How does someone become an excellent freelance editor?

A great education certainly helps, and the more years of work experience as a writer and editor the better, but I believe the most essential qualification is a lifelong love affair with language and literature.

I graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a major in English and a minor in Italian. I later earned an MFA from Bennington College in writing (two of the best, most intense years of my life, and one I recommend to any aspiring writer who can manage it).

My employment history includes jobs as an award-winning newspaper feature writer (Anchorage Daily NewsPhiladelphia Bulletin), magazine editor (New Jersey Monthly), book editor (Simon and Schuster, Atheneum, Grossett & Dunlap), and long-time contributing editor to Book-of-the-Month Club.

For the past twenty-plus years I’ve worked on a freelance basis with novelists, academics, nonfiction writers, and other clients who have something important they want to express in words and share with others. Because the people who come to me put their hearts into their work, I put my heart into mine.

How it all started

It’s no surprise that I’ve spent my adult life working with words; I was born to a couple of wordsmiths and literature lovers. My father used his talent in a public relations career to support our family of ten, but my mother stayed home and spent every spare minute writing short stories and YA novels.

Growing up, hearing the clickety-clack of typewriter keys punctuated by regular dings of the margin bell coming from her study told me she was hard and happily at work and therefore all was well in my world. So my love of typewriters started early. It continues to this day, in a nerdy, sentimental way. Among others, I still own the typewriter in the photo of my mother below, and the forty-pound Underwood I discovered in a storeroom at Simon & Schuster, which purportedly belonged to the Richard Simon.

1912 Oliver typewriter
1912 Oliver typewriter

Perhaps my favorite—certainly the oldest—is this 1912 Oliver. It belonged to my husband’s grandfather, Joseph A. McGinniss, a prominent young architect who died during the last great pandemic.

Joe McGinniss, my husband and companion of more than four decades, was already a bestselling writer when we met, but over the years he became my most appreciative client. I edited everything he wrote until his death in March 2014.

Today I live and work in rural Massachusetts. When not reading, writing, or editing, I’m probably gardening or taking pictures. Photography remains an important part of my creative life. Words are wonderful but so are pictures. Why not both?

Husband Joe McGinniss and his Smith Corona Electric
Mother Nancy Titus with her Royal Standard