An Editor’s Year: A Look Back at 2014

It’s that time of year: Top 10 lists. Here are ten professional highlights from the year that was 2014 for me:  

10. Gaining inspiration from new editors as an instructor at SFU

I have been teaching in the editing program at SFU for a few years now, and this year I encountered more keen, intelligent editing students than ever. Their delight in discovering that there is an actual profession in which they can spend countless hours poring over prose, puzzling over punctuation, grappling with grammar, smoothing awkward style . . . (okay, I’ll stop now): it is infectious and makes me recall how I felt in the early 2000s when I was discovering the same thing.

9. Helping a group of UBC Ch’nook Aboriginal Management Program students promote their professional chops

The Ch’nook Aboriginal Management Certificate Program at UBC’s Sauder School of Business is a unique academic program promoting entrepreneurial careers and economic development in aboriginal communities, and this year I had the pleasure of facilitating a bio-writing seminar for AMP students. The explicit objective of the seminar was to help all AMP graduates write a professional bio to appear in the AMP graduate program — and the results were terrific — but the overarching purpose was to provide participants with a how-to guide for creating a customized and compelling bio for any professional situation they might encounter in the future. I look forward to meeting the 2015 program participants when the seminar is reprised this January.

8. Hanging with my editing peeps at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Toronto

EAC tweets
Tweets from EAC Conference, Toronto, 2014

Every time I hang out with other professional editors, as I did last June at the EAC 2014 conference in Toronto, I get a small thrill to be among their ranks. They stimulate my brain, make me laugh, inspire me to do my best work, and invigorate my love for words. This year’s conference program was chock-a-block full of interesting and professionally relevant sessions. Starting with keynote editor extraordinaire Douglas Gibson (a celebrity book editor in Canada if ever there was one . . . Alice Munro, anyone?), I felt like I was in a cloud of professional development bliss all weekend.   

7. Tracing (and writing about) the history of a property at Lake Samish

1-6 Samish settlers 1888
This 1888 photo of the homesteaders of the first Lake Samish property I researched was found in the Whatcom Museum photo archives.

A few years ago, I researched and wrote the history of a family’s cabin at Lake Samish, a gorgeous lake near Bellingham, Washington (published by Echo Memoirs). The research uncovered a fascinating history that began with the first people of Lake Samish, the Duwáha, and continued with a homesteading family, a Bellingham Herald newspaperman who subdivided the homestead into cottage lots he christened Summerland, and a few other colourful owners before coming into the hands of the family who had commissioned the history book.

This was one of my favourite custom history book projects ever, so in 2014 I was very happy to research a second Lake Samish property for the patriarch of this family when he sold the first cabin to his grown daughter and moved to a part of the lake called The Point. (Technically this research began in late 2013, but most of it was completed in 2014, so it counts!) The research allowed me to spend a few happy days in a Washington State archive, and as usual with this sort of geo-genealogical research, the archives revealed more than one interesting tale along the way.  

6. Learning about where publishing is going at PubPro

Leanpub co-founder Peter Armstrong at PubPro 2014

My friend and editing colleague Iva Cheung is the brain behind the PubPro Unconference, the second annual of which was held this past May in Vancouver (with the 2015 edition coming in April). Aimed at managing editors and production specialists, the event attracts publishing professionals from not only book and magazine publishers but also organizations like Mountain Equipment Co-op.

I was one of the volunteer “reporters” at this year’s conference, charged with taking notes at a few of the sessions, and I wrote about the MEC session as well as about a furiously paced talk by the founder of Leanpub. About the latter, I wrote: “Making a fascinating and convincing comparison of Leanpub’s model with Victorian-era serial publishing by Charles Dickens (another serial entrepreneur) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon (the 1860s version of fan fiction writer E.L. James)—not to mention Dostoyevsky—Armstrong explained how authors today need to ‘get work out there and generate buzz,’ and how anything standing in the way of putting words in front of readers, including editors, was just procrastination. ‘Everyone is optional,’ he said. ‘There should be no gatekeepers. We all need to earn our place. At Leanpub, authors and readers are equally our customers, and we need to balance their interests.’ ” As an editor, I found these to be words to consider very seriously.

5. Proofreading Elizabeth May’s Who We Are

Elizabeth MayI couldn’t write about 2014 highlights without including the project of proofreading federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s part memoir, part political call to action Who We Are (Greystone Books). Some books are a job to work on, most are a pleasure, but this one was an honour.



4. Indexing the corporate history of Nature’s Path

The last project I worked on in 2014 was also an honour, and that was indexing the corporate history for Nature’s Path, the organic food company based in Richmond, BC. To be released in the spring of 2015 in time for the company’s 30th anniversary, the book begins with the family histories of company founders Arran and Ratana Stephens, whose roots in organic and healthy food imbue everything Nature’s Path now does, and then chronicles the rise of “the little organic cereal company that could” to its present position as the number-one such company on the market. What an inspiring project! (And I am now fairly addicted to Mesa Sunrise cereal.)

3. Copy editing Great Bear Wild

Great Bear WildI don’t think it’s a coincidence that yet another project highlight for me this year had an environmental theme, but this one — Ian McAllister’s Great Bear Wild (Greystone Books) was a treat in other respects: it is simply gorgeously written and illustrated, and it flexed all of my copy editing muscles. A copy editor confronted with flora and fauna like sphagnum moss and Steller’s sea lions and place names like Caamaño Sound has a lot of fact-checking and style-sheet-recording to do, but I loved every minute of it. The end product, which couples McAllister’s writing with his incredible photographs, is a treasure on my portfolio shelf. 

2. Seeing not one, but two long-term memoir projects come to completion

Marti Oppenheimer holding her family history book

In July I wrote a blog post about the completion of From Gold Trails and Farm Fields, the personal family history of my client Marti Oppenheimer, and in December came the completion of another family history book, this one called Moments from an Interesting Life: The Story of Bill and Mary Everett.

The cover of Bill Everett’s book

Bill’s father was a pioneer in the automotive dealership industry in BC (and subsequently Manitoba), and Bill had many fascinating tales to share about growing up in Vancouver. When the Second World War broke out, Bill attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and then Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England, before being appointed in 1941 to HMS King George V, the flagship of the British Home Fleet and arguably the most powerful battleship in the world at that time. After serving on several more naval ships and surviving the war, Bill returned to domestic life in Winnipeg, where his family had moved in his absence, and worked alongside his father in the auto dealership he owned.

Now ninety-three years old and one of the most charming and gentlemanly men I have ever met, he has accomplished an admirable and enormous task in the publication of his life story as a legacy gift for his many family members. I am so proud to have worked with both Bill and Marti on their books.

1. Working with publishers who prove that book publishing in BC is alive and kicking

It seems like only yesterday when in 2012 the bankruptcy filing of Douglas & McIntyre seemed to sound a death knell for BC’s book industry. But as of 2014, at least from my little corner of the room, it seems that the local book publishing scene is more vibrant and active than ever. The D&M imprint Greystone Books has a thriving publishing program under new owner Heritage House. The start-up custom publishers Figure 1 and LifeTree Media both celebrated successful first-year anniversaries in 2014, as did the publishing consultancy Page Two, while the custom publisher Echo Memoirs is into its second decade. The lifestyle imprint Appetite by Random House puts out some of the most gorgeous and usable cookbooks around from its Gastown headquarters. UBC Press releases strong title after strong title, including the Hill Times’ top book of 2014, A National Force (which I proofread). Add to this a number of self-publishing authors and organizations active in BC and other conventional publishers not named here and what you see is a hotbed of activity and a whole lot of wonderful, high-quality books. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store!


Happy New Year to one and all!