Since I didn’t have anything super profound to share, I thought it would be fun to crowd source a birthday post in the form of an old-school Q & A blog post. The format and questions don’t really have anything to do with my birthday (well, one question does), but I still think it’s fun. Here we go!
What are 3 books that have changed your life?
- The New Jim Crow: Before I read this book, I thought I had a decent understanding of terms like systemic racism and mass incarceration. But reading this book put flesh to those ideas. I’ll never be able to un-know the horrors that our country—that white people—have inflicted on people of color, and I don’t want to. I will always be learning, but this book cemented for me that I must be about racial justice. There’s no other way.
- Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: This book was another turning point, this time in my spirituality (though my commitment to social justice is directly tied to my faith). I’ve been a Christian since I was 11, but reading this book was the first time I felt truly loved by God. Not afraid of him, not worried that I wasn’t really saved, not ashamed by all my inadequacies—just deeply loved by a God who is not violent or retributive.
- Jane Eyre: This book was my gateway into all things British literature and historical fiction (though obviously this wasn’t historical at the time it was written) and I could not be more grateful. This is also the first book that I remember loving so much that I could feel it down to my bones, and I didn’t want to leave the characters or the world when it ended.
What’s your favorite movie?
Ahhh, how do I pick?! Three movies that I love immediately come to mind, but I’m not sure if I could narrow it down to a single favorite.
- Pride and Prejudice (2005)
- La La Land
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s always been hard for me to answer that question, because I have/had so many interests and things I would be really happy doing. For many years, I wanted to be a writer. Writer’s Workshop was my favorite part of school. I remember one time I came home from school in tears and explained to my dad that I wanted to be a writer but I couldn’t draw the pictures. (I think I was in second grade, so immersed almost exclusively in picture books.) He explained that writers often work with illustrators and don’t create the art themselves. I felt relieved for a hot minute and then started to stress again. Where exactly does a six-year-old meet an illustrator?!
For most of my childhood, however, I wanted to be a lawyer. I even started out as a political theory and constitutional democracy major, and the plan was to go to law school immediately after college. You can read more about the turn of events that led me to education and eventually publishing in this post.
What exactly do you do for work?
I’m a copyeditor of nonfiction books at a Tyndale, a Christian publishing house. I work on a variety of books, from yearlong devotionals to spiritual living and memoir. Typically, a book comes to us through our acquisitions department, where there may be some developmental editing or coaching through the writing process. Then it goes through developmental and line edits with an editor on my team, and then it comes to me. My job is to read the manuscript and correct issues of grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, and consistency. I use the word correct loosely because even at the copyediting stage much of this work is subjective. I also do some fact checking, oversee the proofreading process (though I don’t proofread the titles I copyedit), and proof covers, back cover copy, etc.
How did you land your current job?
When I decided to make the leap from education to publishing, I posted a status update on Facebook asking if any of my friends had connections who would be willing to talk to me about the industry. I mostly wanted to understand the day-to-day nature of the work and make sure I wasn’t over-romanticizing it. A friend from church had worked at a publishing house in the area (Tyndale) and still had an editor friend who worked there, so she put me in touch. This editor, Stephanie, was kind enough to have coffee with me and explain the lay of the land with editing.
Soon after, I applied for a job in Tyndale’s editorial department and did not get it. Instead I took a summer internship with a magazine, where I edited articles, communicated with writers, managed social media, and wrote a bit. I was 26 at the time, and to make ends meet at home, I waited tables nearly every day after my internship. It was an odd experience to be living the stereotypical college student life after I’d already worked for several years in a management role in education, but it was so humbling and refining. A few months later, I applied for another job at Tyndale, which was on Stephanie’s team. I got the job and she is still my boss and—even better—a dear friend!
What was your favorite childhood birthday?
I’ve always loved my birthday—my parents went all out for me and my siblings when we were kids, and I felt so loved and special. I would wake up to streamers covering my door, balloons at the breakfast table, donuts, and presents. I got to choose what I wanted to do that day and invite a friend along with me. The best part was that my birthday is in June, so I was almost never in school on my birthday and could do anything I wanted. (But that also meant I never got to bring treats to school for my birthday—so sad for a kid!)
One of my favorite birthdays was when I turned five and had my birthday party at a place called Let’s Dress Up. I cringe to think about the lice that were probably lurking in the folds of the dresses, but hey, it was the 90s. I wrote in more detail about this dreamy birthday party here.
