Meet the Instructor: Lana Okerlund

Written by Carl Rosenberg; copy edited by Lydia du Bois

A smiling Lana Okerlund faces forward, wearing a grey cardigan, pink sweater, and silver hooped necklace.On Saturday, November 30, Editors BC presents Lana Okerlund’s professional development seminar, “Do the Work You Want (and Earn More Doing It): A Guided Strategic Retreat for Editors.”

This six-hour seminar is designed as a guided strategic retreat to help you envision your ideal editing career, understand your current situation, and develop a plan to close the gap. Through stimulating discussion and hands-on activities, you will:

  • Establish a strategic vision for your editing business or career
  • Set objectives for the clients you want to work with, the projects you want to do, the amount you want to earn, and the work practices and professional development you want to invest in
  • Figure out how to gauge your progress toward your objectives
  • Learn how to analyze information about your business or career so you can adjust or develop new strategies to meet your goals

Whether you’re an experienced editor or new to the editing world, you will come away from the seminar with a draft strategy for taking charge of your business or career so you can steer it in the direction that you want it to go. Freelance editors will find this seminar most useful, though in-house editors can also benefit from thinking about career goals in a more strategic way.

For this seminar, Lana draws on her experience as a freelance editor and as a former business consultant, when she spent nearly a decade working with clients on strategic visioning, business planning, performance measurement, and other business improvement projects. She has found tremendous value in applying these business concepts while building her own editing career. A partner with West Coast Editorial Associates, Lana edits, indexes, and writes non-fiction books and teaches editing and business writing courses.

Carl Rosenberg, a volunteer on Editors BC’s communications and social media committee, spoke to Lana about her forthcoming seminar.

Hello, Lana! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. How did you come to your earlier career as a business consultant and your current career as an editor, writer, and teacher?

Hello, and it’s my pleasure.

I have a business degree from the University of Manitoba, and after an initial job at a start-up air cargo company, I started working for a large consulting firm with an office in Winnipeg.

As I climbed up the ladder within this firm over the following years, I started doing less writing and research, which had been the two activities that had attracted me to the job in the first place. Instead, my responsibilities became more about sales, client relations, and project management. I was good at those things and was achieving success, but my heart wasn’t in it.

On the side, meanwhile, I had always tinkered with writing, regularly taking writing courses but never really getting serious about it. One weekend, I attended a writers’ conference in Winnipeg that included a panel discussion about publishing. One of the panellists was a book editor, and as she spoke, the lights went on in my head that editing might be the perfect career for me.

In 2001, I requested a transfer to my company’s Vancouver office and enrolled in my first editing course at SFU not long after arriving in the city. In 2004, I said goodbye to consulting and hello to a career as an editor, later adding writing, indexing, and teaching to the mix.

The topic of this seminar is broader than many other seminars and workshops. How did you conceive and develop the idea?

Since starting as a freelance editor, I have always kept track of data like how many hours I spend on each project, the types of projects I work on, the word or page count of the project, how the project came to me, and so on.

A few years into my business, I took myself on a mini business retreat and started looking at all the data I’d accumulated, slicing and dicing it to understand what it was telling me. I also asked myself some thought-provoking questions about what I was doing versus what I wanted to do. I wrote down the answers, set goals, and then tracked how I was doing against those goals.

I have done a strategic-thinking retreat like this every five years or so, and I think the practice has helped me be more purposeful and successful in my career than I would have been otherwise.

Along the way, various colleagues suggested to me that it would be useful for other editors to use some of the techniques I was finding so helpful, so the idea for this seminar was born.

Are there objectives or goals you find especially important for editors?

The right objectives or goals are really up to the individual. That’s the whole point of the seminar: to get people to think about what matters to them and identify what they need to do to move from where they are now to where they want to be. Regardless of the goals, we can all benefit from setting them and paying attention to our progress toward them. In the seminar, I will share what has worked for me, but the practices are transferable to anyone at any stage.

On a lighter note, what are a few of your favourite books and publications—editing-related or otherwise?

I love historical fiction, and recently, I read The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, which is about the writing and publication of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. This led me to read Doctor Zhivago itself, which I liked even better!

Also, on the history side, I research and write for the blog A Most Agreeable Place, which is about BC’s bookselling history, and that keeps me happily occupied in any extra hours I can squeeze out of the week.

Lana, thank you very much for sharing your experience and expertise. We’re looking forward to your seminar on November 30.

Thanks! Me too.

Carl Rosenberg edited “Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine” from 1998 to 2016. He has a diploma in Latin American studies from Vancouver Community College and a bachelor of arts in Spanish language and literature from UBC. He is a volunteer with the communications and social media committee of Editors BC.

Lydia du Bois is an educator, editor, and writer. She holds an MA in philosophy from SFU and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she focused on communication in clinical settings. She provides individualized teaching at the Vancouver Learning Centre and designs customized learning resources in her spare time.

Image provided by Lana Okerlund

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