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Anita Jenkins

Editors Canada’s Karen Virag Award

Editors Canada established the Karen Virag Award in 2016 to honour the memory of a remarkable Edmonton editor. This award recognizes individuals or groups who do an exceptional job of raising the profile of editors and the editing profession. These skills and initiatives are somewhat exceptional among the editing ranks, since an editor’s usual role is to assist in a more-or-less-invisible capacity.

Virag was an active member of Editors Canada who died at a relatively young age in 2014. She was a talented and unique person who took the message about why editors are needed to the rest of society. She served as the Editors Canada representative on the Cultural Human Resources Council for a long time. And for seven years she, along with Virginia Durksen, were the “Grammar Gals” on a CBC Radio call-in program. Virag pitched the program to CBC as a way of publicizing the 2008 Editors Canada conference held in Edmonton, and it turned into a long-lasting and popular show.

Recipients to date
On June 10, 2017, Nancy Flight, Vancouver, and Virginia Durksen, Edmonton, received Karen Virag awards at the Editors Canada annual conference banquet held in Ottawa-Gatineau.

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Nancy Flight, winner of the 2016 (inaugural) award, has recently announced her upcoming retirement from her job as associate publisher at Greystone Books. She has been editing books in Canada and the United States for 45 years. She is well known across Canada as a speaker at conferences and participant in national committees and juries.

The letter nominating Flight for this award states, “Nancy’s very person shines a spotlight on editing. Like Karen Virag, Nancy is stylish, charismatic and striking: she says that editors, despite their invisible job, deserve to be seen.”

The Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada lists Flight among the editors “whose patient toil raised the standard of Canadian publishing and who have been responsible for influencing the profession.”

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Virginia Durksen, winner of the 2017 award, started out as an editor but over the years has also become a teacher, public speaker and writer. Durksen has constantly promoted the editing profession for more than 25 years. Wherever she goes and whatever job she takes on, she effectively spreads the word about what editing is and why we need it.

As Durksen states in her resume, her course for employees of corporations and government called Writing@Work invites workplace writers to “discover the power of clear words.” In the process, the enormous value of a good editor always comes up. Students in Virginia’s courses learn that they can and should edit their texts — by themselves, by asking peers to review them or, best of all, by hiring a professional editor.

The Karen Virag Award is open to non-members as well as members of Editors Canada. It will be interesting to see who the future recipients turn out to be.

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