Meet a Trade Book Editor ─ November Meeting Report


Guest speaker Alex Schultz

Association News

Website Update

The evening began with a look at the redesigned Editors Canada website. Its launch was so fraught with technical difficulties and delays that last month when Elizabeth started to announce it was really about to go live a collective shout went up from those in the room: “Don’t say it! You’ll jinx it!” But it was indeed launched last month, and it’s a beautiful thing. One of many improvements is that all the subsections can now be reached directly from the main page—including the Editors Kingston content. Elizabeth noted an increase in visits to this blog as soon as that became the case.


The inaugural season of webinars from Editors Canada continues. These online training opportunities are a boon for those of us not living in major centres! Coming up are sessions on

  • language theory as it informs editor-client relations
  • developmental editing for fiction and memoir
  • creating and maintaining a house style guide

Local Seminar

Editors Kingston is looking into holding a seminar on Using Word. This would be a one-day hands-on workshop (bring your own laptop) led by our own Adrienne Montgomerie, original founder of the Kingston Twig. Adrienne is a sought-after editing instructor with a particular expertise in software and technology for editors. If you’d be interested in taking such a seminar, and especially If you’d be willing to volunteer to help out with it, please contact Elizabeth (

Guest Speaker: Alex Schultz shares captivating career

by Gregory Murphy


madeleine-thien-certainty“You can’t just walk up and pet a sheep, you know,” Alex Schultz said with a smile. “Madeleine was obviously very much a city girl, but I happen to know a thing or two about sheep—and you just can’t do that. They’re skittish.” Laughter circled the room. Alex was talking about a scene he had to change while copyediting Madeleine Thien’s first novel, Certainty. “When you’re editing, you end up having the most ludicrous conversations sometimes. It can take you anywhere.”

Is there anywhere where Alex’s career hasn’t taken him? In an aspiring editor’s mind, in my mind, he’s already been there, done that. He’s sat at the editor’s desk at HarperCollins, the Penguin Group, and McClelland & Stewart. And he’s edited the works of some of the most celebrated fiction and non-fiction writers out there: Jane Urquhart, M.G. Vassanji, Nino Ricci, Wab Kinew, David Cronenberg . . . The tenderfoots at the meeting, myself included, were salivating. I think most of us in the room were at one point or another.

Alex illustrated his career for us in a funny and captivating presentation lasting just over an hour; questions and intermittent chat lengthened it. He began his presentation with a story about his work on an early edition of Real Estate Practice of Ontario. Having an idea beforehand of what his career looks like, we chuckled at the uninviting title of the volume shown on the slide; Alex himself was grinning, noting our reaction. I think the idea came across clearly: we all start somewhere.

418hp1ryfll-_aa240_ql65_Learning to be an editor takes hard work, and sometimes brings dispiriting criticism. Jane Urquhart’s 1993 release, Away, which Alex copyedited, brought some to his lap. Alex said the book’s review in The Globe and Mail shone brightly on the book itself, but included the comment that it was too bad such a good book had been poorly copyedited. To her eternal credit, Urquhart came to his defence, writing a letter to the Globe in which she praised his work and insisted that each of the three specific “errors” the reviewer had criticized was in fact an authorial choice. “It was a crazy and amazing time—a rocky beginning. But it was a beginning,” he recounted.

512sxn2n97l-_aa240_ql65_During his first year at McClelland & Stewart, Alex worked on M.G. Vassanji’s The Book of Secrets, winner of the 1994 Giller Prize. He called those early times with M&S his editing education: “You got to study editing at the elbow of senior editors in those days. You can’t do that anymore.” I think that’s a bit sad, really—that gone are the days of apprenticing with senior editors in the beast’s belly. But Alex’s tales from the trenches were nevertheless an inspiration.

Since his fledgling days, he’s worked in-house for sixteen years with stints of freelance employment woven throughout. Today he freelances for his previous employers, as well as working directly with authors.

On another note, it was Ellie Barton’s birthday. To kick off the evening, Elizabeth brought homemade chocolate cake, which was passed around while we sang Ellie a warm “Happy Birthday.” Delicious!

I’d like to express thanks to Alex for joining us to talk about his career. You’re an inspiration.

Coming Up December 14: Holiday Social!

Celebrate the dark season an informal pay-as-you-go meal in the private room at Olivea (39 Brock Street, Kingston). Partners and friends welcome!

Wednesday, December 14, 6:30 p.m.

