“Authors Talk Editing” with Ying S. Lee

Our meeting on Tuesday, November 16 featured Kingston author Ying Lee.

About Ying

Ying was born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and Toronto, and lived for a spell in England. As she completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she began to research a story about a girl detective in 1850s London. The result was her debut novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House, which won the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s inaugural John Spray Mystery Award in 2011.

The Agency quartet continued with The Body at the Tower, The Traitor and the Tunnel, both of which were nominated for awards, and Rivals in the City. The novels were published by Candlewick Press (US, Canada) and Walker Books (UK, Australia) and have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, and Turkish.

In her previous life as an academic, Ying wrote Masculinity and the English Working Class (published by Routledge). She now lives in Kingston. Visit her website at https://yslee.com/the-author/.

First Experience of Being Edited

When Ying was working on her PhD thesis, her two supervisors were excellent substantive editors: they engaged with it deeply and asked the right questions at the right time. That was crucial for her: it attuned her to things that she couldn’t see because she was too far inside the work to see the broader context.

As a result of this early positive experience, she learned to love being edited. While she was the content expert in this one small area, she could learn a lot from her editors; they could all work together to make her thesis a stronger project. When an academic press offered to publish her thesis, she was surprised and disappointed that it wasn’t edited at all. She had been hoping for someone to help make it better.

She was interested in writing at the time and wrote two textbook-like graphic novels for Rubicon Press’s Timeline series, Olympic Gold and Boxcar Riders. Such books are now called “high-low novels” because they have relatively sophisticated subject matter, but use a fairly limited vocabulary. They’re geared to students in Grades 6 to 8 or Grades 5 to 7 who are reading with a Grade 3 vocabulary. The books seek to engage these readers without being condescending and to allow them to read independently.

This was a massive learning experience. She learned how to write a script for a graphic novel and how not to offer much stage direction to the illustrator. She also learned to write in a controlled fashion with a limited word count and careful vocabulary. It was also good fun – she got to do research into history, which she loves, and it was good training in focused writing. This second foray into academic publishing was more positive than the first.

The Agency Series

Ying was also, at the time, finishing a historical detective novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House, which was a conventional historical mystery novel for adults. She sent it to her agent, who said, “You do realize this is a coming-of-age story?” and recommended that Ying rewrite it as a young adult (YA) novel.

This was in 2006, when the Twilight series (of vampire romance novels written by Stephenie Myer) was really taking off, and while those novels have come under much criticism, they opened up an entire space in publishing, creating a niche that hadn’t existed before. Everyone who works in YA now owes a small debt to Stephenie Meyer. YA is still a genre with a wide readership, and it’s still commercially successful, although no longer for historical novels.

Ying didn’t know anything about YA, so how to rewrite her novel for that genre? She decided to do so by creating one that she would have wanted to read as a young adult. And her agent sold it to Walker Books in the UK. The Agency: A Spy in the House was published in 2008 in the UK and later by Walker’s sister press in Massachusetts, Candlewick Press.

So the book was acquired and edited in London and Americanized for the US market. Ying received two sets of editorial feedback, one more substantial than the other because the two editions couldn’t be far apart. The American editor would ask the copy editor for a very light Americanization, and it would come back totally Americanized. Ying would then go through and stet three-quarters of the copy editing, an approach that the editor wholeheartedly endorsed because she agreed that the novel would otherwise lose a lot of its flavour.

Ying met her UK editor a few times but otherwise worked with both editors remotely, and the process worked really well. Her advice to aspiring editors of fiction would be to communicate clearly, assume the best of people’s intentions, be timely, and be respectful of other people’s opinions while being respectful of your own boundaries.

Ying had written the first half of the second novel, The Body at the Tower, when she gave birth to her first child, and she was so tired all the time that writing the second half was difficult. Thus, the editorial work focused on making sure that the two halves were balanced. Her UK editor helped, for example, by saying, “This scene is far too long; you need to cut three pages” or advising Ying to choose between two conflicting plot threads.

The Traitor in the Tunnel was fun to write. It’s about Buckingham Palace and the royal family, and because Ying is fundamentally republican, it resulted in a lot of collaboration between Ying and her UK editor. The Agency series was originally pitched as a trilogy, but Ying wanted to write a fourth book because she’d run out of space for her ideas and she realized that the threads of the relationship between the protagonist and her love interest needed to be drawn together. Her editors were enthusiastic, and Rivals in the City was written.

“Ahistorical Fiction”

Ying has coined this term, which she defines as fiction that stands slightly outside; it’s not counter-historical but, rather, interested in what happens in the shadows. It pushes the entire premise of the Agency series: a 19th-century woman’s detective agency. But there is precedent: Alpha Behn, the 18th-century playwright and courtier, was also a spy. Also, the 1840s and 1850s saw the rise of women’s education, including higher education. Taking these facts together, one could make a theoretical case for a woman’s detective agency in 1858 London. Both editors encouraged this approach, pushing these boundaries, although historians were unhappy with it. Consider Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and other books about the rise of Thomas Cromwell; she does a lot of research but receives a lot of criticism from historians.

As far as editing goes, there was some fact checking. Neither the UK nor the US editor queried the historical references or facts too much but relied on Ying’s presentation and judgment. Ying wanted to preserve historical facts (such as what day of the week a date fell on) but also used a little leeway in her plots. Most historical romance novels focus on the upper class, but there isn’t very much about ordinary working people, and she wanted to upend that approach. Both editors were on board with that.

Short Stories

Ying has written three short stories to date. One is about the Kingston Penitentiary for Women for the teen anthology Life Is Short and Then You Die, published by Macmillan for the Mystery Writers of America. The editor, Kelley Armstrong, was involved in the substantive editing, and an independent editor did more substantive and copy editing. The Macmillan editor checked for house style; she was fierce, and Ying had a lot of respect for that approach because it ensured that the story was as good as it could be.

She contributed a historical short story to A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by US YA novelist Jessica Spotswood and published by Candlewick Press. There were two layers of editing, but all Ying’s interaction was with Jessica, who had some good concerns and a real eye for things like length of scenes, etc. This was Ying’s first experience of being edited by someone who was also working in YA fiction.

The third short story was her first foray into independent publishing, a contribution to Underwater Ballroom Society, a collection of fantasy and science fiction stories edited by Stephanie Burgis and Tiffany Trent. It was Ying’s first fantasy short story, and she’s grateful for that editorial nudge to expand the boundaries of her writing.

Current Projects

Ying’s first picture book is coming out with Groundwood in 2023. The editorial process was bumpy. The first readers were friends, and the first draft was about 900 words. Ying sent it to her UK editor, who advised that most picture books are in the 400-word range. So Ying had to take out more than half the words, which was initially daunting; but she winnowed the draft down to 470 words. This editorial advice was much more helpful than any generic comments one can find on the Internet. The story has now been through a substantive edit. It took only half an hour on the phone, the fastest revision process of Ying’s career. But the story would never have got to that point without all the previous rounds of comments and all the fresh eyes.

Ying has also been writing poetry since the start of the pandemic. She’s a member of a workshop, which meets most weeks to critique each other’s fresh material. She dislikes creating a first draft but loves revising – paring down and moving things around.

The Experience of Being Edited

Ying enjoys the editorial process and is grateful for all the excellent editors she’s worked with. They’ve brought so much to her books but don’t get a lot of credit. By the time an author gets to the point of working with a professional editor, they’ll hopefully approach editing as a learning process and be willing to accept an editor’s contribution as improving the original text.

Coming Up

Our December social will take place on Monday, December 13. We’ve booked a table at Tir Nan Og in downtown Kingston but are watching the number of COVID-19 numbers closely. If we don’t meet in person, we’ll hold a virtual social. Hope to see you on the 13th!

Issues for New Editors

The topic of the Editors Kingston meeting on Tuesday, October 19 was “Issues for New Editors.” Five new people attended the event, all of whom were either new or aspiring editors. The event was split into three general topics: different types of editing, how to get freelance work, and pricing and contracts. The speakers’ bios appear at the end of this post.

Different Types of Editing

The first speaker was Kristina Stanley, CEO of Fictionary. Kristina explained that the different types of editing are blurred, so it is not always easy to determine the type of editing required for each project. This is particularly true when the client is not sure what type of editing their manuscript requires.

Kristina explained that there are four “levels” of editing:

  1. High-level editing: a high-level edit requires the editor to determine whether the book flows and makes sense to the reader.
  2. Line editing: this level of editing is at the paragraph level. This involves editing for flow and moving paragraphs and sentences around.
  3. Copy editing: this involves editing for grammar and punctuation.
  4. Proofreading: this is the final check before the manuscript is complete. It involves checking for formatting errors and typos.

