Five years!

Five years ago Sunday, I went to the Kent County Clerk in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and filed DBA papers to officially open Last Syllable Editorial.

My goal in those early days was to make it to this anniversary. Data from the Small Business Administration show that about half of small businesses fail in the first five years. If I could make it that far, I thought, I’d be all right.

Today, officially, I made it.

In the last five years, I’ve edited or proofread six novels, seven nonfiction books (with another in process now), 1.4 million words across five volumes of The Reading Teacher, countless articles and slideshows for SheKnows, and more reports, papers, and other small pieces that I didn’t track or count.

My family moved once in those five years, and I was able to juggle my schedule around to accommodate the move. One baby was born, and I didn’t need to consult with anyone about doctor appointments during pregnancy. (I took maternity leave, too, although I decided afterward that it wasn’t necessary. Had baby Rosaline and I been less than fully healthy, however, I’d have needed that time.) Next Monday, that baby goes to preschool and her big sister, Margaret, goes to first grade. Having both of my kids in school all day promises to usher in a new era of productivity here at Last Syllable!

My other goal — other than to still be in business, still editing, still not wearing anything fancier than yoga pants if I don’t want to — has been to work on projects that are offbeat, interesting, and out of the ordinary. I’m still a generalist, and although I can divide my work into loose categories, I think I’m doing well in that regard.

Now that I’ve made it to five years, I have two more goals. The first is to get a tattoo: a feather quill, on my forearm, to celebrate this milestone. And the second is to retire from this job, oh, thirty years from now.

Thank you to all the writers, corporate clients, friends, and colleagues who rely on me and Last Syllable and who have made this day possible, and thanks especially to the old guard of editorial freelancers for paving the way and for showing me how very attainable these goals are.

Shining things up around here!

I spent a few minutes today tidying up the site, reviewing the Comment Policy (still solid; nothing substantial has changed) and adding a few new titles to the Academic & Educational list. Forthcoming in 2018 from Routledge is a title I edited earlier this year, a fascinating history of animation in China: Chinese Animation, Creative Industries, and Digital Culture by Weihua Wu.

If you haven’t liked Last Syllable Editorial on Facebook yet, come on over and like the page! It’s so close to 100 likes. Facebook might even give me some new tools once the page passes that number.

The blog’s top post by far is still Don’t get suckered: National Association of Professional Women from March 2013. There are now about 630 comments on it, and while I wish I could say that NAPW’s pushy tactics have changed in the least, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Comments still trickle in, mostly from women who got the very same phone call and did some research before agreeing to pay for membership.

And now, back to the next book. The next opening in my schedule is September, and I’m especially looking for titles on goddess spirituality, Paganism, Wicca and witchcraft, or magick and the occult. Happy reading!


Solidarity with the NYT walkout over copy desk restructuring

Copy editors at the The New York Times released a scathing, heartbreaking letter yesterday that details how Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn have required them to “dance for their supper,” as a supportive letter from reporters put it — editing tests and newsroom overhauls and interviews for their own jobs and restructuring, and finally, buyouts, all in a time when the role of copy editing has never been more important. Editors and reporters staged a walkout for 15 minutes, starting at 3 p.m. today, carrying signs and stickers.

A person holds a sign above their head at the NYT walkout today. The sign reads
Photo posted by NYT staff photo editor Lance Booth on Twitter (@lancekbooth).

“We are living in a strange time when routine copy-editing duties such as fact checking, reviewing sources, correcting misleading or inaccurate information, clarifying language and, yes, fixing spelling and grammar mistakes in news covfefe are suddenly matters of public discourse,” the copy editors wrote. “We are, as one senior reporter put it, the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones.”

Baquet and Kahn replied, in another letter, “We take those concerns seriously,” which reads with the same sincerity as “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.” The top editors also noted in their reply that The Times employs more editors than its peers — but, considering the massive layoffs that journalism has suffered in the last two decades, this is no justification for further cuts.

A copy editor’s job is not simply finding and fixing mistakes, though it’s true that our work is invisible when done well. We are not the grammar police nor persnickety perfectionists, following rules for the sake of rules. We are the first readers, ensuring that accuracy and truth are conveyed in clear prose.