Coming Up November 9 ─ Meet a Trade Book Editor

Alex Schultz, Relaxing between Edits

Alex Schultz, Relaxing between Edits


Alex Schultz has worked as a senior acquiring editor for McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Canada, and HarperCollins Canada. He will describe what he did in this role and what it is like to work with high-profile Canadian authors such as Russell Smith, Jane Urquhart, Vincent Lam, Wab Kinew, and Roy MacGregor.

Now an in-demand freelancer, Alex does everything from substantive to copy editing of both fiction and non-fiction books.

Alex has an engaging, informal style and lots of great stories to tell. Don’t miss hearing him!

Come Join Us!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)

Ongwanada Resource Centre, 191 Portsmouth Avenue (map)


Bring a friend!

Editors Kingston is a Twig of Editors Canada. Our events are open to anyone with an interest in editing.


Coming Up December 14: Holiday Social

Watch this space for details!

Susan Hannah on Book Design ─ October Meeting Report


Carla Douglas (left) and Lee d’Anjou (right) listen as Susan Hannah talks book design at the Editors Kingston October gathering.

Association News

Some updates from the national organization:

Editors Canada has a new executive director,  John Yip-Chuck ─ and he’s an editor! At least, he was one, at legal publisher CCH Canadian and then at Pearson Education. He went on in educational publishing to become a program manager, managing editor, and eventually publisher (responsible for all science learning resources in grades K through 12 at Nelson Education). He has also developed small businesses of his own. The national executive council (NEC) is excited to have John’s expertise in strategic planning and management put to work for Editors Canada. John says, “It is my personal objective to help Editors Canada members acquire more work, to get paid more, and to have clients and employers appreciate their efforts even more than they currently do.”

The special online meeting held October 1 using Zoom meeting technology went quite smoothly. Assistant Twig Coordinator Elizabeth d’Anjou attended, and voted proxies on behalf of several other Kingston members. The outcomes:

Editors Canada celebrated Plain Language Day with a Twitter campaigplain-twwtn urging the federal government to write Canadian laws in plain language. A fun, low-cost project in support of an important cause.

The new webinars are under way! Learn how some basics of language theory can help you with author relations (November 7), or get a primer in developmental editing of fiction & memoir (December 3 & 4).

Guest Speaker: Susan Hannah, Book Designer

Collaboration was the prevailing theme at our October 12 meeting, when we listened to local book designer Susan Hannah speak on the topic “Let’s Work Together: I Won’t ‘Should’ You.” Throughout, she emphasized the importance of designers, editors, and others involved in a book listening to one another and being open to input.dlattach

About a dozen members and guests sat around tables full of books that bore Susan’s handiwork as she took us on a tour of a book designer’s world. Her presentation began with high-level topics such the basic functions of a book’s design, the qualities needed to be a good designer, and how design fits into the overall production process. But she went on to get into the nitty-gritty of typesetting decisions, printers’ quotes, fonts and leading, treatment of images, line width, cover design, and even file naming.

Here are just a few bits of wisdom she shared:

  • Book design is not just beautiful packaging, but an identifier for particular genres, an aid for readers with specific needs, and an instruction manual for readers.
  • Over 25 decisions must be made to get an accurate printing quote; it matters, because the cost of printing can make the difference between a book that makes a profit and one that doesn’t.
  • People with dyslexia read some fonts more easily; these include Aral, Comic Sans, Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, and Trebuchet. (Susan now uses these in all of her books; “Why not?” she says, pointing out she can add a huge amount of variety with headings, chapter openers, and graphic elements.)
  • Consistent handling of images and captions is important not only for aesthetics, giving the book the feeling of a cohesive whole, but for ease of reading; a reader comes to expect a certain approach.
  • Cover design isn’t just about the front cover. Remember that when a book is on a shelf only its spine can be seen. The back cover’s job is to get people flipping pages once they have the book in their hands; when you see someone in a bookstore doing that, the chances are good that the book will be bought.

Throughout, she often came back to the importance of collaboration. Ideally, the many people involved in a book’s production ask each other questions rather than telling (”shoulding”) each other their own thoughts. “I always start the first design meeting,” Susan said, “by reminding everyone that we’re all here to celebrate this book, which was someone’s dream.”

An author herself, Susan professed to have greatly enjoyed meeting some of Kingston’s editors, and hopes to join us at some future twig gatherings.

Coming Up November 9: Meet a Trade Book Editor

Alex Schultz, Picton resident and friend of the twig, will give an informal talk sharing stories from his twenty years in Canadian trade publishing. See you there!