Kristina recommended that editors try to focus on the type of editing that they have been hired to do. However, they can highlight consistent errors that are being made at a different level; for example, an editor carrying out a line edit can highlight consistent copy editing errors or rules in their feedback letter. Likewise, a copy editor can mention structural issues to the author without focusing on them.

As many new authors do not know what type of editing their manuscript needs, there is some responsibility on the part of the editor to let the author know what it requires. The best way to determine this is to request a sample of the writing – bearing in mind that an author may send their best chapter as a sample, so it may not accurately reflect the work that is required!

To encourage more fiction writers to return for editing services, Kristina recommends hosting webinars through Eventbrite or StreamYard. Webinars are a great way of demonstrating your skills and the value you can bring to a project, talking directly with your clients, and getting your name out there.

How to Get Freelance Work

The second speaker was Stephanie Stone, editor and co-coordinator of Editors Kingston. Stephanie suggested that one good way to get work is to go where your clients are. This may mean joining a writers’ group to network with people who are currently writing and perhaps looking for an editor. You could also attend conferences for writers (e.g., conferences for fiction writers).

Stephanie also recommended investing in professional development. One way of doing this is by joining Editors Canada; it provides legitimacy in the eyes of potential employees or clients, immediate access to the National Job Board, and access to a local branch or twig. You can also attend other twigs’ meetings or seminars. Furthermore, after registering, you are able to create a profile in the Editors Canada Online Directory so people can search for you and see your skills and areas of expertise.

Other ways to invest in professional development include taking courses, reading books, visiting websites (e.g., ACES, the American Copy Editors Society; Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, CIEP, in the UK), joining social media groups, and posting information online to get your name out there. This can also be achieved by telling friends, family, and people in your professional network that you are looking for editing work. Volunteering can also be helpful, or even working for free to build up experience for your résumé. Creating a strong CV is also really important; a skills-based CV will highlight what you have to offer than one that itemizes your work history.

Creating a website can be a useful way to get your name out there while demonstrating your portfolio. However, a website is not always necessary. LinkedIn can provide you with a platform to demonstrate your experience, and you can even include testimonials from clients. Ensure that you follow up with clients for referrals and testimonials.

PubLaunch is a freelance marketing website where freelancers can find work. The platform takes a cut of the earnings, but you get to set your own rates.

Pricing and Contracts

The final speaker was Elizabeth d’Anjou.


Elizabeth explained that there is no one standard rate that a freelance editor has to charge; professional editors are able to set their own rates. Higher rates may depend on the type of work or client you are working with and how good a businessperson you are.

Being a freelance editor is like running your own business, so you can charge as much as clients are willing to pay. The median rate for copy editing in Canada is $25–$65 an hour. Rates are not necessarily going up, but they are not coming down, either. It is also important to consider non-billable hours: the hours that are not spent copy editing but carrying out other work-related tasks. A full-time editing job will consist of around 25 hours of actual editing, with a 2:1 ratio of working to doing other business-related activities. In addition, when thinking about quotes, it is important to factor in overhead costs, such as computer, Wi-Fi, webinars, books, etc. For a rough estimate of your annual salary, you can take your hourly rate and multiply it by 1,000.

In order to determine an appropriate quote for a job, it is important to find out as much as possible about the job. If the quote is too high, it will put the client off. If the quote is too low, it can also put a client off as it may seem as though you are not serious or qualified enough. Do not be afraid to ask the client for their budget, especially when the client has worked with an editor before.

When preparing an estimate, do not underestimate how long a project will take. Remember that a project will take multiple passes. Depending on the type of project, consider that tables, reference lists, etc. can take longer to edit. New editors may not get it right the first time, but they will get better with experience. Elizabeth also recommended building in three hours of face-to-face time with the client for consultation: one each at the start, in the middle, and towards the end.

Asking for a sample of the manuscript can help provide an estimate. A sample will help you determine the type of editing and the amount of work required. An estimate can be per word or per page; a page is 250 words, on average.


A contract between an editor and a client does not replace a good relationship. A contract makes sure that everyone understands each other and what is expected from a project, so it is clear what editing means. A contract should include clear descriptions of what the project is, clear timelines, and an outline of the process; this helps to determine how long the project will take. Editors Canada has developed a sample contract that can be adapted by freelance editors.

Other useful resources for contracts are

  • The book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client by Karin Cather and Dick Margulis.
  • The Queen’s University legal team, which provides free legal service and can review contracts.

It is not, however, necessary to have a contract. Ensuring that any phone conversations are written up in an email afterwards will help to develop a mutual understanding between the editor and the client, and sometimes this correspondence can replace a contract.

About Kristina Stanley

Combining her degree in computer mathematics with her success as a bestselling, award-winning author and fiction editor, Kristina is the creator and CEO of Fictionary. She is the founder of the Fictionary StoryCoach certification program and teaches editors worldwide how to perform a structural edit on long-form fiction. She is the story-editing adviser to the Alliance of Independent Authors and was on the Board of Directors of the Story Studio Writing Society. Her dream is to combine people and technology to help writers and editors turn words into great stories.

About Stephanie Stone

Stephanie began copy editing in the early 1980s with a textbook publisher in Toronto, then moved to a trade publisher to work as a production editor – not just copy editing but also laying out and proofreading the typeset pages, sometimes indexing, and working closely with the editors, authors, designers, typesetters, and printers. She learned on the job but gained most of her editing skills by taking courses through the Freelance Editors Association of Canada, the forerunner of Editors Canada.

In 1987, she moved to Kingston to work as a technical writer and trainer with a local software consulting company; she also copy edited the work of the other technical writers and developed in-house style guides. In 2001, she started her own company, which had a few years of ups and downs but finally landed on its feet with three anchor clients. Some of that success was due to a referral from a member of Editors Kingston. She now retains one client and is one of the coordinators of Editors Kingston.

About Elizabeth d’Anjou

Elizabeth has been an editor for 30 years, most of them as a freelancer with a diverse client base. Typical editing projects in recent years have included research grant applications, educational materials for non-profits, and specialty books by entrepreneurs. She also teaches courses in grammar and copy editing in the Ryerson University Publishing program and is in demand as a workshop presenter on various aspects of editing. She lives in Picton and is a former coordinator of Editors Kingston.

Coming Up

Tuesday, November 16, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Authors Talk Editing” with Kingston author Ying Lee. Ying is enjoying considerable success with the four books in her young adult mystery series, The Agency. Come and listen to her speak about her books and her experience of being edited. http://yslee.com/

December – We hope to have an in-person social. Date and details to be announced.

September “Meet and Greet”

A small group of members and non-members, and one visitor, gathered at Lake Ontario Park on Tuesday, September 21. We’d postponed the event from the previous Tuesday because of the weather, and this night was perfect. We’d moved the start time to 6:30 from 7:00 since the days are getting shorter.

We introduced ourselves to each other and described our background and careers in editing as well as any courses we’d taken. One member later described being surprised at how varied everyone’s experience has been. We also talked about the job opportunities that have come to our attention recently and that we’ve alerted members to. The discussion then went on to some of the issues involved in starting a freelance editing business and the books and authors we’re reading.

One of our goals was to enable people to meet in person and get comfortable with each other, something that’s awkward, if not difficult, on Zoom. Most of our meetings this year will be on Zoom, although we hope to organize some informal, in-person gatherings as well.

Coming Up

Tuesday, October 19, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Issues for New Editors” – What’s involved in getting started in editing, for both freelance and in-house editors? We’ll pose your questions to the seasoned editors in the group.

Tuesday, November 16, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Authors Talk Editing” with Kingston author Ying Lee. Ying is enjoying considerable success with the four books in her young adult mystery series, The Agency. Come and listen to her speak about her books and her experience of being edited. http://yslee.com/

December – We hope to have an in-person social. Date and details to be announced.

Other News

Meeting Day – Please note that we now meet on the third Tuesday of the month. Dates for social events may differ.

Calendar of Events – Editors Canada has set up an association-wide calendar of events that all branches and twigs can add to. To see dates and information about upcoming Editors Kingston events, go to our web page at www.editors.ca/twig/kingston. The calendar is at the bottom of the page.

Twitter Account – We hope to set up a Twitter account and will be asking someone to volunteer to manage it. Stay tuned for more details.

“Authors Talk Editing” with Brenda Gayle and Carolyn Heald

Wednesday, May 12

Author Brenda Gayle

My first novel, a romantic suspense, was published by a small press in 2008. At that time, indie (self-) publishing was frowned upon. And the industry barely tolerated small presses. It would be a couple of years before international associations, like the Romance Writers of America, “officially” recognized small-press publishing houses.

I was lucky. My publisher, Wild Rose Press, was, and still is, one of the better small presses out there. Over eight years, I published four full-length novels and three novellas with them. For all those books, I had the same editor—even though the books weren’t all under the same imprint. For example, I wrote a three-book romantic suspense series featuring the same family and an overarching theme. The first book was published under the contemporary romance imprint, the was a second romantic suspense and the third, a Western romance. I still don’t understand the rationale. And this is one of the problems authors have when they’re told that, to be successful, they need to “write to market.”

