My passion for publishing goes back as far as I can remember. Upon learning to read and write around age four, I created my first book: a stapled picture book about a fictional cat who was so mean that he kicked my grandma. (Of the other two stories I remember writing as a child, one was called “I Wish I Were a Cat” and the other was about a lost cat. I guess I had another obsession besides publishing.)
Throughout the rest of my childhood, I would pore over books, magazines, and catalogs for hours upon hours. I not only loved to read the stories and look at the pictures, but I hung onto details like copyright pages and mastheads, quizzes, captions, section titles, and product names and descriptions. For a project on viruses in high school biology class, I created an issue of a magazine called Teen Virus, which included a quiz, “What Type of Virus Are You?”
My mother worked in publishing, designing and laying out textbooks. When I got old enough, she would hire me for simple tasks like stamping “MASTER” on the bottom corner of every page of a manuscript. I loved that job. Eventually I graduated to more advanced assignments, such as checking that all the editor’s pencil markups had been incorporated into the electronic version.
In college, I shied away from majoring in English because I thought it was all about overanalyzing old literature and didn’t see a direct connection to the interesting part of the publishing world. I chose to study anthropology, and whenever I worked on research papers, I loved tracking down sources in the library and found myself eagerly jumping to the task of formatting the bibliography before even writing the bulk of the paper.
In 2005 I entered the world of online publishing mostly by mistake; I had a general interest in the nonprofit world, a liberal arts degree, and not a whole lot of direction. I began my first full-time job as a program assistant at Idealist.org; my first task was to come up with suggestions for improving and updating a section of the website, and most of my assignments after that revolved around creating content. I ended up managing translation projects, running a blog, and editing and writing all kinds of web copy.
After a while I realized that I was leading myself back to the world of publishing. I sought more knowledge about books, magazines, blogs, mobile apps, and every other kind of publishing I could think of, and decided that I wanted to try freelancing so that I could use my editorial skills toward contributing to a wider variety of content.
When I took the plunge and became a full-time freelance writer and editor, my mom sent me an old paper she had found. It was a handwritten invoice from the old days, in which I had charged her $12 for two hours of “proofreading.” She trained me well! (Although my rates were a little low, even for a teenager.) Now she refers me to her self-published author clients as a professional proofreader.
There’s something about writing, editing, and prepping content for publication—knowing that the words and images and the whole layout of the thing will go “out there” into the world for someone like my childhood self to worship—that still gives me a thrill.