It’s no accident that the letter of support from Times reporters begins, “We write to you as the saved — those whose copy, facts and sometimes the intelligibility of a sentence or two have been hammered into shape by our friends and colleagues on the editing desks.”

In solidarity with today’s NYT walkout, copy editors tweeted reasons why copy editors are necessary with the hashtag #whyeditors. A few of mine:

Poynter has coverage of the walkout and a Storify of tweets and photos. More on my Twitter feed @RachelLeeCherry and on #whyeditors.

The gears of publishing grind slowly

It’s been tough to figure out how best to use this blog space, so, over the past year-ish, I haven’t. However, it occurred to me recently that readers might wonder if I’m still in business because the blog is so out of date. I am! Business is going well! Some new projects I just can’t talk about. Some are still going on (two current projects began in late 2016 and will go through fall 2017). Some have been quietly added to the relevant pages here and I haven’t announced them on the blog.

Notably, the latest novel I edited was released yesterday: The Hedgewitch’s Charm (#4 in the Sitnalta series) by Alisse Lee Goldenberg. I’m fascinated by all the different parts of my life that novel editing calls on, just by chance, and for this one I broke out the books on herb lore! Also this year I’ve edited Everly (#1 in the Everly series) by Meg Bonney, which earned silver medals in the Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction and Best Debut Author, and Beautiful Secret by Dana Faletti, which won a LYRA Independent Fiction award in the Romantic Suspense category and was given honorable mention in the General Fiction categories at the San Francisco Book Festival and Paris Book Festival!

Academic and educational editing projects also continue, albeit very slowly. I’m working on at least one project that won’t be released until 2018.

I also recently took Copyediting‘s Editing for the Web Master Class and picked up the Yahoo! and Microsoft style guides. They’re a few years old, but they were recommended as solid guides that are not yet outdated (and I’ve used Microsoft’s at least once to handle a set of website navigation directions), so I’ll be interested to flip through them and see what’s still relevant in 2017.

If you’d like to work with me, shoot me an email! I’m now scheduling for June, July, and August. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Springing forward

March is flying away already! Here’s what I’ve been up to since the start of this year.

150 px wide pandamoon logoNew client: In February, I signed on as a copy editor with Pandamoon Publishing. I’m excited to work with an indie publisher with such a varied book list. It’s like when I was in college, taking literature classes and pinching myself that I got to read novels for homework and then talk about them for class. Now I get to read (and edit) novels for work. This is the best job, y’all.

Returning client: In March I came back to the Friday night/weekend editorial shift in the Entertainment section at SheKnows. Editing here is like speedwork in running — it’s so fast-paced and demanding in short bursts that I get faster and better in everything else I edit, too. It’s also the source of my continuing pop culture knowledge. For example, you nae nae, you don’t “do the nae nae,” and when you clap back (v.), that’s two words, but a clapback (n.) is one word. To name two things I had to look up this week. I missed this weirdness.

Fiction writers and editors: Last November, I told NaNoWriMo writers not to choose an editor right away and, instead, to revise the novel in January and February, then look for an editor. Then I got so busy myself that I didn’t advertise that $999 March NaNoWriMo special. It still stands, however! If you’re ready for editing (and willing to book in April or May), shoot me an email about it. If you’re wondering what to expect from the editing process or have questions for fiction editors, read through the posts from Tuesday’s #AskFictionEditors Q&A session on Facebook or read the Storify compiled by Louann Pope.

New tools and treats: This week I installed f.lux on my desktop. I’m a night owl, often working late at night (check the timestamp of this post), and f.lux tones down the monitor’s brightness after sunset to match indoor lighting. I used to get headaches when I’d finally turn the computer off for the night. I can’t yet say that f.lux fixes that, because I’ve been sick with a head cold this week, but I’m very optimistic about it. And I also sampled Murchie’s Editors’ Blend tea, blended for the 2011 Editors’ Association of Canada conference. It’s just right for the afternoon, when I don’t need a jolt of caffeine but do need something hot to sip while I’m reading page proofs or puzzling through a reference list. (Today was more of a Throat Coat tea day, though.)

The rest of my March is busy and April is filling up. I post a little more regularly on Facebook — especially if I’m procrastinating — and on Twitter. Join me there!