How do small presses differ from traditional publishers, and how are they similar?

  • They don’t pay advances; however, the royalties are higher—35–45% versus the traditional 7% (paid only after the publisher has recovered your advance).
  • The contracts are book by book—so an author can set her own deadlines.
  • Small presses are known as digital-first: geared primarily to producing and selling ebooks; print books are secondary.
  • Like the big houses, you have virtually no say in your cover design—although you may if have a supportive editor.
  • You have to do most of your own marketing. This isn’t much different from a mid-list author at a traditional house; the big publishers really only promote their top-tier authors.

Publishing with a Small Press

When you submit a story, either it goes into the general (slush) pile (if you haven’t published with the house before or it wasn’t requested from a pitch) or you send it directly to your editor.

Each imprint has a senior editor and several other editors under her. It’s unlikely that any of them are trained or accredited—most are authors themselves. Your editor reads your story, then sends it to several reader-evaluators, and if all agree, it then goes to the senior editor, who has to approve it. Only then will a contract be issued, and you can start working on your book.

The story will receive a combination of structural, developmental and grammatical editing. Once you and your editor are satisfied—for us, this was when we were moving commas around—it’s sent to a copy editor, who, again, is likely to be an author supplementing her income.

Your editor is paid as a percentage of your sales, but the copy editor is paid a set rate—it could be as low as $50 and is unlikely to be more than $300 for a full-length novel. Later, the manuscript goes back to the author for final approval; then it’s formatted, and a release date is set.

All this is done electronically. In all my years with Wild Rose, the only person I every physically met or spoke with was a senior editor—and that was for five minutes when I pitched her my original book at a conference.

I believe small presses are a good way to learn the ropes of publishing because you’re supported all along the way. And when that first bad review comes in, you can at least console yourself that there were several other people who thought your story was good enough to publish.

Becoming an Indie Author

But at a certain point, I wanted more control over my career and decided to take the leap to indie publishing.

In the last 10 years, more and more authors—even some well-known, traditionally published ones—have gone this route or become what is referred to as a hybrid author—meaning that some of their work is traditionally published, while other work—prequels/sequels or stories written in a different genre—is self-published. This has removed a lot of the stigma around indies, although I believe that readers don’t care who the publisher is, provided the story is engaging and readable.

After I’ve written a book and gone through it several times, I send it to a developmental/structural editor who is familiar with the genre and looks for things like consistency, pacing, and blind spots—such as writing a story that takes place around Christmas but never mentions anything Christmasy until the final Christmas Eve scene. That was a major rewrite.

I write my first draft in Scrivener, a comprehensive writing program that helps me keep track of character names and traits for the series as well as for each book. But when I’m in writing mode, I don’t always think to check or record them, so a lot is correcting after the fact using from Carolyn’s notes.

Having a quality product is the key to competing in the new publishing marketplace. This means a professional cover done to market as well as a book that is well edited in terms of content, structure, grammar, and spelling.

Authors can’t edit their own work. The fact that many think they can is the reason self-publishing has a bad rap. In my many years in corporate communications, I edited a lot of articles and reports, even books. I’ve taken editing courses to improve my skills. But I just can’t edit my own work as well as it needs to be done. The mindset of writing is completely different from that of editing, and even if I put my manuscript away for a few weeks and come back with fresh eyes, I can never fully overcome that writer’s perspective.

I believe readers appreciate the care we take in producing these books. Unless they’re complaining, reviews rarely mention a book’s editing, but here is a comment from a book blogger for A Shot of Murder: “The book design and editing are impeccable. In this day of sloppily assembled ebooks, I really appreciate the care that clearly went into this book’s production.”

The Charley Hall Mysteries

I self-published the Charley Hall Mystery Series last fall. These are cozy historical mysteries set in post–World War II Kingston.

Although technically they’re cozies because they’re small town–focused, the murders occur off-screen, there’s an amateur sleuth, and there’s no sex, they diff in that they lack some of the more cutsie or fantastical elements that are often found in cozies today. There are no talking cats. No ancient librarians. No culinary clichés. They’re more like the traditional mysteries of the 1930s and 40s, but with elements of today’s women’s fiction.

I set them in Kingston because I wanted a Canadian location. With its university, military base, prisons, the old asylum, as well as its history, Kingston offered limitless possibilities for plots and characters. The late 1940s interested me because the country was just emerging from World War II. There was a sense of fragility but also optimism as people tried to reclaim their lives. And for my heroine, it meant the expectation that she would give up many of her new-found freedoms to return to the traditional roles of wife and mother.

But setting the story in Canada created a dilemma: spelling conventions. By far the largest reader market is the United States, and in the past, all my books—set in Canada or the US—have used American spelling. For my Charley Hall series, I decided to risk the wrath of Amazon reviewers and use Canadian spelling. I really wanted these books to feature Canada. And so far, so good. I think the fact that they’re historical and have an international feel has helped. But I’m sure there is at least one one-star review complaining of spelling errors in my future.

Editor Carolyn Heald

Before starting to edit for Brenda, my background was in non-fiction—specifically in copy editing and proofreading (history, archival studies, genealogy); emphasis on grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.; emphasis on accuracy, correctness. I thought I wasn’t cut out for editing fiction, but I really enjoy it. It’s definitely a different skill, with different issues to look out for: plot, character, setting; dialogue doesn’t need to be grammatically correct.

The Editing

I do copy editing and proofreading, but will also point out things about plot, character, setting that don’t ring true or are confusing. When I read a manuscript, I look for errors (always see them more readily the first time) and read for plot (can’t read a mystery the same way twice).

For spelling, I use the Canadian Oxford; for style, Chicago Manual of Style, Canadian Press Style, and/or certain author’s preferences (e.g., all plural possessives end in s’). I keep a list of characters’ names, Kingston proper names, physical features, etc., and a list of style choices (e.g., abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, number and time formats). I keep a timesheet (tend to work at 18 pages, or approximately 4,000 words, per hour). I edit in Word using Track Changes.

I act as a “beta reader,” and as a resident of Kingston, I add value by finding inconsistencies in names (Charley/Charlie), facts (Queen’s has a principal, not a president), terminology, and timing within the plot. I think I’ve loosened up (or learned more about fiction editing) over the five books. Sometimes I’ll recommend breaking the rules (e.g., ending a sentence with a preposition because it sounds better) or using fewer semicolons.

The Proofreading

I’ve proofread books as a Word file and as an epub on my Mac. In the latter case, there was a technical problem in that Brenda couldn’t read my edits, so we discussed them by phone. Both she and the designer provide additional sets of eyes.

I appreciate how good a writer Brenda is. The stories are focused and fast-paced. They don’t “head hop” but use close, third-person point of view and one point of view per scene. They don’t include a lot of superfluous detail, and the chapters end with good cliffhangers. I’m in awe that she can construct mysteries with clues and red herrings, and I’m impressed by what she knows or has researched.

Resources for Editing Fiction

About Brenda

Life is messy, and Brenda tries to reflect that in her stories while still leaving readers with a feeling of hope. She wants them to see themselves and the people they know in her characters.

You could say writing is in Brenda’s genes. Her paternal grandmother was a formidable diarist; her father was a journalist and poet; her sister and cousin are both published authors; even her son has shown a talent for putting pen to paper (or thumbs to keypad) to tell awesome stories. So it came as no surprise to anyone when she returned to her love of fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communications—although some might argue there was plenty of opportunity for fiction writing there too.

A fan of many genres, Brenda finds it hard to stay within the publishing industry’s prescribed boxes. Whether it’s mystery, romantic suspense or women’s fiction, her greatest joy is creating deeply emotional books with memorable characters and compelling stories.

Brenda loves hearing from readers. You can connect with her through her website at BrendaGayle.com.

About Carolyn

Although not a professional editor, Carolyn has been editing almost all her life. From being asked to look over friends’ and colleagues’ papers and reports to taking on the general editorship of the academic journal Archivaria, she’s honed her skills through practice and editing courses.

She began her career as an archivist at the Archives of Ontario, slid into records management and privacy at York University, and is now the Chief Privacy Officer for Queen’s University, where she also runs the records management program.

Carolyn joined the Editors Association of Canada in the early 2000s, briefly ran her own part-time editorial business, and went back to full-time government work when she realized that a pension and benefits are better than starting on the bottom rung in your forties.

In addition to her day job, she volunteers as co-editor of the annual Irish Palatine Association Journal, based in County Limerick, Ireland, and is editor and proofreader for her sister’s series of mystery novels set in Kingston.

