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Celebration of Yvonne

To celebrate or to lament? That is the question for West Coast Editorial Associates. On the one hand, we mark our 25th anniversary this year. On the other, we bid farewell to Yvonne Van Ruskenveld, who retired on March 31, the last founding member to leave the partnership.

But then we figured: it’s Yvonne. For 25 years, except for a four-year hiatus when she helped start the firm that’s now Edvantage Interactive, she has graced this partnership with her ready (and mischievous) smile and her consistent optimism. So we will herald Yvonne’s retirement in Yvonne’s way—with good cheer—and keep the sadness to ourselves.

As a special celebration, we’ve invited three guest bloggers to reflect on Yvonne’s long and colourful career.

Yvonne: unflappable, glam
(Nancy Flight, co-founder, West Coast Editorial Associates)

What I remember most about Yvonne from those faraway days of Science Probe (a textbook series) and other educational adventures is her calm, cool demeanour during whatever crisis we faced at the moment. While others might be shrieking or tearing their hair out over this new requirement or that impossible deadline, Yvonne remained unflappable.

But beneath that businesslike, policy-analyst exterior lurked a more interesting Yvonne. I am speaking of her inner vamp, which showed itself, for example, when she coyly let it be known that she was spending her afternoons with a roomful of jocks, supposedly discussing phys ed curriculum. Or when she revealed her mysterious pastime of giving cemetery tours. How smart is that—surrounding herself with the dead to better showcase her abundant physical assets and her beautiful custom-made jewellery? Then it’s off to London for a week, shopping, going to shows, and, of course, sipping champagne every day. So glam.

It has been such a pleasure to know and work with this multi-faceted woman. I hope to spend more time with her and catch more glimpses of the inner vamp in action now that she has retired. It will be fascinating to see what other tantalizing facets emerge.

Yvonne: playful, professional
(Barbara Tomlin, co-founder, West Coast Editorial Associates)

In the Basic Copy Editing courses I taught at Simon Fraser University, I often relied on an excerpt from a letter to an author—let’s call him Dr. Joe—written by “one of my colleagues.” The letter described the editorial process in detail: “As the editor goes through the manuscript, she always finds areas that are unclear or lacking information. She then asks the author to clarify where necessary . . .” The colleague was Yvonne.

What the students never knew was that this exemplary letter had inspired a lot of raucous and unseemly laughter at one of our early meetings. Yvonne had been reporting on Dr. Joe’s enthusiasm for his subject—a grisly procedure for penis enlargement that involved liposuction and wearing weights for several weeks. After describing the manuscript, Yvonne shared her oh-so-restrained reply to the author’s request for an opinion: “I wondered in reading these chapters why the weights, which are applied post-operatively, come so early in the book before detailed descriptions of the surgery itself.”

As far as I can recall, Dr. Joe did not pursue the project, but I’m sure this had nothing to do with Yvonne’s delicately worded letter.

No matter the project, we could always count on Yvonne when editorial tact and diplomacy were required. We could also count on her when a little mirth was needed. I know she will be taking this same professional yet playful approach to her future non-editorial pursuits and look forward to hearing a lot more of her laughter in the years to come.

Yvonne: mentor, difference-maker
(Lionel Sander, President, Edvantage Interactive)

Twenty-three years ago I was a wet-behind-the-ears science curriculum coordinator for the B.C. Ministry of Education. One of my first meetings was with the editor for K–7 science curriculum revisions. Besides not knowing what an editor did or why I needed one, I didn’t know that in 2017 I would call that editor one of my good friends. And I’m pretty sure that if Yvonne knew the number of crazy deadlines and unrealistic workloads I would bring to her editorial table over the years, she’d have stood up and walked out of that meeting.

Luckily for me she didn’t.

Not only did Yvonne help me survive my first job within a government bureaucracy, she was my first editor for my first textbook unit, became my first business partner, and is now my go-to person for coffee and sage advice. Her first piece of advice to me is one I pass along to every new author I meet, nearly all of whom later thank me for YVR’s First Commandment for a Healthy Author-Editor Relationship: always tell your editor the truth.

I would also like to recognize Yvonne’s unsung impact on Canadian science education. In every province there are science books that bear her name on the copyright page. Many are the core books for the province, meaning every student in a given grade uses that book. Now combine this with the results of the most recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), in which Canadian students’ science achievement made Canada one of the top five countries in the world. While these students are supported in various ways, there is no question that Yvonne’s editorial work is an important factor in their—and Canada’s—academic achievement.

Educational publishing has seen a lot of craziness and changes over the years. Through it all, Yvonne has maintained a smile and has rarely said no when I’ve come calling for help. For that I am very thankful. I have nothing but respect and admiration for all she has done. I think it’s safe to say that respect and admiration for Yvonne’s abilities is a theme echoed by anyone she has interacted with over the years.

Yvonne, I suspect you will be too busy making jewellery and investigating new historical stories to think about page counts, author deadlines, and reviewer comments from now on. But know this: you will be missed, and we’ll all have to work a little harder in your absence.

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