Although I have always loved language, I found my way into editing as a means of pursuing another love. In 1980, I was bored with my office job and wanted control of my schedule so that I could take dance classes at any hour of the day. I began freelancing as a typist, moved quickly to proofreading, which I had done in college, and before long was asked to copyedit a book for Garden Way, a local publisher at the time. I turned out to be good at it. In the meantime, I studied jazz and modern dance and even performed briefly with a jazz company. Between 1998 and 2009 I took classes in West African dance with amazing teachers and drummers from Guinea, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire.
In 2009 I fell in love with yoga, and in 2011 I completed the 200-hour yoga teacher training program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. I teach what I call Slow Yoga to people 50+, sometimes combined with aging well discussion groups for senior women. I also spend time gardening, birdwatching, reading, knitting, going to films and concerts, and visiting with friends and family.
For most of my thirty years as an editor, I’ve been a free lance. Over the years, I’ve joked that my college major of psychology—another example of my unorthodox path in this profession—has been more useful in my work than the expected English major (though I took a lot of those courses, too), as so much of what I do is try to read between the lines, to get inside the head of an author to figure out what he or she intended to say when what’s on the page is unclear.
I believe that editing is one of those jobs that is aptitudinal. You can be taught particular aspects of the work—and you can certainly do many things to improve your skills—but to be good at it, you either have the gene or you don’t. Besides a certain nitpickiness and attention to detail, it requires the ability to keep the big picture in mind and to relinquish control, along with a capacity for intense concentration, an intuitive sense of the language and nuance, a good short-term memory, and a questioning mind—not to mention lots of good reference books.