How I was inspired to become an editor By Tom Vradenburg, EAC NCR Chair

Two formative experiences started me on my career path: one was being edited skillfully; the other, reading the work of skilled editors.

Before graduating from Carleton’s journalism school, you must write or produce a substantial piece of writing, radio or television—something magazine- or documentary-length. I wrote mine about the budget process and the difficulties of reforming the tax system. Since it was a subject mostly of interest to policy wonks, after graduating I submitted it to be published in Policy Options magazine, an important forum for that audience.

To my astonishment, the editors liked it, but asked me to pare it down to a couple of thousand words, their customary length. I did so, and then submitted it for copy editing.

I had seen Tom Kent’s name on the magazine’s masthead, and I knew who he was—the Kent Royal Commission on Newspapers was a fresh memory in the early 1980s. He had been a journalist, an advisor to prime ministers, an academic, an all-round luminary. By then, he was retirement age.

I had no idea he actually edited articles for the magazine—until I got a brown envelope in the mail from Mabou, Nova Scotia.

Inside was a hand-marked manuscript and a courteous, clear letter from Tom Kent, explaining that he had done a copy edit and wanted me to review the manuscript one last time before publication. His edit was immaculate, and in a couple of places he clarified or ‘punched up’ the writing. It felt like staying in a five-star hotel for the first time.

A couple of years later, I was flying back to Ottawa from Calgary, alone. I hadn’t brought anything to read, and had missed out on the limited supply of newspapers the flight attendants handed out.

Two seats over, next to the window, sat a businessman in an expensive-looking but conservative suit: my first impression was, what’s he doing back here in economy? He wasn’t the chatty type, but he noticed how bored I was, and offered me the front section of his Wall Street Journal.

In j-school, we had been taught to revere the Journal as one of the world’s best- written and -edited newspapers. But I didn’t like the Journal’s politics, and Wall Street didn’t normally interest me: I seldom read it of my own volition. This was an opportunity to test what we’d been told.

On its front page, the Journal traditionally runs lighter feature items down the far-left and far-right columns. I started reading the far-left column, and the story was about a turtle rancher in Louisiana—in a swamp rather than scrub prairie. But I found myself reading it very quickly—so quickly I suspected I was just skimming.

So, after finishing the articles, I reviewed each paragraph from start to finish, testing what information I had absorbed into my short-term memory. I was astonished that reading something I wasn’t initially keen on could be so easy, and my memory of it could be so complete.

It was a long enough flight that I read most of the paper. It was true, what I had been told about the Wall Street Journal.

I got on the plane empty-handed, and disembarked with a career objective, a second picture of what skilled editors can do—for authors and for readers.

Stretching at your desk by Tom Vradenburg, EAC-NCR Chair

Stretching at your desk

By Tom Vradenburg, EAC-NCR Chair

If you’re chair-bound for most of the day, your body can gradually cramp up. You may feel tension in your neck; your hip flexor muscles will gradually tighten, your posture may deteriorate.

You may not have an hour to spare, or the inclination, to hit the gym. Here are some quick stretches you can do in the time it takes your kettle to boil—and of course you have time for tea, don’t you?

Do these for the neck muscles:

  1. Sit upright in your chair—good posture, now!—relax your shoulders. Your pelvis should be tilted slightly forward, your spine ‘neutral’—meaning there’s a slight forward curve in the lower, lumbar region, but otherwise it’s straight.
  2. Imagine there is a string wrapped around your earlobe and hanging beside your arm. Imagine that string being pulled gently, gradually and incrementally. Don’t let your shoulders tilt, and don’t worry if your neck does not flex very far. Don’t push your head with your hand, just use gravity and the weight of your head. If you feel mild discomfort, keep going; if you feel pain, stop.
  3. Hold this position for 30 or 45 seconds. You can hold this, or any, stretch for two or three minutes.
  4. Repeat with the other ear moving towards the other shoulder.
  5. When the kettle comes to a boil, pour water into your teapot.
  6. Now that you’ve done east and west, repeat with north and south while you’re waiting for the tea to steep. When you tilt your head back, you’ll feel some tugging in the neck muscles that support your jaw: as long as there’s no pain, that’s natural.

I have been a YMCA-certified group fitness instructor for seven years. I teach group cardio and strength classes at the gym at my office about once a week.

