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Editor for Life: Allegra Robinson, freelance editor

Interview conducted by Indu Singh.

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Portrait of Allegra Robinson

Allegra, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I still consider myself lucky. Although I had no publishing experience yet, in 2004 I was offered a temporary job filling in for a production editor [at Pearson]. I went on to become a production editor at Pearson and later at HarperCollins Canada. My in-house stints alternated with periods of freelancing, and I’ve been in one of those periods now for four years. I moved to Toronto in 1983 to study fashion design at Ryerson. I lasted one year in that program (it was extremely demanding, and I was extremely unsuited to it).


By the Book: HarperCollins Canada’s managing editor Noelle Zitzer’s reading highlights

Noelle ZitzerInterview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Have you ever wondered what fellow editors like to read? We have, too. In our interview series “By the Book,” we get the inside scoop on editors’ all-time favourite books, their top style guide, and what their alternate-universe career would be.

Tell us about your current job, Noelle, plus a little-known quirky fact about you.

I’ve had the pleasure of being HarperCollins Canada’s managing editor for 11 years, where I oversee the publication of books of all sorts: cookbooks, literary and commercial fiction, mystery, history, biography, memoir, business, lifestyle, current affairs, popular science, and books for children. The breadth of the program is what attracted me to HarperCollins. There’s something on our list for every kind of reader.

I often describe my position as a bit like an air-traffic controller’s: I coordinate the “flight paths” of our edited manuscripts—sending them to freelance copy editors, proofreaders, and indexers, and redirecting them, in turn, to authors, in-house editors, or the production team. It’s my job to ensure that manuscripts travel smoothly through the final stages, meet professional standards, and arrive on time.

I’m not often described as a “quirky” person, but I’ve gone swimming with sharks, if that counts. It happened in the British Virgin Islands, where my husband and I were married. On our last day, while snorkelling, I became surrounded by a school of fish that completely obscured my view—until they suddenly vanished and left me staring at a black-tipped reef shark instead! I actually shrugged off the first encounter, but when I saw that unmistakable silhouette glide by a second time, I scrambled hastily to shore. The shark was about five or six feet long.