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Volunteer of the Month (2019)

December 2019: Laura Van Alphen

Laura Van Alphen

A passion for literacy drives Laura Van Alphen, a former educator turned freelance editor. After her years teaching high school and community college English, Laura volunteered in various capacities at her daughters' grade school. As school council chair, she arranged an author visit through Telling Tales, a non-profit literacy organization, and has since become their school liaison across Hamilton.

In 2018, when Laura began considering a shift to an editing career, her previous volunteer experience prompted her to join Editors Canada. Here she discovered many opportunities for professional development, networking and mentorship through volunteering, "the best way to build connections and learn new skills," she says. Laura soon found herself on the executive of Editors Hamilton-Halton, planning meetings, greeting other new members and—perhaps most importantly—bringing the cookies, tea and kettle to each session. By 2019, she was the twig's co-coordinator.

"Laura is always ready to help arrange our meetings and brings a calm thoughtfulness to our twig's planning," says Julia Kollek, her appreciative co-coordinator.

Laura's editorial interest remains in education, literacy and writing for children, and her love of language and creative expression has rubbed off on her family: they are all avid fans of musical theatre. Focusing on academic editing and working with children's authors, Laura hopes to expand further into middle grade and young adult fiction editing.

Attending the 2019 conference in Halifax has been a highlight of Laura's involvement so far with Editors Canada. "It was incredible to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who share my love of language," she says. "I'm already looking forward to the conference in Montreal next June."

- S. Robin Larin


November 2019: Lisa Frenette

Lisa Frenette

Those who have seen the 40th anniversary timeline on the Editors Canada website have experienced some of the enthusiasm and creativity Lisa Frenette brings to her work. Lisa joined Editors Canada in 2017, drawn by the way it supports editors "of all different walks of life and at different stages in their editing careers." A member of Editors Toronto, she began volunteering on the communications and marketing committee, later joining the 40th anniversary task force.

Helping to create the interactive timeline was a rewarding experience. "Not only did I learn a lot about the history of Editors Canada, but I was able to have a hand in making something that was fun and memorable." Her most recent volunteer work involved researching social media platforms to help Editors Canada use these tools in new and exciting ways.

Lisa established her freelance business, Scribble Editing, three years ago. Although she specializes in copy editing and proofreading, she considers herself "a bit of a chameleon," tackling blogs, articles, online courses and marketing materials.

When not working or volunteering, Lisa loves to spend time outdoors relaxing at her cottage, camping with family, or walking the trails in Mississauga with her dog. "Being an editor means sitting in front of a computer a lot of the time. Being outdoors is how I ground and re-energize myself," Lisa says.

Editors Canada certainly benefits from Lisa's energetic contributions. And luckily for us, Lisa benefits as well. "Editing is an art of sorts," she says. "What I love about Editors Canada is how the organization helps editors to perfect their craft, meet other editors and grow confidence in what they do."


October 2019: Anne Fonteneau

Anne Fonteneau

After she received a master's degree in modern literature at the Sorbonne and a doctorate in Québec literature at Université Laval, becoming a professional editor seemed natural to Anne Fonteneau. Drawn by the opportunity to engage with other editors, she joined Editors Québec 10 years ago. "Talking with professionals who live their passion on a daily basis is an invaluable plus," she says.

Chair of the 2018–19 comité agrément et principes, Anne believes that being an editor is about more than "correcting" documents: it entails improving them while considering the client, the author, the reader and the editor. Editors Canada's Programme d'agrément en révision linguistique (agrément) tests recognize these skills and highlight the professionals who deserve the title of réviseur agréé(e). "Agrément is the only program of its kind in the world," she says.

"It is a privilege to contribute to the recognition of my colleagues."

In addition to editing and volunteering for Editors Canada, Anne teaches part-time at Université Laval, co-directs a language services company and has written two editing-focused books, most recently 365 jours, 1000 fautes. She specializes in editing administrative and educational documents for public services.

