, after a period living in Toronto and working in educational publishing. CIGI publishes a variety of publications, including essay series, papers, and reports as outputs of research on global issues related to digital technologies and international governance.
I’ve been working as an editor for almost 20 years. My university degree is in sociology, which I think is a bit unusual for an editor—people usually assume I have an English degree. I took courses as part of Certificate in Publishing at X University (formerly Ryerson University) to help develop my editing skills. When I was first pursuing a career as an editor, I thought my dream job would be in scholarly or academic publishing, so my current role is a good fit.
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
What a tough question! I immediately think of fiction authors, probably because I read more fiction than non-fiction books, but I’ve never edited fiction and I don’t think I would be very good at it. I’m a fan of English food writer and cookbook author Nigel Slater. His books are good to look through before bed if my brain is too tired or overwhelmed to get into a novel. Editing his work would also fulfill my secret ambition of being a cookbook editor.
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
My favourite punctuation mark is the em dash because it’s so versatile. It can help reduce the number of commas in a complex sentence or add emphasis to a phrase.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
Probably somewhere in the United Kingdom. I spent some time living in Cambridge, England, and there was a point in my life when I would have jumped at the opportunity to work as an editor for a university press or a London book publisher.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
Not really, although there were times at the beginning when trying to get into the industry and to find a full-time position was discouraging. I feel fortunate to be where I am now and to have the chance to work on a variety of publications on interesting and important topics.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
I think editing chose me. I read constantly as a kid. One time in grade 3, I remember my teacher leaving the room and telling the class to ask me if anyone needed to know how to spell a word. Later I realized I enjoyed revising my own writing and that of others. I considered applying to journalism programs, but I decided I preferred editing to writing.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?
Ask questions and be tactful. CIGI’s authors are experts in their fields. When I’m copy editing their work, I strive to maintain their voice but also think about the reader when I make suggestions and ask questions.
Alicja Minda is a freelance editor based in Toronto. She is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.
This article was copy edited by Katherine Morton, MBA, BA, a freelance editor with global clients.