Grad builds freelance editing career

Photo by Greg Ehlers

Wendy Barron has always had a certain affinity for the written word. Whether writing her own stories or fielding language questions from co-workers, Wendy was continually immersed in the world of words. It’s no surprise then, that after decades of working in health care she turned to editing as a new profession. On top of her freelance work, she teaches in SFU Continuing Studies' Plain Language Certificate program. 

Wendy, can you tell me a bit about your current work?
I am a small business owner. My editing business is called Wendy Barron Editorial Services because all the clever and punny business names were already taken. I offer all the levels of editing (structural, stylistic, copy editing, proofreading) and I work in many genres, including fiction, non-fiction, business, health and academic material.

What is it like to own your own small business?
It’s strange being a business owner, after decades of working in the public sector in health care, but I love being my own boss. As a fellow freelancer told me, “When you’re self-employed, you only work half-days. And you get to choose which 12 hours you work!” It’s true that it doesn’t feel as much like work when you’re doing what you really love, though.

What drew you to a profession in editing?
I have always had a facility with and interest in language and the way it works. I have also always been the person co-workers and bosses came to with questions of language—spelling, punctuation, usage, grammar, that kind of thing. Editing was always part of my job, though it was never in my job title or job description. I really enjoy working with other people’s words, but hadn’t thought about it as a way to make a living until Hiromi Goto, my mentor in The Writer’s Studio in 2014, asked if I’d ever thought about it and mentioned the program at SFU.

Photo by Greg Ehlers

What’s most rewarding and most challenging about your work?
The most rewarding thing about being an editor is being part of the professional editing community. Editors are some of the most generous, collegial and supportive people I have ever met. You’d think there would be fierce competition among them, especially the freelancers, but it’s quite the reverse.

The most challenging thing about being an editor is educating people about the value of what editors do. As a group, editors are happy to stay out of the limelight and let the author take all the credit for the brilliance and clarity of their prose. But that kind of invisibility means that the profession and craft of editing are not well understood outside the profession. Raising the public profile of editors and editing underlies a lot of what I do when I’m not actually editing.

What was the most useful thing you learned in the Editing Certificate program?
Maybe that, much as I love writing, editing other people’s words is even more fun than writing my own. And that being on the leading edge of language change is a blast.

By Alison Brierley