Each month, we sit down with a freelance copy editor from our team to chat about work, life, cats, and more. Recently, I talked with Marlaina Cockcroft.
Dave: Could you share a moment or project from your freelance career that you’re particularly proud of?
Marlaina: I’m really happy with a recent magazine article about the greater variety and diversity of Jewish children’s books currently being published. Like the authors and publishers I interviewed, I remember growing up almost never seeing Jewish characters in stories besides holiday or Holocaust books, so it’s amazing to see all these great books now.
You’ve been part of the Super Copy Editors team for five years, and we’re so lucky to have you. For about a year, you paused freelancing to take a full-time editing job. Now that you’ve transitioned from freelancing to a full-time job and then back to freelancing, what would you say are the main differences between these two styles of work? How was the transition for you?
I worked in newspapers full time for years before going freelance, so I did like switching back to full time for a while. Being part of a team can be a fun, positive experience. On the other hand, I missed the autonomy of being able to work around my needs, rather than pushing myself into the night to meet a company deadline. When that job ended—beware of extravagant promises from tech startups—I was relieved to be able to reconnect with every company I’d enjoyed freelancing with.
I prefer to set my own hours, especially since that enables me to do things for my family that I couldn’t do while working full time. For instance, I got to chaperone my eighth grader’s school trip to see Camelot on Broadway. That’s a fun memory for both of us.
At Super Copy Editors, we’re almost solely focused on business materials. However, when you’re not working on SCE projects, you enjoy editing fiction—specifically science fiction and fantasy. Can you tell us a little about that? How is it different, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I haven’t been editing much fiction for clients lately because I’ve been focused on revising my middle-grade novel—although that is fantasy, so I guess it counts!
The key with science fiction, fantasy, and horror is to know the genre conventions and what tropes to watch out for. Science fiction and fantasy especially can get heavy on world building, which can get in the way of the narrative. Horror can get too reliant on the “big reveal” scene in which the horrific thing happens—while taking too long to get to that scene in the first place.
Really, you wouldn’t want to edit these genres unless you also love reading—and writing—these genres. My journalism background sets me up well for editing business documents, but I’m a storyteller at heart.
What’s your advice for any of our colleagues who might be interested in exploring fiction/fantasy editing?
Read a lot in your chosen genre so you have a good sense of what’s being published, and see if you can connect with other editors/writers in the genre.
There are a number of Facebook groups for writers and editors, plus the forums on the Authors Guild and Editorial Freelancers Association sites are pretty active. You could offer to be a beta reader for someone’s manuscript, just to see how it feels to edit this sort of work.
Let’s talk about writing for a moment. As someone who does a lot of writing in addition to copy editing, how do these two skill sets complement each other?
Being an editor makes me a better writer, while being a writer makes me a better editor. Those two different mindsets complement each other. I try to be a writer’s advocate whenever possible because I know how it feels to have someone changing your work.
I bet your clients really appreciate that mindset, too! From your work as a freelance writer with the School Library Journal, you seem to have a good understanding of the children’s book industry. Could you share a favorite trend or something exciting you’ve seen happening in that industry lately?
I love all the middle-grade and YA fantasy novels relying on different types of folklore (including Jewish folklore!) and different cultures. I’ve always liked folklore and mythology, but fantasy novels tended to stick with the usual Tolkienesque characters and settings. Now I’m reading about characters and settings I’ve never seen before, and it’s so much fun. I do still love Lord of the Rings, though.
How do you manage your workload as a freelancer? Do you have any particular routines or methods that you find effective? Or is it as simple as saying “no” when you get more work thrown at you than you feel you can handle?
It depends on the week. If I know I’ve got a magazine article coming up, I plan around scheduling and transcribing interviews. If I’ve got a lot to edit, I focus on that. If I’m between deadlines, I’m working on my fiction. I just got a short story reprinted in an anthology, Summer of Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Vol. 2, which is really exciting.
That’s awesome. Last question! When you’re not busy with copy editing or writing, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and unwind?
Playing with the cats! We have one giant tuxedo and a tiny tuxedo that we’re fostering. I also bond with my older kiddo over Star Wars. We’re trying to get through Rebels before the Ahsoka series premieres.