Editor: Raymond Simon Company: Kappa Publishing Group, Inc. # of years in editing: 12 years
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I currently work for the Kappa Publishing Group. Kappa is in the magazine business and has a real niche: games and puzzles. We publish lots of simple word-finds and easy crosswords. These are the sort of magazines you can find in the rack at your local supermarket or drugstore. Fortunately, I get to work on two of the more challenging titles, too, “Cryptograms Special” and “Games World of Puzzles.”
I followed a roundabout path to becoming an editor. Years ago, I earned a master’s degree in English from Binghamton University. I had two wonderful professors there, Constance Coiner and Michael Conlon. They taught me how to grade undergraduates’ papers and critique my peers. That was the foundation for everything I’ve done as an editor.
Fast-forward to the Great Recession and, well, I was scrambling—like a lot of folks. But I’d been doing some freelance writing and editing here and there, and when this opportunity at Kappa opened up, I went for it.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
As I mentioned earlier, I sort of fell into this position. It suits me well, though, because I have a lot of interests and I read widely. Besides, as a former liberal arts major, I’m a generalist. And that’s served me well as a puzzle editor.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
How my day goes varies, depending on where we are in the production cycle. Ideally, I like to begin the day by checking a few bluelines. Yes, we still use that term, although we’re actually working with PDFs. It’s just a cursory final check, so they only take about 15 minutes each. In other words, they’re a good way to warm up for more substantive tasks.
If I’m working on the cryptograms, I like to block out an extended period of time to focus on them. I’m usually given 360 quotes to review. I check them for accuracy and, more important, tone. We like to keep things thoughtful and positive, so I’ll remove any that are oddly negative, stridently political, or just vulgar. That gives me a chance to replace them with quotes from contemporary figures. When that happens, I try, for many reasons, to find quotes from women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. This project can take a whole day.
Games is a bit different. I work on it with a great editor and we begin by brainstorming and reviewing submissions from contributors. Then we’ll shift to proofreading, fact-checking, and test-solving every puzzle in the issue. Crossword puzzles, for example, require a lot of editorial attention. Anyway, once the page layout begins, everything has to be rechecked, because lots of errors slip in. It’s a lot of work, but it comes in discrete chunks, which makes it manageable.
By the time an issue goes to the printer, I’ve probably read each article and review at least five times. It’s a lot of work.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
What I love most about being an editor is that I’m always learning. The job also exposes me to subjects I might otherwise have overlooked, so it challenges me, too.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
My biggest challenge is maintaining focus. We put out a high volume of work with a small staff, and things are constantly churning. With all those demands, giving a project the attention it deserves can be difficult. That’s why I think it’s great to take periodic breaks. If I’ve been working for 45 to 60 minutes, I stop what I’m doing, stand up, and go get a glass of water. Or I walk to a common area and check my smartphone. Brief breaks like that give my eyes a rest and recharge me just enough that I can return to my desk and feel refreshed when I pick up with whatever it was that I was working on. Weirdly, while we were working from home in the early days of the lock-down, I found myself sitting at the dining room table staring at my laptop for hours without getting up. I was cranky and irritable and didn’t feel like I was doing my best work as an editor. Once I realized the problem, I made an effort to step away from the dining room table occasionally, even if only for a moment. It was a big help.
What are you currently working on?
We’re just beginning work on the next issue of Games, which happens to be our big holiday issue. It’ll require extra effort, and all of it has to be done roughly five months before the actual holidays, which always feels odd. I’m also kicking around the idea of writing a freelance article about a new online exhibit for a local weekly. That’ll require a bit of research. And time management!
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
I have three bits of advice for new editors.
First, read as much as possible. And read widely. Don’t limit yourself to a favorite author or genre. Reading articles and books outside your range of interests is eye-opening and important, if you want to be a good editor.
Second, try to write something for publication occasionally. Meeting someone else’s deadline and having your copy scrutinized is humbling. It also gives you a greater understanding of the pressures that authors are under.
Finally, join ACES. Editing is often quiet, solitary work. So having an organization that connects you with your fellow editors is essential. In particular, I urge everyone to make it to the annual convention when possible. I always learn something new and helpful, and the people are friendly and thoughtful. More important, I return to work with a renewed sense of purpose. I highly recommend it.