“Creating Hansard” with Kathleen Byrne

On Wednesday, May 14, Kathleen Byrne spoke to us about working at the Ontario Legislature as a transcriber at Hansard. She works in House Publications and Language Services, which is part of the Language Services Division. In this role, she transcribes the proceedings in the legislature as well as in the 10 select and standing committees.

Kathleen has a BA in English from the University of Toronto and an MA in journalism from Ryerson University. She can boast a long career in journalism, having worked as a reporter, freelance arts reporter, and reviewer for the Globe and Mail, Mississauga News, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, and Toronto Star. For 20 years, she was a reviewer mostly for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star but also for the Financial Post, Quill & Quire, Books in Canada, and Ottawa Citizen.

More recently, her roles have included editor/page designer, Globe and Mail; associate editor, Medical Post; senior editor, online news desk, CBC; and content editor, Toronto Star (foreign news and Letters to the Editor page). In addition to working part-time at the Ontario Legislature, she is a freelance editor for a variety of publications, from children’s textbooks to doctor’s e-books to romance novels to scholarly papers. Kathleen lives in Toronto.

Where Does Hansard Come From?

Here is something interesting I found on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website at https://www.ola.org/en/hansard-reporters: “Hansard is the word-for-word account of the daily proceedings of the House and its committees. Named for the family that began the tradition in the British House of Commons, Hansard has been the official transcript of Ontario’s House proceedings since 1944. Transcribers sit at a table on the floor of the Chamber and use laptop computers to record the proceedings. The text is then edited and printed overnight, ready for distribution the following day.”

The Work of the House

The House sits from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. It doesn’t sit on Fridays, and sometimes there are evening sittings. Question Period starts at 10:30 a.m.; this is the part of the proceedings most familiar to people because it’s reported on by the media. Sittings are organized into one or more Orders of the Day, which include Second or Third Reading of bills, Members’ Statements, Reports by Committees, Introduction of Bills, Oral Questions, Motions, and Petitions.

Committees examine bills as well as certain issues – for example, throughout the spring and summer 2020, the Finance Committee invited business owners, large and small to present the hardships that they and their businesses were experiencing because of the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, the two reporters still work in the Chamber. They wear masks, as does everyone else in the room – and, indeed, throughout all the legislative buildings.

Transcribing Proceedings

Kathleen’s day is organized into turns. Each turn represents five minutes of proceedings in the House or committee and can take up to one hour to transcribe. During this time, Kathleen listens to, transcribes, and edits the dialogue. She uses a content management system called Sliq to check out each turn to work on it, then check it back in when she’s finished.

She begins by checking the first stage of transcription – closed captioning – and editing it so that it’s clear and correctly reflects what was said. She then checks all proper names, dates, and any sources that Members may have quoted. French-language text is handled by Hansard’s bilingual transcribers. When there is something to verify – such as a word that she can’t decipher or a quotation that she can’t find to confirm – she types two question marks in front it as a reminder to check it. If there is something that she can’t verify in the time allotted, she can send it to the reference department, which does a fantastic job of verifying everything.

After she’s checked in her transcription, it’s picked up by editors, who double-check everything, including the coding. French text is checked by the French-language editors. Any questions that arise from a Member’s speech – such as the spelling of a name that he or she has mentioned – are passed to the Member to answer by one of the pages who work in the Chamber, directed by one of the Hansard reporters.

When the day’s proceedings have been fully edited, the transcript is made available on the legislature website. It’s also printed and distributed to various libraries as well as the Archives of Ontario.

Kathleen reckons that there about 30 transcribers and editors working at the legislature. Their reference sources are the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, an in-house spelling guide, and an in-house style guide that’s 68 pages long.

Newspaper Editing

Kathleen described working as an editor at the Globe and Mail (2004–09) in the News, Arts, Travel, and Books sections. She was also responsible for page design and layout on the news desk. At that time, there were five sets of eyes looking at all the feature stories, columns, etc. that went into the newspaper. That was a lot of scrutiny. And people felt a sense of pride to be working there. Now, however, after rounds of cutbacks, there are only two sets of eyes, and it shows. The copy editing is no longer done in house but by a separate company (and the pay is half what Kathleen used to make).

Kathleen also worked at the Toronto Star, where the transition in editorial scrutiny has taken the same unfortunate path.

At the National and Twig Level

Webinars – There are quite a few coming up. Have a look at https://training.editors.ca/.

Annual Conference – “Editors Transform”, June 12 and 13, will be completely online. The early-bird price lasts only a few more days – until April 26. Out of the many sessions being offered, you’re sure to find something of professional interest. For example, Kingston’s Adrienne Montgomery will be presenting on “MS Word Essentials – Don’t Start Work Without These”. All the information you need is here: https://pheedloop.com/editors21/site/home/.

Nominations for the national executive council and national committees – Members received an email in early April. Consider nominating yourself or someone else. If you no longer have the email, contact Stephanie Stone (stephaniestone3@gmail.ca) or Nancy Wills (nancwills@gmail.com). You may also find details on the Editors Canada website.

Wednesday, May 12 – The next instalment of “Authors Talk Editing” – Member Carolyn Heald and her sister, Brenda Gayle, will talk about their author-editor relationship. Brenda has published three books in a romantic suspense series and has just released the fifth novel in her Charley Hall mystery series, set in Kingston in the late 1940s. You’ll find more info at https://brendagayle.com/.

Twig Annual General Meeting, later this spring – We’ll be electing one or two new coordinators and discussing the direction of the twig and any initiatives you’d like to see carried out. Please think about these issues and join us with your ideas.

Workshop: Remedies for Editing Headaches

On March 10, we used a PowerPoint presentation to ponder troublesome text and discuss potential solutions. It was interesting to hear people’s different takes on what the problems were and the best ways to correct them. Here are a few of the headaches and their remedies; that there may be others. To receive the full presentation (24 slides) – in PPTX, PDF, or RTF format – contact Stephanie at sstone4@cogeco.ca.

Problem: redundancy

Faced with a major fiscal slippage, in mid-April the government presented a new tax bill in Parliament, introducing new taxes on the wealthy. It also openly declared war against a powerful group of tax evaders in its new tax reform bill.


In mid-April 1994, faced with a major fiscal slippage, the federal government tabled a tax reform bill that levied new taxes on the wealthy and openly declared war on a powerful group of tax evaders.

Problem: incorrect parallelism

Thus, federalism not only places limits on a central government for the protection of liberty, a long and commonly held theoretical premise. Rather, it creates institutional arenas for expressing the distinct claims for rights and resources, and establishes procedures for finding a balance between them.


Thus, federalism does not place limits on a central government for the protection of liberty, a long and commonly held theoretical premise. Rather, it creates institutional arenas in which people can express their distinct claims for rights and resources, and it establishes procedures for finding a balance among them.

Problem: comma placement

Amended in 1967, the limited terms of the original Act were transformed to include not only highly flammable apparel, but also carpets, mattresses, and children’s sleepwear.


In 1967, the limited terms of the original Act were expanded to include not only highly flammable apparel but also carpets, mattresses, and children’s sleepwear.

Problem: incorrect parallelism

The relationship between federalism and democracy amounts neither to one of inherent compatibility, nor necessarily contradiction.


Federalism and democracy are neither inherently compatible nor necessarily contradictory.

Problem: too many nouns

There has been a recent shift towards the biopsychosocial model of management, which stresses the importance of psychosocial factors in the development and maintenance of physical pathologies.

Solution: change nouns to verb forms

There has been a recent shift in approach to one that applies the biopsychosocial model of management. This stresses the importance of psychosocial factors in developing and maintaining physical pathologies.

Problems: comma placement

Translating that to the workplace, if there are fewer women, “there aren’t counterbalances to neutralize aggression.”

Zenocrate embodies Tamburlaine’s quest for absolute freedom from servitude and, as such, she appeals to his elegiac iconoclasm more than his martial drive.


Applying that to the workplace: if there are fewer women, then “there aren’t counterbalances to neutralize aggression.”

Zenocrate embodies Tamburlaine’s quest for absolute freedom from servitude. In this way, she appeals to his elegiac iconoclasm more than to his martial drive.

Problem: that vs. which

Norm-breaking is simply the practice of departing from conventional standards of behaviour that are usually part of the common values and social conventions observed by a particular social group but are not necessarily inscribed as formally written rules or laws.


Norm-breaking is the practice of departing from conventional standards of behaviour, which are usually part of the common values and social conventions observed by a particular social group but are not necessarily inscribed as formally written rules or laws.

Problem: text doesn’t focus on the person

The test consists of stepping in place at a comfortable cadence while blindfolded, with the instruction to stay in the same spot and not turn.

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the attention paid to concussions.


The test has a patient step in place at a comfortable cadence while blindfolded, with the instruction to stay in the same spot and not turn.

Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the attention paid to the effects of concussions.

