It was last September. My youngest had started school full-time. I felt giddy with the freedom of it all. I spent midday at the AGO, ran errands all by myself (I forgot how quickly I could get stuff done sans kids!), perused library shelves at length, went out for coffee at that place I’d always wanted to try. And got out the editing books ’cause it was time to find a job. Finally I felt like I could enter the exotic land of paid work. (My brother assures me the lustre of any new gig will be off within a week of landing said gig.)
The first editing book I got from the library was the classic: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. I had never read it, and it was required reading, even though my editing courses had pretty much covered its contents. So for a couple of days, wherever I went, Strunk and White went, too. With Strunk and White tucked snugly in my backpack as I walked the kids home from school down our very own street, who should we meet but venerable editor Rosemary Shipton, founding co-coordinator of the Ryerson publishing program (among a lot of other things).
“Rosemary Shipton,” I said, squealing on the inside like some kind of fangirl. “My name is Michelle, and I was in the publishing program at Ryerson, and I’m finally looking for work as a copy editor. I’ve got Strunk and White in my backpack as we speak!” Yeah, no cogency to see here, folks.
“Well,” said Rosemary, “I hope something comes of it.” We exchanged a few pleasantries, she spoke charmingly with the children, and we parted ways. It had to be a sign, an omen of editorial significance. Rosemary Shipton on my very street. Oh, how I wish I would have been prepared with some practical questions to ask her or with an inquiry (note to pedants: enquiry is a variant of inquiry, meaning that inquiry is the preferred, but not only, spelling) to contact her at another time for advice.
Her words echoed in my mind. “I hope something comes of it.” Those were not encouraging words. Of course something was going to come of it! Why wouldn’t it? But her tone, her tone. She knew something I didn’t.
I mean, we all know traditional publishing is changing. But there’s no dearth of text in the world. Doesn’t the existence of the web mean there’s more content than ever to edit?
Illumination occurred a few days ago as I was scrolling through the EAC’s blog and came across an article by Rosemary in which she questions the future role of editors in today’s climate of slashed budgets and self-publishing. So this is what’s been on her mind. And with good reason, of course. We’re in uncharted territory here.
Sometimes I think it’s time to go welding. But I love reading, I love language, and I love working with text. I’m willing to stay the course and find my place in publishing, however and wherever that may be.