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!

 

Doing a chair dance of joy

I’m back! I had managed to permanently ban my own IP address (using the iThemes Security plugin on this here WordPress install) because I had too many *&!$^ wrong password attempts. I’d set the security nice and tight because I’ve been dealing with brute force attacks on the site, and I could only whitelist my own IP temporarily. (If you’re locked out of your own site too, iThemes has posted some useful directions for fixing lockouts.) Admittedly, however, it took me awhile to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to discover the IP perma-ban, remember to take my laptop to my local Tim Horton’s for an iced capp mocha and some wifi, get my user also blocked because clicking “log in” with the saved password never &*%# works, go back home to discover and then follow the iThemes directions to release any and all blocks on my IP or user, become mystified as to why this wasn’t working, then log in successfully through the WordPress app on my phone with the wifi off to whitelist my IP there, releasing the perma-ban, and allow me to actually. log. in.

I’d complain more, but two things are true: iThemes Security was actually performing quite well and doing the thing I installed it to do — it had no way to tell that this was really me trying to log in — and I did fix it in the end without breaking any part of my site.

And some bonus editorial content for the day: At the Chronicle, Rachel Toor says some lovely things about copy editors in The Better Angels of Our Writing:

My experience of receiving editing, both substantively and line by line, is that it’s like love. Good copy editors see me not just for who I am but for who I want to be, and they help me get there. They point out what I do well, but they also notice my tics and bad habits and try to break me of them.

Now I, too, want to be friends with Carol Saller and Mary Norris.

What I’m reading now: A series

I’ve taken an idea from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), which is itself an amazing book full of good stories and equally good advice; I quote pieces to myself rather a lot. The part I’m thinking of now is what King calls the Prime Rule and the Great Commandment:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around those two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. It’s what I do at night, kicked back in my blue chair. Similarly, I don’t read fiction to study the art of fiction, but simply because I like stories. (p. 145)

I read and read and read all day, and then in between I read for fun, but there’s a difference. When I read with an editorial eye, I’m looking at how sentences work and whether words got repeated or misspelled or misused. I’m reading functional text and thinking about how well a teacher will be able to follow this lesson, whether all the facts in a story about a celebrity are correct, whether references to a figure or a handout title are capitalized consistently, how well a reader will be able visualize the action happening in a scene. It’s also repetitive work; I read through, make changes, read through again, go back and fix this or that, read through again to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and so on. I’m practicing my craft.

When I read for fun, I’m a very fast reader. Especially in novels, I love to get completely swept up in the story. Before my kids were born, I’d curl up on our big leather couch and read for hours at a stretch, not really realizing how much time had passed until the sun had gone down, my cup was long empty, and I was mysteriously hungry. (That still happens occasionally now, except the hours involved usually bookend midnight, after both girls are asleep.) It’s a lovely break to just fly through and not worry about the detail stuff because many other people have already worked on this particular story and the details have been attended to. It’s just me and the story.

And yet, as Stephen King continues, “there is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” Which I’ve found to be true as well. King tells about reading a book in which the author described everything as zestful and it became “the literary equivalent of a smallpox vaccination: I have never, so far as I know, used the word zestful in a novel or a story. God willing, I never will.”

A few weeks ago, I decided that the balance between work and play had gotten out of whack, so I settled myself down to read some novels. (Actually, I can pinpoint this to the day I edited a review of Lick by Kylie Scott. I finished editing the article, kept a tab open to buy the book, and read it straight through as soon as I could. Then I bought the next in the series. And I signed up for Smart Bitches Trashy Books’ Books on Sale newsletter and bought plenty more by other authors. I’m kinda backlogged with romance reading and it’s wonderful.)

So here’s to a new series of posts with short reviews of what I’m reading now. It’s probably gonna be romance-heavy for awhile.

Timelines and expectations: Maternity leave analysis

I’ve been super busy with projects lately, which is a wonderful thing! And I’ve been looking at this project cycle in relation to my decision to take maternity leave as a freelancer; effectively, I had to start hustling for work just as hard as when I’d started freelancing in the first place. (Note: the bulk of my work has been in educational publishing, so the cycle I’m outlining reflects project lengths and payment periods common to that field. An editor working primarily on medical journals would likely experience a different cycle; an editor working primarily with independent authors would experience a cycle that’s different still.)

