10 + 1 questions with Fiona Gilsenan
Submitted by Christine Wood on Mon, 02/27/2012 - 13:43
Meet our latest guest blogger, Fiona Gilsenan. She's KendallWood's resident book editor and community gardener. Fiona will be writing about social technologies, book publishing, gardening and all things in-between.
WHO ARE YOU?
I’m a mother, editor, writer, and gardener, in any order you like.
I’m also a partner in Victoria Spirits, a local boutique distillery. My volunteer work involves promoting community gardening, and I started a gardening club at my son’s school.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Whether I’m writing an article about alternative lawns, editing a book about vineyards, or creating a website about cancer prevention, my primary task is to understand the subject well enough to communicate it.
I’m very curious, so I’m lucky that I get paid to learn about things.
The reason I have been freelance for almost 20 years is because of my children. I could not be the mother I want to be if I was in an office job. I love the flexibility of my work, and the fact that I can spend a lot of time with my daughter (who is now at university), and my son, who is just 10 years old.
HOW DO YOU USE TECHNOLOGY IN YOUR WORK?
In every possible way! Of course I write and edit on a Mac. I have a desktop and a laptop so that I can work on the road (or sometimes on the couch, if there’s a good tennis match on tv). When I started freelancing, I was living in Palo Alto in the early 90s as the internet was really coming into existence. That was fantastic timing, as I still remember when we had to edit on paper and send manuscripts and pageproofs by Fed Ex. Now I can communicate instantly with my clients in the US and the UK.
I use social media a great deal to connect with other writers, track down subject experts, and to look for trends.
And, of course, to play online Scrabble.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TOOLS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT?
I would have to say InDesign, which I use as a multipurpose editing, layout, and organizing tool. I use it to map out complicated book projects, design brochures, edit copy—you name it. I’m also pretty dependent on Twitter and I tweet for work in several capacities, so I use Hootsuite to keep all my streams and subjects organized. And Evernote has saved me a lot of post-it notes.
HOW HAS BOOK PUBLISHING CHANGED IN THE LAST 5 YEARS?
We all know about the shift from paper to electronic publications.
But it’s been interesting to watch people in the publishing business try to figure out how to make money with all the new tools and platforms.
Publishers do not pay as well as they did 5 years ago, so editors, content creators, and photographers are all trying to find new niches to exploit. Nobody can be complacent.
BOOK EDITOR, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, WRITER OR MARKETER - WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
I still think of myself primarily as a book editor, or more broadly a project editor.
I think it’s what I do best and I love the challenge of putting together an entire project. I do a lot of developmental editing, where I get manuscripts that are kind of a mess, poorly organized and repetitive. I like to find the internal logic of each book and figure out how to communicate to the reader’s what the author intended. Because I’ve always worked with illustrated non-fiction, my skills were easily transferable to website creation—I’m used to figuring out the right balance of images and text.
And now that Apple has released the iAuthor tool, I look forward to working on my first e-book.
Perhaps Content Curator is the new term for what I do.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SELF-PUBLISHING IN THIS DIGITAL AGE?
Well, writers like the idea of cutting out all the intermediaries between themselves and the reader/customer. But everybody needs an editor, and I think there are a lot of self-published books out there that really could have used the assistance of an editor if not a publisher.
There’s a concern amongst editors that people will get used to a lowered quality of writing and consider mistakes (like typos or poor grammar) acceptable.
That would be a shame.
PAPER or E-BOOK? WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
I’m definitely enamored of my iPad for reading non-illustrated books, newspapers, and periodicals. But I still love a well-made paper book. I recently judged the American Horticultural Society book awards and had to evaluate over 80 gardening books. What a treat that was.
WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE COME FROM?
Probably from my mother, who was a teacher and an actress, and from my Irish father, who loves literature and theatre. I’ve always been chatty, probably too chatty!
I used to get in trouble at school for talking too much.
WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE OF GARDENING COME FROM?
I spent my childhood in England, which is a land of gardeners and nature lovers.
One of my earliest memories is picking raspberries in my grandmother’s garden, which she baked into the most delicious little tarts.
My brothers and I were very keen on the ISpy books. They were interactive in a 1960s way—you had to keep a record of the creatures and plants you found outdoors, like ladybugs and mushrooms.
If you found enough, you could send through the post for a prize. It was a great and simple way to connect kids to the natural world.
WHY COMMUNITY GARDENING?
I can’t think of a single reason why not community gardening.
Food security, quality produce, exercise, community spirit—there’s no downside.
I’m editing a Permaculture book at the moment and the permaculturists ethics are earth care, people care, and fair share.
That pretty much sums it up for me.