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10 (More) Questions Answered by a Freelance Editor


marie-valentineEditor and Proofreader Marie Valentine tells us about what she’s reading, her specialties and style, and her passions outside of books

What are you reading right now?

I read constantly. On paper or digitally, I am unbiased regarding mode as long as the device is delivering me content. FEED ME WORDS.

Besides the books and other documents that I edit, samples of my recent bedside stacks, iPad bookmarks and Kindle Fire content include:

-Flipboard (my reading black hole for news and essays)
Wired magazine
Psychology Today magazine
Natural Habitat Garden by Ken Druse
-Seed Savers Exchange and Prairie Nursery catalogs
-Collected Works of Lorine Niedecker
The Night of the Gun by David Carr
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Media Moms & Digital Dads by Yalda Uhls
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Has any book changed your life? If so, what book and how?

A collection of poetry my English teacher gave me in eighth grade. I read the binding off it. I still have it, now bound with duct tape. I memorized some of those poems, and as a result began writing poetry.

Do you have a favorite author?

Multiple. Some of my favorite writers are authors I’ve worked with and peers in my personal writing community. Regarding big-name authors … As a youth I was obsessed with Stephen King. I have read all the fiction works of Virginia Woolf. Currently I am infatuated with Lorrie Moore’s work and tearing through her oeuvre. This is after I read all of the works of A.M. Homes. I love Joan Didion’s writing and will read her as a treat to self, along with Tom Perrotta, David Sedaris, and more. Last year I read about a dozen collections of short stories in a row, I just could not stop. Short fiction reading provided balance to editing many long novels.

What’s your editing experience?

I’ve worked for small presses, an academic press, a commercial press, a tech and business publisher, several newspapers and alt weeklies, and also for corporate clients. Literature is my main love and I adore working one-on-one with authors. I proofread for a financial firm’s marketing and communications department, as well as this editorial network website and blog.

What type of book is your editing specialty?

I have read and edited so many memoirs that it’s the genre in which I have the most confidence I can help someone improve the work.

Fiction novels and short fiction projects are a sweet spot for me.

Poetry is a personal passion: writing, editing, and publishing it.

I’ve worked at academic and new age publishers and can lend a critical eye toward acquisitions processes.

I spent eight years in a business tech publishing environment so can sling MBA jargon with the best of them.

Also, I have an appreciation for experimental fiction, though I don’t see it come through the network often.

What are your editorial strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is in sticking to my commitments in terms of schedule and delivery of end product. Another strength is that I possess and employ Midwestern tact and won’t damage a writer’s ego too badly. I will show you what works well in your manuscript and will cheer you on while offering suggestions to reinforce your brilliance.

My weakness is that I will tend toward the gentle side of criticism when some writers need more blunt directives. I don’t slash huge chunks or suggest major restructuring often, yet some writers expect an aggressive, hands-on editor to “shape” or rewrite the work, which is not me.

What’s your editorial style?

I have been told that I have a light touch. I don’t want to hack anyone’s work. Still, I will not let an error of grammar fly (except maybe in dialogue), nor an inconsistent plot point. If you repeat yourself, I will point it out. I will usually make a suggestion before I will outright change something major, such as switching chapter order.

All my edits are shown using Track Changes and Comment insertions in Microsoft Word. I also use Open Office and can even do proofreader marks on paper, old-school style, but I don’t want anyone to suffer my chicken scratchings unless it’s of dire necessity.

I only work on two full-length manuscripts max at a time. This allows me to focus on your book without a lot of distraction. When I worked full-time as an editor at a publishing house, I was working on anywhere from four to eight projects at a time depending on the time of year and catalog needs.

What style guide do you use?

Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is my editorial bible. I also keep Strunk & White’s Elements of Style in mind as I edit, though I don’t always enforce its principles. I have learned the rules and exercise judicious use of them, with flexibility for experimentation. E.g., would Faulkner’s work ring so strongly if someone had fixed all his grammar?

Do you provide a stylesheet?

I provide a stylesheet if the book requires it. Many books do. Most writers have stylistic choices unique to their project. Stylesheets become especially important in sequels so that we can keep style consistent throughout a series.

What do you do when you are not editing or reading?

I have a family with young children who keep me busy. I enjoy trail running with my Labrador retriever, Rosebud. Gardening is a personal passion, and I study native plant communities and composting. I live near a lake and river, so swimming and boating are everyday pleasures for me. I am a member of an all-female kayak crew. My husband is an experimental musician, and we often spend time exploring new music in electronic, jazz, and classical genres.

Read more about Marie in this earlier Q&A.


Marie Valentine is a writer, small press publisher and freelance editor. She would love to help you with your memoir or short fiction collection.

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