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.