Editor: Michael Helfield Company: Michael Helfield, Academic and Financial Editor Number of years in editing: I started editing my supervisor's work in 2007. So that means I have been in it for around fourteen years!
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
Where to begin? I will just say that I spent many years studying the Classics and Jewish History. I was always fascinated by the past, almost to a fault. I had always edited my own work (not always that well) through university and grad school. I then got the chance to edit my supervisor's articles and books, and that got me hooked. After teaching for a few years at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, I decided to go into the field. I now work for PwC Canada as a financial editor and for myself as a freelance academic editor.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
My academic background, in my view, made me a great fit for academic editing. I was never much of a reader, but my academic career saw to it that I read thousands of books and articles on a variety of topics. I credit experience and osmosis with shaping my ability to read and write and to simplify complex ideas. I had great teachers, who had their own editing tips and tricks, and who always told me that content and form go hand in hand! I mainly edit books and articles in the areas of history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and literature (and often topics that border on various fields).
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
I now work from home full-time. So I am often knee-deep in financial statements or business proposals during the day, and academic articles or manuscripts during the evening and on weekends. I am sure to get up and walk around my apartment as much as I can to clear my head. I think we all know that one can only focus on text for so long before one's brain turns to mush!
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
The knowledge. Don't get me wrong. Much of what I edit goes over my head. But I usually manage to get the gist of this or that argument or the history of a certain person, place, or tradition. Reading various kinds of material from various fields makes me more aware of the human condition. I can feel it expanding my mind. I travel to various places and times in my mind's eye while I work. It gives a sense of perspective. I also believe that the sheer infinite amount of knowledge out there in the world should make us all humble...no one person or group can know everything let alone make decisions based on the needed factors. So I now know to approach issues with sensitivity and understanding, and a helpful mix of confidence and humility.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
My biggest challenge is to work two jobs while being a responsible and attentive father to my two amazing sons (7 and 9). This is now all the more interesting because I am at home all day, so the various aspects of my life seem to blend into one! Sometimes I have deadlines to balance, but I have kids to look after (nobody can go anywhere now due to COVID). Sometimes I am just not in the mood to work, but can't afford to take a night off. There are ups and downs, hills and valleys!
What are you currently working on?
I am working on several journal articles on democracy and on social quality. I may soon start work on a monograph on the biblical Book of Proverbs. For PwC, I am working on several short financial statements in the financial services sector (I always have to be wary about divulging too many details when it comes to company clients!).
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
With editing, you can start out early on or later in life. So my advice is perhaps a little vague and general, but here it goes: if you love what you do and feel editing is a space where you can make a difference, you should go for it! Formal training is important, but contacts are also important: there are many social media groups and online forums for editors with many pros willing to offer some advice and feedback. There are a lot of opportunities for webinars and courses that won't break the bank. You are always learning—even from your mistakes! There is a lot to learn, but you also learn by doing and immersing yourself in the editing world.