She admits her main challenge is balancing all the various spheres of her life to produce the highest quality work while finding time for her family and for herself. But she's quick to add that working with people who are new to editing increases her energy tenfold. She loves passing her hard-earned knowledge and skills on to her students, thereby participating in training the next generation of editors. It is "an incredibly rewarding experience," Anne says.

"And collaborating with them after their graduation is proof that our profession has a future!"


September 2019: Dania Sheldon

Dania Sheldon

With a doctorate in English from Oxford University, Dania Sheldon knew that becoming an academic was an obvious choice. But other aspects of life beckoned—particularly her passion for animal rescue and advocacy—and academia wouldn't leave room. Still wanting to work with language, she volunteered for Douglas & McIntyre and Ronsdale Press, which led to freelance editing opportunities. Soon, Dania was reconsidering a career in editing.

In 2005, an information session inspired Dania to join Editors Canada and begin many years of volunteering—as professional development co-chair and social coordinator of Editors British Columbia, and as the branch's representative on the national executive council. Since 2012, Dania has also co-developed each of the four professional certification exams.

In the past, her tendency to overcommit was her biggest challenge and she "learned the hard way." That said, she thoroughly enjoys her volunteer experiences. "I always come away having learned a great deal from working with my colleagues."

Dania was one of the judges for the 2019 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence. She is also a past recipient of the award for her work on Charles Gretton: Clock and Watchmaking Through the Golden Age. Her editing centres primarily around academic articles and books in the humanities, sciences and education-related fields, and she enjoys working on fiction, including as a ghost writer. "I specialize in being versatile," she says.

Volunteering informs Dania's personal life too. She has been with the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) since 2005 and advocates for differently abled cats. In 2017, she published The Book of Lua: Stories and Wisdom from a Little Cat with Mobility Challenges, for children who live with physical, mental, emotional and other differences. Whether for VOKRA or Editors Canada, Dania takes volunteering very seriously, although it's "never a hardship," she says. "I just need more hours in a day!"


August 2019: Aaron Dalton

Aaron Dalton

Aaron Dalton joined Editors Canada in 2010 and began volunteering as information technology chair for the Prairie Provinces branch. His background as a computer programmer helped him manage the branch's web presence, email and newsletter. He has since consulted with the certification steering committee about transferring to computer-based testing. Currently Aaron serves on the member services committee, updating the in-house-specific material on the Editors Canada website and working with the Active Voice team to publish the online version. "As a communicator, I have enjoyed being a part of bringing useful and interesting information and stories to fellow editors," he says.

Aaron admits that he "stumbled into editing as a career." As a research assistant in graduate school, he discovered that he enjoyed editing and began thinking of it as a career possibility. After working for a book publisher, he landed his "dream job" at Alberta Energy Regulator. There Aaron reviews a wide range of technical documents and works closely with authors to help them craft the best possible documents. His favourite part of the job, he says, is the teaching. "I facilitate workshops on plain language and effective writing that allow me to reach larger groups of staff and advocate for our readers more directly and vigorously."

Aaron's talents extend beyond editing and computer programming: he plays the flute, speaks French and Italian, and enjoys baking and playing board games. His enthusiasm for such activities extends into volunteering as well. "What you get out of an endeavour is proportional to what you put into it," he says. "Volunteering is a good way to get to know people and to influence outcomes."


July 2019: Blazej Szpakowicz

Blazej Szpakowicz

Blazej Szpakowicz serves on the Editors Canada training and development committee assisting with the webinar program. He liaises with presenters, hosts webinars and runs the software behind the scenes. When he joined Editors British Columbia in 2017, experienced editors advised him that volunteering for Editors Canada would be a great way to network and learn. "Since I came to the editorial world as a self-employed novice with no formal training and no professional contacts, both benefits had obvious appeal," he says. "And with my academic and computing background (a PhD in history and a BSc in computer science), the webinars seemed like a good fit."

