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Overwhelmingly Good with Copyeditor, Hope Houtwed; Podcast, KC Poet Jeremy Gulley

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

Have you ever been overwhelmed? As writers we get overwhelmed by deadlines, big projects, working with clients and editors, uncomfortable topics, and our creative vortex. As editors we are overwhelmed by the exact same things. But that's why I love being a copyeditor, because I can take hold of it all and focus on one small detail at time, letter by letter and line by line.

I almost didn't discover my method of bringing order to chaos––my love for the zen of editing––but I found the answer in the stars. In college, I started out as an Astrophysics major. I chose that path for many reasons, but the original one was because my class took a field trip to one of two high school planetariums in my home state of Nebraska when I was six-years-old. The Astronomy teacher showed us all the twinkling stars and planets under the enormous dome. My feet couldn't touch the floor yet, so with each rotation, I felt like I was floating through space. Every second felt like magic.

Holding onto that memory, I tried to push through Astrophysics, but it wasn't working. I think deep down, I knew I really had a passion for English, I was just anxious to take the leap to pursue it. I get overwhelmed easily, and I thought that English was chock-full of what would only fuel my distress. I’m using the term “overwhelming” here to describe making a sizable decision based on my own opinions or beliefs. For example, I always really loved math, sometimes even more than writing and literature, because 1+1=2 and there’s no way around it. I can’t doubt myself or anyone around me because that is pure fact based on the laws of mathematics. Even though we humans manufactured these complex laws––and that in itself is insanely overwhelming––the certainty of facts and numbers is something I know I can rely on.

Shifting my sights from Astrophysics to English was inevitable. Mostly I was worried that I wouldn’t find that mechanical nature in the literary world. It was a constant in the scientific world that my sanity depended on. Regardless, I dove in headfirst, feeling comfortable almost instantly. My world as an English major was such a better fit, it was impossible to deny. After my first English class on day one, I said to myself, "This is it." I enjoyed everything: the energy, the people, the content, the work. In Astrophysics, I detested feeling like I was struggling, but in English I felt excited and even drawn to challenges that defied me.

It didn't take long before I found out the closest thing to that equation-type academia was none other than copyediting. I enjoy working out any conventional, grammatical, and spelling errors––which I was initially drawn to at light speed. I didn’t even realize how taken I had become with copyediting until one of my classmates praised me for my undeniable fascination in front of our whole class. It was like being hit by a brick wall that I had unintentionally constructed. That’s when I really started to see copyediting as my future career instead of a mere self-doubt-fulfilling hang-up.

At Flying Ketchup Press, we use Chicago Style, and we have a manual on every bit of convention’s proper usage. We have a style guide, too, which is a personalized manual of what Chicago Style rules we utilize specifically at Flying Ketchup Press. With this, I can check and make sure I’m editing everything correctly, although I don’t really need it unless I’m in a bind. One of my favorite things about these manuals is when I discover new rules I didn’t even realize I was missing or was unaware of; I add everything to a sort of register in my head. See, I have ADHD, so lists on my phone reflect everything that has ever occurred and might occur in my life. I have records of things people have said, foods I like, foods I don’t like, random half-finished thoughts, my favorite actors in my favorite movies, tons of vivid dreams, anything Future Me might need, it all goes on and on and on. If I don't notate these things, I've learned the hard way that my mind has no trouble forgetting any or all of this––yes, even my favorite foods.

It might still sound silly––copyediting is the one thing I don’t really need a list for. Of course, we have our style guide, but all that information is engraved right upstairs for me. I don't ever question it or doubt it, because I know it’s fact. It has become something I can rely on, something that I can use brain power for without feeling like I made a wrong decision. That’s why my talents lie in copyediting, and being able to do that here at Flying Ketchup Press has been an absolute dream. In college, I already knew I wanted to work mainly with fiction, but my experience here has solidified that tenfold. The kinds of work I have read through and edited has made my fantastical (and my mathematical) heart swell. I'm slowly learning that it's good feeling overwhelmed when you realize you don’t have any reason to doubt yourself.

Want to know what editors talk about in the editing room? Here's a clip from last week’s Word Power Podcast with editors Hope Houtwed and Polly Alice McCann talking shop in the studio will be featured on our Live Radio Show, or listen here and subscribe to hear the whole thing!A clip from our Ketchupedia Podcast will be featured on our Live Radio Show but listen here and subscribe to hear the whole thing. Subscribe to our Ketchupedia Podcast on Spotify, iHeart Radio, Podbean, Google, and more.



Flying Ketchup Press ® grassroots and artist-run, we are a trademarked small press in Kansas City using traditional and hybrid publishing formats established to develop new and diverse voices in poetry and short story. Our dream is to salvage lost treasure troves of written and illustrated work-- to create worlds of wonder and delight; to share stories.

Maybe yours.

Make friends with your inner editor. Just a dash.

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