I thought I would be a teacher, but by the time I had completed an English degree at Canterbury University, my journalist father had become a publisher and I knew that was the business for me. I had grown up surrounded by books; I was read to and read voraciously. As a child, I loved pens and paper, I was great at spelling and I hated to get the answers wrong in school quizzes. I was an editor waiting to happen.
Even with a father in the business and some experience at manuscript assessment, I had to wait for an editing job. After plenty of bookselling, writing advertising copy, a short and disastrous period as a book rep and some book promotions work, a junior editor job came up at Associated Book Publishers in Wellington. ABP included a number of imprints; the one that counted for me was Methuen New Zealand. In those days, there were three or four inhouse editors lined up along one wall of the Wakeﬁeld Street ofﬁce and I learned on the job, which was invaluable. My ﬁrst task was to proofread something, which I did with alarming thoroughness, even circling smudges left by the photocopier. But real editing of real books followed, and I knew I had found the right job.
After ABP, I worked as an editor for Collins in Auckland and then for my father at Whitcoulls in Christchurch, before returning to Wellington and going freelance at the end of 1983. Looking back, it Juggling the deadlines can be challenging but I relish the freedom and ﬂexibility of freelancing, and the close contact with authors.seems a remarkably rash move. I did, however, have quite a few contacts in the trade by then, and I steadily built a reputation. I am still working happily as a freelance editor, now in Christchurch, more than twenty-ﬁve years later.
Editing is, of course, about much more than getting the grammar and the spelling right, or even grappling with major restructuring. At its best, this unique author–editor relationship generates mutual respect, trust, good humour, sometimes robust discussion and, in many cases, lifelong friendships. I have been fortunate enough to work with some wonderful ﬁction and non-ﬁction writers. Manuscript assessment and book reviewing are also part of my portfolio, and I have written seven non-ﬁction books, mostly in the area of New Zealand social history. In Wellington I also spent two happy years as a part-time subeditor at the Listener. Juggling the deadlines can be challenging but I relish the freedom and ﬂexibility of freelancing, and the close contact with authors.
Editing is not a job for those who like their name in lights. It is unseen, meticulous and time-consuming. It requires patience, diplomacy, a good memory and a sense of humour. But it can also be enormously creative and satisfying, for both writer and editor. As Lauris Edmond once wrote to me, ‘Good editors aren’t disciplinarians . . . Their shaping proposals are never a violation; their understanding is all the sweeter for being hard and fairly won.’