Questions for an Editor / Photographer: Cat London
Cat London has been in publishing since 2005, working as a freelance editor and photographer for the last 7 years.
What path led you to your freelance career, Cat?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I finished university with a degree in English and classics until I came across a course calendar for Centennial College. When I found out there was a course in book and magazine publishing, I thought, “You can study that?!” and applied immediately. After college, I did an internship at Scholastic Canada, worked for them for a year, and then went freelance. While working for Scholastic, I also started shooting stock photography professionally. I have been doing a mix of freelance editing and photography since 2006.
How do your photography and your editing fit together?
I’m very lucky to be able to choose whether I work with images or words; depending on how busy each side of my business is, I work wherever I need to. I get to use very different parts of my brain and different skills to keep both businesses running.
What fortune-cookie-size advice would you give other editors interested in a freelance career?
Deadlines are sacred.
The client you’re working for should not have to wonder about what kind of progress you’re making or whether you might be late—they should just know that the project will show up early or on time.
Have you worked on any particularly interesting projects recently?
I often wind up with unusual books on my desk. I recently copyedited The Origin of Feces, which is, as described, a book about poop. It turned out to be fascinating. I bought a couple of copies for friends.
Any “great catches” you’ve made or embarrassing mistakes you’ve helped the writer/publisher avoid?
One novel I worked on featured a Latin teacher—one of my better catches was pointing out that the Latin swearwords she uses when she sits down on something sharp weren’t character appropriate. I have a love of Latin and a love of obscenities, so I was pretty happy. So were the author and publisher.
What unusual skills or niches have you developed through your editorial work?
I edit a lot of “gritty” fiction: crime and detective novels, books featuring protagonists with shady pasts—in short, a host of books that feature a ton of profanity. I’ve become something of an expert on swearwords and how to use, spell, and hyphenate them. If you need help with hyphenating profanity, please get in touch!
What are some non-editing or peripheral activities that you find helpful to your work?
My work can be isolating; I don’t have coworkers and I frequently spend whole workdays without talking to a soul. I realized that I needed a social outlet and a way to meet other people right around the same time a roller derby league started up in Kingston. I now play as my alter ego Cat O’Clysm for the Kingston Derby Girls’ Rogue Warriors: knocking people over on roller skates provides a great counterpoint to typo-hunting, making decisions about character development, and taking photographs of broccoli salads.
And check out the rest of the Q&A series for more editor interviews!
Cat London cartoon by George Fewster.