Problem: incorrect usage

[Table footnote] Significant differences between physiotherapists and students (p < 0.05) are bolded and marked with an Asterix. [Saw a second instance of this recently!]


[Table footnote] Significant differences between physiotherapists and students (p < 0.05) are set in bold and marked with an asterisk.

Problem: awkward text written by non-native speaker

While establishing federalism aims at protecting minorities, one could pose the question of the over-protection of minorities and therefore the under-respecting of the majority within the federal demos.


Establishing federalism aims to protect minorities. However, one might ask whether, within a federal demos, minorities are overprotected and therefore the majority not well enough respected.

Upcoming Twig Meetings

Wednesday, April 14 – Kathleen Byrne, an editor of the Hansard debates at the Ontario Legislature, will talk to us about her job and the environment in which she does it.

Wednesday, May 12 – The next instalment of “Authors Talk Editing” – Member Carolyn Heald and her sister, Brenda Gayle, will talk about their author-editor relationship. Brenda has published three books in a romantic suspense series and has just released the fifth novel in her Charley Hall mystery series, set in Kingston in the late 1940s. You’ll find more info at https://brendagayle.com/.

Editors Canada Annual Conference

June 12 and 13 (weekend) – The theme of this year’s virtual event is “Editors Transform | Les réviseurs transforment”. Find all the details at https://pheedloop.com/editors21/site/home/.


A schedule of spring webinars is available at https://training.editors.ca/.

“Taxes and Other Issues for Small Business”

For our meeting on February 10, we were looking forward to hearing a presentation by Line Commeau of Shoebox Services, a local business that offers income tax preparation as well as bookkeeping and accounting services. Unfortunately, at the last minute, she was unwell and had to cancel. Nevertheless, everyone had information and experiences to share, and it was a great meeting.

To give us context, we assessed our work situations: five of us are self-employed full-time, one is self-employed part-time and employed by an organization part-time, and one is considering starting an editing business.

Many things need to be considered when starting and running a small business.

Company name

Do you establish a company name that is your own name, or do you create a descriptive name? About half of us use a descriptive name, while the other half use their own name.

Business cards

We agreed that business cards aren’t really a thing anymore. Some members had cards designed and printed when they started their business, but hardly use them anymore. One member used them when she attended networking events early on. (She didn’t get any business out of it.) Still, they can support word-of-mouth advertising. If you have business cards printed, do a test run to see how large or small your company name appears, whether it breaks awkwardly over a line, etc.

Web presence

Of those who are self-employed, all have a web presence of some sort: all are on LinkedIn to some extent, four have websites, and two rely on their Editors Canada online directory profile. Having a website can legitimize your presence and your business. Creating a website was considered a good investment and one that didn’t take a lot of time to set up. Blogs are another type of web presence; they’re a place to write up general information about what you do or information that you’re repeatedly asked for.

Email address

Some people use their own name in their email address, while others use their company name. When choosing a name, be cautious about the spelling: “eagleeyeediting” will incur too many spelling errors, so it isn’t a good choice.

Collecting HST

If you expect your business to bring in at least $30,000 in income per year, you need to collect HST, and to do that, you need to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a business number. One member recommended collecting HST partly because self-employed editors have few expenses to deduct from their business income.

Of course, then you need to file HST every quarter. However, you can use the Quick Method of Accounting to pay only 8.8% on your business income rather than the full 13% (5% federal and 8% provincial) that you collect. And you can deduct 1% of your income up to the first $30,000.

If you do work for clients in other jurisdictions, you charge the tax that applies there (e.g., 5% in Quebec, 0% in Alberta).

What about working under the table? It might mean that you always work in the same genre. To avoid this, join Editors Canada and add your profile to the Online Directory. Then you can work on projects that are really varied. For at least one member, this was the best part of her work experience.

You can set up a business in order to write off certain expenses.

Bank account

One member had to set up a business account in order to be paid by direct deposit. Up to that point, she’d used her personal chequing account. For the bank she chose (RBC), she had to have an Ontario Master Business Licence – which she didn’t even know existed. No one else had that experience.

Business expenses

  • We can deduct a portion of our rent or mortgage based on how much space we use for our office (e.g., one room out of the four or six in our apartment or house). The same applies to utilities, house or contents insurance, property taxes.
  • Business bank account; business phone (landline) or cell phone.
  • Memberships in professional organizations (e.g., Editors Canada, Indexing Society of Canada); professional development (EC webinars; conference registrations and meals, although not banquets).
  • Work-related travel, meals (e.g., lunch with a client or potential client), entertainment – can be claimed at 50%. When one member travels for work and stays with a family member rather than in a hotel, any hostess gifts are considered “gifts in lieu” and can be claimed at 100%.
  • Internet expenses (Internet service, paid Zoom calls, email address domain name, creating and maintaining a website, WordPress subscription, etc.).
  • Other marketing and promotion (e.g., having business cards designed and printed, having a head shot taken to put on them).
  • Subscriptions, style guides and dictionaries (print and electronic). One member claims for the Globe and Mail and The Walrus magazine because it keeps her informed of events, opinions, what’s going on in the world. Another member claims for every book she buys (this received an enthusiastic response). Don’t forget that being a member of Editors Canada gives us free access to the Chicago Manual of Style Online.
  • Computer hardware (either claimed as a one-time expense or amortized over a number of years), computer software, office supplies.
  • For homeowners, any cost of home maintenance.

Business taxes

The date to file is June 15, although we have to pay by April 30. One member started to pay in instalments one year, but after realizing that she was being charged interest, paid off the remainder. No one else had that experience.

One recommendation: don’t use your line of credit to pay your business taxes. And remember that not all the income you earn is actually yours.

A potential deduction for 2020, which might affect people who work for an employer, is the expanded allowance for working at home. Ask your tax preparer whether you can claim this.

One member set up a savings account into which she paid 10% of her business income. Then she’d use that money to cover much of her taxes at tax time. If you work for someone else, you can ask to have a higher rate of tax deducted from your pay.

Do I need an accountant?

Most people don’t use one because their business is so small. More important is the person who prepares your business taxes. One member had a good experience with someone who focused on people working in the arts. One member pays $250 for her tax preparation, down from $300 because she’s got organizing her receipts down to a fine art. Another member pays $50 to her tax preparer because he charges her his “family and friends fee.”


No one seems to have their workload affected by the pandemic or the lockdowns, but for two members, it’s taking some clients longer to pay.

Any other considerations?

There can be a lot of administration. Be sure to keep track of the invoices you send out and when they’re paid. One editor makes out her invoice on the day she starts a project: the details are fresh, so she can easily record them on the invoice. This approach is also an incentive to start the work and a reward for doing it.

One member has a client who gives her many small projects and wants to pay right away. This necessitates creating an invoice for each job, which is really time-consuming. She wants to change this approach so that she can invoice for several jobs at once. She could consider working for this client on retainer. (Here’s an interesting article on the benefit of this arrangement for a home-based business.)

Approaching 60?

If you’ve been paying into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), you can apply to start receiving your pension at age 60 (or anytime up to age 70; the longer you wait, the higher the monthly payout). One member’s financial adviser recommended that she start taking her pension at 60 because her monthly income was unpredictable. It’s proved to be useful advice.

Self-employed people pay CPP; it’s added to our taxes automatically. If you’re still working at age 65, you can opt out of this arrangement; speak to your tax preparer.

Editors Canada members who reach 60 years of age and have been a member for 10 years currently pay an Emeritus Member fee of $146 rather than the regular $292.

Personalized info from CRA

CRA offers free, one-on-one seminars on tax preparation for small businesses and self-employed individuals during business hours.

Editors Canada News

  • The annual conference, “Editors21: Editors Transform,” will be held on June 12–13 (weekend), completely online. Cost not announced yet. A keynote speaker will be Joshua Whitehead – author of poetry and fiction, PhD candidate, lecturer, and Killam scholar at the University of Calgary, where he studies Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality.
  • No new webinars have been announced. Recordings of past webinars are available – and the cost is a business expense.
  • A survey has been sent out by the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force. Please take it if you haven’t already; it’s an important piece of this new initiative.
  • The website is going to be upgraded to improve the content management system. This should improve how the content is organized.

Twig News

  • As of end of January, we have 18 members, the highest number in a few years.
  • Let Stephanie or Nancy know if you don’t want to be listed in the twig’s Google Group – the access to Editors Canada’s shared Google Workspace.
  • Emails – Stephanie tries to address the group using Bcc rather than To, but sometimes forgets.

Scholarly Editing Panel

January 13, 2021

Nancy Wills was an enthusiastic and informative host for this discussion.

Panellists: Ellie Barton, Angela Pietrobon, Stephanie Stone (see bios below)

Moderator for Q&A: Wade Guyitt

Q. How would you define scholarly?

A. Ellie described it as a form of nonfiction that has been peer-reviewed, as opposed to other types of nonfiction such as memoir and trade books for a general audience. The main goal of scholarly books is to share research and generate knowledge.

