Interview with Drake student editor: Lindsay Dressen

Posted by: Cecily Miniaci

I’m her roommate, so I know her very well. She loves pasta, movies, fashion, foreign men, and social media. We’ve lived together for four years and know things about each other that most people don’t. Although, one thing I don’t know a lot about is the editor inside of her. Her name is Lindsay Dressen and I bet you’ll see her name on a digital version of a women’s fashion magazine someday.

I wanted to pick Lindsay’s brain because I know how much she loves editing and magazines. My insides turn a little when I think about proofreading something, so I am taking this course to ease those pains. I know why we are best friends, but sometimes I think she’s crazy for wanting to be an editor—no offense to you aspiring editors. I admire her dedication to reach her goals, and appreciate her catching my mistakes with the ease of her pen. So I thought there was no better way to learn about editing than from my friend and personal editor, Lindsay.

Photo credited to Lindsay Dressen

Q: What editing positions do you currently hold or have held in the past?

A: I was the Executive Editor of Drakemagazine.com last year, and I was the Digital Assistant for Modern Luxury magazine this past summer in Chicago. Currently, I am a Senior Editor for the iPad version of my capstone.

Q: Are you an editor that coaches or fixes?

A: It definitely depends on the stage of the writing process that the writer is in. At the beginning, I am more of a coach, versus a fixer. You want to coach them on how they are doing, and help keep them on track. Let your writer know what to fix, but also let them know what they’re doing right—sometimes editors forget to reinforce the positives. Also, instead of fixing their problems, give them alternatives to help them along.

 Q: Do you find yourself sometimes fixing instead of coaching?

A: On deadline, yes. If they don’t accept your coaching or don’t listen after you’ve given them clear instruction, then you have to resort to fixing to make deadline. Yet, if you fix, the writer isn’t going to learn anything. They will keep making the same mistakes, and not grow as a writer.

Q: What is the best advice that you have for students who are aspiring to be professional editors?

A: You need to accept the fact that not everyone shares the same ideas, nor will you make it to the top with a negative attitude. When working on a staff you need to have a lot of patience and come in with thick skin. Everyone will have an idea shot down at some point, and a story that doesn’t run. No matter what title or task you’re given, give it your all—the reward in the end will be worth it. We’re all at the bottom of the totem pole at some point, but that’s the way to work your way up in this industry.

After talking with Lindsay in the comfort of our apartment, I began to understand the role of a coaching editor. I don’t think she is as crazy as I thought before to choose this as her career path. Although, I still prefer to be on the other side of the desk. If you have questions for Lindsay on editing or her experience, visit her website or follow her: @lindsay_dd.

Has anyone else felt that they have had to resort to fixing rather than coaching? Is this acceptable for certain situations?

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4 responses to “Interview with Drake student editor: Lindsay Dressen

  1. While coaching primarily concerns editors, writers likewise facilitate their own improvement by welcoming suggestions, defending their decisions, and compromising. When writers become defensive about editors’ suggestions, though, editors, including me, trade coaching for fixing.

    I have resorted to fixing when my writers repeatedly ignore my suggestions. Admittedly, I’m familiar with neglecting editors’ tips. As a high schooler, I often disregarded my editors’ suggestions, perceiving their tips as attacks on me. Although writing is a major part of my life, it’s not my entire life; thus, as writers, it’s important to remember that when editors critique our writing, they’re not critiquing us as people.

    To answer your second question, I believe fixing is acceptable for certain situations. An hour before deadline, for instance, there’s little time for a grammar lesson. Fixing grammatical misgivings, rather, tops my to-do list.

  2. I thought it was interesting that Lindsey was so adamant about the coaching aspect of editing. I think it’s one of the main points of the two Clark texts: Writers don’t learning anything if you fix it for them, and you have to continue to fix the same problems.

    No one wants to do the same work over and over. It wastes time, and it’s not a lot of fun.

    There are always times when fixing is the only option, but those should be the exception rather than the rule.

  3. Lindsay and I were editors together last year, and I definitely know what scenarios she’s referring to regarding fixing rather than coaching. It’s always the last resort, but sometimes the last resort unfortunately surfaces to the forefront. I do think there are appropriate and acceptable times for fixing, but it should never be an initial option.

    DrakeMag has its deadlines, but nothing like a bi-weekly newspaper like the TD. So, we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to coaching. If a writer isn’t getting something, we offer multiple chances to improve his or her story and take our suggestions. But there’s a limit on those chances. Usually it’s three–four at the most. If writers aren’t understanding something after that many attempts and are not making strides, they’re either not taking their story seriously or are not taking our suggestions seriously. Sometimes editors give unfavorable suggestions; I, as a writer, disagree almost two-thirds of the time. So I always understand if a writer doesn’t like a certain suggestion. But if a writer isn’t turning in work that is at least up to the standard of quality we had set for him or her, after three or four chances, it’s time to fix.

  4. I appreciate all of your comments. It is interesting to hear when some of you have to resort to fixing rather than coaching. I am glad to hear that it is definitely the last option for you all. I completely agree, writers won’t learn anything if you are fixing their mistakes. It is understandable to fix when you are on a tight deadline, like the TD. But in the end this isn’t going to help the growth of the reader, it’s just going to make sure that the story is published correctly.

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