HELLO, READERS, AUTHORS, AND CLIENTS-TO-BE
Over four decades, I have edited books, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, screenplays, creative writing, corporate and student materials. I’ve also edited web content for 10+ years. I’ve edited for individuals, corporate businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions.
I strive to edit content that challenges mainstream thought and stimulates personal, social, and environmental change. I edit to inspire and empower writers, not just for correction and clarity.
Author Toni Morrison, winner of the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize, says: “Good editors are really the third eye. Cool. Dispassionate. . . Sometimes it’s uncanny; the editor puts his or her finger on exactly the place the writer knows is weak but just couldn’t do any better at the time. . . [W]ithin the relationship if there is some trust, some willingness to listen, remarkable things happen.”
EDITING FOR ORGANIZATIONS (please scroll down)
I specialize in editing nonfiction, but have worked in many genres, including fiction, poetry, and drama. I love immersing myself in someone’s imagination or the details of a life and helping the writer clarify and deepen the story and its meaning.
Jim Kerr, author of Meet Me in Cairo: Tales of Hitchin’ in the 60s, says:
“To Heather Conn, a professional editor, a huge thank you. I found Heather through a search of local editors and could not have been more pleased with the constructive criticism she gave me. Her focus was encouraging me to provide far more detail about the places we visited and to add dialogue wherever I could all the while not changing my choppy style of writing. She vastly improved the book.” (August 2022)
Jim Kerr at his Vancouver, BC book launch, Aug. 2022.
Jim credits my preliminary edits with having his book accepted by Granville Island Publishing. Working on his book brought back many memories of my own early hitchhiking days.
MEMOIRS AND TRAUMA MEMOIRS: A SPECIALTY
I offer sensitive and trauma-informed care for those working on a trauma-related memoir. In 2023, I’ve published my memoir No Letter in Your Pocket (Guernica Editions 2023) and am helping two first-time authors with their respective trauma memoirs. In 2022, I taught the online course “Writing From Pain to Power” for the University of King’s College and gave the webinar “Truth-telling in Memoir: The Risks and Rewards of Revealing Secrets” for Creative Nonfiction Foundation.
I have also worked with humour and satire books.
Aaron Barry, author of the Prompts Gone Wild series, says:
“I’ve worked with Heather on numerous projects and as a part of a professional writers’ group. I’ve consistently found her knowledge of both larger structural elements — pacing, logicality, genre conventions, among others — and her finer technical skills to be top notch. I’d highly recommend her to any writer looking to take their work to the next level.” (February 2022)
Sabine Schouten, author of a family history book, says:
“Heather Conn recently edited part of my life story and I was very pleased with her suggestions, comments, and general feedback. Her advice has been insightful and pertinent. I will certainly ask her to edit further segments of my story as they evolve.” (March 2022)
John Fuller, author of an upcoming biography with the working title The Rise and Fall of Con Jones, says:
“When there is difficulty, an hour on the phone with Heather restores momentum, every time, and her responsiveness to emails goes beyond the call of duty. She is part of my morale, worth every dollar and more as a writing coach, substantive editor, and book publishing consultant.” (September 2021) (See unabridged testimonial under Writing Coaching)
Andrew Pender of Rochester, NY, author of the novel 19 Strings for the Harp, says:
“Sometimes the most challenging part of your journey in completing your manuscript is finding an editor who will give your work the attention you desire. Heather’s swift responses to my emails and generous time on the phone assured me that I had found the right person. After all these years, I’m finished, and it’s a privilege to include Heather as an important part of my journey.” (March 2019)
Pamela Dangelmaier, author of the novel The Flour Garden, says:
“I can’t tell you how much fun it was to read through your edits and see how they, piece by piece, improved the story line. Thank you so very much . . . I knew I could count on you to do an excellent job!” (January 2017)
Sabrina Szabo, author of the memoir The Life I Did Not Plan, says:
“I approached Heather Conn because I read great reviews from her clients on her website. She helped me by editing my raw manuscript and the result was better than I could expect.
“One thing I really liked was her kindness and how well she understood me. I found the experience amazing.
“I would recommend Heather’s editing service to people who need to polish their manuscript.” (September 2015)
(Left) Here I am with past editing client Glo, a counselling therapist who writes content on how one’s personal connection with the spiritual enhances the wisdom of human worthiness. She reveals how this process transforms the deep, hidden feelings of shame and results in healthier living.
