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Letitia Henville

Introducing Editor and Poet Margo LaPierre

Margo LaPierre

“Everything’s happening at once,” laughs Margo LaPierre, the winner of the 2018 Claudette Upton Scholarship. She’s chatting with me while her husband refuels their car, three-quarters of the way through their 15-hour drive back home to Ottawa after the 2019 Editors Canada Conference in Halifax.

A week before finding out the results of the competition, Margo quit a full-time job that was unrelated to editing so that she could focus on developing her freelance career. In the days after giving notice, she joined the executive of the Ottawa-Gatineau branch of Editors Canada. So when Michelle Ou phoned her from the national office, Margo thought the call was about her new role as Ottawa-Gatineau’s membership chair. She was delighted to learn that she’d won the scholarship.

“I learned so much [at the conference],” says Margo, “it’s hard to synthesize it all.” A published poet herself, Margo deeply appreciated Clare Goulet’s presentation, “ ‘How to be both knife and spoon’: Five essential approaches from the (poetry) editor’s editors.” Margo says the session was helpful beyond poetry editing: It demonstrated “an attitude, not a set of technical devices,” in which “you can have everything you need for editing a piece within the piece itself.”

Margo also names Laura Poole’s “Be BOLD!” pre-conference seminar, and the “Making smart choices” freelance panel by Michelle Waitzman and Jess Shulman, as high points of the conference. What’s one of her biggest take-aways? “Try to be in contact with as many people in this industry as possible, because that seems to be the way to learn things!”

Margo’s experiences to date confirm the truth of this lesson. Her choice to focus on editing was “a long process, a series of mini-decisions” that has now culminated in a career editing literary fiction and creative non-fiction. The first of Margo’s mini-decisions came through her path to publishing her collection, Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes (2017). Margo had her manuscript assessed by poet and editor Hoa Nguyen, and she says “it was a revelatory experience. I don’t think my manuscript would have been published if it weren’t for her.” Margo also credits Elana Wolff, her editor at Guernica Editions, as an influence: “She gave me amazing advice.”

Margo’s work as a poet “definitely” informs her editing practice. Her work as a poet means that she’s able to help authors to “pare back, pare down,” to “let things breathe and be open.” Poets are experts at “distilling, and that’s a big part of editing as well: leaving space for the reader to enter in and interpret [a literary work].”

With her Ryerson University publishing certificate in hand, an acclaimed collection of poetry on her shelf, and increased involvement with Editors Canada in her plans, Margo LaPierre is set up to be an editor of note on the Canadian literary landscape.

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Visit Margo LaPierre’s website at margolapierreeditor.com.

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