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Sue Archer

Interview With Grace Yaginuma, Winner of the Tom Fairley Award

Grace Yaginuma
Grace Yaginuma
Grace Yaginuma

This post is part of our “Editors in the Spotlight” series, spotlighting editors who have won awards or participated in award-winning projects.

In this post, Sue Archer interviews Grace Yaginuma, who won the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for editing the book A Discerning Eye by Carol E. Mayer.


Sue Archer: To start, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about how you came to work on A Discerning Eye. Did anything in particular attract you to the project?

Grace Yaginuma: Iva Cheung, kind colleague and friend, had put me in touch with the folks at Figure 1. She used to work in-house at Douglas & McIntyre, and Figure 1 was a new publishing house started by several ex-D&M-ers. I met Chris and Lara (the publisher and the managing editor) for a coffee, and we got on right away. I was looking forward to working with them, especially Lara; I had actually met her a few times before, but how fun that she’d be in my inbox now.

I was all set to work on a cookbook (my specialty), but after a few delays, it fell through unexpectedly. Lara was feeling bad about it, so she put me on another project right away — A Discerning Eye. A 30,000-word art book that wouldn’t require too heavy an edit, so if I could do the substantive and copy edit both? I’d never worked on an art book before, those beautiful things. And they’re mostly just illustrations and captions, right? (Ha ha.) Of course I said yes.

SA: I’d have to say yes, too. I’ve never worked with art books, but I can see how they might require a different editing approach. What were your biggest challenges in taking on this type of work?

GY: I’d say image management was a big one. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t just leave this for the designer, that a spreadsheet of images was going to come to the rescue and that the spreadsheet creator was going to be me! There were 200 or so images, mostly of the ceramics, each with a museum object number and something new to me called tombstone data (the object’s dimensions, year, country of origin and so on). Carol, the author, wanted to group similar objects for a single caption, and sometimes include two shots of one object. There were two museum databases, a Word file of captions with image thumbnails (which added to the original word count) and the actual manuscript with references to the images.

Because this project was years in the making for Carol, and she poured her heart and soul into it, there was a lot of Chapter 7 becoming Chapter 6 along the way, as well as images being deleted, added or replaced. The spreadsheet really helped in sorting through the discrepancies and errors and keeping track of the changes that were being made until late in the process.

In terms of the actual editing of the words … This was an art book written by an anthropologist and scholar, and there was a lot of concern that I was making the text too simple, especially if this was going to be read by other scholars. Also, 17th-century maiolica is not the easiest thing to google, so my queries didn’t always inspire confidence.

SA: You know that right after you said that, I had to look up maiolica. (Thank you for a new word!) Obviously this was a bit of a learning experience for you. What helped you to get through it? And how did you establish trust with your author?

GY: What got me through was a mixture of panic, wanting to be liked, editor friends and wine. Wait, that’s all my editing projects! But seriously, taking on a new client is always a big thing. I tried to pile on the charming and nerdy when the designer, managing editor and I were sorting out a number of technical issues in the beginning. These two new friends were very responsive; it was a fun time.

And Iva is always there, this time answering all the specific art book questions I had. She suggested I get in touch with another editor, too. The number of experienced editors around here willing to help is an embarrassment of riches.

Thankfully the book didn’t have to launch for a specific event, so we had the luxury of extending the deadline a bit. I did three major rounds of edits, and by the third edit, the misunderstandings managed to dissolve. And by that point in the editing process, especially with all the emailing, you get a sense of how many emoticons and exclamation marks the author can or can’t take!

SA: It’s clear you put a lot of effort into A Discerning Eye. And now the community has recognized you with the Tom Fairley Award for your work. Congratulations! What thoughts were running through your mind when you received the award? And, in closing, what advice would you give to novice editors who are hoping for similar accolades someday?

GY: I was stunned, so I didn’t have much in the way of thoughts. But feelings! It’s been the best feeling. Especially this year, when there were a few rough weeks of round-the-clock am-I-going-mad editing. It was strange and incredible to receive this gift. All these people taking your work seriously is a big high.

Advice? Well, editing doesn’t seem to get that much easier over time for some reason, but there is quiet victory in all the fixes and in every careful query; we are all high-fiving you even if it seems like no one is. Take care of your health and beware of stress-based ailments, especially the exotic ones like Bell’s palsy and central serous retinopathy. (I experienced only the mild forms and I’m OK now!) Worship Editors Canada’s Professional Editorial Standards. It’s a piece of art. Follow the famous editors and linguists on Twitter, including the cranky ones who seem to have no patience for amateur practices!

But you can ignore all the articles about professionalism and branding; just be yourself and the clients you like will like you.


Previous «Editors in the Spotlight» post: Keenness of Eye and Humble Pie, Along That Path Awards Will Lie.

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