Monday, April 7, 2008

eMonday Woman Erika-Marie S. Geiss, Freelance Writer & Editor

This month in eMonday News we had the pleasure to interview Erika-Marie S. Geiss - Freelance Writer & Editor

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a writer, editor and art historian with over a decade of experience in the publications field. I am originally from New York (where I was born), but my family moved to Massachusetts when I was nine. I grew up in the Boston area and attended Brandeis University for my undergraduate degree in developmental psychology and a minor in art and architectural history. After taking a brief educational hiatus between undergraduate and graduate schools to decide upon which discipline I would focus, I attended Tufts University for my master's in art and architectural history. I was a fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in what was then called the Dept. of European Paintings, where I worked on several exhibitions and publications including Van Gogh: Face to Face, Monet in the Twentieth Century and the North American tour of Monet, Renoir and the Impressionist Landscape, the latter of which I contributed several essays in the exhibition catalogue, which was my first official publication (under my maiden name).

When I was a graduate student, I also started freelance editing, and freelance editing eventually turned into a secondary profession when I developed Red Pencil Editing Services (RPES) in 2001. I have also taught at the University of New Hampshire in the Dept. of Art and Art History. In 2000, I left the MFA to become the Director of Education at the Rose Art Museum at my undergraduate alma mater, and was one of the youngest directors of education in a museum in the United States at the time. In 2003, new developments in my personal life led me to Michigan where I continued to run RPES and created a Web presence for it and took on new corporate and individual private clients. (Until then, RPES served the academic community primarily.) I also worked as a staff writer for the international publication Speak to Me and continued to work in the museum field, joining the curatorial team at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, where I worked on the museum's core exhibition And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History. During my tenure at the Wright, I also wrote The Passion of Christ (Publications International, 2004) a book about the history of Renaissance and Baroque art depicting the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. I left the Wright in 2005 because my husband and I were starting a family, and I wanted to be a work-at-home mom, devoting more of my professional time to my writing and running RPES.

I continue to run RPES; I am a copy editor for World Energy and World Energy Monthly Review and a contributing blogger at babiesonline. In late 2007 I added a subsidiary to Red Pencil Editing Services: theWAHMmagazine, which is the only digital magazine for work-at-home parents. I continue to write and blog professionally as well, and in the fall of 2008, my third book will be out, The Right Words for Any Occasion. I am also politically active on the local level, and sat as a Commissioner to my city's master plan steering committee. I am also an accomplished violinist, and a 37-year-old mother of one. My family is a blended one—my heritage being afro-Latino (Panamanian) of West Indian descent, my husband, Caucasian of Irish, English and German descent.

2. What would you say is your "claim to fame"?

Aside from writing The Passion, my claim to fame is probably theWAHMmagazine, which is the only digital magazine for work-at-home parents. I am its creator and editor-in-chief.

3. What do you enjoy most about your profession?

I enjoy the creativity of my field—both working with other creative minds and being able to flex my own creative muscles. In terms of editing, I enjoy being able to help people shape and hone their publications and manuscripts. I also enjoy the flexibility of my field. I can work pretty much anywhere and at any time of day. I set my own hours and as long as I am honest with myself, my family and my clients, there is rarely any conflict.

4. What are some of the trends you are noticing in your profession/industry?That might be a loaded question—and there are many trends that have converged simultaneously, and in some ways threaten to turn the field on its ear. The publication field has changed dramatically—for better and for worse in some respects. When I was in graduate school (and this is still true in academia), the phrase that was hammered into us was "publish or perish." This was especially true if you intended to stay in academia and pursue your Ph.D. For professional writers and editors, whether in academia or not, the phrase is still true as publications are our life-blood. There has also been such an influx of other avenues for becoming published (self-publishing and e-books for example) outside of the traditional methods of going through established publishing houses that some professional writers and editors wonder about how writers are ultimately perceived. (Recent issues in the news about plagiarism and outright lies haven't helped the industry either.) In many ways, it seems as if anybody can get a book or article published, especially if they want to go outside the traditional long-established process of querying and submitting proposals to agents, publishers or magazine editors. On the other hand, this added publications flexibility can be very good for those with good ideas and tightly written content to get their information published if they do not have the time (or aren't willing to put in the time) to go though the usual/traditional process, which can take quite a long time from conception to seeing your book on shelves, or article in print and is daunting for many. But, what will ultimately distinguish one writer from another is the content, how well-written the work is and the author's platform.

