2022 Tom Fairley Award Short List Announced


Toronto, May 18, 2022—The Editors’ Association of Canada (Editors Canada) has announced the finalists for the 2022 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence.

The Tom Fairley Award is presented annually by Editors Canada to an exceptional editor who played an important role in the success of a project completed in English or French. The cash award of $2,000 is made possible by Editors Canada and its generous donors.

The winner will be announced during an online awards ceremony in June. Editors Canada will provide details about the ceremony once they are finalized.


Headshot of Helene Demers

Helene Demers (Victoria, British Columbia)
What Was Said to Me: The Life of Sti’tum’atul’wut, a Cowichan Woman
by Sti’tum’atul’wut Ruby Peter, in collaboration with Helene Demers
(Royal BC Museum)

As noted by Royal BC Museum publisher Eve Rickert, the vital cultural history that is What Was Said to Me: The Life of Sti’tum’atul’wut, a Cowichan Woman, “would not exist without the tireless and skilful efforts of Helene Demers over the course of many years.”

Demers’s dedication to the life story of Ruby Peter spanned decades, from when Helene first interviewed Ruby in the late 1990s to the ultimate publication in 2021 of the book. Despite offers from prospective publishers who wanted to see the manuscript edited into a linear narrative, she held out for one who agreed to publish the story as it had been recorded, according to Ruby’s wishes.

In seeing this book to completion, Demers performed tasks, fulfilled roles, and displayed tact and diplomacy above and beyond those typically required of an editor. In addition to transcribing Ruby’s interviews and transforming them into a cohesive manuscript, she worked conscientiously and sensitively with several generations of Ruby’s family during a time of immense stress and grief, which included the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of the author during the production process. Demers checked spellings and accuracy of Hul’q’umi’num’ words, redacted or revised material to protect traditional cultural knowledge, advised the publisher on the cultural appropriateness of production practices for publishing an oral history, and respectfully navigated with the late author’s family the final stages of production after Ruby’s death.

Headshot of Fazeela Jiwa

Fazeela Jiwa (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Spin Doctors: How Media and Politicians Misdiagnosed the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Nora Loreto
(Fernwood Publishing)

Many books were written and edited under the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, but Fazeela Jiwa navigated an extra set of challenges with her work on Spin Doctors precisely because it was about an unfolding situation. This meant that the text was developed, shaped and honed while neither author nor editor knew how, if or when the pandemic would end.

She helped the author define and adhere to a strong structural framework while broadening the book’s scope and detail in ways that would amplify its messages. With meticulous attention to matters of tense and timing, she ensured the author could both position her book as a “moment in time” and make it broadly pertinent, accessible and relevant.

Jiwa’s passion for and knowledge about many of the underplayed social implications of the pandemic, her unwavering commitment to both high-level editorial matters and a myriad of specific details, and her persistent but ultra-positive pressure on the author to support her arguments and broaden her scope—all within extremely tight timelines—beautifully demonstrate a key role of the editor: to serve as a true ally to the author while ensuring the book produced is the best it can be.

Headshot of Michael Leyne

Michael Leyne (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Where the Power Is: Indigenous Perspectives on Northwest Coast Art
by Karen Duffek, Bill McLennan and Jordan Wilson, in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
(Figure 1 Publishing)

Michael Leyne wrote that Where the Power Is: Indigenous Perspectives on Northwest Coast Art was “easily the most challenging book of my career” and “a once-in-a-lifetime book.” The judges for the 2022 Tom Fairley Award agreed that they would say the same in his place. The editorial tasks required for this book covered every aspect of the publishing process an editor might expect to have to deal with—and more. The book also required great sensitivity to Indigenous cultures and languages and to the needs and perspectives of three main authors and more than 80 contributors.

