Who am I?

I am an avid reader of books and magazines and their online analogs. There are many books out there with great characters and plots but many simple errors. I might begin reading the book enthusiastically, but as errors add up, I find myself focusing on mistakes rather than on the content. No author deserves to have a reader distracted from his work. A good editor can help an author present her best work to the reading public. I’ve been proofreading friends’ essays for thirty years, and by now I’m really good at it. Let me show you! I am a good writer and an excellent editor. Besides my ear for rhythms of language I have a strong eye for engaging prose. Whether your pieces are academic or informal, scholarly, steamy, or silly, I can help you make them clearer and more appealing to your readers. In addition, if you write it, I will be interested in it; although my expertise is in American history, I am a voracious reader of fiction, non-fiction, journalism, even cereal box tops, and I love working with words. My favorite fiction genres include mysteries, romance, and erotica. (As you can see, I am a devotee of the Oxford comma.) As a student, teacher, editor, paralegal, and probation officer, I have honed a wide variety of research skills, both online and in text. My expertise in history and eclectic knowledge base mean that I am able to recognize factual errors and correct them quickly. I worked at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project as an archivist and copy-editor for three and a half years. I taught high school for five years and consider myself skilled not only in editing for style and content but also at leading students to become better researchers and writers. My various jobs mean that I know things about a lot of things. And when I don’t “know” know, I have a darn good sense that something might not be right. For example, in a manuscript I read recently, a character went on a picnic in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I’ve lived in the Bay Area but haven’t spent much time in Golden Gate Park. Nevertheless, something about the character’s attire, a light sundress, didn’t sound realistic. So I checked, and the average temperature at the park at that time of year would have called for hats and gloves. I suggested the author move the picnic to a different park and put some more layers of clothing on the character. Now readers from California won’t scoff at the naïveté of the author. In another novel manuscript, a room’s furnishings changed locations from scene to scene and from one chapter to another. I cleaned it up so that if a character left the room, he didn’t reappear without re-entering. If a bed was by the window at the beginning of the chapter, it didn’t migrate to the wall by the end of the chapter. Continuity matters because you don’t want your reader to be thumbing back to figure out what you meant — you want her to be turning the page to find out what happens next. I want your words to be read, understood, and enjoyed. All writers have favorite phrases or words that, when overused can drive a reader crazy. One of my authors loved the word tiny, another had certain characters begin every utterance with “Oh, my!” The author of a non-fiction manuscript was fond of long mixed metaphors. None saw his quirk until I mentioned it. Each author was able to rewrite to keep the language fresh. I won’t let your habits distract from your message. Why should you choose to give me your literary baby? Because I will make sure that when you get her back, she will be cleaner, better behaved, and more articulate, but she will still be your baby. I work with my authors so that their final product is a better version of their own work. I will never let my voice drown out yours.

Bartering. It does a freelancer good.

From Friday’s panic over getting just the right font for the business cards, to include enough information, add a soupçon of humor, but don’t make the thing too gaudy…

The most wonderful person came to my rescue. I sent my pathetic tries to various friends and family members. They all had suggestions but there was no consensus. Each version was getting better, but I still wasn’t happy. Then a brainstorm — I know graphic designers! So I sent the tries to Mary Horenkamp, a Facebook friend. She asked, “are these templates?” Even via-email, the word was dripping with contempt. I sheepishly responded that it was. Twenty minutes later, she’d taken the words I’d decided to put on my templates and put them onto new, fresh, clean cards — soft grey and purple. They weren’t gaudy or confusing and included a photograph of actual books! I fell in love instantly. I shopped it to the friends and family with the subject line, “This is what happens when a professional designer takes over.” The acclaim was universal. A few tweaks and edits, and we are good to go.

(Well, not really. She’s a professional. I was just going to make some ugly crops and send it in to be printed but she and her blessed OCD once again took over. She muttered cryptically about pixels and bleeds and lozenges and software compatibility. I nodded and smiled and said, “I’m so very happy you know what you’re talking about because I have no clue.” Really, technology and being able to conclude business transactions via email and phone are totally worth the price of admission to the twenty-first century.)

BUT… I can’t afford a Mary Horenkamp original design, can I?

Wait. I’m not a one-trick pony. I can make things, too! So I bulldozed Mary into accepting a silver byzantine chain and we’re good. She still won’t tell me how much she’d normally charge and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m underpaying her. But now I have a craft project for March Madness.

I like this bartering thing. A lot. And I like knowing people. I’m feeling really optimistic about this freelancing thing. And NOT thinking about other shoes.

Business cards

Creating business cards should not be such an agonizing process. But vistaprint is stretching my creative layout graphic skills to the limit. All the blogs say that freelancers need to put huge amounts of information on the card so that in a month, when the recipient is cleaning out her wallet, she’ll know why she has the card. But I have too much to say!

Do I mention that I have a master’s degree? Or that I’m very knowledgeable about the 19th and 20th centuries? Can I just swipe some stuff from the Major General’s Song? Is Gilbert and Sullivan open domain?

And does fact-checking have a hyphen?