Interview 18: Eilis Flynn

Years editing: 43
Job title: Principal and sole proprietor of Flynn Books, Words & Ideas
Job description: Freelance editor
Location: Washington State

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I had picked up freelance gigs throughout my career, so when I was laid off from the financial magazine I had worked at for more than 20 years, I just went full-time freelance on my own. I had made sure I had editorial experience in everything I could over the years, picking up freelance gigs in projects ranging from finance to tech to comic books, which helped me get subsequent gigs in the same field and helped me network.

What copyediting training have you had?
I was trained on the job, in college in a university press. I started as a production assistant, doing pasteup (using real paper!), before the editor decided she could train me as a copyeditor. (She wandered in, dropped The Chicago Manual of Style on my desk, and said, “Learn this.”) So that’s how I got started. 

Since then, I’ve been a copyeditor, managing editor, editor, developmental editor, and structural editor. My first job after graduate school was as an editorial assistant at a financial magazine. I had no experience in finance at all, but I learned. From there, I went to Wall Street and learned more on the topic. And because I really didn’t have any affinity for finance, I freelanced in other places: a financial magazine with a different emphasis, a romance publisher, a general science magazine, a tech company. The only commonality among all of those gigs was copyediting — and my willingness to learn.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Marketing, social media, subject matter — I’m not a natural at any of them, but my husband is a marketing professional, so he reminds me that I have to network. I have to remind myself to tell people what I do for a living. And I can tell you, those topics have been much more challenging to learn than finance, science, romance, or even tech! If editors get the chance, they should learn something new whenever possible.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I’ve used Adobe stamps when I proofread.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I belong to the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Northwest Editors Guild, and ACES: The Society for Editing. Facebook has a number of editing communities, so I belong to a handful there.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Editors need to network more and talk to others about their work. We’re generally way too shy.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Keep communicating. It won’t hurt, and it will help relax authors. So they understand that what we’re doing is to help them, not hinder them.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
I’m diverse enough (biracial, Japanese American, female). But in past jobs, I’ve usually been the only person of color (and sometimes the only woman). 

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others? 
Because my mentor was so open minded, it wasn’t until I got into my first real job that I realized that yes, there was discrimination galore, both because of my gender and my ethnic group — and it was everywhere

This one particular man, unfortunately, a racist of monumental proportions, popped up as a hiring consultant in way too many places. Once I’d see him, it would be clear that I wouldn’t have much of a chance, even though I kept trying to win him over. Never did. Fortunately, I would get jobs when he wasn’t involved.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Keep an open mind. Talk to the applicants.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Working with an author to establish a new series of historical mysteries. Kate Parker, who had a series with a traditional publisher, decided to go indie. I got the rare opportunity to do some research to make sure the details were right (in one instance, the weight of gold coins and the currency used in late Victorian Egypt). (That book was Detecting Duchess, a charmer. But then, all of her books are.) It’s great to learn stuff!

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Not really a hobby, but I walk whenever I can. It clears the mind and helps me breathe.

RESOURCES

What advice would you share with fellow editors?
Read widely in subjects you’re not particularly interested in. It helps your work.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
Don’t hide it, because your diversity is you. It only helps in your work.

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