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Becky Heaman

Ask an Award Winner: An Interview with Maxie Bai Martin

Maxie Bai Martin holds a blue mug in front of her face.
Maxie Bai Martin holds a blue mug in front of her face.
Photo courtesy of Maxie Bai Martin

The Editors Canada student relations committee 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, Becky Heaman shared the committee’s interview with Maxie Bai Martin (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario) who was the winner of the 2020 President’s Award for Volunteer Service. (This interview has been lightly edited.)

What inspired you to become an editor?

Maxie Bai Martin: I fell into editing from a desire to help. As a child who learned English second, I always understood that language could be a barrier, and a frustratingly unacknowledged one at that.

Editing wasn’t something that I approached seriously until after graduate school when my peers approached me with their papers and books. I learned so much from those experiences and with their support. And the more I learned about the professional and technical side of editing and publishing, the more committed I became to learning this craft.

What advice would you give to student affiliate editors?

MBM: The world, especially the professional world, is always trying to put you in a clearly defined space. We’re always asked to label ourselves. And yes, being clear about your skills, credentials, and experience can help you find work — but it’s also helpful to think about your career as a more pliable thing — something with the capacity to change.

When you feel stuck, don’t get down. Consider it a nudge to grow. Editing professionally gives you many transferable skills that allow you to shift within editing and beyond. When you’re curious, or need a change, reach out to your peers. Take a class. Read intentionally.

What has been your biggest challenge in your editing career?

MBM: It may be a three-way tie: asking for help; moving past mistakes to keep working; and launching and building an editing career, mid-life, as a parent of two kiddos under six years of age.

Who has been one of your biggest influences in the editing world?

MBM: May I meander a bit? The writing world led me into the editing world, and it continues to inform my understanding of language as colloquial, experimental, fluid and a product of power. I try to bring that understanding into my edits, but it’s very easy to get lost in all the rules and gatekeeping within editing and knowledge production. Especially for a new editor and a freelance editor going out on their own. That said, during the pandemic, our twig launched an editors’ book club, which gave me an excuse to read industry texts more closely, and I discovered Chris Jackson’s essay “Widening the Gates: Why Publishing Needs Diversity.” It was a breath of fresh air, and it gave me a push when I needed it. Like Jackson (I’d like to think), what influences me the most in editing are the authors and books, and thus people, whose stories keep me reading and whose work should be shared widely. If I can help the project by editing, I’m grateful to do it.

What is your favourite editing-related resource (book, website)?

MBM: I can honestly say that I’m always pointing people to the APA Style Blog. APA Style focuses on periodical publication, and I find the style guide to be succinct yet comprehensive and well organized. But it can’t cover everything. For the rest, you can turn to the APA Style Blog for more specific answers; be sure to read the comments on the posts for additional info. (The APA style blog for the 6th edition has been archived, but it’s still accessible online.)

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Previous post from Becky Heaman: Ask an Award Winner: An Interview with Iva Cheung

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