For Blazej, the biggest hurdle was his first webinar. "I was absolutely terrified that I'd forget something important," he says, even though he had detailed checklists, had shadowed other webinars and had a solid understanding of the software. In the end, everything went smoothly with that first webinar, and since then he has been responsible for running about half of Editors Canada's webinars since 2017.

Prior to taking up professional editing two years ago, he proofread and beta-read for friends, colleagues and family. Blazej currently edits academic writing and fiction across a wide range of disciplines and enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. "English is wonderful," he says. "I love all the clever ways you can twist it around without quite breaking it."

Blazej has found volunteering to be a valuable experience and says he has learned a great deal about being a freelance editor, including editorial techniques, time management, finances and communication. He has also met numerous people and made professional contacts. "Freelance editorial work can be very solitary, so any opportunity to meet people is great—even through a computer screen."


June 2019: Robin Larin

Robin Larin

Robin Larin has a background in creative writing, academia and teaching—giving her experience in editing student work—and has volunteered in various capacities as an editor. Currently, she is completing the Editing Certificate through Simon Fraser University and is starting her own freelance business with a focus on fiction. She enjoys editing because it lets her tackle a project from the big picture to the picky details of proofreading. "I'm a grammar geek and logophile who especially enjoys copy editing," she says.

Robin joined Editors Canada as a student affiliate in July 2018 and is now the co-chair of the national student relations committee. In this role, she helped create an in-class PowerPoint presentation for courses on editing and related subjects. She also worked with the committee to reinvigorate the student affiliate Facebook page, which involved creating new content with questions, ideas and updates related to Editors Canada and editing in general. Robin attends the monthly meetings of her local twig, Editors Hamilton-Halton, and is responsible for keeping the membership lists organized for them.

When we asked her why she wanted to volunteer for Editors Canada, she told us that volunteering is a wonderful way to develop editing and people skills, and she appreciates the opportunity to meet and learn from others interested in editing. "Editors are diverse, creative and very funny people!" she says.


May 2019: Leslie Saffrey

Leslie Saffrey

Leslie Saffrey served on the Editors Canada certification steering committee from 2016 to 2019, where she helped to administer the annual exams and worked on long-term planning, development and enhancement of the professional certification program. Leslie also helped to produce two new test preparation guides: Stylistic Editing (2017) and Proofreading (2018).

Leslie has been a member of Editors Toronto since joining the association in 2009. She has been a professional editor for 14 years, the last 9 of which have been freelance. She edits and proofreads non-fiction books (mostly academic) and reports. Having benefited from other volunteers' efforts when she was pursuing her Certified Professional Editor credential, she decided that volunteering for Editors Canada would be a fun way to give back and an opportunity to learn.

What was the biggest volunteer challenge? Keeping up with the other stellar committee members. "I was working with extremely talented, energetic, creative people, and I was constantly in awe of their ability to stay on top of the fast-moving, very detailed process of administering the tests year after year," she says.


April 2019: Julia Kollek

Julia Kollek

Since 2017, Julia Kollek has co-chaired Editors Hamilton-Halton. Putting her outreach and programming skills to use, Julia works with an enthusiastic team to help build twig attendance and membership. And their hard work is paying off. "We're excited to have had some of the best writers, editors and business coaches come to speak to the group," says Julia.

Julia joined Editors Canada in 2013. Getting involved in the association has given her a chance to network and collaborate with other members. "We complement our skills and work together on projects such as web design, content and blogs," she says. "We also share academic editing projects if we have a full workload." Julia is proud to be part of a group that has been able to help support and advise new editors to help them get started in their careers.

Julia is a successful journalist and features writer, with articles published in The Independent, The Globe and Mail and She Magazine. She was also a researcher for the BBC and TVO, worked on live events for the CBC, and ran her own video production company.

Editing is Julia's first love, but she has diversified her business by learning new skills and is now able to offer her clients a variety of services, including web content, blogs, video and radio scripts, business proposals and academic editing work.

"No two days are the same," she says. "Like so many other professions and industries, the editing landscape is undergoing disruption. We're all adapting."


