Questions for an Editor, Writer, Teacher: Melissa Stein
Melissa Stein has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She is an editor, a writer, and a teacher of editing and writing. She will be our instructor for Microsoft Word for the Wise on Thursday, November 14.
How did you get into publishing and how did it lead to your current position, Melissa?
Right out of college, I got an internship at Running Press Book Publishers in Philadelphia. They offered me an editorial position, and I stayed there for three years, learning the ropes. After that was grad school, then an editor job for a couple years at a San Francisco think tank, and I’ve been freelancing ever since.
With 20 years in publishing, you’ve probably worked on some memorable projects. What’s one that comes to mind?
One of the most fun developmental editing projects was Sex, Death, and Other Distractions, a follow-up book by a group of Bay Area pioneers in women’s erotica whose first collection had made a huge splash in the mid-’80s. I was lucky enough to work with them for over a year via writing group and one-on-one. Being able to meet with authors in person is such a delicious luxury in these digital days!
How is your editing career now different from the in-house positions you’ve held?
I still have my hand in most aspects of the editing process, but as my own boss, I get to select the projects I’ll work on and set my own schedule, so it’s the best of both worlds. I’ve also been teaching more and more in recent years (electronic editing, developmental editing, business writing, and proofreading), which expands upon and enriches my work with authors/manuscripts.
What do you find satisfying about editing, writing, teaching, and managing publishing projects?
Seeing lightbulbs go off! Helping writers bring their work into a more polished and engaging form—especially in developmental editing, when everything clicks and an author takes in comments/suggestions and really runs with them, bringing the entire manuscript to a breathtaking new level—is always exciting. And while teaching, it’s incredibly rewarding to watch students realize that editing is truly their calling, or that they can say the same thing more emphatically using half the words, or that a few keystrokes can revolutionize the way they edit in Microsoft Word.
Any favorite techniques or tips for copyediting?
Three words: Find and Replace. In Microsoft Word for the Wise, we’ll delve into this incredibly powerful, versatile tool.
And two more words: keyboard shortcuts. So many of Microsoft Word’s features can be implemented without taking your hands off the keyboard, saving you loads of time and frustration. Some shortcuts are built in; some can be customized in a minute or two.
Whenever you find yourself thinking “there must be an easier way to do this” while editing in Word, you’re probably right. In fact, that’s exactly how I began pulling together material for my first electronic editing class more than a decade ago.
Find more of Melissa and her editing, writing, teaching world at MelissaStein.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook (where you will discover, among other things, that she is also a published poet whose work has recently appeared in an anthology of poetry about bourbon).
Sign up now for next week's Microsoft Word for the Wise, in which Melissa will teach you how to make electronic editing faster, smarter, and more fun. (All audio conferences are free for platinum members.)
Check out the rest of our Q&A series for more editor interviews.
Photo credit: John F. Martin