Who is your all-time favorite author, and why?
Oh, man. I have a Ph.D. in English, so asking me my favorite author is a bit like asking a parent to pick a child. If forced, I think I’d have to go with the late David Foster Wallace. I chose him partly because of the breadth of his writing: in addition to writing novels and short stories, he was also a prolific essayist, writing on subjects as varied as tennis, the films of David Lynch, cruise ships, grammar, the mathematical concept of infinity, and hip hop. Yet what I love most about Foster Wallace’s writing is how much of himself he puts into his writing: he has a truly distinctive voice that conveys an enormous amount of empathy for his subjects — even when he’s writing about the lobster he’s about to eat for dinner!
And since I can’t choose just one, I have to mention James Baldwin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Joan Didion, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Zadie Smith, all of whom are — to use a book review cliche — unflinchingly honest and beautiful writers.
Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?
After graduating from college, I worked for a company that did editorial projects for educational publishers like Houghton Mifflin and McGraw-Hill. I really liked working there because I got to work on a bunch of different things, including economic textbooks, a series of inspirational biographies of people like Sally Ride and Cesar Chavez, and – my personal favorite – a collection of science experiments for kindergarteners. I learned a lot at that job about what it actually means to be an editor, but the most important thing I learned was that great editors should be invisible. I realized that I had to subordinate my preferences and my voice in order to help the author accomplish his or her goals and to meet the needs of the work’s intended readers. Since then I’ve also done a fair amount of freelance copy- and developmental editing, working on grant applications, essays, and web content.
Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?
I earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where I graduated cum laude and with department honors for my thesis on Toni Morrison’s Beloved and nineteenth-century slave narratives. After working for a while, I began a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Irvine, which I completed in 2012. A large chunk of my research focused on how contemporary American writers understood their writing as work and their own relationship to it as such: is writing a craft? a profession? a calling? a service? a political act? an art? So I’ve always been interested in thinking very granularly about the actual labor that goes into producing a particular piece of writing.
For the past seven years, I’ve also taught first-year writing to college freshman, which really helped me refine how I work with writers. The most effective way I’ve learned to help people improve as writers is to get them to really sit and think about what they are trying to accomplish with their writing and who they are trying to reach with it. In those years of teaching, I’ve spent countless hours thinking and talking about what good writing is and how to make it even better.
What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry and about editing Hubs, specifically?
I enjoy editing because it’s another forum to teach writing. I like to think of editing as not just about the particular article or essay or I’m working on, but rather helping the person I’m working with improve as a writer. I especially enjoy editing Hubs because I get exposed to a lot of interests and information that I never would have otherwise. I’m continually amazed at the breadth and depth of Hubbers’ interests and passions. I especially enjoy reading and editing “how-to” hubs and have definitely bookmarked a number of those as reference for the next time I get a hankering for homemade wine or need to install a porch roof.
Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?
First, I read through the hub so that I can get a sense of what I think the author is trying to accomplish. Then I look at Google analytics to see what search terms people are using to get to the hub, which usually gives me a pretty good sense of what kind of information readers are actually looking for when they navigate to the hub. After that, it varies, but it typically involves seeing how to make it easier for the readers to get the information they want while still being true to the author’s voice and intention. I often find myself focusing a lot on the layout and organization and working to create a consistent and more pleasing reader experience.
Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?
I’m an open book. If you want to know anything, please ask!