How do you edit your Instagram photos?
I take about half my photos with my iPhone and half with my DSLR. I have different processes for each:
iPhone: I edit in Snapseed and have saved several custom looks (sets of edits I can apply at once to a single photo) based on changes I make frequently. Typically I bump up brightness and shadows and bring down contrast. Then I open the white balance tool and bring down the temperature and bump up the tint (toward pink) just a tiny bit. My favorite Snapseed feature is the selective tool, which lets you isolate a single piece of the photo and adjust the brightness, contrast, and saturation of just that part. I often use this to tone down really vibrant greens (grass, trees) and brighten up skin. Then I sharpen the whole thing, export it, and make a few minor adjustments in Instagram. I’m not fancy enough to have great screenshots of all this, but here’s a blog post from Happy Grey Lucky where I learned to do pretty much all of this.
DSLR: I edit these photos in Lightroom, and I use a preset on pretty much all of these images. (Much like a Snapseed look, a LR preset allows you to save a set of edits and apply them all at once.) My favorite presets are from the Light and Airy Preset Suite by Jordan Brittley. I’m often doing the same thing to my images here that I do in Snapseed: increasing exposure (brightness), lifting shadows, adjusting white balance. But because of the way RAW images look straight out of camera, I usually end up increasing the contrast and sharpening a lot more than I do on my phone. I also do some split toning (easy with the preset above) to get skin tones just how I want them. My desktop version of Lightroom syncs with my phone, so when I’m ready to post to Instagram, I grab the photo from the app, make a few more tweaks in Instagram (usually more brightness and sharpening), and post it. It sounds lengthy, but editing photos in Lightroom is so fast. I’m often editing several photos all taken in the same situation and lighting conditions (i.e. ten photos of Selah playing in the living room), and I can just copy and paste my edits onto all the images in a set. I still have to tweak each one, but it saves a lot of time.
You seem very introspective and self-aware. How do you find time to slow your mind down enough to do that kind of deep work? Do you have a process or a routine you go through?
Wow! First, that is a seriously thoughtful question and such a kind thing to say. Second, I’ve never really thought about how (or if) I do this intentionally, so I’ll do my best here.
I think part of this comes with being an Enneagram type 1. I am always looking for ways to improve the world and myself, sometimes in healthy ways and other times in unhealthy ways. I’m a total overthinker and struggle deeply with my inner critic, and sometimes that results in personal growth and sometimes in self-denigration. I’ve also always LOVED personality stuff—from silly quizzes in teen magazines to legit frameworks like Myers Briggs. Through personality typing I’ve learned how I work, what makes me tick, and why I behave in certain ways.
Another key is that for several years, I worked for Teach For America, an organization that is deeply committed to personal development and values-based leadership. On a weekly basis I was examining my strengths, weaknesses, values, culture, privilege, and perspective; reflecting on how all this impacted my work; and coaching others to do the same. Those years taught me more about myself that any other experience I’ve had and I think I still use these skills on autopilot.
Finally, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts that teach me something valuable and/or to people who ask themselves really good questions. My favorite examples are Pantsuit Politics and The Nuanced Life (hosted by Beth Holland and Sarah Silvers), Sorta Awesome (hosted by Meg Tietz), and Smartest Person in the Room (hosted by Laura Tremaine). I read a ton of memoir from authors who are deeply introspective (such as Rachel Held Evans and Shauna Niequist). Richard Rohr’s work (on podcasts, in books, and through his daily emails) has also helped me learn to examine myself more honestly. What we put into our minds deeply influences how we think, and I hope that listening to these wise voices has rubbed off over time.
I wouldn’t say I carve out certain hours to sit and be introspective, though I suppose writing is an exercise in introspection. Maybe that’s why I love it so much! Sometimes I can go around in my head with an idea or a situation dozens of times without knowing what I really think or feel, but as soon as I write it down, it becomes clear.
Whew! That was a long answer. If you’re still with me, here’s a fun softball to wrap up this post.
What are you eating and drinking lately?
Eating: I’m done with Whole 30 so I’m enjoying carby, sugary indulgences. Right now I’m loving Trader Joe’s olive oil popcorn and cold brew coffee chocolate bars.
Drinking: Tom Collins! I am on a big gin kick and these puckery lemon cocktails are perfect for summer.
A big thanks to everyone who asked these thoughtful questions! It was really fun to explore some things I haven’t thought about in a while.