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Editor for Life: Pamela Capraru, Copy and Stylistic Editor

Interview conducted by Arija Berzitis.

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.

Photo of Pamela Capraru

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’ve worked as a copy editor in Toronto for over 30 years, mainly for magazines: Toronto Life, Azure, and The Walrus, both in-house and freelance. I received a National Magazine Award as co-winner for best editorial package in The Walrus, a rare honour for a copy editor. I started out typing manuscripts on octuplicate carbon paper at Maclean’s, took a job at TV Guide as editorial secretary, got promoted to copy editor, and earned my master’s at UOTJ (University on the Job). Once I found my niche, I chose to specialize and hone my skills rather than climb up the editorial hierarchy. Except for internships, which don’t provide the same intensive hands-on training, those entry-level positions no longer exist. That long arc gave me a foundation in print production and took me from the introduction of desktop publishing all the way up to electronic editing today. Since 2001, I’ve been freelancing full time for a diverse range of clients, from marketing departments and custom content firms to government agencies, non-profits, and academic presses. I’m “content agnostic,” which means I can edit pretty much anything for publication.

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Recap of A Discussion on the Business of Editing

by Anna Patricia Cairns

five women of colour sitting around boardroom table, talking

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

The November 26, 2019, Editors Toronto meeting was unlike any of the other meetings I’d attended. The room was set up with an open circle of chairs to allow attendees to participate as mentors or mentees in an informal, face-to-face discussion. A second, inner circle of chairs was added as more people arrived.

We started with an outline of the evening’s activities: a business meeting, then a question-and-answer discussion period, followed by socializing.

The twenty-minute business meeting was professional, yet brief. We were told different formats were being discussed for future monthly meetings, such as partnering with other organizations, more panel discussions, and day-long learning events.

The meeting started with introductions all around. Approximately 50 people were present. Some were seasoned editors, but most were students.

The seasoned editors were experienced in a range of areas: fiction, non-fiction, medical, scientific, scholarly, insurance, finance, magazines and journals. Students hailed from Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, Queen’s University, and Ryerson University.

With so many students present, the discussions centred on starting out in the business of editing. Here are the most in-depth conversations that took place:

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Editors Unplugged: Get to know our panellist for Making Smart Choices: Which freelance projects are right for you?

 Interview conducted by Sandra Otto.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand. 

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Michelle Waitzman, who will be talking about ways to evaluate new opportunities, so you can move your career in the direction you want. 

Making Smart Choices: Which freelance projects are right for you? is based on her standing-room-only session at the 2019 Editors Canada conference in Halifax (co-presented with Jess Shulman).

Was there a time you stepped outside your comfort zone and loved it?

To be honest, I don’t find my “comfort zone” all that comfortable because I’m easily bored. As a result, I’m always pushing outside of it. The biggest leap I’ve taken out of my comfort zone was the most rewarding. In 2005, I moved from Toronto to Wellington, New Zealand, where I had no job lined up and no friends or family. I loved it there and stayed for seven years (and met my now-husband)! But professionally speaking, I think as a freelancer you sometimes need a “fake it till you make it” attitude. I often apply for “moonshot” gigs because you never know when someone will say yes. For example, I responded to a job posting for writing biographical material in the computer science field. I have no computer science background, and the only bios I’d written before were short website blurbs. I got the gig, and so far I’ve had the opportunity to write 15,000-word biographies of five fascinating people who’ve all won the highest honour in computer science, the A.M. Turing Award.

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Making Smart Choices: Which freelance projects are right for you?

Date: Tuesday, January 28, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Location: Viola Desmond Room (3rd floor) at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 192 Spadina Ave.
Map: goo.gl/maps/VRvEPVLumjmuHWbz8

In 2020, get the jobs you really want and stop working on projects you might regret later. Michelle Waitzman’s Making Smart Choices: Which freelance projects are right for you? is based on her standing-room-only session at the 2019 Editors Canada conference in Halifax (co-presented with Jess Shulman).

The discussion will include ways to methodically evaluate new opportunities, so you can move your career in the direction you want. Bring a pen and paper (or your favourite device), and you’ll leave with a game plan for the year ahead. In this interactive presentation, we’ll crowdsource ideas and share experiences. Whether you are just starting out as a freelancer or have decades of experience, Michelle will get you thinking about what you’d love to work on and what you’d rather avoid.

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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 2

by Natalia Iwanek

Stethoscope next to a laptop on a white surface.

Photo by Negative Space from Pexels

On Tuesday, November 26, we published the first part of a feature on freelance editing as an option for people living with chronic illness or disability. This is the second and last part of that feature. To read Part 1, click here.

The editing community is incredibly diverse. I hope that by highlighting our varied experiences through the following two interviews, I will inspire editors to see how life-changing this career can be.

