An interview with Shirarose Wilensky, winner of the 2021 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence

Interview by Marta Orellana; copy edited by Naomi Dobler

Shirarose Wilensky

Editors BC is thrilled to welcome Shirarose Wilensky to speak at the February 16th Editors BC monthly member meeting

Shirarose is an award-winning editor, who recently won the 2021 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for her edit of Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread

Let’s get to know our presenter.

Hi Shirarose! How is your 2022 going so far? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions you could share with us? 

I think we all hoped 2022 would offer the world more ease and gentleness than 2021. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case so far! So no resolutions for me this year—instead, just the hope of making it through mostly unscathed.

Congratulations on winning the 2021 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence! How did it feel to win this award?

Thank you! I felt enormously gratified, yet also deeply humbled to be recognized for my contribution to a brilliant, creative work. I am so fortunate to be able to do this kind of work, and immensely grateful to Francesca for allowing me to partner with her.

What would you say is the skill or quality that your clients appreciate most about you?

I’m not sure! I’d like to think it’s my intense passion for their work, and my dedication to supporting their book and their career as best I can.

I get very emotionally attached to my books and authors, and I ardently hope for their success.

Writers have commented on my memory, and I think my ability to retain character names and other details large and small about their work makes them feel seen and cared for.

Can you tell us about your process for editing Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread?

Butter Honey Pig Bread was an ambitious debut novel, in that it was on the longer side at around 100,000 words; featured three alternating voices in different tenses and perspectives; included magical realist elements; took place in multiple cities; and tackled difficult topics like child sexual abuse, pregnancy loss, racism, and homophobia.

I used spreadsheets to help me keep track of the book’s complex structure and to ensure the three narratives were balanced, didn’t overlap or repeat unnecessarily, and lined up at the critical moment.

I also endeavoured to gain Francesca’s trust and establish a rapport between us through editorial letters, phone calls, and Zoom meetings.

How has your publishing background helped move your editing career forward?

I’ve been very lucky to gain wide-ranging experience as both a freelance and an in-house editor in self-publishing, trade publishing, and hybrid publishing; and I’ve worked for both small and medium-sized independent presses.

This has given me insight into how different publishing models and houses work; access to a wide network of writing, publishing, and editing colleagues; and a strong sense of the kinds of books and authors I like to work with most.

Do you have a favourite genre you enjoy editing?

I’m most passionate about literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry by authors from the BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, disabled, and other marginalized communities.

I get excited about works that are experimental or subversive, or that cross over into fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative genres.

I love writing that is sensual (anything about food and/or sex!) and poetic. I have a bit of a sentimental streak, so I’m captivated by stories about challenging relationships where there is ultimately a form of reconciliation or closure. 

Now that you’re an award-winning editor, do you have any more particular career goals in the short-term or long-term?

Less than a year ago I joined House of Anansi Press, where I’m building my special list of talented authors who are writing exciting books. 

Do you have any favourite tools and tips that you recommend to other editors?

Editing can be very subjective, and every editor will have their own approach, so I think an amazing learning experience can be gained from the opportunity to review another editor’s work on a manuscript.

I learn so much from my colleagues all the time!

We are really looking forward to your upcoming presentation. What can attendees expect to learn during this session?

Thank you for having me! I hope I can offer some tips for tracking and tackling a big structural edit, as well as insights into anti-oppressive editing techniques. 

Thank you, Shirarose!

Marta Orellana lives in North Vancouver, BC. She is a copy editor, translator, and proofreader, specializing in Web writing and editing as well as academic and technical writing. Marta is also a French Immersion teacher and a polyglot, whose love of language is what has driven her appreciation for the written word.

Naomi Dobler decided to start a new career as an editor and completed the Editing Certificate program through SFU in 2021. She is looking forward to building a freelance business editing children’s and YA literature and anything related to food, travel, and health. Naomi has lived in the US and the UK, and a love of world travel began when she backpacked all over Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia in her twenties. When Naomi’s not getting her teenage daughter to various activities or playing with her Australian Shepherd, she’s deciding what to read and cook next. 

Image provided by Shirarose Wilensky

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