Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Elements of Editing in a Two-Day Workshop: A Staff Writer's Experience

Travel bursaries for voting magazine members are just one of the many benefit programs that we provide at the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. We've asked bursary recipients to share their professional development travel experiences. 

Paul Stastny, staff writer at Oilweek magazine, made use of an AMPA travel subsidy to attend a one-day workshop as part of Simon Fraser University's Summer Publishing program in Vancouver.

An Adventurous Start in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
I arrive in downtown Vancouver by SkyTrain and confirm the address of my hotel in my planner, thinking how convenient it is to be only a few blocks from Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus. But as I head out of the downtown core, the neighbourhood starts to look seedy. Apparently I’m headed in the right direction, until a man next to me at an intersection convinces me otherwise; he puts down a refrigerator grill and explodes into a flurry of shadow punches. 

I phone the hotel to find that I've written down the wrong address. It’s a painful reminder of my lack of attention to detail and why I’m here for a course on editing in the first place. Somehow, in a lapse of attention, I've ended up on the edge of Vancouver’s notorious East Hastings district. 

The Elements of Editing Workshop with Shelley Youngblut
We introduce ourselves in class and say a few words about what brings us to the Elements of Editing workshop led by Calgary’s Swerve magazine editor, Shelley Youngblut. Without going into the embarrassing minutiae of my mini adventure, I say I hope to reign in my distressing lack of attention to detail. But as a writer for Oilweek, I’m also here to gather some insights into the creativity and sensibilities that have made Swerve an award-winning publication, and a magazine that features some of my favourite Canadian non-fiction writers.  

Shelley draws on her consumer publication experience from some 30 years of editing in New York and Canada. She’s a great speaker; her passion for editing and working with creative people is inspiring. Her anecdotes and observations make you want to be a better editor, even if you’re a writer, which is to say there’s a lot of takeaway for both writers and editors here. 

As for my lack of attention to detail, I can’t say I’m cured. My sense is that any course that could actually help me with this weakness is one I probably couldn’t sit through. Fact checking or the nuts and bolts of line editing isn’t what this course is about. Thankfully. 

--- Paul Stastny
Oilweek Staff Writer, JuneWarren-Nickle's Publishing