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Volunteer of the Month
Volunteers are the backbone of Editors Canada, a member-run organization, and we are grateful for the many volunteers who answer the call when help is needed. On this page, you'll meet some of the dedicated people who keep Editors Canada going.
July 2019: Blazej Szpakowicz
Blazej Szpakowicz serves on the Editors Canada training and development committee assisting with the webinar program. He liaises with presenters, hosts webinars and runs the software behind the scenes. When he joined Editors British Columbia in 2017, experienced editors advised him that volunteering for Editors Canada would be a great way to network and learn. "Since I came to the editorial world as a self-employed novice with no formal training and no professional contacts, both benefits had obvious appeal," he says. "And with my academic and computing background (a PhD in history and a BSc in computer science), the webinars seemed like a good fit."
For Blazej, the biggest hurdle was his first webinar. "I was absolutely terrified that I'd forget something important," he says, even though he had detailed checklists, had shadowed other webinars and had a solid understanding of the software. In the end, everything went smoothly with that first webinar, and since then he has been responsible for running about half of Editors Canada's webinars since 2017.
Prior to taking up professional editing two years ago, he proofread and beta-read for friends, colleagues and family. Blazej currently edits academic writing and fiction across a wide range of disciplines and enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. "English is wonderful," he says. "I love all the clever ways you can twist it around without quite breaking it."
Blazej has found volunteering to be a valuable experience and says he has learned a great deal about being a freelance editor, including editorial techniques, time management, finances and communication. He has also met numerous people and made professional contacts. "Freelance editorial work can be very solitary, so any opportunity to meet people is great—even through a computer screen."
June 2019: Robin Larin
Robin Larin has a background in creative writing, academia and teaching—giving her experience in editing student work—and has volunteered in various capacities as an editor. Currently, she is completing the Editing Certificate through Simon Fraser University and is starting her own freelance business with a focus on fiction. She enjoys editing because it lets her tackle a project from the big picture to the picky details of proofreading. "I'm a grammar geek and logophile who especially enjoys copy editing," she says.
Robin joined Editors Canada as a student affiliate in July 2018 and is now the co-chair of the national student relations committee. In this role, she helped create an in-class PowerPoint presentation for courses on editing and related subjects. She also worked with the committee to reinvigorate the student affiliate Facebook page, which involved creating new content with questions, ideas and updates related to Editors Canada and editing in general. Robin attends the monthly meetings of her local twig, Editors Hamilton-Halton, and is responsible for keeping the membership lists organized for them.
When we asked her why she wanted to volunteer for Editors Canada, she told us that volunteering is a wonderful way to develop editing and people skills, and she appreciates the opportunity to meet and learn from others interested in editing. "Editors are diverse, creative and very funny people!" she says.
May 2019: Leslie Saffrey
Leslie Saffrey served on the Editors Canada certification steering committee from 2016 to 2019, where she helped to administer the annual exams and worked on long-term planning, development and enhancement of the professional certification program. Leslie also helped to produce two new test preparation guides: Stylistic Editing (2017) and Proofreading (2018).
Leslie has been a member of Editors Toronto since joining the association in 2009. She has been a professional editor for 14 years, the last 9 of which have been freelance. She edits and proofreads non-fiction books (mostly academic) and reports. Having benefited from other volunteers' efforts when she was pursuing her Certified Professional Editor credential, she decided that volunteering for Editors Canada would be a fun way to give back and an opportunity to learn.
What was the biggest volunteer challenge? Keeping up with the other stellar committee members. "I was working with extremely talented, energetic, creative people, and I was constantly in awe of their ability to stay on top of the fast-moving, very detailed process of administering the tests year after year," she says.
April 2019: Julia Kollek
Since 2017, Julia Kollek has co-chaired Editors Hamilton-Halton. Putting her outreach and programming skills to use, Julia works with an enthusiastic team to help build twig attendance and membership. And their hard work is paying off. "We're excited to have had some of the best writers, editors and business coaches come to speak to the group," says Julia.
Julia joined Editors Canada in 2013. Getting involved in the association has given her a chance to network and collaborate with other members. "We complement our skills and work together on projects such as web design, content and blogs," she says. "We also share academic editing projects if we have a full workload." Julia is proud to be part of a group that has been able to help support and advise new editors to help them get started in their careers.
