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Letitia Henville

Reflections on Kindness from Early-Career Editors

Claudette Upton Scholarship, illustration of a graduation cap and rolled diploma.
Claudette Upton Scholarship, illustration of a graduation cap and rolled diploma.
Copyright: grgroup

For this year’s Claudette Upton Scholarship, my fellow judges — Lenore Hietkamp and David Johansen — and I selected as our question for nominees’ reflection, “How might kindness be part of the editor’s career?”

We chose this question for a number of reasons: our own current thinking about our business practices, the difficulty in coming up with a compelling prompt that is universally applicable and our selfish interest in reading delightful and upbeat reflections.

The scholarship is an annual, national award that recognizes a promising student editor from among Editors Canada’s student affiliates; the responses we received from nominees were inspiring. The up-and-coming editors are thoughtful, deliberate folks. In reviewing the nomination packages, we read about

  • people who were learning the importance of kindness in their queries and emails to clients
  • the practice of editing as a form of kindness for future readers
  • the difference between critical, constructive kindness and superficial “niceness” that doesn’t bring about necessary change

And then we read Madison Taylor’s reflection.

Madison wrote about level upon level of kindness in editing. She described “ensur[ing] that the author feels not only comfortable, but also galvanized by the process of sharing and receiving feedback on their writing,” describing this as “the bare-bones, entry-level requirement for building a meaningful career as an editor.” Madison thus constructed kindness as fundamental to her day-to-day work as an editor.

She then described kindness in the interactions between editing professionals who support one another through teaching, mentoring and volunteering. She wrote about the political implications of editing as “a radical act” that can shape how readers perceive — and potentially relate to or sympathize with — “a topic, a person, or a group of people.” And she closed her reflection by commenting on her personal experience as a recipient of the cumulative kindness of an author and editor, which she encountered when she “first saw herself, really saw herself, in the pages of a book” — an empathetic engagement that she describes as “a life-changing act of kindness.”

My fellow judges and I narrowed our long list of nominees to a short list of the strongest candidates, from which we selected Madison as the scholarship recipient. In addition to a promising start in her editing courses, Madison’s nominators provided impressive letters of reference that spoke to her excellence and dedication in editing courses. They cited her “passion for expressing inclusivity in writing” and her experience “working with and elevating the voices of marginalized writers,” all of which became “the driving force for her editing career.”

Madison frames her work as a form of radical kindness with multiple beneficiaries. Our work isn’t that of the rigid disciplinarian or the thoughtless enforcer of rules. It is a skill that we continually practice and that we can practice with kindness for our colleagues, our clients, their readers and the broader society of which we are all a part.

Congratulations to Madison and to all the nominees for this year’s Claudette Upton Scholarship. Thank you for sharing your reflections with me, and with Lenore and David. We look forward to seeing the ripple effects of your collective kindness as you enter our shared profession.

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Previous post from Letitia Henville: The Ethics of Online Portfolios: How Should Editors Showcase their Skills and Experience?

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3 Comments on “Reflections on Kindness from Early-Career Editors”

  • Rosemary Shipton

    says:

    To kindness I would add respect in the author-editor relationship: the editor’s respect for the author in having the idea for the manuscript and the diligence to write it; and the author’s respect for the contribution a professional editor will make, especially when significant substantive and stylistic suggestions are involved. These same qualities of kindness and respect are due also to all members of the publishing team and, ultimately, our readers.

    Thanks, Letitia, for an interesting post and congratulations to Madison on the award.

  • Anita Jenkins

    says:

    Glad you mentioned superficial niceness. That is my concern because editors also have to do surgery, which is not “nice” but critically important.

  • Congrats, Madison! May you have a long career of spreading kindness.

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