— Jim Evans iPhone photo
Dr. Sidney B. Effer, FRCSC, FACOG, Professor Emeritus says:
“In editing my life story, Heather Conn did an incredibly fantastic job of transforming my hodgepodge of events and repeated anecdotes into a structured, concise book. She was consistently thorough about getting things right, and her questions and fact-checking helped me bring greater clarity to my tale. The title, chapters, and headings that she created truly brought my story to life.Their creation simplified my finding some events that I did not know had been included. Heather saw the project through to a polished book, which I was delighted to share with my colleagues, friends, family, and relatives. They gave tremendous and very appropriate praise. I highly recommend her services.” (August 2013)
Editing client Jim Baxter says:
“I am a first-time author. My book concerned a rather esoteric subject area. Heather Conn was an invaluable editor for me. As well as attending to the technical side of editing, she continuously asked questions about the points I was attempting to make. Heather combines an attention to detail with the ability to view the overall theme and flow of the writing. Her help resulted in a much superior manuscript. I am deeply grateful to her.” (August 2013)
I have worked with ESL authors, Indigenous writers, and other marginalized voices. I strive to bring as much cultural sensitivity and open-heartedness as possible to my work while supporting the goals of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. When working with First Nations content, I refer to Elements of Indigenous Style by Gregory Younging.
In Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where I work, the shíshálh and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people have stewarded the land known today as the Sunshine Coast for thousands of years. It remains their unceded, traditional territory.
Today’s Vancouver, BC is part of the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I thank them all for their stewardship and generous sharing of their land, culture, and resources.
RECENT EDITING PROJECTS
- Young adult environmental novel (content edit) Island Kid by Sheila Weaver (2023)
- Picture book Who Is That Firefighter? by Karen Webb (2023)
- Literary nonfiction The Peter Robinson Experiment by Mary Cooper (substantive edit) (2022)
- Nonfiction travel book If You Change Your Mind, Meet Me in Cairo by Jim Kerr (2021)
- Picture book Austin’s Wish by Marcus VanNguyen (2020)
- Novel The Flour Garden [sic] by Pamela Dangelmaier (2016)
- From a client in Japan: a research paper, with philosophical and historical analysis of Margaret Atwood’s poem February, and a short story (2015)
- Chapter on technical animation of dance sequences for a 2014 anthology by an associate dean, Emily Carr University and U.K. publisher Palgrave
- The Icing on the Cake: A Recipe for Friendship (novel) by Pamela Dangelmaier
- Tales of Main Street (collection of short stories) by Katrina Dennis
- Blue Ribbon (short story) by Mike Oswald
- 70-page Progress Plan, with timeline and executive summary, published by the Community Resource Centre (Sechelt, BC) & funded by Status of Women Canada (2015)
- Book on Conair‘s conversion of an RJ85 into a leading-edge, firefighting airtanker by former project manager Rob Schulz (2014/15) (writing coaching also provided)
- Web and blog content for Cherlyn Skincare Inc.
- Website and blog content for Armstrong Results
- Contract content for author and independent business man
- Picture book Living with Bears (fiction/nonfiction) by Karen Webb (2022)
- Essays on family ancestry by Sabine Schouten (2022)
- Essays and features on redefining Indigenous art/artists and historical fine art perspectives for Cree/Metis university professor Michelle McGeough (2018 to present)
- Informative trail signs for Elphinstone Logging Focus (2021)
- Residential Schools: With Words and Images of Survivors — A National History by Larry Loyie, Constance Brissenden and Wayne K. Spear, GoodMinds Publishing, Brantford, Ont. (2014)
- Learn Your Way! a book on self-directed learning by Michael Maser, Self-Design Learning Foundation
- Brochure and banner content for International Education, Surrey School District, Surrey, BC
- Tao Te Ching: A Plain-language Version by Lois Potter (2022)
- Beyond Borders: An Immigrant Experience Guided Journal by Julia Seneviratne (2022)
- Picture Book The Magnificent Love by Judy Dunbar (2020)
- Book The Life I Did Not Plan by Sabrina Szabo (2015)
- The Book of Deuteronomy and Post-modern Christianity by Jim Baxter (Wipf + Stock 2013)
- Book The Wisdom of Worth by family and individual counsellor Gloria McArter, PhD (2013/14)
- Mesa of Infinite Light by Neva Murtha: a handbook on metaphysical tools for self-awakening
- The Successful Marriage Guide by Tom Rogers
- Elphinstone Logging Focus
- Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC)
- West Vancouver School District, International Programs (writing and editing)
- Powell River Digital Film School
- B.C. conservation group Pacific Wild
- Hanna Daber, web designer
In 2010/11, I edited a half-dozen memoirs written by men in their eighties. That includes these intriguing stories:
- On Love and War by Avivi I. Yavin, published by MW Book Publishers in Garden Bay, BC (sadly, they have closed operations). This anti-war story focuses on the moral and political dilemmas of a young soldier fighting in the elite Israeli underground forces in the late 1940s.