Julia is a successful journalist and features writer, with articles published in The Independent, The Globe and Mail and She Magazine. She was also a researcher for the BBC and TVO, worked on live events for the CBC, and ran her own video production company.
Editing is Julia's first love, but she has diversified her business by learning new skills and is now able to offer her clients a variety of services, including web content, blogs, video and radio scripts, business proposals and academic editing work.
"No two days are the same," she says. "Like so many other professions and industries, the editing landscape is undergoing disruption. We're all adapting."
March 2019: Lee Parpart
Lee Parpart was pursuing a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University but had become disenchanted with academia and was unsure what her future held. As a stay-at-home mom for almost ten years, Lee was concerned that she would no longer be employable.
At a literary event that she had organized, Lee met the co-chair of Editors Toronto, Jennifer Foster. Jennifer saw her potential as an event coordinator for the branch and asked her to interview for the position. Lee accepted and began working on creating opportunities for writers and editors to enjoy in-person events to enrich them both professionally and personally.
Since then, Lee's volunteer experience has led to freelance and full-time editing jobs. She says that "volunteering for Editors Canada was one of the best moves" she has ever made and characterizes her experience as "life-changing." She made many fruitful connections within the editing and writing communities and now works for a hybrid publishing company in Toronto. She also runs a small freelance poetry editing business.
One of her most memorable volunteering experiences was booking the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, novelist, poet and playwright Michael Redhill, and his editor, Martha Kanya-Forstner. This made her realize that she could get top talent for Editors Toronto events.
"Sometimes you just need to ask to be given a great opportunity that you can share with the members of the association," says Lee. Other opportunities have provided Lee with some valuable insights into the value of bringing all life experiences to editing.
What is Lee's advice to anyone interested in volunteering? "Figure out what skills you want to develop and use the position to get really good at something that will advance your career in some way or make you a better editor or happier person."
February 2019: Tania Cheffins
Tania Cheffins has been editing since 2006, first as the exams editor for Certified General Accountants of Canada (CGA-Canada) and then as the editorial manager for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. In 2016, she decided to quit her job and do freelance work on a full-time basis.
Tania joined Editors British Columbia in 2011. After receiving her Certified Professional Editor (CPE) designation in 2013, she volunteered to help set future Editors Canada professional certification exams. At the time Tania was the exams editor at CGA-Canada, so the work was familiar to her. After the first exam-setting session, she joined the certification steering committee and spent several years helping to get the computer testing platform for the certification exams up and running. Computer testing officially launched in 2017.
Tania is the professional standards director on the national executive council (NEC)—a position she has held since 2017. She enjoys the role because it allows her to continue working with the certification steering committee. Her recent projects include working on the recent updates of the Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Student Texts and Definitions of Editorial Skills.
"I was happy to be part of updating these tools along with so many dedicated and interesting people I may not have otherwise met" she says. "It's gratifying to see these refreshed projects completed and now available for everyone to use."
January 2019: Sheila Eskenazi
Sheila Eskenazi is our volunteer of the month for January. Her work has consisted of translating Editors Québec documents, seminar descriptions, and emails from French to English. With the great increase in French activities in the branch, Sheila found that there were many more things that needed translation, giving her the opportunity to hone her skills and provide a service to the organization.
"A volunteer-run group needs volunteers to run it, and when you value something, you support it in any way you can," she says.
Sheila has been a member of Editors Québec since joining Editors Canada in 2008. Providing volunteer translation allows her to participate actively with the Editors Canada community and other not-for-profit and cultural organizations without being physically present. Her experience working with everyone she has connected with at Editors Canada has been pleasurable.
"I feel appreciated and get great satisfaction from the chance to contribute, and from the feedback I get on the translations I submit."
Sheila has been an editor since 1984. Most of her work was done as a sideline and through volunteer work, as she owned and operated another small business with her husband. Once the business was sold, she devoted herself to building her editing career, and has since edited magazines, newspaper articles, websites, books and even phone menu messages.
Sheila's career provides her with a varied and stimulating range of freelance work, which allows her to work from her "comfortable little nest at home." Much of her work has been the result of her raising awareness of the needs of the English-speaking population in the Laurentians and encouraging groups to provide services in the language of the minority community. Coming from a long line devoted to community support, she hopes to carry on with her various involvements for many more years.
Want to make a difference in your association? Find out more about volunteering for Editors Canada.