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Tracey Anderson

“Editing has the power to elevate writing to a level where change is possible”: An Interview with Sheila Cameron

Photo of Sheila Cameron by Mark Benson
Photo of Sheila Cameron by Mark Benson
Photo credit: Mark Benson

Sheila Cameron has 15 years’ experience providing style and copy editing on a wide range of fiction, non-fiction and business materials. Currently, she develops and edits content for eLeadership Academy™, an online educational platform that utilizes neuroscience insights to foster leadership growth.

Editors Canada is delighted that on Sunday, June 13, 2021, at 11:15 a.m. ET, Sheila will present at our virtual conference, Editors Transform. Edmonton-based non-fiction editor Tracey Anderson interviewed Sheila about her work and about the power of words. (This interview has been lightly edited.)

Tracey Anderson: Your bio on your website says that you are “passionate about raising our collective human consciousness.” Can you explain what you mean by “raising our collective human consciousness”? How do you think your editing work ties into that passion?

Sheila Cameron: Raising our collective consciousness simply means always trying to become better versions of ourselves. That can only happen when people are willing to grow and stretch as individuals. A lot of the projects I edit are in the self-improvement realm, and I’m currently on the development team for a 12-month program called eLeaderHUB, which fosters leadership growth in combination with neuroscience insights. I get excited about this work because I know that the learning will have such a positive impact on the lives of those who take the program, and that positivity will ripple out through each of their circles of influence.

TA: You are one of the speakers at the Editors Canada virtual conference that runs June 12 and 13. The theme of the conference is Editors Transform. The title of your presentation is “Words Change the World.” In your view, how can or do words change the world?

SC: Words have made a powerful change in my world. I endured a low-grade chronic depression from about age 15 until I sought help at age 30. With cognitive behavioural therapy, I learned to use different words to change my perception of reality. For example, “always” and “never” are absolutes that were often unrealistic in the context I was using them. Consciously replacing those words with “often” and “rarely” gave me a more positive way to view my experiences. Changing my perception improved my mood and behaviour and how I interacted with others and my environment. I transformed into a stronger, kinder and healthier version of myself, empowering me to be of better service to the world for the past 20 years.

TA: What role(s) do you think editing and editors play in the power of words to change the world?

SC: Editors are often asked to keep the writer’s voice intact. A skilled editor can do that while also raising current issues that a writer may not be aware of. Editing has the power to elevate writing to a level where change is possible. It begins with influencing the writer to choose words that are sensitive to issues of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, culture and age, which will in turn help to normalize the experiences of marginalized people for all readers.

No matter the size of a writer’s audience, each reader then has the potential to influence their own circles through writing, speaking, daily interactions or other media. Last year I attended an Editors Canada workshop where the presenter challenged participants to stop using words or phrases that unconsciously perpetuate racism. Within a few short months, I was thrilled to see that the Canadian Real Estate Association was replacing “master” bedroom with “primary” bedroom on all listings. The Toronto Real Estate Board has followed suit this spring. The ripple effect of simply changing the use of one word can make an enormous impact. As outdated “master” terminology is eliminated, people who have been affected by slavery, women who have felt marginalized by inequality, and future generations will all benefit from the subtle and positive psychological shift.

TA: Can you give us a teaser about what specifically you will discuss in your presentation?

SC: Many people noted that attorney Rudy Giuliani used the words “trial by combat” to rile the January 6 crowd to march upon Capitol Hill. A portion of my workshop will explore alternatives to words and phrases that could be subconsciously perpetuating violence or war. I’ll also share tips for influencing writers to consider editorial suggestions that improve their overall message while still respecting their current views. Knowing when to influence a writer and when to yield can be a delicate balancing act.

TA: Will you tell us something unusual or quirky about yourself that is not related to your work?

SC: My two teenagers have been unschooled for their entire learning journey, giving them freedom to follow their individual passions more deeply. Our family’s lifestyle has provided unique challenges and wonderful experiences, such as living in a camper van for two years and backpacking in Europe through the fall and winter of 2019.


Previous post from Tracey Anderson: “I have come a long way from peddling poems for pennies in downtown Winnipeg”: An Interview with Joshua Whitehead

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