Editor for Life (Alt Answers)

Editor for Life (Alt Answers)

Being a lifer, 27 years in, Editors Canada (Toronto) contacted me for an interview for their website. Keith Goddard had some good questions and, of course, I couldn’t answer thoroughly in a blog’s space. So here are my alternative answers!

QPlease tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

My career actually began when I was writing at a small town alternative newspaper and a grass-roots outdoor magazine. Those two managing editors supported and encouraged me as a creative. A couple years later, while working at the local ski club, I met an editor who took me under her wing. That town is 300 km north of Toronto, where the Internet barely stretched, outside a town of 5000 called Parry Sound. Both that town and Kingston, where I now live, are very white — though one is far more affluent than the other — so I’m grateful for my childhood spent near the biggest landmarks in one the world’s most multicultural cities: Toronto.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

This is an interesting question. My first thought is “oh no, I don’t want to see their first drafts!” So who would I dare edit? Editing is such an intimate act, working so closely with someone to polish their warts. Seeing a heroine’s “sloppy copy” could be very disheartening. Terry O’Reilly might be fun to work with, though, kudos to his editor because that writing sounds exactly like him talking, which means the most convoluted and precise grammar to make sense in print. But I’d love a crack at working with a humourist! Leecock award hopefuls: get in touch!

What: What is the one thing that has helped you the most in your career as an editor?

Curiosity, and knowing I deserve to make ends meet. Curiosity is what makes reading technical manuals (my typical work) interesting, and it helps me react with humility when a writer tries something I assume is wrong — I have the curiosity to look into the reasons behind what they’ve tried before deciding whether to steer them in a different direction or even raise a counterpoint (whether grammatical or logical).

My love of eating and sleeping indoors gives me the confidence to charge what I need to live a full life for my whole life, including retirement and caring for my loved ones.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

As a freelancer who’s always worked online and met only 3 clients in almost 30 years, I literally can work from anywhere. It turns out, where I want to work from is close to family and other people and places I want to spend time with. That’s why I moved to Kingston (at the eastern tip of Lake Ontario). When I sign up for an improv comedy class and find four other accomplished editors there (one a “best in show” award winner), I know I’ve landed in the right place.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

I don’t question editing, but I do question the isolation and income insecurity that come with freelancing. Not being “employed” brings invalidation in the forms of a bank refusing me a mortgage because I “could stop working at any time“, while knowing that the cafe staff qualified for one. There’s a lot of modern life that is easier to navigate when you’re an employee. But every time I take my laptop to someone who is sick so I can care for them between work sprints, or take off in the middle of the day to ski in the 20 minutes of sunshine, I feel good about where I landed. (I definitely would have worked “in-house” (a.k.a. a job) if I lived where there was a “house”; but the “use of home” tax write-offs are not an insignificant benefit of freelancing!)

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Honestly, I was trying to be a writer, but my eventual mentor asked me to help them out, and I saw that editors earn a lot more money than writers do, and a lot more steadily. Editors may even earn a living! I wanted to work with words, with a flexible lifestyle, and editing offered it.

How would you sum up your motto?

It’s hard to offer an alt answer here, as anyone who’s encountered me online might have trouble pinning down my motto as there are several that I repeat often: 

  • charge more
  • perfect is impossible
  • there’s got to be an easier way, Word!

Find me at the Editors Canada conference in Vancouver, June 2024. This year’s theme is “Please pack your puns, peers! We’ll prepare the party. — Brought to you by the letter P.”

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