A minimalist map of BC shows that 62% of Editors BC members live in the Lower Mainland, 20% live in Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, 11% live in the Okanagan and the Kootenays, 3% live in the Sunshine Coast, 2.5% live in Northern BC and Yukon, and .8% live in the West Coast of the U.S.

Getting to Know Our Members from All Around BC: Marianne Sprague

Written by Liz Warwick; copy edited by Annette Gingrich

Marianne Sprague

Editors BC is a big chapter: in fact, we currently have 246 members.

In this series, Social Media Executive Liz Warwick interviews some of these members to find out what editing life looks like in this spacious province.

Today, she interviews Marianne Sprague.

Marianne resides on the unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh (Prince George, BC). She has been an Editors BC member since 2017.


Hello, Marianne! Tell us about the editing work you do.

Most of the work I do is related to academia, involving working with graduate students doing their theses as well as working with some of the faculty here at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). For example, I have worked with a few members of the business faculty by reviewing their articles for grammar and readability before they were submitted to journals.

I moved here in 1997 to be a student, and even though I left for a couple of years after I graduated in 2002, I have remained tethered to the UNBC community in one fashion or another. I’ve really benefitted from my relationship with the university community. I am so grateful for the personal and professional support I continue to receive through my network of UNBC connections (past and present).

Although I currently do a great deal of academic-related work, I also really enjoy my work with clients who are authoring novels, developing business plans, and creating materials for their businesses.

What are some of the challenges in editing student work?

I have a great deal of respect for the academic institution and the need for a student’s work to be their own. It’s about finding a way that I can contribute to the student’s academic process without influencing it too drastically. Where a word is out of order or commas and periods are missing, I can make direct suggestions for change. On the other hand, where I think content is really the issue, I can suggest a revised look at the content or how it is being conveyed and then leave it to the student to address the concern: they are ultimately responsible for the end product.

One of the biggest challenges with students is that they tend to be on the broke side of life and don’t want to pay for anything. So you have to justify your expense. I try to keep my prices lower for students than I do for non-students, but even then, some say the prices are too high and they walk away. And that’s fine. I’ve gotten to a place where I have a level of confidence in the skill set I have and know that what I offer to students (and any other client) has value.

What led you to a career as an editor?

If you’d asked me 20 years ago if I would be an editor, I would have said no. I had an entirely different trajectory planned for myself.

[Marianne earned an economics and business degree from UNBC and then a master’s degree in health economics from McMaster University. She worked at Health Canada where she developed an interest in Indigenous issues. In 2005, she returned to UNBC, completing a bachelor’s degree in First Nations studies and then started a master’s degree in social work before health issues forced her to withdraw from school.]

After I had to withdraw from the program, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was hanging out at the UNBC’s First Nations Centre (a space and group of people who so generously made me feel part of their community), and the director of the centre (also a previous instructor of mine) approached me with the idea of creating a writing workshop to assist students who were really struggling with writing their essays. I was surprised by the invitation, but eager to give it a go.

So that’s where it started.  I created a how-to-write-an-academic-essay workshop and offered it a few times. Eventually, it turned into doing one-on-one tutoring, and that turned into proofreading essays. I really enjoyed connecting with the students and helping support their learning journey. There is nothing more special than witnessing students have that aha moment. (Or when they come back from class super stoked about the grade they got on their paper.)

At that time, the First Nations Centre was paying me, so the students didn’t have to pay out of pocket, which was great. I did that work for quite a few years, but when the administration and structure of the centre changed, there were no longer funds for the work I was doing. Unsure of what was next, I decided to turn what I’d been doing with students at the centre into a business, and along came Wise Owl Wordsmithing.

What hobbies and interests keep you occupied when you aren’t editing?

I spend all of my other time running a festival. I happened to return to Prince George at the exact same time as the first ever Aboriginal Writers and Storytellers Festival, as it was called then, was taking place. I went to all of their events, listening to all the Indigenous storytelling, and by the end of the festival, I was already volunteering.

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been the coordinator of the ‘Ut’loo Noye Khunni ~ Weaving Words Celebration.

It’s important to create a space for our community to celebrate and rejoice in Indigenous storytelling. We focus on all forms, whether it is traditional storytelling by Elders bringing in published authors from across Canada or sharing music, art, and film. If it is a form of sharing stories, we try to celebrate it. It’s quite a special festival.

[Note: The ‘Ut’loo Noye Khunni ~ Weaving Words Celebration will take place June 3–6, 2020. Follow the event on Facebook for updates.]

Many thanks to Marianne for doing this interview.

Liz Warwick is an editor and writer who specializes in curriculum and training materials. She lives in Vancouver’s West End, and when not busy with editing, she plays classical guitar, both solo and with a quartet at the VSO School of Music.

Annette Gingrich, a co-chair with the Editors Canada student relations committee, is working toward an editing certificate with SFU. Hailing from Ontario, she fell in love with Vancouver while on tour with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. With a diverse professional background, Annette is psyched to continually grow as an editor, proofreader, and writer.

Image of Marianne provided by Marianne Sprague

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