Meet the Instructor –Laurel Hyatt

laurel hyatt

Laurel Hyatt is a multi-skilled, creative and award-winning communicator equally comfortable with editing, writing, and production managing. She has more than 18 years’ experience in several media, including books, magazines and the Web, with a strong journalism background.

Her practical approach to editing is evident in her seminar, Editing Charts. “Charts should try to impart knowledge, not just data or information,” says Laurel, who gives several reasons why proficiency at editing charts is a good skill.  “Many readers will read a chart on a page first, or maybe only the chart. The use of visual information is exploding and charts are important to persuade the audience and for readers’ decision making. “

By the end of the morning, you’ll be confident about when to use the various types of charts or perhaps choose a table instead.  Registration for the Wednesday, April 29, 2015, half-day seminar closes on April 26. Click here to register.

April is time for an Ottawa town hall by Tom Vradenburg, EAC NCR Chair

  • Wednesday, April 15, 7:30 p.m.
  • Capital Hill Hotel & Suites, 88 Albert St.
  • Free for EAC members and non-members · Door prizes too!

It’s been a couple of years since the branch executive has ‘checked in’ with the membership, and I’d like to do it before relinquishing the chair in May.

But this is not about my needs, it’s about yours as professional editors. The simple question the executive would like to ask members is, How can we make NCR more relevant to today’s professional editors?

This not to say our branch, one of the ‘original four’ branches of the association, is in any crisis. At times over the last few years, the seas have gotten dangerous, but we all grabbed onto the gunwales and rode it out. We kept holding meetings, presenting good Speaker Night programs, and organizing a full slate of seminars.

All is not well at the end of my watch, however. Branch membership is stagnant, just below 200, slipping by half a dozen per quarter, then gaining two or three. Each month we’ve had good speakers talking about interesting subjects, but perhaps a couple of dozen people come out. We wonder if it’s the weather, or the coffee, or something deeper than that.

Each year we budget $50,000 or $60,000 in expenses, then just barely break even or, more often, lose a thousand or two. We used to have a healthy cash reserve, but years of leakage has it down to about $36,000. The seminar program has suffered from government budget cuts and curbs on training, and we have more competition than ever before. We are still the cheapest training option in the market, but we are being out-marketed.

I don’t worry as much about the money as I do about people—not just having enough volunteers to keep the boat afloat, but becoming a group with enough critical mass that others want to get involved to help push the branch forward. Elections for the branch executive will be held at our meeting May 20: please consider volunteering, even in a small role.

I hope you can sense in these words a desire for renewal. The branch executive has some ideas for making our program more compelling, but this town hall is a call for more—ideas and people. Please come out on April 15, and let’s see if we can find a way out of the doldrums.

Call for Membership Chair by Jean Rath

When I set out to become a freelance editor, the imperative that I heard everywhere, so much so that it is still a constant ringing in my ears, was “network.” So I started attending National Capital Region speaker nights. When I heard they needed new board members, I could see that this was an even better way to network. Besides I had the time to give to it.

But I didn’t have endless amounts of time. So the position of membership chair was a perfect fit for me. It’s a very straightforward position, and it doesn’t demand much time.  The other benefit for me, since it’s not always easy for me to circulate a room, is that as membership chair at speaker nights the room circulates me.

The membership chair is present at the door at all eight monthly National Capital Region speaker nights, from September to November, and then from January to May. She greets the attendees, notes the number of members who attend, collects the $10.00 from non-members, and provides name tags. The NCR executive director provides her with current Editors’ Association of Canada pamphlets and advertising, which she distributes on the tables. She also places the NCR branch surveys on the tables, collects them, and later collates and reports on them.

This position can be held by two people. During my first year on the board, I had a co-chair. This allowed us to occasionally skip a speaker night when we had to. We also shared the administrative duties.

The membership chair attends board meetings (which happen at the same location as the speaker nights, two and a half hours before) and gives updates on the current membership status of the local branch. She also writes up a brief report of the details (not the substance) of the speaker nights, such as number of attendees, name of the presentation, and survey results.

At the beginning of every month, the executive director sends the membership chair a list of all the members in the NCR branch, with the new members highlighted. The membership chair emails welcome letters to these new members. The welcome letter is prewritten  and only has to have the personal details added.

During my first year on the board, my co-chair and I distributed the Editors’ Association of Canada pamphlets and advertising farther and wider than the monthly speaker nights. We both agreed that restricting this material to editors’ meetings was preaching to the choir. The whole NCR board contributed their connections and imagination to this effort. Between the bunch of us we got the material out to coffee shops, the writers festival, government buildings, and university bookstores. The new membership chair will continue to co-ordinate this group effort, ensuring that old material is replaced, and using the board members’ connections to send the material out.

