How I Became an Editor

I first joined Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship in 2000 and attended their annual Fall Conference. Elsie Montgomery was the president and Nathan Harms was the editor of FellowScript. I admired them from afar; surely they were great, amazing writers who’d have no time for an amateur, wanna-be 16-year-old writer like me.

Over the years, as I attended Fall Conferences and read each issue of FellowScript from cover to cover, I discovered that ICWF was an incredibly friendly group of writers who were happy to sit down with a teenage writer and say, “Follow your dreams!  Keep writing!”

Story Editor for the Student Newspaper

A few years later, when I started university, I looked at the student newspaper with interest but again thought surely there were better writers than I who could get involved. In my first two years, I submitted only one short article to The Blue & White. (It was published and received high praise from one of my favourite professors.)

Finally, in my third year of university, I applied for a position with the student paper. For the next two years, I worked as the Story Editor. My job was to read every submissions we received and edit it for spelling/grammar. I loved doing that. (It was, for the most part, a pretty easy job!)

During this time, I continued to read FellowScript. Marcia Laycock was president of ICWF and Elsie had taken over as the editor. I thought that if ever she wanted to step down, I would like to become the editor… but that day was surely far in the future, as she was doing a much better job than ever I could.

Editor for the Writer’s Magazine

Then, at the 2005 Fall Conference, I heard Elsie say hat she was ready to pass the newsletter on to someone else. I wanted to do it. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for. But again, doubt rose up. I was too young. I had one year left at university. I didn’t know enough about editing. Surely someone else…

Timidly, I walked up to Elsie and told her I was interested in doing FellowScript. Over the next year, she became a mentor to me as she passed on the computer program I needed, all the templates and files she’d designed, the photos and graphics she’d collected. She even spent an afternoon at my place, walking me through layout.

Slowly, I learned—from her and from my own trial and error. Each issue that came together filled me with excitement. Here was another newsletter packed with information and inspiration for writers. Hopefully it would encourage them as it had encouraged me.

After I graduated university, the question came… where would I work? I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an editor. The problem was that finding such a job was hard to do. There just aren’t a lot of editor jobs around (especially since I didn’t want to be the sports editor for the local paper).

Editor for the Alberta Government

I took a summer job with the professor who’d liked my article in the university student paper and continued to job hunt.  At the end of the summer, a job came up with Alberta Education.  I applied and interviewed and edited their sample piece of writing.  And I got the job: a real job as a real editor, thanks in a huge part, I’m sure, to my experience with The Blue & White and FellowScript.

Six months into my job, I registered for a three-day editing course at the local college. I’d been watching for an editing course since I starting the job. All my editing knowledge came from experience and from fellow editors. I thought it would be a good idea to pick up some courses to expand my skills and qualifications.

The course was on copyediting, which is mostly what I do – checking for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Other types of editing were also touched on, so I got a better idea of what editors do. It was neat to see where the other people in the course were working – there were a few from the local newspaper, a local magazine publishing company, and various other places, including universities and freelancers. Editors work in a range of places!

I learned a few new techniques and found out some things that will be useful if I start freelance editing. But mostly, I discovered I do know what I’m doing. That may sound funny, but I have a tendency to question myself. I’m the youngest person in my department and have the least amount of experience behind me. It was good to see that yes, I am an editor, and yes, I am doing what editors do.

From Student Writer to Professional Editor

Looking back on the last ten years of my involvement with Inscribe, I want to express my gratitude to this wonderful organization of writers who have encouraged and mentored me over the years. From speakers at Fall Conference to articles in FellowScript to mentors like Cynthia Post and Elsie Montgomery, I’ve learned so much about writing and editing. I can say without hesitation that I would not be the writer and editor that I am today without Inscribe. I know that I have a lot to learn still as a writer, but I also want to help those who are just starting out, as I was once helped by other Inscribers.

This (rather long!) post on how I became an editor has been my contribution to the ICWF Blog Tour.

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