Friday, October 26, 2007

A Freelance Editor speaks Part 2

For our special Friday edition of the Writing Career Coach we continue with our interview of Kathy Ide, learn what PUGS are and how they can help your writing.

You’ve written some great resources for writers. Tell us about those.

Over the years I’ve been editing, I noticed that writers all tend to struggle with the same mechanical issues. I didn’t want to rely on what seemed right to me, or what I remembered from high school English. And different books had different answers. So when I was working with the commercial publishers, I learned which style guides and dictionaries the publishers use, and I started making a list of the rules and spellings I was looking up on a regular basis. After a while, that list grew to book length!

So I wrote a book highlighting the most common mistakes writers make. Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling Tips for Writers (UpWrite Books, 2007) contains definitive answers based on the publishing industry’s standard references, including punctuation from The Chicago Manual of Style (for books) and The Associated Press Stylebook (for articles), plus spelling and usage from the dictionaries recommended by both style guides. There are also rules from The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

In this book, I point out ten reasons writers need to polish their “PUGS.” One is that simple mechanical errors can change the meaning of a sentence. For example, if you wrote, “My husband Derek and I went camping last week,” without commas around Derek, you’d be implying that the man you vacationed with was only one of your husbands! If you had in your contract “The royalties will be divided equally between Mary, Ruth and Geraldine,” you might figure that each of you would receive a third of the money. But the absence of a comma before and, along with the use of the word between, would indicate that Mary gets one half while Ruth and Geraldine each receive a quarter of the money.

Many of the writers who’ve bought this book have told me that 95% of the questions they have are covered in Polishing the PUGS. Because it’s a small paperback (as opposed to The Chicago Manual of Style, which is a thousand-page hardback), it’s a lot easier to find what you’re looking for. And since it’s written by an average person rather than by a team of university professors, it’s easier to understand the explanations and examples. And, as one person told me, it hurts a lot less when you drop it on your toe!

I’ve also written two other books for authors: Christian Drama Publishing and Typing without Pain: How to Avoid (or Recover from) Computer-Related Injuries.

You teach and speak at writers’ conferences, too, right?

About eight a year. I’ve taught at the ACFW conference, Glorieta, Inspirational Writers Alive in Houston, Christian Writers Fellowship in Kansas, and several local conferences. I’m on the manuscript critique team at Mount Hermon, and last spring I taught a fiction mentoring clinic there. Last summer I taught at the North Texas Christian writers’ conference and have already been invited back for next year. One of my favorite conferences is in Montrose, Pennsylvania, just two miles down the road from my sister-in-law’s house. My husband goes there with me every other year, and he hangs out with his family while I teach. And we always make time to go sight-seeing the weekend before and after.

You sure sound like a busy woman!

I am. And I love it. I can hardly believe I get to make a living doing something I enjoy so much.

But a couple of years ago, I realized I was so busy helping other writers get published, I wasn’t spending much time working on the novel manuscript God had called me to write. When one of my clients saw me passing out business cards at Mount Hermon, she said, “Kathy, if you get more editing work, you’re not going to have time for me!” She asked me if I knew other editors I could pass some of these new jobs off to. I told her I didn’t, but I should.

On the five-hour drive home from Mount Hermon, God poured ideas into my head for a Christian editors’ network. The next day, I asked some of the editors I knew if they were aware of such an organization. They all said, “No, but what a great idea. You should start one.” A few months later, I founded The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( That was two years ago, and we now have 250 members, a Web site with great tips and articles and tools for editorial freelancers, an e-mail loop (and a prayer subloop), online courses, and a quarterly e-newsletter. I pass jobs on to the network on a regular basis. When authors come to me looking for editing, if I’m too busy or too expensive for their budget or if I don’t specialize in the kind of writing they do, I can match them up with the right editor for them. New editors get job leads they wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And established editorial freelancers can pass jobs on to the network if they get too busy too.

About six months ago I started a second organization called the Christian Editor Network ( It’s a “matchmaking service” for putting authors together with screened, professional, qualified editorial freelancers. Publishers and agents can refer authors to this Web site when they get manuscripts that have potential but need polishing.

So in addition to my own editing and speaking, I’ve become an “editor services coordinator.” And I love that too!

Where do you sense God leading you next?

A couple of years ago, my dear friend and prolifically published author Cecil Murphey mentored me, and he suggested I get into ghostwriting. Though I’d collaborated with clients on about a dozen books, I hadn’t thought of focusing on that. However, since then, I’ve had numerous requests for ghostwriting and coauthoring. So, between Cec and God, I’m getting the feeling that this is the next step for me. I have several collaboration projects in various stages right now, and I’m very excited about this venture.

I’ve also been getting numerous indications that the time has come for me to get serious about my novel manuscript, which has been sitting on a back burner, mostly, for the past several years while I’ve been establishing and maintaining my editorial services and networks. I’m nearly finished with the manuscript (although, being a rather perfectionistic editor, I’m not sure I will ever feel that it’s truly “done”), and I have serious interest from some of the top Christian publishers and agents. So, Lord willing, I will soon be a published novelist!

What do you do when you’re not writing, editing, or speaking?

I love spending time with my wonderful husband, Richard, who is an avid reader and movie-goer (like me). We enjoy taking road trips together and going house-boating and Jet Ski riding on Lake Powell.

I have two grown sons. The older one, Tom, and his wife, Ronit, live in Austin, so I try to visit them when I can. The younger one, Mike, lives with me . . . technically. He’s so busy with school (automotive college) and work (as a mechanic), he’s not home much. But when he is, I like hanging out with him.

I worship at Richfield Community Church (previously the Evangelical Free Church of Yorba Linda).

Since I live in Southern California, close friends and relatives love to come visit me! When folks stay at the “Ide Hotel,” I sometimes take a day or two off to play “tour guide” at Disneyland, Sea World, the beach, the mountains, San Diego, San Francisco, etc.

How can people order your books or find out more about your services?

They can visit my Web site at Or e-mail me at

1 comment:

Jess said...

Kathy, great meeting you in Dallas. You were right: I have learned something from PUGS. I can truthfully say it's one of the best investments I've made.