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february 2018

28 February

Editing and proofreading is not an easy business to break into. After deciding that this industry was for me, I needed to figure out the best way to involve myself in the community and to immerse myself into this already crowded world.

I thought that my teaching career would set me on the right path, and indeed, it has helped. 17 years of helping international students with their English has enabled me to have a heightened awareness of errors, both grammatically and lexically. But is this enough? I think the answer is no. The search for training ensued.

I thoroughly recommend the Publishing Training Centre and the London School of Publishing – two superb companies that offer training to the novice (like me) and the already-established. I’m also continuing training with the College of Media and Publishing, who also offer super training courses. All three of these have excellent tutors and give great feedback.

When getting into this industry, it’s also very much worth joining societies; the Society for Editors and Proofreaders is an invaluable source of information, training and networking. I also joined the Society of Young Publishers. However, the one place where I’ve felt instantly at home is with Byte the Book and I’ve attended two of their congregations already, with more planned. The London Book Fair is certainly worth going to, and although I wasn’t in the right headspace last year, I’m going this year armed with business cards and a new outlook.

Business cards and an online presence is also essential. I recently set up my website, and also have a dedicated page on Facebook. I also use my Twitter account for staying in touch with the industry. There are many useful groups on Facebook, including the ELT Freelancers page – English Language Teaching for those that don’t know. Obviously, there are many, many more pages for editors and proofreaders, novices and experts. I haven’t really mentioned LinkedIn here; I do have a profile, but as yet, I haven’t found it too useful (so far) in helping me get off the ground.

I talked earlier about training, but of course university education can also be important. I have a BA (Hons) in English with sociology as well as an MA in English language and literature. These helped to expand my literature awareness, become familiar with different styles and it was also a pleasure to be connected to literature. Through my teaching career, I also have a DELTA and a PGCE.

Getting Work

This is the tricky bit. As a new freelancer, there is very little in the way of a portfolio that one can present to prospective employers. Using my experience in teaching, I have written to big ELT publishers, asking to be put on their database of freelancers, and this has garnered quite a few replies. However, I need to follow this up with further contact to remind them that I am still here.

There are, of course, various sites where freelancers can bid on projects. These tend to be on the lower end of the money scale, but could be a good place to start. I have profiles on Upwork and Freelancer. There are a few bites, but nothing substantial yet.

Maybe a friend or an ex-colleague needs, or knows someone who needs, your services? There’s always that avenue. For me, there are again a couple of possibilities, but these have yet to materialise.

What seems to have worked for me is volunteering. I started volunteering with a small publisher called Aurora Metro and did some office work using InDesign on drama scripts. This led to me being asked to work on the Virginia Woolf project; a statue campaign and a book to coincide with it. I didn’t realise that I would actually have a book coming out in June 2018 with my name emblazoned on it. It has been thoroughly enjoyable, and through this, I will be doing some academic talks on the book, as well as being featured in the video for the crowdfunder for the statue.

You never know where this path will take you.

Raising a virtual glass to all those brand new editors, proofreaders and writers out there. We can do it! Stay determined and it will happen. Just have patience.

23 February

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book entitled Virginia Woolf in Richmond, which is to be published by Aurora Metro in June 2018. I’ve been working on it since August last year, and it is really is a labour of love. Woolf has to be one of my favourite writers, and to be asked to compile extracts from her diaries and letters in relation to Richmond was incredibly exciting, yet also daunting at the same time. I’d never dreamed that my name would be associated with a book, let alone to have my name emblazoned on the cover.

About a month ago, I received a handwritten letter from a lady called Ann Baer, aged 103 – she is on the right of the photograph above.  I have to call her Mrs Baer, just my personal preference, and she had written to me with some anecdotes connected to Virginia Woolf. One was containing a reference to a schoolgirl called Jacqueline Stiven (13), who had sent (or her mother had sent) a short composition to The New Statesman; Miss Katherine Cox (headmistress) read this out in a school assembly, at which Mrs Baer was attending, at Hayes Court boarding school for girls. Unfortunately, this short composition was in fact taken from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.  The passage was in reference to the lavish meals served in men’s colleges in Cambridge in comparison to the rather stingy ones in women’s colleges. Virginia Woolf herself, mentions the incident in her diaries;

Tuesday 14 November 1933
And I have precisely 3 minutes before tea to say that Jacqueline Stiven has taken up a great deal of time & inspired a great deal of ingenuity by sending a passage from A R of Ones O to the Statesman. L. was positive it was a hoax. (Diaries, Volume 4)

Virginia also mentions the situation in a letter to her nephew, Quentin Bell, on 18th November 1933;