Q. Please describe your scholarly publishing clients.

A. Angela edits for University of Alberta Press and Athabasca University Press, and she works with private clients to develop their scholarly books. She is also the managing editor of Encounters in Theory and History of Education (Queen’s University), Global Africana Review (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Africana Public Interest Journal (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Ellie copy edits for McGill-Queen’s University Press (MQUP) and University of Toronto Press (UTP), and also works with private clients. Stephanie copy edits for UTP.

Q. Do you specialize in a certain subject area?

A. Angela doesn’t like to work only within one subject area because she can get bored with doing the same thing. She doesn’t do math and has edited enough engineering theses. She must be interested in the topic when she takes on a job, and she feels it’s her ethical responsibility to represent the reader. When she does accept a job, her biggest task is to learn the subject matter, to be curious. This gives her the confidence to tackle a manuscript or a new subject; she needs to be willing to learn.

Stephanie works in law, government, constitution, philosophy, and social science. These were the areas that her associate managing editor was responsible for when she started working with him. Ellie prefers to edit books on subjects she’s interested in, like history, religion, health care, mental health, culture, and the arts.

Q. How did you come to work for your client(s)? What process and/or experience led up to it?

A. Ellie started working for MQUP after a copy editor friend recommended her, and her work with UTP came as a result of being recommended by Stephanie. Stephanie started working for MQUP after Ellie recommended her. She started working for UTP after an associate managing editor there found her name in the Editors Canada online directory. (He recognized her name from working with her decades before.)

Angela had worked with her own client on a book for which Doug Hildebrand was the acquisitions editor at UTP. When he moved to University of Alberta Press as the new Director and Publisher, she asked him if she could work with the Press as a copy editor. Athabasca University Press approached her because they wanted to try her out after she had been referred to them a few times. Running your own business successfully, for Angela, means you focus on always having lots of work.

Q. How long does it take you to copy edit a manuscript? How much time do you need to commit to a book?

A. For Ellie, it depends on the length of the manuscript. Stephanie agreed, adding that it depends how many elements a manuscript has (beyond the text, citations, and references, there may also be figures, tables, and notes). For example, the most recent manuscript she worked on had 75 pages of references; they didn’t require a lot of work in themselves, but reading them and cross-checking them against the citations took a lot of time. She figures it takes her about two months to copy edit a manuscript. When she receives the files back from the author, it can take a few days to go through the tracked changes and “clean up” the files. UTP asks for about four weeks for copy editing, which she’s rarely achieved.

Q. Please talk about process and workflow.

A. Both Ellie and Stephanie copy edit all the chapters in a manuscript, then send it to the author for review; this was an original instruction from UTP. In some cases, Stephanie receives a manuscript as one file when a book isn’t very long. Ellie finds that once she’s copy edited the entire manuscript, she’s able to make sense of unclear passages and resolve some of the queries herself. The downside of this approach is that the author has to respond to all the edits and queries at once, instead of responding chapter by chapter.

The process that Angela uses is to copy edit and send out individual chapters. This allows her to apply the problems resolved in the early chapters to the later ones. It’s like a conversation in that chapters are passed back and forth until the final version is agreed upon. Wade (who copy edits for Oxford and Cambridge University Presses) uses this process too. It establishes a flow for the rest of the manuscript. One downside is that styles applied in an early chapter may no longer be viable by the time he reaches a later chapter.

We didn’t talk in detail about the sorts of things we look for or correct during copy editing, although everyone does two passes through a manuscript and keeps style sheets. Ellie line edits where necessary and queries ambiguous phrasing. She might research the background for a book by watching YouTube videos on the topic. In addition to copy editing, Angela reads for details, performing content editing. She likes to tidy; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Citations and references are her least favourite aspect of editing. Stephanie does whatever work a manuscript needs.

For MQUP and UTP, the author does the proofreading first, and then the proofs are sent to the copy editor for review. For University of Alberta Press, the proofreading is also done by the copy editor, but this task is paid separately. At Athabasca University Press, proofreading is done by the author.

In talking about ensuring consistency of spelling, capitalization, etc. in a manuscript, Nancy highly recommended using PerfectIt, commercial proofreading software that is an add-on to a word processing program. She uses it as a last consistency check. Angela uses it for her work with the University of Alberta; she receives a PerfectIt report on a manuscript at the beginning and end of the project. [Note: As a benefit of membership, Editors Canada members receive a 30 percent discount on a single licence.]

Everyone agreed that technology has vastly improved the work process, although it’s added a layer of work because everyone now needs to have computer and Internet skills. When Ellie started with MQUP, she used to get a printed version of the page proofs; now the proofs come in PDF format. In Stephanie’s early years as a copy editor, a manuscript after the first copy-editing pass would be full of sticky notes with queries on them.

Q. Is it difficult to juggle your projects and meet your deadlines?

A. Angela stipulates that authors give her the date on which they’ll be sending her something; this avoids too much “stacking” and enables her to better plan her workload. As the managing editor of three journals, she knows each publication schedule, so she can tell how well everything is on track. There is no problem with the contributors meeting their deadlines. There was a time when she’d work in the middle of the night to meet deadlines for clients in other time zones, but she doesn’t do that anymore.

Q. Does working for different publishers and their different approaches present a challenge?

A. For each project, Ellie reviews the publisher’s style and process; she prints out the guidelines and adds to them as she learns more about the publisher’s preferences. For Stephanie, it’s like changing hats; she has the publisher’s style guidelines in front of her and creates her own list of spellings as she works through a manuscript. For Angela, it’s like studying for a test; it takes half an hour at the start of a project. She prints out style sheets and highlights what she might forget. As a journal managing editor, she often sets the style and preferences herself.

Q. Please talk about your communication with an author.

A. Ellie emails an author early on to establish contact and go over some initial queries. She sometimes sends an author the first copy-edited chapter as a sample; the author can then give her feedback on her approach. She finds that she gets to know her memoir and creative nonfiction authors better than her scholarly authors because that work is more personal; it’s easier to develop a relationship with them. She likes to talk to authors on the phone when possible.

Angela keeps up a constant conversation with an author during the editing process. She has always dealt with authors one on one. She assumes that every author is lovely and respectful and gets that back. She doesn’t worry about communication.

Stephanie contacts the author once she’s done a fair bit of the copy editing. She introduces herself and asks a few queries that have come up, such as inconsistencies in spelling or unclear meanings of terms. She also tries to give an estimate of when she’ll send the manuscript to the author for review. It’s an opportunity to get a feel for the author’s personality and approach to the manuscript.

Q. What do you enjoy about the scholarly editing you do? What are some of the benefits?

A. For Ellie, a benefit of working with university presses is that they have high production values. The books are well designed. UTP applies styles to a manuscript before it’s copy edited, which speeds up the process. She learns a lot by copy editing scholarly books and finds the work intellectually stimulating. For both her and Angela, copy editing enables them to inhabit the author’s mind. They enjoy learning about the world and working with people who are passionate about their work. Angela added that the copy editor needs to, in a way, become the author. A great benefit comes when the author appreciates your work. (This can be the result of good communication.)

Stephanie agreed that the work is intellectually stimulating. She enjoys working on the various elements of a manuscript and cross-checking them to make sure that everything is consistent. A negative aspect is that the client doesn’t always seem to understand how much time it takes to do a thorough job.

About the Panellists

Angela Pietrobon is a scholarly editor who works for University of Alberta Press and Athabasca University Press. She is the Managing Editor of three journals: Encounters in Theory and History of Education (Queen’s University), Global Africana Review (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and the new and forthcoming Africana Public Interest Journal (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Her projects with her freelance clients have resulted in polished manuscripts and indexes for, among others, University of Toronto Press, Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan, Fordham University Press, University of British Columbia Press, University of Alberta Press, and McGill-Queen’s University Press. Angela also works with PhD students through the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at University of Toronto and Queen’s University. You can find out more about Angela’s work on her LinkedIn page.

Ellie Barton is a freelance editor of memoir, creative nonfiction, and scholarly books. She works for McGill-Queen’s University Press, University of Toronto Press, and individual authors seeking to self-publish or to submit their manuscript to an agent or a publisher. Ellie also worked for a decade as a copy editor and proofreader for two academic journals: Canadian Public Policy and the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health. Ellie has a Certificate in Publishing from Ryerson University and an MA in Canadian literature from Queen’s University. She’s a member of Editors Canada. Please visit Ellie at https://www.elliebarton.ca/

Stephanie Stone began copy editing in the early 1980s with Copp Clark Pitman, a textbook publisher in Toronto. Her first manuscript was about the Commodore 64, a very early computer. She then moved to Methuen Publications for the chance to work on trade books and worked as a production editor – not just copy editing but also laying out and proofreading the typeset pages, sometimes indexing, and working closely with the editors, authors, designers, typesetters, and printers. She learned many of her skills from taking courses through the Freelance Editors Association of Canada, the forerunner of Editors Canada.

