Ask an Award Winner: An Interview with Cathy McPhalen
The Editors Canada student relations committee recently completed a series of interviews with Editors Canada award winners. Each month, we’ll bring you the highlights of our interviews in the hopes that those featured may inspire student editors beginning their careers, as well as editors who are already established.
This month, S. Robin Larin shares the committee’s interview with Cathy McPhalen, (Edmonton, Alberta), who was a winner of the 2020 Editors Canada President’s Award for Volunteer Service. The President’s Award recognizes outstanding service to the organization, at the branch, twig or national level, by member and student affiliate volunteers. (This interview has been lightly edited.)
What inspired you to become an editor?
Cathy McPhalen: I was working as a lab scientist and university instructor in biochemistry. I’d always been “that person” in the lab who was asked to proofread or review documents before publication, so editing seemed to be an interesting expansion of that.
What has been your biggest challenge in your editing career?
CM: Being sufficiently self-confident to charge higher rates for the special skills that I have built and for my science background. Both make my value to my particular clients (university researchers) notably higher, but at times I’ve been too timid to set rates that reflect that value.
Who has been one of your biggest influences in the editing world?
CM: John McIntyre, for his sensible approach to editing in an endless whirl of changing language. Carol Fisher Saller, for her thoughtful take on relationships with clients. Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, for her clear ideas on why editing specialists should charge higher rates.
What is one of your favourite editing-related resources?
CM: PerfectIt, for the time that I save and the overview of a document that I gain as it works through its steps.
What advice would you give to student affiliate editors?
CM: Take all the training that you can, both formal and informal, and throughout your career. Taking workshops, attending branch events, joining online discussion groups, attending conferences — they all gave me new perspectives and skills and opened areas of editing that I hadn’t known existed. If you plan to work freelance, get training and find online resources (e.g., from the Canada Revenue Agency) on setting up and running a business too.
What effect has winning this award had on your editing career?
CM: It has made me more willing to participate in volunteer activities because I know that my voice is heard and valued. Volunteering is a terrific way to network, have fun, meet and learn about new people and do useful things, all in one package!
Previous post from S. Robin Larin: Ask an Award Winner: An Interview with James Harbeck
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