For the final book’s 372 pages, weighing in at six pounds, not only did Leyne need to edit nearly 140 entries, determine their best order and presentation in the book, and somehow cut 20,000 words to make it all fit, he also had to manage the images that go with them, help ensure that their names—in a variety of languages from the Northwest Coast—were handled consistently and responsibly, and pay close detail to exquisitely precise typographical nuances. This entailed extensive communication with the authors, consultation with outside experts, and a close collaboration with the designer to ensure that the images and text were presented in the most responsible and effective ways possible.

This project took several years to realize, growing in length and complexity over that time, and Leyne was deeply involved from the beginning to the end. The book’s designer wrote, “I have worked on hundreds of complicated illustrated books, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one as large, intense and difficult as this. Without the combined efforts from Mike, it just wouldn’t have been possible for me to design this the way it deserved.”

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The judges for the 2022 Tom Fairley Award are respected Canadian editors.

James Harbeck has been an editor for more than 20 years, covering the full length and breadth of the editorial process, from development to publication, for a wide variety of media, formats and genres. For a decade and a half, he was head of a department publishing health information online and in print; in recent years, he has focused on editing books. Notable recent titles he has worked on include Anything but a Still Life: The Art and Lives of Molly Lamb and Bruno Bobak, by Nathan M. Greenfield, for Goose Lane; See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing, by Avery Swartz, for Page Two; Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender, by stef m. shuster, for NYU Press; The Ice at the End of the World, by Jon Gertner, for Penguin Random House; Ecology on the Ground and in the Clouds: Aimé Bonpland and Alexander von Humboldt, by Andrea Nye, for SUNY Press; and Humbitious: The Power of Low-Ego, High-Drive Leadership, by Amer Kaissi, for Page Two. He also writes about language on his blog, Sesquiotic, and for publications such as TheWeek.com and BBC.com. He was the 2018 recipient of Editors Canada’s Karen Virag Award.

A freelance writer and editor based in Cupids, Newfoundland and Labrador, Sandy Newton has been working with words in various capacities since the 1980s, when she started her editorial career at Maclean Hunter in Toronto. She has turned her editorial eye to non-fiction and fiction book projects and museum exhibition interpretation, as well as to a wide range of communication projects with and for corporate, non-profit and government clients. In 2020, she edited the six-volume final report of the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project. She was the managing editor for 2021’s Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador, published by The Rooms and Goose Lane. She has edited several award-winning books and was the Tom Fairley Award recipient in 2012 for her work on Here’s the Catch: The Fish We Harvest from the NW Atlantic (Boulder Books).

Shirarose Wilensky won the 2021 Tom Fairley Award for editing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi (Arsenal Pulp Press). She has more than a decade of experience as an in-house, production and freelance editor in traditional trade book publishing and self-publishing. After completing Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program, she worked for Tightrope Books, D&M Publishers, Greystone Books, Douglas & McIntyre, Harbour Publishing, Page Two, Figure 1 and Arsenal Pulp Press. She has edited many acclaimed and award-winning books, including A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett, Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote, Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji and The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong. Shirarose works remotely from Port Moody, British Columbia, as an editor at House of Anansi Press, where she acquires and edits literary fiction and narrative non-fiction, with a special interest in debut authors and those from marginalized communities.

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About Editors Canada

Additional information about the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence is available on the Editors Canada website.

Editors Canada began in 1979 as the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada to promote and maintain high standards of editing. In 1994, the word “Freelance” was dropped to reflect the association’s expanding focus to serve both freelance and in-house editors. As Canada’s only national editorial association, it is the hub for 1,300 members and affiliates, both salaried and freelance, who work in the corporate, technical, government, not-for-profit and publishing sectors. The association’s professional development programs and services include professional certification, an annual conference, seminars, webinars, and networking with other associations. Editors Canada has five regional branches: British Columbia; Saskatchewan; Toronto; Ottawa–Gatineau; and Quebec, as well as smaller branches (called twigs) in Atlantic Canada, Barrie, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton-Halton, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph and Manitoba.


Media contact

Michelle Ou
Senior Communications Manager
Editors Canada

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