Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I began as a news journo, years ago in New York, and then graduated to doing publications development and management for nonprofits (colleges, universities, museums), all the time writing and editing. Today, I spend my days writing and editing as head of my own company, HistoryKeep, a producer of books containing family histories, stories, and memories to be passed down to future generations. And, as a book editor for others' projects, I am literally editing (developmental, line, and copy) every day, and coaching other writers and editors. I love the work, love the people, love working with others' writings.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
Commissioned biography. I began ten years ago to write individual and family histories and now find that this is my favorite spot as a writer/editor. I found that I could use my long-time journalism skills (interviewing, manuscript evaluation, editing, and writing), along with a love of people and a deep interest in stories and storytelling to create bespoke books meant to be cherished by families.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
Early mornings are best for working: reviewing email (especially those from clients), and then continuing whatever project is on the desk and has the nearest deadline—typically a book manuscript I'm editing, a narrative I'm writing for a client, or a phone or zoom consult with a colleague. Afternoons are often taken up with editing consults with clients, negotiations for new projects, or taking online classes and workshops.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
I love the shaping and refining process! I love looking at a piece of writing, seeing where there could be improvements (in mechanics, expression, organization, or accuracy), suggesting those improvements, and then working with the author. Editing requires diplomacy and humility—and remembering that it is always an honor to be invited into the writing of another person. I am committed to not imposing my own voice on a work of writing but to maintaining the original voice of the author.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
Biggest challenges are with authors who believe they have a best-seller but who are, at the same time, reluctant to let go of ideas or organization that do not make sense, and of turns of phrase that are inappropriate or illogical (or even illegal!). Some authors hire an editor expecting a simple proofread, when in fact their work needs far more than that—this is always a challenge. Educating clients about an editor's different services is a constant process.
What are you currently working on?
At present, four books: a novel, a biography about someone well-known in the media, an autobiography of a diplomat's spouse, and a biography of a beloved family matriarch.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Listen! Like a lot of professions, editing is about listening—to colleagues, to authors, to other editors, and to yourself (that inner voice!). Read a ton. Join worthy collegial groups (editors' professional societies), and take advantage of their offerings: courses, workshops, and webinars. Practice! Share your work with experienced editors who will give you realistic evaluations and pointers.