Interview 12: Tatiana Pagan

Years editing: 1.5 years
Job title: Freelance proofreader and copyeditor
Job description: Edits short stories and (primarily fashion) blog posts
Location: New Jersey

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I’m an order entry processor for a pharmaceutical company by day and a freelance copyeditor and proofreader by night! My goal is to eventually pursue freelancing full time. 

I have also begun a part-time internship with a small publishing company. I read and evaluate submitted manuscripts. I found the internship through Bookjobs.com, and I was fortunate in that the opportunity fits well with my current work schedule. It was challenging to find an internship that allows me to still work full time. So many of them are unpaid, and I cannot risk leaving a full-time job and being without an income.

What copyediting training have you had?
I’m currently enrolled in a course with the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) that focuses on The Chicago Manual of Style. I’m also taking part in a developmental editing course with EFA in the fall. My English major also prepared me for this line of work. That experience felt like one long copyediting process!

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Social media skills are vital for freelancing. I’m still working on balancing my content with advertisements about my work, funny posts about my life, and an emphasis on the importance of uplifting the voices of BIPOC and LGBT+ people in the publishing industry. I like for people to know the person behind the work and the things I stand for.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
My work is primarily done in Microsoft Word. I find the Read Aloud feature helpful. I use it to wrap up the work I’ve done. It brings attention to any redundant words, awkward phrases, etc., that I may have missed in my initial edits. Hearing the words really makes a difference after I’ve spent hours reading them. 

I recently discovered PerfectIt, and from what I have seen, it is something I want to use in my work. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I’m in a private LinkedIn group for freelance editors and proofreaders. I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to determine editing rates and what to do if you need payment from a client. We also share links to any upcoming webinars and courses. 

The EFA chats on Twitter are insightful, and the people who participate have been friendly and willing to help with any questions I have.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I would like to think that skills alone will advance my career. The reality is that with my limited experience, networking is key. I think that’s the case for any new editor. It’s important to learn from peers and make yourself more known. Getting involved in discussions will provide insight while highlighting the knowledge you have to offer.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
I often show people instances where proofreading and editing would help clarify things for the reader. This is necessary with all forms of writing, including books, correspondence, and prescriptions — in all industries! 

Admitting to the person that even editors need editing also works. No one is a perfect writer. We’re human, and we all make mistakes.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
My day job is fairly diverse in regard to gender and race, and I have found a similar diversity in freelance editing. I do not think that the same can be said about the place where I intern. It appears to be diverse in terms of gender, but not racially.

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? (These can be systemic, personal, environmental.) Or have you observed such barriers for others? Tell us about that.
There has always been this need to prove myself because of my Puerto Rican ethnicity. There are a lot of negative stereotypes surrounding how educated we are and our grasp of the English language. “But you speak so well” and “Oh! You speak so eloquently” are common responses when I tell people my ethnicity. It’s frustrating. They know that I was born and raised in New Jersey. My ability to understand English isn’t a surprise.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Simply hiring for the sake of diversity isn’t enough. If you hire people to make your company more racially diverse but don’t uplift the voices of BIPOC editors and writers, what is your true intent? It’s important to listen to the people you hire, as they can offer new perspectives on issues that may have previously gone unnoticed. For example, are the values being promoted in the company’s content harmful? Some uncomfortable conversations might result from listening to BIPOC editors and writers, but they will lead to great improvements overall.

Real change is not superficial and involves showing a genuine interest in improving diversity in the industry overall. Take the recent events at Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen. The channel was praised by many for its inclusion of several chefs who are BIPOC, only for viewers to discover that these same chefs were not being paid the same wages as their white colleagues. Companies have to make sure that BIPOC are being treated with the same level of respect and dignity as their white colleagues.

Also, employers should provide more paid and flexible opportunities. Part-time work with little to no pay does not encourage people with less privilege to apply. A lot of skilled people want to break into the publishing industry. Few people will want to jump from a full-time job to a part-time, unpaid internship.

There is a lot of potential out there, but it can be tapped only if offices and employers really work toward it. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
The first time I ever edited a project was in college. I read the first draft of a classmate’s novel and did some copyediting and sensitivity reading (before knowing what sensitivity reading was). I’m proud of that project because it led to me discovering my interest in copyediting and proofreading as a career.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I love Dungeons & Dragons (DnD)! I’m currently playing as a human-variant sorcerer named Zamora. I could talk about it at length, but we can save that for another interview. 

I also crochet and practice tarot. Oh! And I’m a fan of making Pinterest boards and playlists.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
The Conscious Style Guide is an amazing resource for inclusive language and writing. I have learned a lot from this resource and highly recommend it. Merriam-Webster online is great. I admit, I sometimes get stuck and think, “Is this word being used correctly?” Dictionaries are our friends!

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
The diversity is out there! There was a time when I thought I couldn’t be successful because of how few BIPOC I saw in publishing. Social media has shown me that there are many of us out there, and that makes me excited! My hope is that the industry will take us seriously and value the skills we have to offer.

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