The adventurous editing career of Jennifer Silva Redmond
by Timothy Pike
When author and editor Jennifer Silva Redmond and her husband went on their honeymoon, they almost didn’t come back.
“When we sailed off on his twenty-six–foot sailboat to spend our honeymoon in Baja California’s Sea of Cortez,” she says, “it was the perfect time to pursue my first love, writing.”
Hardly surprising, then, that between writing, tending to the boat, and reveling in the beauty of the pristine water and stunning coastlines, time simply got away.
“The weeks turned into months,” she says, and when they eventually did make their way back to San Diego where they had started, they took the scenic route—via the Panama Canal and the Intracoastal Waterway along the Gulf of Mexico.
But soon after that adventure ended, another began.
When Jennifer found she couldn’t stay in one place very long, she returned to Baja California in 1996 and started making friends there. “As I gathered with other writers, many of us just starting out, they asked me to read and comment on their writing,” she says. “I found that editing was as exciting and creative as writing.”
With this in mind, she launched the Sea of Cortez Review, an annual literary collection. And when Sunbelt Publications, who published the 2000–2001 edition of the Review, offered Jennifer a position as editor-in-chief, she jumped at the opportunity, and stayed for many years. “I thoroughly enjoyed my decade with Sunbelt,” she says, recalling the many talented writers she got to work with. “I was lucky enough to work with the brilliant and talented short-story writer Daniel Reveles,” she gives as an example.
“I discovered that if one has a great story, one need not be a great writer, and vice-versa.”
But Jennifer’s day-to-day duties slowly changed over time, and even though she enjoyed the people she worked with, after ten years she felt the job was no longer fulfilling. “Too much of my time was spent with budgets and paperwork,” Jennifer tells me, “and not enough time editing.”
It was at that point that Jennifer, with an eye on her next adventure, made a decision that changed her life.
“I became a freelancer in 2011 and never looked back,” she says. Freelancing offered her the chance to do more of the work she loved, and also let her set her own terms and work exclusively with the writers and organizations she wanted to work with. “I often work with small presses,” she says, “but mostly I work directly with author-entrepreneurs, whether they are perfecting a manuscript for consideration by agents and publishers, or readying a book for publication themselves.”
These days, Jennifer focuses mainly on content and structural editing. “I also do line editing, but I am spending more and more time doing content editing,” she says. “In my opinion, content editing is the most important step in publishing, and it is one that most authors skip.”
Jennifer prides herself on uncovering problems that other types of editing might miss. “Anyone can tell you that you have misspelled words or written ungrammatically,” she says, “but few can tell you why your book’s ‘second act’ isn’t working, or that two of the characters in your story could actually be combined into one. That is my forte—not just finding out what isn’t working, but telling you how to fix it.”
She’s also worked with enough authors to know that a writer can be strong in one area but not another. “I discovered that if one has a great story, one need not be a great writer, and vice-versa,” she says. “I also learned that structure was as important as style, and taught myself to spot where a failed story’s arc went awry.”
Many authors have benefited from Jennifer’s expertise over the years. “One of the most successful books I’ve edited as a freelancer,” she tells me, “is the multiple-award–winning novel The Dining Car by Eric Peterson, who started his own press and has published two titles, with another book on the way.”
Part of Jennifer’s success is due to her willingness to take on a wide variety of projects. “I work in all genres, because a good story is a good story,” she tells me. “I have edited business books, gardening books, and lots of memoir and fiction. I would love to exclusively edit brilliant literature and literary fiction, but sometimes the five-hundred–page manuscripts where nothing actually happens do get a bit tedious.”
“Anyone can tell you that you have misspelled words,” Jennifer says, “but few can tell you why your book’s ‘second act’ isn’t working. That is my forte.”
The road that led Jennifer to the fulfilling career she enjoys today was hardly straight, and she acknowledges that she may have taken the scenic route. “I got into editing in the most indirect way possible,” she says.
Indeed, at one time, Jennifer’s life appeared to be heading in a much different direction: she was living in New York City, waiting tables while trying to make it as an actress. “My training and education was all in theater—dramatic literature and acting,” she says. “I studied plays, of course, but also read voraciously, like both of my parents.”
Despite the stark contrast between the realm of theater and that of editing, Jennifer insists her drama studies came in particularly handy as her freelance career unfolded. “Theater is great training because you learn empathy, as well as how to handle rejection,” she explains. “That skill was useful when I became a freelancer, because it’s tough to get jobs when you’re first starting out.”
Even though now she has plenty of editing projects to work on, Jennifer also very much enjoys writing whenever she gets the chance. In fact, two of her recent pieces have made it into anthologies: the first chapter of her memoir-in-progress appears in A Year in Ink, Volume 13, and an essay called “Viva La Raza” is featured in Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era, which comes out in March and is available for pre-order now.
I asked Jennifer where she was heading next, but she said she couldn’t tell me—because even she wasn’t sure. “Seriously,” she said, “I don’t know where I’ll be by the time this is being read.”
I think it’s a safe bet, though, that wherever she is, and wherever she’s going, she’s taking the scenic route—and thoroughly enjoying the adventure.
Want to work with Jennifer? Connect with her in the ChapterBuzz Service Directory, where she generously offers a discount for ChapterBuzz members.
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