Grace Beekman is in her final semester in the graduate program. This year she has been working for Dr. Alexis Easley as an editorial assistant for Victorian Periodicals Review. Dr. Easley is also Grace’s advisor for her capstone essay. Grace will present her essay, titled “Emotional Density, Suspense, and the Serialization of The Woman in White in All the Year Round” at our Master’s Essay Presentation event on Wednesday, May 18th. Grace also writes for her own lifestyle blog titled Sometimes Gracefully.
Before working with Dr. Alexis Easley as an assistant editor to Victorian Periodicals Review, I thought editors were simply the academic world’s grammar police, patrolling the streets of each paragraph for any comma or semicolon that looked suspicious or out of the ordinary. But this initial impression of an editor’s job was only partly true. My year spent editing for VPR and learning from Dr. Easley changed and expanded my understanding of the editor’s role in the academic world.
At the sentence level, this editing assistantship challenged me to not only identify a submission’s grammatical errors but also understand why these errors made the piece unclear and how I could fix them in a way that honored the author’s voice and argument. VPR is published using rules from the Chicago Manual Style guide, and I spent many hours pouring over each submission with my massive edition of the style guide open next to my computer for quick reference. I worked through each submission slowly, not because I was solely hunting for syntax errors or style guide mistakes but because I wanted to know the writer’s message as clearly as possible. Only then would I be able to give helpful revisions that would not detract from the article’s meaning. Editors are required to think in terms of both the author and the journal’s reading audience: Is the author’s message clear in this paragraph? Does this sentence support the author’s claim? Will readers understand the meaning of this section? While I was certainly required to “police” any suspicious sentence constructions, what I found most enjoyable was investigating ways in which confusing sentences or paragraphs could be revised so that they were not only understandable but also enhanced the message of the article.
This editing opportunity also introduced me to the mechanics of the publishing world. I participated in each aspect of the publishing process, from the heavy edits on the initial submission to the final read-through before the issue went to print. Each issue of VPR is produced by a collaborative network of editors, reviewers, and publishers who operate under strict deadlines and work hard to create an organized journal that serves the Victorian periodicals research community. After spending weeks editing every page of VPR’s forthcoming issue, I found it incredibly satisfying to hold and read through the finished product knowing that my editorial suggestions had helped each scholar showcase their work.
Editing for VPR allowed me to work closely with scholars from around the world and keep up with new research being explored in a field that I found fascinating. I helped revise essays that explored topics ranging from the Battle of Waterloo to nineteenth-century health advice in popular periodicals. Editing these innovative pieces inspired new directions for the research I was conducting in class, and one particular essay directly impacted the shape and direction of my master’s thesis. I was even able to contact the author and discuss certain aspects of her research that were in conversation with my own. Furthermore, being immersed in such scholarly work and continually reviewing my editorial guidelines improved my writing and reading comprehension throughout the year. This assistantship provided me with insight and hands-on experience in the publishing world, and I am excited to use the editing skills and techniques that I have gained in my future academic pursuits.