In 1987, Stephanie moved to Kingston to work as a technical writer and trainer with a local software consulting company. She also copy edited the work of the other technical writers and developed in-house style guides. In 2001, she started her own company, Cornerstone Communications, whose major clients are Elections Canada, University of Toronto Press, and the journal Physiotherapy Canada. She is now starting to retire so that she can focus on other aspects of her life.

“Diversity and Inclusion”

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tom Fairley Award

Editors Canada is accepting nominations for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence. It “recognizes an exceptional editor who played an important role on a project published in 2020” and is worth $2,000. Anyone involved in a work can submit a nomination – publisher, editor, author or designer – even oneself. Deadline for nominations: January 15, 2021. Download the nomination form from www.editors.ca.

Editors’ Challenge

Jim asked us to name a dictionary that doesn’t exist but should. He gave the example of Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places. Jim’s suggestion: an authoritative and up-to-date dictionary that clearly discriminates synonyms and near-synonyms: a differentiating dictionary.

Diversity and Inclusion

We had a general discussion of some of the issues, shared some of the resources available, and discussed what we can do to promote diversity and inclusion in our work and – in Adrienne Montgomery’s words – to support our colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

In the summer of 2020, there was a spate of killings of Black and Indigenous people in the United States and Canada, instances of police brutality and protests against police violence around the world, and a raised awareness of systemic racism in many of our institutions. It seemed important to talk about how editors are affected and how (much) this awareness is reflected in what we edit and perhaps also in our workplaces or those of our clients.

At the time Stephanie was preparing for this meeting, the association’s newsletter arrived, and it announced the new adviser on equity, diversity and inclusion. Her name is Adebe DeRango-Adem. She’s a member of Toronto Branch and an editor and published author who brings diverse experience into publishing, cultural programming, and anti-racism and human rights/equity education. Adebe kindly sent me an extensive list of inclusivity-related documents and links that Editors Canada had assembled. It will be posted on Editors Canada soon and be available to all.

Q. Have you had the experience of editing a piece of writing by someone from another culture, background, sexual orientation, or ability? If so, what was your response, and how did you work through the experience?

A. Stephanie copy edited a book a few years ago called Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto (Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, eds., with Río Rodríguez, University of Toronto Press, 2018). She wondered at the time why the copy editing was being given to a non–queer of colour person. Most chapters used “Black” but one used “black.” She asked the editors about the inconsistency, and they decided to retain both capitalizations.

Q. How does one develop sensitivity to material that describes an unfamiliar context? When should we suggest that material be looked at by a sensitivity reader?

A. An editor needs to bring sensitivity to the material they’re editing – in all areas. We’re used to recognizing biased language and making it bias-free. We need to do the same thing with material describing groups of people.

A skill one encounters is sensitivity reader, a person who is hired to help ensure that a manuscript is authentic and to make recommendations about potential issues with cultural veracity and tone (paraphrased from Tajja Isen, “How Not to Write a Book about a Minority Experience,” The Walrus, July/August 2020). That article examines an example of a novel that didn’t use a sensitivity reader and should have (American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins), and it argues that if the workforce in the publishing industry were more diverse, the function of a sensitivity reader would be a regular part of the publishing process.

Q. To what extent do we bring our own implicit biases to our editorial work, and what can we do to break them down?

A. To a large extent, probably. Without even realizing it. First step: develop awareness. Keep on top of current events, learn what’s driving them. Read about the experiences of people from other cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc. To be a good editor, we have to develop open minds, intellectual curiosity; know what the issues are and where to go to check facts or anything else we think we should verify. Just like editing anything, we need to let the writer’s voice come through but steer it when it needs to be steered. As with other questionable issues, query the author.

Q. Did anyone read something that promoted understanding of the issues or helped you develop a new awareness? Anything you disagreed with?

A. One positive article is “Give Black Employees the Freedom to be Black” (Dori Tunstall, Globe and Mail, August 14, 2020; unfortunately, seems no longer available online). She is the dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, and she describes how the university is fostering a safe, diverse environment by hiring Black employees at every level, creating a critical mass that encourages them to be their Black selves.

Q: What is the current state of diversity in Canadian fiction?

A. See, under “Other Resources” below, the two surveys, also “Lack of Ethnic Diversity in Canadian Publishing” (Sarah McNeil, 2017), which includes examples of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) writers feeling left out of a white-dominated industry – e.g., in nominations for the Giller Prize.

Is it any more diverse three years later? The 2020 Giller Prize winner comes from a Thai background, but how representative is this? Looking back at the finalists since 1994, at least 11 seem to come from diverse backgrounds. Out of 27 winners, that’s 41 percent, so perhaps reasonably reflective of Canadian society.

Q. What can we as editors do to ensure that the material we edit is respectful, inclusive, and sensitive to everyone and/or a readership from diverse backgrounds? How can we support our colleagues from diverse backgrounds?

A. Editors can have a powerful impact on the written word, and we have a responsibility to ensure that we are as intellectually curious about diversity and inclusivity as we are about the other topics we encounter in our work. Material needs to be factually correct, needs to be respectful, needs to speak to an entire audience.

From Susannah Noel, “5 Steps Freelance Book Editors Can Take to Combat Racism” (blog post, Editorial Arts Academy website, June 2020) – Editors are human, so we must participate. Editors also have a responsibility because we are uniquely suited to recognize the influence words have on readers, populations, and societies. Her five steps:

  1. Read actively – particularly on topics we might feel uncomfortable reading
  2. Edit better – be attuned to words and any inherent biases
  3. Seek out diversity where we live; expand our horizons
  4. Talk about money – transparency about what a BIPOC editor makes vs. a white editor
  5. Volunteer for BIPOC-run organizations – or at least support them

Other Resources


Association of Canadian Publishers, “2018 Canadian Book Publishing Diversity Baseline Survey: Summary Report” – respondents 82% white, 74% female, 72% heterosexual

BookNet Canada, “Demand for Diversity: A Survey of Canadian Readers,” 2019 – average reader female, 29 years old, 4-year degree, earns $37,500, lives in Ontario


BookNet Canada, Further Reading: Demand for Diversity (May 2019) – collection of diversity-related content from the Canadian book publishing industry, including videos

Tajja Isen, “How Not to Write a Book about a Minority Experience” (The Walrus, July/August 2020)

Pacinthe Mattar, “Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists” (The Walrus, Nov/Dec 2020); in print, “Canadian Media’s Racism Problem.”

Sarah McNeil, “Lack of Ethnic Diversity in Canadian Publishing” (prepared for a course at Simon Fraser University, Fall 2017)


Indigenous Editors Association: https://www.indigenouseditorsassociation.ca/about-us/

Style Guides

Gregory Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education Inc.)

Don’t overlook “mainstream” style guides like Editing Canadian English, 3rd ed. (from Editors Canada) and the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., which have a chapter/section on inclusivity/bias-free language


Book Publishing Freelancers from Diverse Communities Database

Firefly Creative Writing – list of sensitivity readers

Editors of Color (US) – search and/or submit your name to their database

Film Editing with Clarke Mackey

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 – Editors Kingston hosted Kingston media maker, writer, teacher, and cultural activist Clarke Mackey to talk about film editing and its comparisons with print editing.

Clarke has worked as a director, cinematographer, editor, producer, or writer on over 50 film, television, and new-media projects. In recent years, he has been producing micro-budget documentaries about community activism in Eastern Ontario, including ’Til the Cows Come Home (2014) and the feature archival documentary Revolution Begins at Home (2016). In 2010, he compiled his research and experiences into a book called Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Community in the 21st Century.

About Clarke

Clarke is an emeritus professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University, where he taught for 30 years. Before that, he was a faculty member at York University and Sheridan College of Art and Design. We thank Clarke for his notes, which form the basis for this post.

When he was asked to make comparisons between film editing and print editing, his initial reaction was that they were two very different processes, with few similarities. But, as he thought about it further, he decided that there were some important similarities.

Cinematic Language

Clarke began by describing how movies communicate story, information, and emotion to audiences. What do we mean when we talk about “cinematic language”? Perhaps surprisingly, words, either spoken or written, are not that important in movies. Movie writers understand that, unlike in a play or novel, dialogue plays a smaller part in screenplays than you might think. Other elements loom larger, as we’ll see.

He broke down cinematic language into the “five building blocks of cinematic storytelling.”

1. Actions: things happen, people do things, the world changes, etc. (Sometimes that might mean speech or even text, but words are overshadowed by other elements in cinema.) It’s no accident that after the camera is turned on, the director yells, “Action!”