Two more anti-war books by Avivi I. Yavin, as part of a semi-autobiographical trilogy: The Rape of a Nation, which covers the Vietnam era, and Doves and Hawks, on Israel in the post-Six-Day-War world. Babies, Blessings, and a Bountiful Life, self-published by Sid Effer.
This retired pediatrician recounts delightful adventures from his youth in Cuba and Brazil to his global travels in adulthood. Many decades after he helped countless women through challenging and sometimes life-threatening childbirths, he remains friends with former patients and their children around the world.
- The Magical Playhouse: A conscious exploration of one’s dream reality , self-published by artist Bodhi Drope of Gibsons, BC. This nonfiction limited edition, accompanied by original four-colour digital art, covers the author’s spiritual journey and the powerful rol that dreams and dream journalling played in his life.
As a former oral historian, I highly value the anecdotes that our elders carry, embodying the heritage of families, regions, cultures, and nations. I always encourage people to record the stories of the old folks in their lives, so that these tales will live on in their own voices.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES AN EDITOR DO ANYWAY?
Editors shape a manuscript far more than most people realize. Maxwell Perkins, for instance, was a famous editor at Scribner’s who edited books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway. He came up with the title The Great Gatsby and reduced Wolfe’s far-too-long manuscripts by hundreds of pages.
Emerging writers are often unclear about certain editing terms. Here is an explanation of the most common ones, as defined by the Editors’ Association of Canada:
- Copy editing (or line editing): Editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and for internal consistency of facts; marking of head levels and approximate placement of art; notifying book designer or any unusual requirements.
Does not include the following unless specified: Canadianizing; metrication; provision of or changes or system of citations; editing of preface or foreword; editing of index, writing or editing captions and/or credit lines; writing of running heads; listing of permissions needed; obtaining permissions, and so on.
- Substantive or structural editing: Clarifying and/or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure. Editor specifies whether changes are to be suggested or drafted, and whether contract includes negotiating changes with author.
Does not include research or writing original material unless specified. Someone doing substantive editing looks at the manuscript first, giving a “big picture” perspective. Besides addressing mechanical elements (spelling, grammar, etc), he/she digs more deeply into the text, making more complex changes and querying the author about larger content or flow issues.
- Stylistic editing: Clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, smoothing language, and other (specify) non-mechanical line-by-line editing. Does not include the following unless specified: checking reading level; correcting reading level; creating or recasting tables and/or figures; negotiating changes with the author.
- Rewriting: Creating a new manuscript or parts of a manuscript on the basis of content and research supplied by an author. Does not include research or writing original material unless specified.
MORE TESTIMONIALS (see also “Editing for Organizations” below):
Editing client Chris Wakaluk told me: “Thanks for all your hard work. It is really exciting to have someone who knows what they are doing look over my work and make changes. I’ve been totally attached to certain parts of the piece and it’s great to have some encouragement to hack them out because I wouldn’t do it on my own. Everything you’ve mentioned is very clear. I can’t wait to make all the changes then read it out loud to hear the difference.”
Hanna Daber, whose former Clockwork Graphics website I edited, said while we worked together: “I feel your presence every day, even at a distance. The sense of team work you exude is lovely.”
Tom Wayman, Associate Professor Emeritus of English, University of Calgary, Alta., says:
“Her wide experience with writing has made her a first-class editor of other people’s work. . .she is simultaneously tough and encouraging, perceptive and inspiring, challenging and practical. She is always helpful to other writers, in every aspect of the literary life.”
I OFFER THREE TYPES OF EDITING (fun and mixed metaphors intended):
* Gentle massage — This softie touch delivers only minor changes, mostly for punctuation, grammar, and clarity;
* First aid — This approach provides a more substantial, yet quick response. Guaranteed to keep your documents off life support; and
* The chainsaw — This method could alter your existing content beyond previous recognition. It will likely result in substantial changes in structure, order of material, and length, but guarantees a greater end product. Are you up for the challenge? If not, proceed with caution. Keep applying first aid.
EDITING FOR ORGANIZATIONS
In 2020-21, I edited daily for the Ending Violence Association of BC, transforming or correcting web copy, social media posts, newsletters, PSAs, surveys, features, government reports etc. (As Communications Manager, I also wrote this content too.)
