Editor for Life: Lisa Frenette, Associate Editor, Inuit Art Foundation

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 Lisa Frenette, Associate Editor at the Inuit Art Foundation

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.

My career as an editor has taken many wonderful twists and turns that have led me to where I am today. In 2015, I began freelance editing for small projects here and there, such as blogs and articles, while studying for my editing certification with Simon Fraser University. As a member of Editors Canada, I was able to land some copy editing opportunities for independent authors, which helped me to grow my experience and my portfolio. From there, I began branching out into freelance editing for publishing houses, such as Fernwood Publishing, Breakwater Books, and Annick Press. I also became a freelance copy editor for the First Nations Information Governance Centre, which I still am to this day. In 2019, I became the freelance copy editor for the Inuit Art Quarterly magazine and, after two years in that role, I am now a full-time associate editor for the magazine’s publisher, the Inuit Art Foundation. I currently live with my husband and two young sons in Mississauga.

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

As my career has grown over the years, I have come to know what kinds of work I enjoy editing and feel passionate about. As an Indigenous editor, the works of Indigenous writers hold particular importance to me. I would love to edit a book by Mi’kmaq lawyer, professor, and activist Pam Palmater, as her writings, values, and missions speak to me on a deeper level. To edit someone’s book is a great responsibility, and I would be honoured to edit one of her works.

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

My favourite punctuation mark is the em dash. I love its punchiness and how its presence can shift the way a sentence is read. Before I began my editing career, I never gave a second thought to dashes in writing and the differences between them. Learning about the em dash and how to use it opened me up to a whole new way of communicating an idea.

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

If I could work as an editor anywhere in the world, I would love to work in Southampton, Ontario. This little town is northwest of Toronto—along the coast of Lake Huron—and has the world’s most beautiful sunsets. My family has a cottage in this quiet town, and I am always in heaven when I can edit up there. There is something so peaceful about editing with the windows open and listening to the breeze blow through the birch trees.

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

When I first decided to pursue a career in editing, I definitely questioned whether I would be able to do it. I knew that I was skilled at editing, but would I be able to make a career out of it? What if I made a mistake? There are so many talented editors in the field; it can be quite intimidating when starting out. But as I began my education in editing and grew my portfolio, those doubts faded away. I knew this was where I was meant to be.

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

I have always loved writing and editing and have been a “go-to” person for family members or friends who needed someone to review their writing. Despite this, my busy work life in administration never gave me the chance to truly explore a career change to a professional editor. It wasn’t until I stopped working to start a family and raise my kids that I was able to focus on the career path I truly wanted and make the leap. It was then that I began my journey to become a professional editor and I haven’t looked back.

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

I don’t have so much of a motto as a set of values that I work by. For me, editing is all about valuing the relationship between the author and editor. There must be trust, genuine communication, and reciprocity in order for the editing process to be fruitful. As an editor, I honour my relationship with the author and that they have chosen me to edit their work.


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

This article was copy edited by Lara Oddie.

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