Editor for Life: Marcia Allyn Luke, Publishing Consultant

Interview conducted by Alicja Minda.

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 Five Ws: 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.

Photo of Marcia Allyn Luke

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 have been an editor since 2004, starting out as an editorial assistant for New Dreamhomes Magazine. I moved into educational publishing as a developmental editor, then acquisitions editor at McGraw-Hill Education Canada, and now I’m an independent publishing consultant. I have also been teaching English and Communications at the college level since 2017 (Fleming College, George Brown College, Humber College) and am currently completing my Master of Professional Education in Curriculum and Pedagogy at Western University. In 2019, I had the honour of contributing to Amazon’s #1 International Bestseller, Silent Grief, Healing, and Hope, and have authored articles for TWINS Magazine, New Dreamhomes Magazine, and the Durham Parents of Multiples’ newsletter.

I currently live east of Toronto, in Clarington, and work largely from home. I consult with publishing companies, authors, and entrepreneurs. I provide a wide variety of services: publishing, market research, surveys, content and website development, online profile management, project management, presentations, editing, marketing materials, data integrity, and process improvement. I like the variety in my day, so if a client asks me to do something for them (and I can), then I do it.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

One of my favourite books is The Catcher in the Rye, so I would have to say J.D. Salinger. I read it first when I was in high school; it stood out amongst the other “proper” English literature titles. It’s full of real, raw, and unapologetic humanity along with some laugh-out-loud moments. The Catcher in the Rye showed me that good writing takes many forms.

If we’re talking about present day, I would say anything online. Online content is often published quickly in order to be current and relevant, so an extra set of eyes is always beneficial. Or I would like to manage someone’s online presence, like Stephen Colbert’s, to make sure that their voice was being heard. Being in a position to help promote authentic voices is important to me, especially in the face of misinformation.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

The serial comma is my favourite punctuation mark. I love using ellipses as well…to indicate that pause in a thought. I don’t know if I have a favourite word, but efficiency and consistency are two words that are extremely important to me.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

On a beach—I love hot weather. Or a cottage on Prince Edward Island. I tend to work best when I can be outside or where I can enjoy natural scenery. If indoors, then minimalist, rustic, coffee, fireplace… You get the picture.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Of course. Especially in the early days, when I wasn’t making much money and I didn’t know how long I could last. I loved what I was doing but thought about selling out for more money. I drove a city bus during the summers when I was in university to pay for school. A driver position came along, but I turned it down and thankfully a publishing job came along shortly after.

I have also experienced several detours on my career path, which turned out to be a huge benefit. I worked in sales and marketing, both areas that I never pictured for myself, but I learned valuable skills. After I made it to acquisitions, I had to ask, “what’s next?” Becoming an acquisitions editor had been my goal from the beginning and it was wonderful. The only reason that I left acquisitions was an opportunity to move into trade publishing, specifically the non-fiction portfolio at Harlequin. I also had a maternity leave, which caused a detour for me.

Once the dust settled from these transitions, I did some sessions with a career coach, and that’s when I decided to pursue teaching. I was able to make that transition because I had done work preparing for product sessions at sales meetings. That was my teaching experience. So, sales and marketing paid off in a way I never would have anticipated.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Someone asked me once, “If you won the lottery and didn’t have to worry about money for the rest of your life, what would you do?” I said I would write and edit. And that was the beginning of my publishing career. It didn’t happen right away, and it wasn’t without effort, but once I made my plan, I was determined.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

I would say that I have two. The first is, “never stop learning.” That’s one of the reasons that I chose educational publishing. I love school and I believe that if there’s something you want, education will most often open those doors. Even if it’s not formal learning, never stop. Keep reading, watching, listening because if you stop learning, your mind will most certainly start closing. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than a closed mind.

My second motto is, “go big or go home.” If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If you don’t go all in, you’ll never know what you could have achieved. This is also true of my mistakes, but those are learning experiences as well.

Alicja Minda is a freelance journalist, editor, and researcher based in Toronto. She is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.

This article was copy edited by Tamara Zayachkowski.

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