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Anita Jenkins

Iva Cheung: Winner of the 2019 Karen Virag Award

Iva Cheung

The annual Karen Virag Award recognizes exceptional efforts by an individual or organization to raise the profile of editing in their community. A highly accomplished member of Editors Canada, Virag died in 2014. Recipients to date are Nancy Flight, Virginia Durksen, James Harbeck and Iva Cheung.

portrait of Karen Virag Award winner Iva Cheung
Iva Cheung

Editors Canada’s awards season always presents the judges with challenges. There is no shortage of nominees who deserve to be recognized for their exceptional talent, commitment and devotion to editing.

But this year one of the nominees for the Karen Virag Award clearly stood out. B.C. branch member Iva Cheung is well known throughout Canada as a champion of plain language, clear communications and the value of editing.

“Who else has blogged tirelessly about editing since 2011, posting summaries of talks, seminars and other educational offerings, so that a broad swath of editors can learn from them?” asks Frances Peck, one of those who nominated Iva for the award. “Who else shares editing and related ideas with such a devoted — if not besotted — following on Twitter? Who else pens cartoons that are shared throughout the English editing world? Who else is not content to just do editing or teach it, but is instead ‘taking it to the streets,’ … by doing unprecedented PhD work to show researchers, practitioners, advocates and, most importantly, users of the mental health system how clear communication can profoundly affect, and indeed transform, lives?”

Add one more interesting quality to Cheung’s uniqueness: she is humble. “I was very surprised,” she said about hearing her name called at the award presentation, which took place at the annual Editors Canada conference banquet on June 8 in Halifax.

She was surprised even though she has already earned the designation of Certified Professional Editor and won two other Editors Canada awards: the Tom Fairley Award for Excellence in Editing and the President’s Award for Volunteer Service. All of this before reaching the age of 40.

“I was shocked — and a little confused — when my name was called at the awards banquet,” Cheung said. “I feel that others are much more deserving.”

Editing should be invisible, but editors should not be.

Cheung credits her involvement in the editing community to Nancy Flight, one of her editing heroes and mentors, and the first recipient of the Karen Virag Award. Cheung took courses from Flight in the master of publishing program at Simon Fraser University, and she interned at Douglas & McIntyre, the publishing house where Flight worked for many years.

“People should be aware of what we [editors] do,” Cheung said. She notes that Flight tells her students that editing should be invisible, but editors should not be. Clearly, Cheung has taken that message to heart. She has become one of the most renowned and visible editors in Editors Canada and beyond.

For more information, visit Iva’s website.

Previous post from Anita Jenkins: Getting Paid a Living Wage: The Editor’s Constant Challenge.

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Anita Jenkins

Anita Jenkins is a writer and editor in Edmonton, recently retired.

6 Comments on “Iva Cheung: Winner of the 2019 Karen Virag Award”

  • Sandra Gravel


    Congradulations, Iva! Well deserved!

  • Margaret F Sadler


    Congratulations to Iva. Karen would be pleased to have such a stellar recipient added to the line-up of fine editors.

  • Congratulations Iva, and thank you for all your hard work.

  • Rosemary Shipton


    Excellent choice! I always enjoy Iva’s insightful cartoon strips and summaries of talks, books, and conferences – they make me feel I’ve been there, accompanied by the best guide. And yes, I often send them on …

  • Wilfred Popoff


    I’ve always had a nagging feeling that most people do not know what we editors do. That includes my mother who was well-educated and some publishers of the newspapers that employed me. I feel Karen did much to address this defect and if Iva can continue on this path we and our potential clients will benefit.

    • Anita Jenkins


      More than a nagging feeling, Wilf. Like many professions, ours is a mystery to most. «Oh, I had no idea you did that. I thought you just checked capital letters and commas. That’s why we pay you clerical wages.»

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