Then all last week was spent running Jacqueline Stiven to earth. Did you see a passage in last weeks New Statesman called A dinner party [A Dinner]? Well, it was taken from a Room of One’s Own and sent in by a school girl who swore she wrote it. And Bunny believed her. Then everybody wired and wrote to say it was a hoax. And we thought it must be Logan, because of the name Stiven; and they were having Bunny on for his absurd enthusiasms. So then we all began telephoning – and it was found that Bunny has a niece who knew J. Stiven at Miss Cox’s and I had to ring up her mother, and her mother was almost in a fit – said she’d disgraced the family name. And the girl said she had written it herself. And Kingsley Martin was furious. And Bunny as slow as a steam roller with a man carrying a red flag in front. And Leonard suspicious. But that’s all over now. (Letters, Volume 5)

Bunny was David Garnett, in fact a brother-in-law of Miss Cox. Mrs Baer met Jacqueline Stiven years later, and was told that she had been falsely accused – it was her aunt who had torn a page from her exercise book and sent it to the Statesman.

The second anecdote about Woolf concerns the book Night and Day, where the heroine, Catherine, wishes to meet a man who lives in Highgate, but couldn’t remember the name of the street. She is told that the street is Mount Ararat Road, yet Mrs Baer states that there isn’t such a street in Highgate; it’s in Richmond, and not far from Paradise Road where Hogarth House stands. In fact, Mrs Baer also lived in Mount Ararat Road.

I thought this letter was marvellous, so I wrote back. I received a second letter suggesting that I could come and visit. I’d done some research on Mrs Baer, and found that she was to be featured in The Century Girls, written by Tessa Dunlop. This book features women who have lived through 100 years and gives various accounts of their lives in those times. I have to say that it’s fascinating and I’m really enjoying it.

Today was the day for the trip to see Mrs Baer. I made sure I got some flowers (tulips and roses), I parked up but had to call her as I’d forgotten the number of her house. We meet and I’m allowed inside. This house is wonderful. There’s a chaise longue in the centre of the room and two armchairs facing each other with a small table in between. She has my letters and hers on the table and we talk a little about Virginia Woolf, the statue and the book. It’s very calming being in Mrs Baer’s house. She’s certainly a formidable lady; extremely intelligent and witty along with it. We talk about the Cezanne print that hangs on the wall in front of me. She goes upstairs to fetch the colour separations for the exact same print – it’s fascinating. I’d never known how printing like that worked, but to see how each layer of colour adds to the other is intriguing. All this knowledge I believe she imbibed from her husband, Dr Bernhard Baer, a Jewish refugee from Germany. We also talk about Marjory Fleming, a Scottish child writer and poet. Her father, Frank Sidgwick (director of Sidgwick & Jackson publishers) was an editor of Fleming’s diaries, and Mrs Baer goes over to her bookcase to retrieve a copy of it. Mrs Baer is also an author herself. I see a copy of Medieval Woman: Village life in the Middle Ages, which she bought at the book launch of The Century Girls the night before.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I plan to send, or take Mrs Baer a copy of Virginia Woolf in Richmond once it is published.

21 February

I thought I had better update.

There will be fewer book reviews than of late, as I have been rather busy.

  1. I have just finished the editing of my next audiobook, The Phantom of Barker Mill. Thoroughly enjoyable and hilariously funny – written by Steve Higgs, not me, I hasten to add.
  2. I wrote a short story and hopefully it will be included in a forthcoming anthology. This is my first creative writing effort other than poetry.
  3. I’ve set up a freelance editing and proofreading service. Yep, trying the self-employed tack. What’s great about this industry is that there are so many people around to give advice and offer their help. What’s not great is starting at the very beginning again. A new career means the very start; but that’s also exciting too. New opportunities and a new direction!
  4. Due to the new direction, there’s a new website – Very swanky with my own domain name!
  5. The Virginia Woolf project is gathering pace. The crowdfunding has started, and the book is almost ready; possibly the biggest thing I’ve done in my life.
  6. I received an amazing couple of letters from Mrs Ann Baer, 103 years old. Handwritten letters to me on the subject of Virginia Woolf. I’m going for a cup of tea with her soon. She also features in The Century Girls by Tessa Dunlop, which I’m currently reading.
  7. Rehearsals are in full swing for the next amateur production in which I feature. Don’t Dress for Dinner is a well-written farce with a massive amount of words!
  8. The College of Media and Publishing has very kindly allowed me to continue my training after the dreadful year of 2017, so I’m going back into that with gusto.

As you can see, busy is the word du jour but I do love being busy. I see I also failed to mention the fact that we’re waiting on a completion date for moving house. It never stops!

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