I began as membership chair in September 2013. It was the only reason I got to know people at the NCR branch very quickly. This made me bold enough to actually attend the November wine and cheese (besides, I had to be there to collect money at the door), where I met a woman who runs the local branch of a women’s business network. I joined this organization, and it was through my connections there that I got my first paying freelance work. Networking is indeed a strong imperative.

I’m grateful for the years of learning and support that came from being part of the National Capital Region branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada. I enjoyed contributing to the collective energy of the NCR board, who see the value of the local branch and would like to keep it going. I would have continued doing this job, but my husband’s employer sent him to Australia, and I’ll continue to freelance from there.  I’m sure the new membership chair will enjoy this position very much.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me:

If you would like to volunteer for this position, please contact the chair or vice-chair of the National Capital Region branch:

or the executive director:

Why I Chose Editing (or Editing Chose Me) by Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr, Vice-chair EAC-NCR

This past February, I celebrated my 26th anniversary as a professional editor. But I had been working up to “professional” for several years before I started in the business, first as the poetry editor on our high school yearbook and next as production manager on the Glendon College student newspaper. Back then, everyone assumed that I would become a teacher, because they couldn’t imagine what else one would do with a degree in English. But I was very shy, and didn’t even consider teaching, even though it was the dominant profession in my family. I loved books, and wanted to make them.

I had followed up my MA in English with a brigade organized by Canadian Action for Nicaragua (CAN). We spent four weeks picking coffee and learning about the Sandinista revolution, the Contras trying to undermine it, and the dictator preceding them. When I got back to Toronto in January 1989, it was time to look for a job.

A newspaper ad for a job in publishing caught my attention. The applications didn’t go to the publisher, but to a headhunting agency. I soon met Mr. Tembe, who coached me through the entire hiring process for my first “real” job. He was a great booster. When I had no confidence in myself, he took on the role of cheerleader, even phoning me on the morning of my interview just to tell me I could do it. The fact that I remember his name 26 years later is testimony to his cheerful encouragement.

I was very unsure of myself because there was an editing test involved. I couldn’t spell. I probably had dyslexia. My mother had even bought me a phonetic dictionary because, really, who can look up a word they have no idea how to spell in the first place? I did the test, certain that I would NOT get the job.

When the test was marked, Marta Tomins, the woman who would be my boss if I succeeded, called me in. “I’ve never hired anyone who couldn’t spell before,” she said, “but then I’ve never had anyone score so highly on the logic part of the test either.” She took a chance and hired me, even though she had to keep coaching me along, because I didn’t know such basic things as “a comma never appears before a parenthesis.” I wasn’t the best speller, but I was a quick study; making mistakes is, after all, one of the best ways to learn.

And so I began as a production editor at Prentice-Hall Canada (now Pearson) working on college and university textbooks. Like most of my colleagues, I had a degree in English. Some of them had even gotten partway through a PhD before quitting. I now like to brag to my students – yes, I finally became a teacher when I worked my way through a PhD in English and did NOT quit – that I am one of the only people who has actually read textbooks cover to cover. The crowning achievement certainly is having my name on the cover of a textbook, as the author of the second Canadian edition of A Writer’s Workshop: Crafting Sentences, Building Paragraphs, Designing Essays, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Spelling is no longer an issue, though logic is still the stronger trait, but editing – especially when you read textbooks, and now academic journals, cover to cover – is one of the best professions in which to practice life-long learning.

Meet the Instructor – Starting a Freelance Career and Social Media 101

Christine LeBlanc is a communications consultant who started her business, Dossier Communications, in 2005 after a decade in publishing. She specializes in writing, editing, integrated marketing strategies (incorporating social media), and event planning. Christine is the past chair of the EAC’s National Capital Region branch and was the co-chair of the 2012 EAC National Conference, which broke attendance records. She is also a member of the International Association of Business Communicators. She started using social media to deal with the isolation of working from home and has managed social media channels for various clients ranging from a national health care organization to a start-up comic book company.

Christine will be delivering a double-header on Friday, April 17: Starting a Freelance Career in the morning, and Social Media 101 in the afternoon. Come and discover the wealth of knowledge Christine has to offer.