5 Questions with Joy Gugeler

August 11, 2022 - 10:15am

Joy Gugeler teaches Creative Writing, Journalism and Media Studies courses at Vancouver Island University (VIU). 

This summer, Gugeler was nominated for the Karen Virag Award from the Editors’ Association of Canada. She also arranged a First Book Canada pop-up book event at the VIU Nanaimo campus to distribute free books to public schools, libraries and other non-profits.

Gugeler is the Publisher for Portal, VIU’s student-run annual literary magazine. She has edited more than 100 books for ECW, Raincoast, Beach Holme, Quarry presses; ARC and Room magazines; Suite101, Orato and NowPublic sites. She reviewed for The Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail; and hosted shows on Bravo!, CBC Ottawa, Write On (CKCU) and CHLY’s Books and Bytes. She co-founded The Children’s Book Camp at Vancouver Public Library in 2000 and has been on the Canada Council for the Arts and the boards of the Red Cedar Award, Word on the Street and Vancouver Island Children’s Book festivals. For more than 20 years, she has taught editing at Toronto Metropolitan University and Simon Fraser University and worked as a freelancer.

We caught up with Gugeler to talk about her editing award nomination, producing Portal magazine and more.

You were shortlisted for the 2022 Karen Virag Award from the Editors’ Association of Canada, which recognizes the exceptional efforts by an individual to raise the profile of editing in their community. How does it feel to be nominated for such a prestigious award? 

It was an unexpected honour, made even more meaningful when I learned that my students over the years initiated the effort and sent in testimonials to support the application. I have been in the enviable position of loving my job, both teaching and editing, for the entirety of my career. I hope my evangelism about the profession is infectious and ignites in others what it has in me – the thrill of helping authors express their ideas and creativity as clearly and evocatively as they deserve. 

You’re the Publisher for Portal. Tell us more about how it is produced.

For the last 12 years I have had the privilege of teaching students in CREW 430/431 Magazine Editing the tricks of the literary magazine trade. In the first term they learn best practices for acquisition, editing, design and marketing. Then they apply these skills in the second term by selecting 25 works, editing and ordering them, and selling ads to print a full-colour issue for national distribution. Portal also runs the Portfolio reading series and a national contest called Portent. Everyone takes on at least two roles that prepare them for work in the field, a Masters of Publishing degree, and the process of being published.

What attracted you to the fields of editing and publishing? 

I have always loved variety, the thrill of the perfect word and the challenge of making something new each day. I thought about what I’d want to do on my day off – reading, writing, talking to people – and then found a way to be paid for it! Editing is often described as being a midwife to authors as they birth their book, a very creative and collaborative act. The reward of seeing that finished work in print hasn’t lost its thrill. Few readers will know the words cut, reorganized or added to make their experience truer to the author’s intent, but it is rewarding regardless.

What are some of the challenges you encountered in the editing and publishing fields and how did you overcome them?

I entered the field immediately after my master’s degree. I was young but very keen and not all authors and press staff were trusting of youthful exuberance, so of course I had to earn it. I had to acquire business savvy and put in 60-hour weeks proving myself. Authors sign off on all edits so providing them a rationale for a proposed change is essential. I read widely, asked questions of invaluable mentors, took courses and learned to trust my instincts. Like any evolution, it was an exercise in perseverance and sensitivity. I still consult my mentors and hope I can be one for others to pay that forward. 

You organized a First Book Canada free pop-up book event at VIU’s Nanaimo campus in June, which allowed 100 public school teachers, librarians and non-profit leaders to select up to 180 free books each. Tell us about your role and how this event reduced barriers and encouraged literacy?

I met Heather Farquharson, Executive Director of First Book Canada, nearly 30 years ago when she was at Talonbooks and I was at Quarry Press. She and her staff approached me to find the venue, volunteers to unpack the 18,000-plus books, and use some of my contacts to reach more than 100 leaders who knew children in need. I think owning a book that is ours alone, that speaks to us and reflects our unique experience, is often the key to a wider imaginative world. It can inspire us to read when before we might have struggled with the skill or the desire. Books have irrevocably changed my life and seeing that happen for others is still miraculous. 


Tags: 5 Questions | Creative Writing and Journalism