Writing about Revelstoke health care

The third article in my series about Revelstoke health care initiatives has been published by the Mountaineer. It’s about the renewal of dental surgery at the local hospital and goes in depth about what happened to the program a decade ago, and how it was brought back. I also interviewed Bruce Fry, who has a debilitating injury making it impossible for him to receive dental surgery in a clinical setting; he was the first client to be seen at the hospital under the new program.

The writing process on this was slightly different than as a journalist. I’m working with Katherine Brown, who is the project manager for the Revelstoke Health Service Department, and she’s involved throughout, putting me in touch with people I should interview, and she referred it to the proper agencies before it was published. This one had a lot of moving pieces and final approval took a bit longer than expected, but it also ensured the article had the most current information before it was, as some news came forward between me writing it and final approval being given.

I’ll be adding it to the ‘Sponsored Articles’ section of my portfolio as a thorough example of how I can help an organization tell their story in an engaging, journalistic fashion.

Read the article here: https://www.revelstokemountaineer.com/new-dental-services-at-revelstokes-queen-victoria-hospital/

 

The value of good editing

A few weeks ago, a local organization posted a link to a new blog on their website about luxury offerings in Revelstoke. Even though I’m not the target market, I decided to give it a read. As I did, I encountered numerous mistakes, from inconsistent style to misspelled business names to poor grammar. I contacted the organization and offered to edit it. Here’s one sample paragraph:

Just across the ferry on Highway 23S, Great Northern Snowcats also offer either day cat skiing (offered through Revelstoke Mountain Resort) and multi-day trips at their lodge. The operation sits in the Bad Shot range of the Selkirk Mountains, famous for the amount of snow it accumulates- which is music to the ears of any skier of boarder.

And here’s my version, with the corrections in bold:

Just across the ferry, near the village of Trout Lake¹Great Northern Snowcat Skiing² offers³ day cat skiing (through4 Revelstoke Mountain Resort) and multi-day trips out of5 their lodge. The operation sits in the Badshot6 Range of the Selkirk Mountains, famous for the amount of snow it accumulates – music7 to the ears of any skier or snowboarder.

The original paragraph isn’t terrible by any means, and many people would read it without blinking an eye. However, I noticed some immediate errors and a bit of awkwardness. Eager for a work, I contacted the head of the organization with an offer to edit their blogs. In it, I included a complete edit of the blog in question. I aspired to maintain the writing style of the author, while making a few changes.

Here they are:

  1. I changed ‘Highway 23S’ to ‘Trout Lake’ for two reasons. First, because ‘Highway 23S’ is both a vague and inaccurate location; Great Northern Snowcast Skiing is just off Highway 31. Second, because Trout Lake is a more evocative name. Rather than implying it’s just off the highway, it evokes somewhere more remote and exotic.
  2. ‘Great Northern Snowcats’ is actually called ‘Great Northern Snowcat Skiing.’
  3. The word ‘also’ is redundant. As well, Great Northern is singular, so ‘offer’ should be ‘offers.’
  4. I took out ‘offered’ in the brackets because it’s repetitive. Having the same word twice in a sentence is a no-no. Unless you’re writing ‘no-no.’
  5. ‘Out of’ instead of ‘at,’ because it’s a little clearer. I could have also used ‘from.’
  6. ‘Badshot’ is one word, not two.
  7. I switched the hyphen to a en-dash and removed ‘which is.’ Alternatively, the hyphen could be replaced by a comma.

These changes are minimal, but they clean up the language and fix mistakes, while maintaining the style of the author. The latter is important to me, because while I could re-write everything to my liking, I do believe in keeping the creator’s voice when editing. My main goal is to ensure your work is mistake free and reads well.

This is a fairly basic example, but it should give you an idea of how I can help if you ever want a professional set of eyes to look over your work. I’ll look at more substantial copy-editing in a future blog post.

What do I do?

Shortly before Christmas I walked into a local Revelstoke business to do some holiday shopping. While there, the owners asked me what I was up to. It had been more than a year since I left the newspaper and I’d been asked that question a lot. Ever since I moved to Revelstoke, I was the newspaper guy, or “Scoops” as my friends nicknamed me. It was my identity, but I’d given it up in order to go on an six month bike tour in South America and chart out a new path in life, away from the stresses and demands of the world of community news.

I hoped I would have an epiphany of some sort while traveling, that I’d discover what I want to do with the rest of my life. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, other than the dream I could just ride my bike forever.

Fortunately, I did have a job in place when I returned home and I was able to spend the summer outdoors, working at Blanket Creek Provincial Park. Meanwhile, I started freelancing, mostly locally, but also doing a bit of editing for my cousin Arianne’s publication, Signal Toronto. The thought of freelancing appealed to me because of the potential freedom it represented, but also scared me because I sometimes feel I’m not suited to be an entrepreneur. Even though I’m confident in my skills, I’m uncomfortable selling myself, and fear the uncertainty of where my next paycheque will come from.

In the fall, back on the unemployment lines, I was out mountain biking with a doctor friend when she mentioned the local medical community had been asked to contribute some articles to the Revelstoke Mountaineer. I asked if they needed a writer and a few weeks later, I was hired to write a series about new medical initiatives taking place in Revelstoke. My pitch was to bring my journalistic sensibility to their stories, providing a story-telling approach to the articles.

That’s when I thought that maybe this freelance thing could work. With eight years of newspaper experience behind me in Revelstoke, including a couple of awards, I figured I was well-positioned to start offering up my writing skills to organizations around town. I started looking around the community and seeing opportunities where I could pitch people the value of having a professional write or edit for them. We’re in an age where content is king, and I can provide that content.

I applied to enter the government’s Self-Employment Program so I could extend my EI benefits while I developed my business. Gratefully, I was accepted and over the past month I have been working on launching my business.

So, back to the start.

When I was asked what I’m doing, my response was, “I’m selling words.” I said it somewhat jokingly, but essentially it’s what I’m hoping to do. My goal is to sell people on the value of words – that they aren’t just something you can churn out in five minutes and expect people to read. You can’t just pay a content mill $10 for an article and expect good work. Hiring a professional writer is worth the investment. Well written copy will engage a reader and make them keeping reading right to the end. It will flow seamlessly from one sentence to the next, and from start to finish. It will tell a story, and it won’t feature mistakes that can be jarring to the reader.

This doesn’t just apply to journalism. It applies to the copy on your website, or your personal blog, or your grant report. Like all products, quality words have value. It’s not an easy sell because most or the organizations I’m pitching to have tight margins, but it’s one I hope they heed.

Contact me to find out more.