An Interview with Naomi Pauls, EAC President’s Award Recipient

Written by Frances Peck; copy edited by Joanne King

NaomiPaulsA highlight for EAC-BC over the summer was learning that Naomi Pauls, a long-time member of our branch, received a President’s Award for Volunteer Service at the EAC conference. The President’s Award recognizes outstanding service to the association by member volunteers.

EAC-BC member Frances Peck asked Naomi about the roles she’s taken on over the years and her most memorable volunteer moments.

First, a little background. Could you tell us how you got into editing?
Definitely through the back door. After majoring in anthropology, with a focus on museum studies, I worked in community museums in the mid-1980s. I enjoyed the research and writing aspects of this work, which also involved working with community volunteers. Moving on, I had ambitions of becoming a freelance magazine writer but ended up working on a small quarterly publication in an administrative role. Two years later, I was hired as an editorial assistant at a weekly newspaper, which is where I got real hands-on training in editing. I enjoyed editing, joined EAC, and have been an editor ever since. Now I work mostly on book-length manuscripts.

When was the first time you volunteered for EAC? What prompted you to put your hand up, so to speak?
Now you’re really testing my memory! I guess my own interest in professional development came into play, because I ended up organizing seminars (with a co-chair) for the BC Branch starting in 2000. Self-interest undoubtedly played a role—as PD co-chair I ended up attending a lot of those same seminars. I also wanted to make sure the workshops were of high quality and of use to members.

Since then you’ve volunteered so often and in so many different ways, at both the branch and national level. What keeps you coming back?
Volunteering lets me stay connected to my peers and my profession. I’m always learning, and I also enjoy encouraging those who are new to editing. Working solo as a freelancer, as I do, rather than with others in an office environment, I benefit from being part of a larger group. Also, I appreciate the chance to give back to the association as a whole, as I’ve certainly benefited from my membership.

You’ve taken on short local jobs, like staffing the EAC booth at Word Vancouver, and huge national projects, like co-chairing the 2011 conference. What do you like (or dislike) about these different levels of responsibility?
All of my roles as a volunteer have helped me develop confidence and make contacts in various ways. For me, the more you put in, the more you get out—so effort is definitely linked to reward. I like explaining editing and representing EAC to the public, most recently at several self-publishing fairs. On national or local committees, sometimes progress can seem slow, but you always see results eventually, which is satisfying. One thing I don’t like about committee work is all the emails.

You’re a business owner, a wife and mother, and a volunteer. How do you balance all these busy lives?
Balance? What balance? That can be hard to find, especially working as a freelancer. I have workaholic tendencies but luckily I also have a very supportive family. My husband, a young retiree, is a great cook and a wonderful father to our teenage son. I feel blessed to be able to do a job I really enjoy—even when I’m busy, I enjoy my clients and the work. Having an out-of-home office helps me separate work from my home life. I try (really!) not to work on weekends, and I also try to book off regular holidays. My volunteer work for EAC fits into my “social life,” such as it is.

What are your top two most memorable experiences as an EAC volunteer?
When I served as a test-setter for certification, our group had a working retreat on Bowen Island, near Vancouver. More than the work itself, I remember an evening of word games that was a lot of fun. This went far beyond Scrabble and involved quite intense competition and lots of laughter (Ruth Wilson was the instigator, if memory serves). The retreat centre catered to people who were visually impaired, and our little group of editors was definitely the loudest on the premises.

This wasn’t exactly a volunteer experience, but I remember the first conference I attended, in Vancouver—that must have been May 2000. At the Saturday-night banquet, I was sitting at a round table with a bunch of other editors and had a sudden strong, warm, wonderful feeling of having found my niche—of being home, as it were, among others of like kind. I still feel that way.

What’s the most exotic place you’ve travelled to as an EAC volunteer?
That would have to be St. Albert, Alberta, northwest of Edmonton on the Sturgeon River—not exotic in the usual sense, but curious nonetheless. In late spring 2008, serving on the Professional Standards Committee that you so ably chaired, I took part in a working retreat at the Star of the North Centre, the hilltop site of a nineteenth-century Catholic mission. In our monk-like quarters, we slept near a historic chapel, a grotto modelled after the one at Lourdes, and a pioneer cemetery—so we had some interesting breaks. And there’s a good chance the retreat was blessed <grins>.

Is there anything you wish you could do over, or do differently?
I’ve mostly preferred to be a committee member rather than the chair. Perhaps that’s an area that could be a future challenge, taking me out of my comfort zone. Also, I’ve mostly avoided the travel that comes with work on national committees—although I have enjoyed conferences in cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

What would you say has been your biggest reward?
The people I’ve met, many of whom have become long-time friends. And the feeling of belonging—and contributing—to my professional association.

Frances Peck, a partner with West Coast Editorial Associates, has been an EAC member and volunteer for nearly 20 years.

Joanne King is a freelance copy editor and an EAC-certified stylistic editor.

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