Back to the red-pencil brigade

Like most writers, I can’t live off doing what I love, so I am always looking for other forms of income that complement my writing, but don’t impede it too much. I had hoped at this stage in my life to be writing full-time, but alas, the economic reality is that I’ll keep chasing after gainful employment the rest of my life. If I have any regrets, it’s that I did not ignore my overbearing father and study English Literature in college, instead of Journalism, and then go into academia, which would have been much more suitable to my temperament, as well as a kind  of economic backbone. Instead I worked for years as a New York City editorial drone, who got to write an occasional blurb or headline. It took a few decades, but eventually I was able to segue into freelance editing, which kept me afloat while I wrote my fiction. But then the recession and big downturn in the publishing industry made this kind of work impossible to find, even in the NYC area. So I tried a different tack: the commercial teaching of English.

I began my teaching career in the notorious field of SAT tutoring, and I have nothing good to say about that industry, which pays its teachers pathetically low salaries for the thankless job of getting some precious child into a “good” college, using abominably bad syllabi and materials (Yeah, pretty much impossible). From there I moved on to working with immigrant children, which was more rewarding, if not better paying; and then on to teaching adults business English, which again, not as well paying as it should be. The sad truth about monolithic corporate educational endeavors is that you will never be paid enough to live on; you’re better off setting up shop on your own. But now I’m coming to the end of my relatively brief teaching career, and will be returning to freelance editing, because, surprise, there are paying jobs available again. Not only that, I am being offered work out of the blue, so I guess it’s time to make the move—not up or down, but a little backwards.

I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the editing process, which can be lonely, tedious and a constant reminder of your own writing, laying there, waiting. I really enjoyed teaching, I liked the idea that it got me away from the computer, and that I was connecting in a meaningful way with other human beings. But beyond financial issues, there were geographical problems to contend with:  It’s pretty likely we will move out of New Jersey at some point in the near future. And this final position involved a great deal of commuting to odd corners of the state: Frankly, I am sick of all that driving, which around here, is not so much fun. I kept hearing the siren call of my next novel as I tried to concentrate on the highway and traffic. And I also admit, I’ve gotten way too attached to the shiny new office complex where I teach, with its spiffy cafeterias continually offering specialty teas and coffees, and elegant lounges. But go I must. I can only hope my students forgive me, for leaving them. If I do teach English again, it will be on a purely volunteer basis, and not for money.

So, on to the red-pencil brigade, although nowadays editing is mostly done on Microsoft Word with digital sticky notes. I do have a least one client who likes old fashioned paper and ink, however. But first will come a bit of a summer travel break: Back down Pensacola way, to see mom and that dad who strong-armed me into journalism; then back to the Enchanted Mountains (pictured above; that photo is, precisely, Merton’s Heart, just south of Allegany, NY). And then later in the summer, a journey to the setting of my new mystery novel—which is not set in New Jersey. Where? That’s a mystery for now…

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