Miriam Klein Sofer interviewed by Chaya Falk and Jill L. Felix
Keywords: agriculture editing, aquaculture editing, Israeli Journal of Aquaculture (IJA) – Bamidgeh, Miriam Klein Sofer
A social science, psychology/sociology major turned agricultural specialist and editor, let’s just say Miriam Klein Sofer has been from one end of the spectrum to another and has enjoyed the journey to the fullest. As Miriam puts it, since coming to Israel over thirty years ago and living on Moshav Sde Nitzan, she kind of “fell into agriculture.” At the moment she works both physically and theoretically in the field of agriculture as well as aquaculture.
Miriam was born in Melbourne, Australia. She earned a degree in psychology/sociology and gender studies. In addition, she took an English as Second Language teaching certification course and taught English to Greek immigrants in Australia. As a young mother, she immigrated to Israel with her husband and two little children and settled on Moshav Sde Nitzan, an agricultural village located near Beersheba in the northern Negev desert in Israel.
During her years on the moshav, Miriam worked in greenhouse agriculture, tomato harvesting, and flower growing, in particular roses. She and her husband grew roses for many years and sold them over the internet. This practical experience gave her some background and led to a position as copyeditor of the Israeli Journal of Aquaculture (IJA) – Bamidgeh, an online journal which publishes peer reviewed articles from all over the world. She also translated and edited articles for an agricultural R & D station in the Negev.
Other long term projects she is involved in is translating and editing a book about suicide and its impact on various family members. She also edits medical articles for an international peer reviewed journal.
Miriam loves her work and enjoys the independence of being a freelance editor. It is obvious from her varied career that she knows how to use her rich experience to full advantage in editing articles and books. Clearly, she has a high level of personal satisfaction from the projects in which she is engaged. We spoke with her in-depth about this rewarding path.
Q: So, when and how did you become an editor?
I first started editing with no formal education in the field, but have always been good at writing and I began to read a lot about editing. I have always loved language as well and began working part time for a company in Israel doing their correspondence, then writing flyers and advertisements for their corporate image. When agriculture became less viable I got a job at a large patent attorney firm editing patents. At that time, I was asked to edit a PhD (which it seems I did very well – the reviewers commented on the editing, I was told) but I decided that if I was to continue doing editing seriously I should take a course and learn more. Although I live in the Negev, I decided that the course in Jerusalem at David Yellin College was good and it’s the best thing I ever did. Since doing the course, I feel much more confident in taking on almost any project. At the moment I am the copyeditor of a professional, academic journal; I also edit medical articles; I have been asked to do another PhD; and am partly translating and fully editing a book. Although I am the editor of a science journal, I really prefer editing articles/books/theses in the social sciences. Now I work full time from home, editing. I love working from home. Everything can be done online. I have not met most of my clients and I have many returning clients.
Q: Tell us about your expertise and your work.
I actually had no experience whatsoever in the specialty area of the journal I edit, but the rules for journal writing are similar for many journals. There is a lot of biology involved and I did study biology in school (a long time ago). I really do think it helps to be familiar with the field but not imperative. It just makes the work easier and faster, but as you continue it gets easier. I think it is very important to be an expert/very familiar if undertaking editing work in a specialty field such as linguistics. There, the terminology, the information, and the field is very specific and doesn’t relate to other areas. For example, at the moment I edit articles about aquaculture. If, in my mind I replace “fish” with “people” in my head, the articles become much easier to understand. I write about food, genetics, ecology, environmental hazards, etc…..and thinking that I’m writing about people makes it more relevant to me, but in linguistics, for example, you can’t do that. Generally I do not need to ask too many questions about content. Most of the work I get is written by non-native English speakers. The copyediting is the easiest part even when the material isn’t very familiar to me. Usually the questions have to do with technical terms or things that are illogical, tables where the data doesn’t add up, or references which appear in the reference section but haven’t been cited in the text. These are technical issues which need to be clarified and if I can’t work them out myself I turn to the author.
As a copyeditor, I am also in charge of the layout of the article for publication – adjusting and formatting tables to fit into the page format etc. There are of course the guidelines for authors that I must check and make sure that the author has written according to our guidelines. If the author has submitted tables in a format that I can change, I usually do that. If they send them in picture format, I often send things back for the author to change. I check all the references, of course, to make sure that they appear in the body of the text.
Q: Do you remember the topic of your first medical/agriculture article? Was it overwhelming?
Yes I remember it well, and yes it was overwhelming, but it became easier as I became more familiar with the work, the terminology, and the requirements of the article.
Q: Do you seek expertise when needed?
I do often rely on help from experts in a particular field when it comes to technical or scientific terminology and statistics. I know people and I do contact them when needed. I don’t think you can just “wing it,” You have to check the technical aspects of a manuscript. If something is unclear it is important to contact the author and get them to clarify things.
Q: Can you tell us about your editing process?
When I get a manuscript, I read it through if it’s not too long. If it’s too long I start working as I go. I often use the internet. Occasionally when I work on a medical article, I try to find similar published articles to check the terminology. Very often something doesn’t look right, but often it’s the “jargon” of the profession. I found this in the patent attorney firm at first. There were things written which just didn’t sound right, but I soon found out that particular terms which sounded strange were used in the field. I usually send two copies of a first draft, one showing track changes, and another “clean” copy, which is easier to read once they have seen the changes I have made. Then I often write a second and even a third (which is usually the final) draft.
Q: Do you work with the authors directly?
I do work directly with the authors, usually by email but sometimes it’s necessary to speak to them. I tell them from the outset that if I don’t understand something I’ll need to be in touch with them. In most cases they like that. Occasionally with authors in Israel, they have written their work in Hebrew and have based the English on the original. In these cases, if I’m really having trouble I ask them to send me the original in Hebrew, so I can try to make sense of what they are trying to say.
Q: New editors are very interested in financial aspects of the job, but there is very little information about this available. Can you share with us your fee process?
My charges are close to the guidelines (for both translating and editing) put out by the Israel Translation Association. For the journal I am paid a set fee per article regardless of number of words or pages, but it averages out; there are some short articles and there are longer ones.