Kathryn Owens is an associate project editor and creates wheel-thrown ceramics.
I often feel like an impostor in an office teeming with bookworms. My childhood was not spent buried in books. I was a mini-adventurer out conquering the woods in my family’s backyard. Books to me weren’t half as exciting. Truth be told, they still aren’t. Curling up with a novel before bedtime or on a rainy day has never been appealing. I don’t host book clubs or swaps. In fact, I shirk the occasional invitation. When asked what’s on my reading list, I usually reply with a simple, lackluster “nothing.”
Reading, however, has become my career and passion.
In my early twenties, in an effort to find my calling, I discovered the editing certificate program at my graduate school. The publishing world seemed strangely alluring. I immediately set out to meet the program director. She asked one question: Did I notice when a picture frame was crooked? With a curious nod, I then decided to apply.
The first day of class, at nine o’clock on the dot, the instructor glided in, the picture of bookish glamor. After a few brief introductory remarks, she dove into the Chicago Manual of Style. With ease and expertise, she taught us about restrictive clauses, mixed metaphors, capitalization, and more. These, I realized, were the reasons I was drawn to reading. I read because language, punctuation, and style fascinated me, not because I wanted to slip into fictional psyches for pleasure and escape.
Soon copyediting and proofreading became my reading. And as a result, I read more. I read to grasp hyphenation, to fact-check, to avoid commonly misused words (thank you, Bryan Garner). Soon that drive for consistency and accuracy trickled into my day-to-day life. Collecting style guides became a hobby. The Chicago Style Q&A became a bookmarked favorite. My shower curtain was dedicated to grammar. I would even double-check everyday stuff just as I would always make a second pass through a manuscript.
While a book or even a gift certificate to a bookstore may not be a treat for me, real satisfaction comes from fine-tuning a sentence. Others might say theirs is developing the manuscript or pitching the product to a media outlet. I have learned that it takes people of all stripes to make a book, even those who aren’t your typical reader.