March 2019: Lee Parpart

Lee Parpart

Lee Parpart was pursuing a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University but had become disenchanted with academia and was unsure what her future held. As a stay-at-home mom for almost ten years, Lee was concerned that she would no longer be employable.

At a literary event that she had organized, Lee met the co-chair of Editors Toronto, Jennifer Foster. Jennifer saw her potential as an event coordinator for the branch and asked her to interview for the position. Lee accepted and began working on creating opportunities for writers and editors to enjoy in-person events to enrich them both professionally and personally.

Since then, Lee's volunteer experience has led to freelance and full-time editing jobs. She says that "volunteering for Editors Canada was one of the best moves" she has ever made and characterizes her experience as "life-changing." She made many fruitful connections within the editing and writing communities and now works for a hybrid publishing company in Toronto. She also runs a small freelance poetry editing business.

One of her most memorable volunteering experiences was booking the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, novelist, poet and playwright Michael Redhill, and his editor, Martha Kanya-Forstner. This made her realize that she could get top talent for Editors Toronto events.

"Sometimes you just need to ask to be given a great opportunity that you can share with the members of the association," says Lee. Other opportunities have provided Lee with some valuable insights into the value of bringing all life experiences to editing.

What is Lee's advice to anyone interested in volunteering? "Figure out what skills you want to develop and use the position to get really good at something that will advance your career in some way or make you a better editor or happier person."


February 2019: Tania Cheffins

Tania Cheffins

Tania Cheffins has been editing since 2006, first as the exams editor for Certified General Accountants of Canada (CGA-Canada) and then as the editorial manager for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. In 2016, she decided to quit her job and do freelance work on a full-time basis.

Tania joined Editors British Columbia in 2011. After receiving her Certified Professional Editor (CPE) designation in 2013, she volunteered to help set future Editors Canada professional certification exams. At the time Tania was the exams editor at CGA-Canada, so the work was familiar to her. After the first exam-setting session, she joined the certification steering committee and spent several years helping to get the computer testing platform for the certification exams up and running. Computer testing officially launched in 2017.

Tania is the professional standards director on the national executive council (NEC)—a position she has held since 2017. She enjoys the role because it allows her to continue working with the certification steering committee. Her recent projects include working on the recent updates of the Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Student Texts and Definitions of Editorial Skills.

"I was happy to be part of updating these tools along with so many dedicated and interesting people I may not have otherwise met" she says. "It's gratifying to see these refreshed projects completed and now available for everyone to use."


January 2019: Sheila Eskenazi

Sheila Eskenazi

Sheila Eskenazi is our volunteer of the month for January. Her work has consisted of translating Editors Québec documents, seminar descriptions, and emails from French to English. With the great increase in French activities in the branch, Sheila found that there were many more things that needed translation, giving her the opportunity to hone her skills and provide a service to the organization.

"A volunteer-run group needs volunteers to run it, and when you value something, you support it in any way you can," she says.

Sheila has been a member of Editors Québec since joining Editors Canada in 2008. Providing volunteer translation allows her to participate actively with the Editors Canada community and other not-for-profit and cultural organizations without being physically present. Her experience working with everyone she has connected with at Editors Canada has been pleasurable.

"I feel appreciated and get great satisfaction from the chance to contribute, and from the feedback I get on the translations I submit."

Sheila has been an editor since 1984. Most of her work was done as a sideline and through volunteer work, as she owned and operated another small business with her husband. Once the business was sold, she devoted herself to building her editing career, and has since edited magazines, newspaper articles, websites, books and even phone menu messages.

Sheila's career provides her with a varied and stimulating range of freelance work, which allows her to work from her "comfortable little nest at home." Much of her work has been the result of her raising awareness of the needs of the English-speaking population in the Laurentians and encouraging groups to provide services in the language of the minority community. Coming from a long line devoted to community support, she hopes to carry on with her various involvements for many more years. 


Want to make a difference in your association? Find out more about volunteering for Editors Canada.