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 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 am the managing and production editor at ECW Press, based in Toronto.
It’s hard to quantify how long I’ve been an editor, but my career undeniably took off two years ago. During the pandemic, a friend who was a publicist at ECW knew I was looking to pick up more contract editorial work. She introduced me to the audiobook manager as a potential “auditor” (get it?), something I had never done before. Like a proofreader, I’d proof listen to a finished recording to catch any final mistakes, following along with a PDF of the book to check for voice and text accuracy. I would then record the time-stamps of those mistakes and any major distractions, such as mispronunciations, extraneous noises, clicks, too-long or too-short pauses, and ill-timed breath intakes.
After a few months of audiobook proofing, ECW offered me a job as an editorial coordinator responsible for overseeing the editorial process and schedules for books already halfway through production. Almost a year after that, I was promoted to my current position. I manage the production schedules for about 20–25 titles per year, hire freelancers (editors, illustrators, indexers, etc.), check corrections, and generally make sure authors and manuscripts stay on track at each stage of editing. My job also includes creating e-books and occasionally typesetting books. It is so satisfying to hold a physical book in my hands and think, “I helped make this happen.”
Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?
At this stage, I would never presume to edit a famous author. But if I could go back and help produce one book for an author, it would be Jane Austen. If I could hear first-hand how Sanditon was supposed to end, I would sleep much better!
What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?
Ellipses. I love a pregnant pause. The anticipation! So much can be left to the imagination or read between the dots. My mind automatically wants to fill in the blank, and it feels like I’m participating in the story.
Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?
I think I would stay right where I am in Toronto. There is so much storytelling talent in this city and in this country that I want to be around to see the Canadian publishing industry grow.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?
There have been countless times when I questioned my career choice. I had a tough time getting started in the industry. There were, and still are, many highly and equally talented editors who wanted to be a part of it, and I felt there was not enough room for me. Who would possibly take a chance on me? I interviewed for several internships and jobs and came close but never got hired. I almost gave up and thought, “Maybe I can work the retail job I have for the rest of my life.” And then the pandemic happened, and I didn’t have that job either. But by some miracle, someone was looking out for me, and I was offered a chance out of the blue to work with an amazing team, creating beautiful and phenomenal books.
Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?
I think the question should be, “Why did ECW choose me?” I ask myself that every day. Regardless, I am so grateful that they did because I’ve never been happier in a job.
What has always attracted me to editing is its collaborative nature—more than one person believes in a story and will work to shape it to its full potential. With editing, I find it’s not always about rules but about getting creative with solutions and finding a pattern and a rhythm that best communicates what is already there.
And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how:How would you sum up your motto?
Always set your “Undo Send” email feature to the longest possible time. I’m kidding! Never say never. Stay open to the possibilities.
Jennifer D. Foster (she/her) is a Toronto-based freelance editor, writer, and mentor, and owner of Planet Word.
This article was copy edited by Małgosia Halliop.