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Paul Cipywnyk

How Skype Helped Support a Family Editing Tradition


Upon retirement from their teaching careers at the University of Saskatchewan, my late mother, Sonia Morris, and her sister, Roma Franko, embarked on a labour of love: translating Ukrainian literature into English.

For many years they shared desk space in one another’s homes in Saskatoon. Roma focused on translating, and Sonia on editing. I provided copy editing and proofreading support from the outset of this longstanding project, which has produced more than 20 volumes to date.

Sonia Morris and Roma Franko at a book launch, circa 2006.

Eventually Roma and Sonia felt the need to be geographically closer to their respective families. Roma and her husband moved to Toronto, while my mom and her husband moved to White Rock and then Burnaby.

Bereft of the closeness and support of sitting side by side, they soon discovered Skype as a way to facilitate their prodigious output. Sharing files via email, they’d open the same document, fire up Skype and chat away, much as they had in person.

Translating can be a highly focused, lonely activity. Interacting “live” via Skype humanized the process to a great extent. They could read passages to each other, brainstorm ways to translate idioms and banter away while competing to find the best word in multiple dictionaries and thesauri.

After my mom died, I stepped into her shoes as editor, and my aunt and I have been using Skype to collaborate a few mornings per week whenever there is a new volume in progress. Roma sends me the files. After I edit them, we go over the changes together. Roma has the original Ukrainian that she reads from. While my Ukrainian is rusty, between the two of us we can smooth things out, debating word choice and stylistic issues.

It’s very intense, so I find it best to limit these sessions to around two hours. But it is also great fun and relieves some of the isolation of working from home. It even helps get me going in the mornings. Due to the three-hour time difference, I’m usually starting around 9 a.m., which is noon for Roma. Putting in a few solid hours first thing in the morning sets me up for the rest of my day.

This sort of collaboration is not for everyone. The partners need to be familiar and comfortable with each other. But if they are, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. Because of Skype, we’ve been able to carry on with our family editing tradition. I look forward to many volumes to come.


Have you used Skype or other collaboration tools for long-distance editing projects? Please share your experiences below.

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3 Comments on “How Skype Helped Support a Family Editing Tradition”

  • Anita Jenkins


    Wonderful. You are having fun AND creating important academic and cultural resources. I am glad to hear that you start at 9 – such a sensible hour.

  • Lenore Hietkamp


    Great story about sharing Ukrainian culture and working with your family to produce something important.
    Yes, I use Skype to collaborate with a Norwegian writer. We open the document in question on Google Docs, then talk about it via Skype. The topic is research on computer engineering, which I’m no expert in, but the author values my ability to think through his complex ideas and search for simple ways to express them. We talk through problematic areas, and as I begin to see what he’s trying to say, I suggest edits that the author finds it easier to understand in writing, and so I will type into the open Google Doc. He sees my text appear, then he runs with the idea/edit, shaping his thoughts as he types in Google Docs and as I give him verbal feedback on the real-time result. It works well, and he produces some great work. It is much more time consuming than a straight edit, however.

  • Anita Jenkins


    Other blog contributors and the blog administrators: Note the question at the end of Paul’s essay, «Have you used Skype or other collaboration tools for long-distance editing projects? Please share your experiences below.» And note that he got a couple of replies/comments. I think this is a good way to structure the essay – to invite the readers to respond. The comments are often almost as much fun as the original theme.

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