Advanced Professional Member
Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?
I like to think I fell into it by accident, but ink is really in my blood. My mother was a teacher and journalist and my father was a news editor and journalist and together they published two local newspapers in Johannesburg. I grew up under tables as they laid out the weekly editions with scissors, glue and broadsheet. I had no plan to go into wordworking and I only realised I was helplessly trapped between pages when I started working as a bookseller. Being a buyer for a major bookshop was an excellent introduction to the publishers who later hired me as a freelancer. I started by moonlighting for Random House South Africa, building their website, then assessing manuscripts, then proofreading and editing.
What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?
I did most of my training on the job, with ten years' worth of freelance jobs for repeat publishing clients, consolidating my knowledge with workshops and forum discussions of the Professional Editors' Guild. When I came to the UK and joined SfEP, I took the SfEP level 2 courses in copyediting and proofreading to calibrate and formalise my skills.
What work are you most proud of?
After I proof-edited a novel by Mike Nicol, the fabulous political noir crime author, I was particularly pleased when he asked me to edit his next one, and I became his regular editor. I'm always happy when a publisher sends feedback and it's good.
What do you do if you're struggling on a job?
Try to stick to the hours I've set for myself and push on. I know that jobs, motivation, energy and mood undulate, and that they level off in the end.
What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?
I'm relatively new to the UK, and the SfEP has been an excellent way for me to test and measure my skills in the UK industry. I've especially enjoyed the meet-ups of the friendly South Warwickshire group. It's rare for me to get out of the domestic rut and the group meetings are always an enjoyable chance to meet real people who have interesting experience and similar concerns.
Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?
I'm calmest when doing technical polishing, applying consistent rules, working with PerfectIt. There are right answers and wrong answers, rather than the subjectivity and self-doubt that comprises a lot of editorial opinionating. (That's the writer in me speaking, and I can only hope it makes me an empathetic editor.)
Do you have any editorial pet hates?
Random Fantasy Capitalitis and Self-Important Honorific Capitalisation.
The illogical application of the singular when referring to animals, particularly on safari. You never read, 'They watched three lion, eight zebra, four crow, nine bicycle and seven child crossing the road.'
What has most surprised you about your editorial career?
How grateful authors are when they get proper feedback, even if you worry if you're being too critical. I think foremost, creative writers just want their work to be read and taken seriously.
What's the best career advice you've received?
I often think of Neil Gaiman's assertion that to be a successful freelancer, you need at least two of the following: to deliver on time, to do good work, to be easy to get along with. It's beneficial to try all three.
What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?
Do you ever stop editing?
I try, but no. When I read to my children, I'm often changing punctuation and word order choices. Now that they are older and read along with me, they catch me in the act.
Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing
I'm a football and general sport fan. When I'm not working or doing chores or watching weird TV, I'm often watching sport. And some Saturday afternoons you'll find my family and me chanting for Wolves in the quadrant at the Molineux. I can tell you a lot about football, alpine skiing, rugby, gridiron, baseball, snooker and pre-2000 cricket but I have never found a way to incorporate that mass of facts into my work.
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