Jane (not her real name) is a freelance editor with a PhD in a highly specialized field. She describes living with a chronic illness, while freelance editing part-time and working part-time at a research job that sometimes involves writing and editing.

What made you get into editing? Was this a career goal or was it something you naturally gravitated toward over the years?

Editing is something I’ve done on the side since high school. I formalized my editing career as a business after I got laid off from a different job in 2013. Part of the reason why I continue to edit is that I enjoy it, but another reason is that, with my niche skills, it pays well per hour and with minimal effort compared to some other work that I could be doing.

In what ways, if at all, has your illness impacted your editing career? Have you had to overcome any barriers?

I have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the digestive system and sometimes other organ systems as well. The medications I’ve been on for the past 15 years have kept most of the worst symptoms under control most of the time, but I still get sick frequently and unpredictably and also suffer from debilitating bouts of fatigue lasting from days to weeks, again at unpredictable intervals.

Crohn’s is a complete career killer. I was unable to pursue a career in academia because of the restrictions it put on my ability to do certain kinds of research (because of the immune-suppressing medications I’m on), to travel easily (because of my inflexible treatment schedule), and to obtain affordable health insurance anywhere other than Canada. (Health insurance for anyone other than full-time, tenure-track faculty often has a yearly cap at around what my medications cost per month.) I worked outside of academia for several years but had a succession of bad bosses who did not abide by the accommodations my doctors outlined. I was pressed to work more than I could handle, ended up on sick leave, and then was punished for it.

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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 1

by Natalia Iwanek

Call it a sixth sense or intuition but sometimes the human body is capable of warning us of impending danger. Although strange symptoms had plagued me for years, I simply attributed them to overwork or stress and continued with my regular routine. Unfortunately, January 25, 2017, was the start of my life-altering journey.

I woke up experiencing an unusually severe stiffness in my lower back. As the day progressed, I felt a sharp snap in my spine. The pain took my breath away. Subconsciously, I knew that something had changed deep within my body and that this was no ordinary injury. Thus began years of physiotherapy, acupuncture, hospital visits, and perplexed doctors who could not understand why my spine refused to heal.

I developed increasingly concerning symptoms, such as debilitating exhaustion, memory problems, and severe allergic reactions, but doctors assured me that this was normal for those with chronic pain.  Meanwhile, I rapidly lost weight and grew weaker daily.

The time had come to revaluate my future plans. I needed to finish my education and choose a flexible career path. What better career than editing for someone who reads voraciously and has a strong grasp of grammar?

Between appointments, work, and excruciating pain, I enrolled in Simon Fraser University’s Editing Certificate program, and returned to Athabasca University to finish the remaining credits of my degree. Both programs are highly recommended for those who require a flexible, non-traditional route for their education.

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A Discussion on the Business of Editing

Stock photo of people in a group (faces not in frame), gesturing with their hands, having a conversation

Date: Tuesday, November 26, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Viola Desmond Room (3rd floor) at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 192 Spadina Ave.
Map: goo.gl/maps/VRvEPVLumjmuHWbz8

We are thrilled to have received amazing feedback from our members through our recent programming survey. As it turns out, many of you want more of a community feel to our programs and are looking for opportunities to get to know your fellow editors. So, this month, we are hosting an evening of connecting and chatting about the business of editing.

The evening will begin with a short Editors Toronto business meeting. We’ll follow that with introductions and a moderated discussion on the business of editing. You will have a chance to present your questions to the group and share your own expertise with others. The floor will be open to talk to peers about anything related to working as an editor.

Potential discussion points include:

  • finding and keeping clients
  • pricing your services
  • training opportunities
  • dealing with challenging situations
  • managing your time and prioritizing jobs
  • working from home vs. working in-house
  • marketing yourself (e.g., website, social media)
  • leveraging Editors Canada to achieve your goals

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Editor for Life: Michael Mirolla, publisher and editor-in-chief, Guernica Editions

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 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.

Michael Mirolla

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.

Right now, I live in Hamilton (on The Mountain, as they call it around here—the bottom end of the escarpment). Before that, I lived in Montreal, Mount Forest (with its “Happy & High” motto on the water tower), Toronto, and Oakville—with a teaching stint in Nigeria just for a bit of variety. My partner and I have run Guernica Editions for ten years, a Canadian literary publishing house where I serve as editor-in-chief, cook, and bottle washer. One of my tasks is to evaluate and then help edit any accepted manuscripts that come in. The great thing about editing manuscripts at a literary press is you get to work on different genres. We publish between 30 and 40 books a year and the final editing always comes through me. In some cases, the manuscripts are shipped out (a metaphor really, as they are sent electronically) to some freelance editors we have on call. They do the heavy lifting. By the time the manuscript comes to me, I’m mostly looking for consistency and formatting. In other cases, I take on the task of editing from start to finish. That includes checking the final PDF typeset version and even making sure the title and author name are spelled correctly!

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