- SF Weekly, San Francisco, CA: edited 5,000-word cover story Live and Let Kill
- Vancouver-based environmental web portal Sustainability Television
- Sierra magazine, the U.S. Sierra Club’s national publication in San Francisco with 1 million+ readers: I did some online editing of readers’ travel stories
In January and August 2010, I spent several weeks as guest editor for The Local, a former weekly newspaper in Sechelt on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, northwest of Vancouver. Besides editing all editorial content, I wrote news, features, arts reviews, coordinated photo selection, etc. It was fun. I enjoyed the office atmosphere, especially having the publisher’s old black dog, Maggie, on-site every day.
Pauline Montgomery gave me a lovely tribute in her publisher’s message in the January 21 issue:
“I can’t tell you how truly blessed we have been to have Heather fill in while Linda was away. It is mind-boggling to realize just how much ‘unknown’ Heather took on and yet how well she managed to produce brilliantly all the editorial we needed this week and last. Heather is a complete professional and I would highly recommend her to anyone in need of an editor. She has been an absolute delight to work with.”
I edited brochures for the International Education department of the Surrey School District in 2010.
I spent almost five years (2003 to Dec. 31, 2007) as the editor-in-chief of PeopleTalk magazine, the province-wide publication of the B.C. Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA).
“I found Heather to be creative, innovative, and dedicated to the quality and integrity of the publication. . . She had a strong interest in, and commitment to, the organization as a whole and brought her talent, enthusiasm and humour to all aspects of her work.”
– Mary Wallace Poole, former executive director, BC HRMA, Vancouver, BC, Canada T
Take a look inside a 2008 issue of PeopleTalk, which I edited: http://www.bchrma.org/resources/people_talk_magazine/2008/spring.htm
While at BC HRMA, I edited many internal and external materials, including a conference newsletter and programs:
While a full-time writing instructor at Selkirk College in the Graphic Communications Department in Castlegar, BC, I taught editing and edited a newsletter at a publishing conference at Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre.
Our students used their writing, photography, and desktop-publishing skills to produce this daily account of the conference proceedings. Here’s an overview of my main work as an editor in print media:
2009 – present:
EDITOR/COMMUNICATION CONSULTANT for a variety of individuals and organizations in Vancouver, BC and on the Sunshine Coast 2010
GUEST EDITOR (short-term) The Local, an independent weekly based in Sechelt, BC: Wrote news and features; conducted interviews; coordinated photo selection; liaised with publisher; proofread
2003 – 2008:
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PeopleTalk Magazine, B.C. Human Resources Management Association, Vancouver Did copy and substantive editing on all content; augmented style guide for print and web use; chaired the editorial advisory committee; edited external communications for this business non-profit; provided guidance to volunteer contributors; hired freelancers and solicited writers; liaised with art director and ad sales manager; oversaw blueline stage and proofreading; during my tenure, we engaged CanadaWide Media as our production company, attracting more advertisers and expanding to 60- and 64-page issues
Edited three reports for United Nations Habitat, produced by EcoPlan International, Vancouver; also edited a confidential environmental-related report.
“Heather is an excellent editor: careful, thorough and professional. I highly recommend her services.”
– William Trousdale, president, EcoPlan International Inc.
EDITOR Vancouver, Howe Sound & the Sunshine Coast, sailing guidebook by Anne & Laurence Yeadon-Jones, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC
1996 to 2001:
As Corporate Communications Manager for BC Transit and Coast Mountain Bus Company, I edited numerous materials, including employee booklets, annual reports, brochures, and external documents.
I was editor-in-chief of Transit Exchange, the employee newsletter, and initiated and oversaw its redesign and rebranding. I edited books such as On Track: The SkyTrain Story and Vancouver’s Trolley Buses 1948-1998: Celebrating a Half-century of Service.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR BC Woman Magazine
1991 – 1993:
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Century Communications Corporation, Vancouver, BC Wrote and edited advertising copy, investor relations content, annual reports, brochures, speeches, newsletters.
1992 – 1993:
EDITOR Handbook So Roses Can Grow (Co-Country Press, Sumas, Wash.) by Luena Ryber
1984 – 1986:
ASSISTANT EDITOR National Trade Magazine Trucking Canada (Southam Communications Inc., Burnaby, BC)
Wrote award-winning articles, cover stories, technical news that enhanced readability and sales of Western Edition; took cover photos; attended conferences; researched & edited content.
While a student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada, I served as co-editor of The Ubyssey, the then-tri-weekly student newspaper, in 1979/80. It’s scary how long ago that was.
This venerable rag, which spawned the likes of Pierre Berton and Allan Fotheringham, served as a great training ground for muckraking and poking sticks in the powers-that-be. I considered The Ubyssey’s humor and irreverence my true education.