2. Mis-en-scène. What is in front of the camera: setting, props, costumes, lighting, weather, etc. What is emphasized? What is background? What is the mood? This can be quite complex and subtle, and it mostly works unconsciously.

3. Shots: area of view, point of view, other types of shots. We see things through a camera lens, which has certain characteristics. Where is the camera placed? What is in the frame, and what is not? Shots are the bricks that construct the house, like the words and phrases of a written text.

4. Cuts: Editing is the most important, most unique element of cinematic language. This is where we can say a film is being “authored” or composed (the music analogy is a good one to help understand how a movie is made). Everything that happened before – the script, the rehearsals, the sets, the shooting – are the materials the editor-composer needs to gather to do their work. The editor uses the shots to build the house.

Clarke spoke about the three Cs of cinematography: conception, capture, composition. A few basic principles:

– The shot-reverse-shot pattern: The looker, the viewed, the response.

– Parallel structure: The chase, the flashback, etc. Meanwhile, back at the … .

– Rhythm, pace, contrast: From whole notes and eighth notes. A very fast sequence of shots is like eighth notes in a melody.

– Ellipsis: Things that are purposely missing, things we have to figure out or can assume from the context. There is a lot of compression of time in movies, similar to text.

5. Sound. There are four layers: dialogue (tone of voice, accent), ambience, sound effects, music. All work together, also mostly work unconsciously.

Like text, movies are linear. They take place over time, one shot after another, just as one word of text comes after another. This horizontal progression of sounds and images is easy to recognize. What is perhaps less noticeable is the vertical layering of the elements. (To use the music idea again, we’re talking about harmony rather than melody.)

He used three clips to show how these building blocks work together to build suspense and kindle emotions in the viewer.

1. A reproduction of a Van Gogh painting: first the image, then the image with music, finally the image with the music after telling us that “this is believed to be the last canvas Vincent painted before he killed himself in 1890 at the age of 37.” Did that change our response to the image?

2. A clip from the Hollywood classic, High Noon (1952), in which the marshal is waiting for the bad guys, who are arriving by train. Medium and point-of-view shots as well as close-ups are used to build tension. The lighting is harsh, with lots of contrast. Sometimes the background is the brightest part of a scene, while one actor’s shadow falls on another. All this has an unconscious effect on the viewer. Extreme close-ups show people’s reactions or anticipation. Tighter shots quicken the pace, while a sequence of four close-up looks creates the effect that time is extended. Dramatic music signals the beginning of the showdown.

3. A clip from The Matrix (1999), in which Morpheus offers Neo two pills: one red, one blue. Different types of shots, the low lighting, the rain, and thunder and lightning establish the mood and add suspense. The camera focuses on important elements: the glass of water, Morpheus’s sunglasses (mysterious), the two pills. Music and sounds support the visuals: suspenseful music, changes in music, lighting strikes, high-pitched sounds, perhaps a clock ticking and ethereal singing. An important moment is reflected in a big swell in the music.

The Job of a Film Editor

The film editor’s job is somewhere between that of a music composer and collage artist, weaving together a complex of pre-recorded material, usually captured by others, into a unified whole. They have a lot of creative leeway, like the print editor, who is “invisible” if they’ve done their job right.

The actors’ eyes are the most important element, capturing emotion and intention. At the same time, the viewer tends to look at the person not speaking, so part of the art of an editor is to know when to use that to advantage. Going from a wide shot to a close-up builds intensity.

Are there different types of editing, as there are in print? In big films, yes; there is an editing team, with a film’s structure and pacing controlled by the editor at the “top”. There is a separate sound department; different people are responsible for dialog, music, and sound. But it can be a two-way street, with editors putting in certain cuts and sound effects, even music. In a documentary, the work of the editor as author is easier to see, since they are structuring the work from the raw material rather than from a script.

The editor and the director will have a high-level conversation before filming to discuss the scope of the film. They watch all the takes in script order, and the editor will take notes. The editor can request a reshoot; it depends on the budget. A smart producer will allow a week for reshooting six months after shooting ends. In the case of a documentary, the editor and maybe also the director will do a “paper edit” after filming to decide how to structure the film.

Film and Print Editing: Similarities

Both the print editor and the film editor are de facto advocates for the end user. It is their responsibility to think hard about how the reader and the viewer are reacting at each moment. Is the work clear and understandable from sentence to sentence, shot to shot? Is it boring, or does it compel the user to turn the page or stay glued to the couch? Is it well paced? Does it hold the reader and the viewer? Does the work both entertain and also delve deeper, and with greater wisdom, into life’s mysteries?

Both types of editor must understand how viewers view and readers read, but they also need to be aware of how genres and styles continue to evolve in a rapidly changing world. How does an editor navigate these changes and contradictions?

In the end, there is also the important question of elegance and polish. There should be no mistakes, no missteps, no awkwardness, no typos or misspellings. No bad acting or continuity errors, no superfluous dialogue in fiction. In these ways, we are comrades. We want the same thing, and we’re responsible for making it happen.

“Complementary Pairs” and “Back to the Future”

On Wednesday, September 8, 2020, five hardy souls braved the cool, early fall air and gathered in the pavilion at Lake Ontario Park, King Street West, Kingston. We welcomed a new visitor, Barbara Muirhead.

“Complementary Pairs”

Jim Penistan had set us an editors’ challenge: why is one word considered obscure (e.g., dysphemism) when its opposite (euphemism) is in almost everyone’s vocabulary?

Everybody knows ambidextrous (the condition of equal adeptness with both hands) but not the condition of equal clumsiness: ambisinistral or ambilaetrous. Most people understand pejorative (“expressing contempt or disapproval”), yet its opposite – meliorative (“making something better”) is barely known.

Among literary academics, exegesis (“reading from the text”) is often used, but eisegesis (“reading into the text”) is used almost exclusively by biblical scholars. Most people know that periphraxis means “talking (or writing) roundabout” or “using many words for something”; few know that monophrasis means “using one word rather than several.”

Other attendees contributed consociation (“companionship,” “fellowship,” “close or familiar association”) and disunion (“opposition,” “disassociation,” “dissimilarity”), orthodox and heterodox, diagonal and orthogonal, transgender and cisgender.

Talking about these examples led into a lively discussion of etymology (in the first example, dys is Greek for “bad,” while eu is Greek for “good”) and the goals of, and approaches to, editing. Sometimes our use of complementary pairs overlaps: using a euphemism, or periphraxis, rather than monophrasis (e.g., where the word feces or excrement becomes poo in everyday parlance and sometimes shit for extra emphasis). New words come into everyday vocabulary in particular situations (fomite, which means “surfaces,” has become more widely known during the pandemic.

“Back to the Future”

Almost six months into the pandemic, most people’s work hasn’t been affected, and aside from trying to finding more work, things will likely carry on like this. Elizabeth’s online copy editing course was affected because of the situation of some participants: they became too busy to complete the course; they had to share their computer; one’s participation was delayed because she came down with the virus.

Wednesday, October 14

At our next meeting, Clarke Mackey will talk to us about film editing and the parallels he has found with word editing. We hope you can join us on Zoom at 7:00 p.m.

POSTPONED: Shelley Tanaka Talks Children’s Books

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUPDATE: Shelley Tanaka’s visit has been postponed (poor Shelley has broken her ankle). The March 11 meeting has been cancelled, but we’ll be sure to have Shelley come speak to us when she’s up and around again!

On Wednesday, March 11, Editors Kingston will welcome Shelley Tanaka at the twig gathering.

Shelley Tanaka is the long-time fiction editor at Groundwood Books, an independent Canadian children’s publisher based in Toronto, where she has edited more than a dozen Governor General’s Award–winning books. She also teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the Masters of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

As well as sharing tales from her career in editing, Shelley will talk about how editing for young readers differs from editing books for adults. She’ll also describe how the children’s book business has changed over the years.

More about Shelley

Climate Change - Tanaka, ShelleyShelley is the author of more than 20 non-fiction books for children and young adults, including seven titles in the award-winning I Was There series (examples are On Board the Titanic, Attack on Pearl Harbor, and Climate Change). She has  won numerous other prizes, and her books have been translated into nine languages.

WhiteAsMilk-coverBShelley is also a translator and has twice been nominated for the annual German Children’s Literature Award. A recent translation is White as Milk, Red as Blood, a collection of 19th-century German folk tales. She not only translated these stories but  also developed the proposal to have them published in English.

Shelley lives in Kingston. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and German from Queen’s University and a master’s in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto.

Coming Up April 8

David Sweet of Books and Company, beloved indie bookstore in Picton, will speak at our April gathering.

Join Us

Ongwanada Resource Centre
191 Portsmouth Avenue
7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)
Free for Editors Canada members
$5 for visitors

Find Us on Facebook

Whether or not you come to our gatherings, feel free to join our Facebook group and chat with other Kingston-area editors and assorted word nerds.