  • June/July 2013: I decide on the dates I’ll be away on maternity leave and notify my clients well in advance.
  • August 2013: I AM SO BUSY finishing up projects and squeezing in short ones before my leave starts.
  • September 2013: My daughter is born, with no complications. I recover quickly. Invoice payments continue to roll in.
  • October 2013: Rosaline turns out to be a happy, healthy baby. Invoices keep getting paid. I’m a tad bored, but life is good.
  • November 2013: I start working again, slowly, touching base with current clients and reaching out to new ones.
  • December 2013: The Holidays. A few new projects start up. Just about all outstanding invoices are paid by now.
  • January 2014: This is, unexpectedly, the point at which I started to feel the financial pinch from maternity leave. Not much money was coming in, few of the projects I’d started in November had reached a point at which I could invoice for work done, and savings were starting to run out.
  • February 2014: Busy, busy month. I add more projects, send a few invoices, and keep hustling. I win a couple of regular gigs.
  • March 2014: Several large projects reach a midpoint at the same time others wrap up. I feel like I’m working nonstop. More invoices go out; more projects come in.

When I was figuring out how maternity leave would work, I expected that November and December would be the tough months, but starting in January, I’d be able to pick up steam again. Instead, the cycle looks much more like August–December 2012, when I was wrapping up a full-time job and transitioning into Last Syllable full-time. I picked up a few clients right away, put in the work on the first projects, invoiced when they were done… and then finally had those invoices paid in January 2013. After that point, invoices got paid at about the same pace as new projects came in and work went out, so the business was sustainable.

Judging by that information, April 2014 will be another tough month, but May 2014 should be better, and sustainability should come back around June or July — almost a full year!

So financially, I’m not sure how good an idea it was to take two months of maternity leave. However, I recovered very quickly from birthing and had no complications. Other than a bit of jaundice, my baby was born perfectly healthy; she took right to nursing and has thrived. If any part of that calculus had been different — if I’d had a difficult birthing, had to recover from a C-section, or had lasting issues from the pregnancy; if Rosaline had been sick or colicky or had trouble nursing or gaining weight; if none of us had slept well and I couldn’t think clearly; just to name a few possibilities — then a two-month maternity leave would have looked like a far wiser choice. Of course, I couldn’t predict any of these outcomes ahead of the birth, let alone far enough ahead of time to change my plans. And there were other benefits to the way I did it: no juggling deadlines and diapers until I had a pretty good handle on baby’s routine, for example. I didn’t have to stress about being sure I could keep a project on schedule, sure I could think straight, even if I was physically and mentally up to the challenge.

Is it possible to take maternity leave as a freelancer? Yes. Would I do it again? … I’d think very hard about that, given what I’ve learned, and I’d probably approach it as more of a temporary slowdown than a complete break.

Reorganization, slightly

A housekeeping note: The sidebar was getting a little ridiculous, so I’ve removed and rearranged some of those widgets. Notably, editing- and writing-related links, site search, and links to a few of the top posts and pages on the site are all in the footer. I’ve also deleted the Work History page and folded that information into the Editorial Services page.

I’d been taught all my life to organize my résumé in some kind of chronological order, listing my skills and emphasizing a continuous, focused work history. (Freelance résumés can be structured a little differently. For examples, see the EFA’s excellent booklet Résumés for Freelancers by Sheila Buff, and of course my own résumé.) So when I started writing the pages of this site, even though I wrote a page that focused on my services and projects I’ve edited and proofread in the past and posted a downloadable PDF résumé, I still felt the need to write some kind of chronological story about my work history.

However, my site stats told me that visitors didn’t really look at the Work History page. The majority of site visitors land on my post Don’t get suckered: National Association of Professional Women. When those visitors want to know more, they usually click over to Editorial Services.

So I shortened the story and tucked it into a page where it would more usefully convey information. I’ve been freelancing full-time for a year now, but some changes are still taking time to sink in.