The question of whether print is dead also always comes up especially with respect to periodicals. I'm in a strange position, because I write for printed publications, write books and publish a magazine that is digital only and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Print is not dead, and I don't think that it ever will be—we're in no danger of becoming a Fahrenheit 451 society. There is still something quite delicious about the weight, feel and smell of a new book and the physical experience of turning the pages and curling up with it. You can't curl up with your laptop on a rainy day in quite the same way.

But, for periodicals while digital just may be the wave of the future print may not be dead—just in a state of transition. Analysts predict an increase in digital publications (beyond the PDF) especially as the technology for e-paper/e-readers becomes standardized across platforms over the next few years. As a magazine publisher, I can say with certainty that going digital cuts a publisher's overhead significantly—there are no printer costs and deadlines can be tighter, because you aren't also dealing with the printer's turn-around-time. And for those who are environmentally sensitive, it is a viable greener option for publication. You can also do more with new media in a digital publication. That's something that cannot be offered in print, and it means providing richer content on-line or in an e-paper reader without having to duplicate content on the Web. But until that universality occurs and is accessible to all income levels, periodicals—especially the dailies and weeklies—will still need to be printed on paper.

5. What is one thing that you think all writers need to know?

All writers need to know about the various options available to them as writers as well as the basic skills and rules of writing and publishing. Whether they choose a traditional route to publication or use one of the newer methods, writers need to still know the publications process and how to write properly. I've seen so many articles written (and by professionals in their field, but not professional writers) that are not edited well, are poorly formatted and full of grammatical errors and sentence structure surrealism. It's uncanny and a bit scary sometimes, because what happens is that people who are unskilled writers read articles written by professionals in their fields, they copy the style and what they see. That's not to say that they are plagiarizing, what they are doing is learning from unfortunate mistakes and then going out and producing SEO and keyword articles and perpetuating the mistakes that they see in-print and on-line. Everybody needs an editor. I have an editor—more than one, actually—because I know when I am too close to my work to be objective about it. Anybody who is planning to put something in print needs to recognize that too.

6. From where do you draw inspiration?

Inspiration comes from almost everywhere for me as both a writer and an editor. Little things that my son does and says, my husband, our family, memories, daily experiences, driving, smells, sounds, politics, the news—the list is endless. I am so much like a sponge, soaking in what life has to offer. It sounds overwhelming, I am sure, or scattered even to others, but really it's more about being receptive to my environment—truly listening, learning, watching, engaging in it. I keep a little voice recorder in the car, for when I have an anagnoresis, I keep a pen on me always, and stickies or a notebook as well. That way, when inspiration or an idea hits, I can jot it down quickly and transfer it to my "idea book" later, deciding if and when to flesh those ideas out.

7. What one thing would you like to learn this year?

Balance. I'm learning how to renegotiate the changing needs of my son's schedule and aptitude with my own professional schedule and plans. There is a steep learning curve with a child, especially one who is curious and engaged.

8. What are your personal/professional goals for the next 6 months, year?

Aside from working with my husband to keep our family happy and safe, my short-term goals are to take my editing business, freelance writing and the magazine to the next level; get more involved in some charitable causes that are important to me; actively promote the Right Words for Any Occasion; and finish my current work-in-progress, which I am keeping quiet about until the time is right.

9. What do you like to do for recreation?
I enjoy yoga, soccer, knitting, reading and gardening. I'm especially looking forward to getting into the dirt with my son, since this year, he'll be old enough to listen to me when I tell him not to eat the seeds or bulbs. I also love going to museums—with or without my husband and son. The occasional date night with my husband is also great—whether we're out dancing or playing Texas Hold 'Em with our friends.

10. What book(s) are on your nightstand?

What to Expect the Toddler Years, Good Night Moon, Guess How Much I Love You and whatever my son's favorite book of the week is (sense a trend?), and several of Vince Flynn's titles.

11. What is the one thing you would like readers to know about you? About your company?
I guess the one thing that I'd like readers to know about me is that I am always learning. The one thing that I want readers to know about my company is that Red Pencil Editing Services is where your prose is our passion as our tag line states and its subsidiary, theWAHMmagazine is poised to be a leader in publications for the work-at-home parenting community.

What Erika says about the Women's eCommerce Association:
Being a member of WECAI is tremendous because of the opportunities for networking with other women in business and learning from one another.

You can learn more about Erika at:

Red Pencil Editing Services:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thanks for the article.

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