This is a difficult one to write.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I decided I needed to get my books a re-edit.  I’d rewritten bits, added scenes and generally jiggled things about and I wanted someone to go over them. Someone who knew the things I didn’t know like what sized dash to use when and when to use a semi-colon and when to use a colon. I needed a gimlet-eyed grammar spud and the fellow I usually used wasn’t around.

As I pondered whether to wait or find a second editor a post about editing appeared on a blog I follow. I’d give you a link but it isn’t there anymore. After a brief comment saying I thought I needed a line edit and a proof read someone popped up in the comments saying I might not. She said her name was Kate and what she said made a lot of sense. She thought what I might need was just an edit. After a brief conversation in the comments she suggested we moved the conversation to email. She said she was a professional editor and would happily look at some chapters and let me know what needed doing. I said I doubted I could afford her. She said.

‘I’m actually dirt cheap. But I wasn’t offering to work for you, I was saying I would look at something for free and give you a pro opinion.’

So I sent her a chunk – the first ten chapters, I think. She came back with an evaluation, along the lines of, ‘the story is interesting, don’t touch this, this and this it’s fine but I think you should probably fix this and this, and usually that is done like so …’ etc. She asked me a whole raft of questions about how I’d want to hyphenate compound words and other stuff that just wouldn’t have crossed my radar, explaining that I’d need to think about these things so they were always done the same way.

You know how sometimes, when you talk to someone, and you can just tell, at once, that they know what they’re doing? It was like that. I decided to hire her. If she’d agree to work for me. I couldn’t afford her but she was prepared to work in instalments which meant I then could. I asked the author friend who ran the blog where I ‘met’ her if he knew anything about her. Turned out she edited his books and he recommended her highly, so I asked her if she’d work on mine. To my delight, because I’d corresponded with her enough to be pretty sure she was an all round good egg, by now, she agreed.

To start with, she asked me more questions. This took a while and it became evident, very early on, that she had a similarly sarcastic sense of humour to me. She was funny, wise and incredibly kind with her comments – as well as perceptive. Her emails always started with – ‘I like this’ or ‘this was good,’ before she asked for clarification on something that didn’t make sense or suggested a change. She was completely gimlet eyed on continuity and was impressed that I could email her straight back with answers to her questions about the worlds we were working in. I was impressed, in turn, that someone as smart as her could be impressed by anything my brain did!

Kate was absolutely honest, she would not stint in telling you what she thought of something, whether it was bad or good but she could deliver the direst verdict and leave your pride and your feelings in tact. You knew exactly where you were with her. We we spent the next eighteen months exchanging emails most weeks as she sorted me out with a house style for the K’Barthan things and fixed my books. She could make me laugh out loud so the whole process was a complete gas and she was even unfazed when she received an email from my cat.

When we were done, she spent another few months wading through my newly completed book at the time, Escape From B-Movie Hell, then it was the K’Barthan omnibus. She continued to ask a myriad of questions, sought clarification on continuity issues and wrestled with those pesky compound words. All the while she quietly worked her editorial alchemy on my writing so that, without my actually being able to see how she’d done it, she turned my books from not bad to good. I pointed this out and she said,

‘To me, a good editor takes something, makes it better and people don’t realise what has been done, just that it is easy to read.’

She did the same thing for my confidence in my ability, too, because if someone that astute that smart and that mentally agile thinks your stuff is good then you can’t help but believe it is.

Among the talk about the projects in hand, the conversation ranged from pets to cars, to passing (or failing) the pencil test, Christmas, broken down cars, growing vegetables, adopting dogs (her) and cats (me). It really didn’t feel like work at all – I hope it didn’t for her either – yet all the while the project would move quietly onwards, despite the best efforts of fate, power cuts and other sundry disturbances of Gibraltese/Spanish (her) or British (me) life.

Frankly once she’d edited pretty much anything I’d written, and I had nothing new ready, I got serious withdrawal symptoms from our regular contact. But at the same time, we still exchanged regular chats on our respective blogs and as I knew she was working hard editing stuff for other people I tried not to pester her too often unless I stumbled upon something that I thought would really make her laugh.

However, after trouble with the Spanish power companies, she and Adrian, her partner, had to go off grid. So for some weeks the blog went quiet while she researched solar panels, gas fridges, windmills etc. I was therefore delighted when, six months or so after our completing work on the K’Barthan Box Set, I finally finished a short story. We started on it in July and I went on holiday, delighted that we’d be spending a month or so working on it together when I got back. But that was not to be. While I was away, Kate died, suddenly and unexpectedly.

Reading back our correspondence a few days after hearing the news, I found myself crying and laughing at the same time. I am so gutted that she is gone but at the same time, it struck me that I am also incredibly lucky to have worked with someone so multi-faceted, so interesting, such a genuinely good soul. Kate had principles, and she lived by them. I also try to console myself that, though she has gone, she lives on in the books she edited and the reviews she wrote. She is still vibrant and alive on her blog, Roughseasinthemed and in the many comments she wrote on the blogs of others. And she lives on in the hearts of all the people who were touched by her generosity of spirit and all round brilliance.

RIP, Kate Jackson. And thank you.




Filed under General Wittering

30 responses to “Sad

  1. What a heartfelt and lovely tribute. I almost feel as if I knew Kate myself. I

  2. Oh my, I don’t know her and I shed a tear by the end of your post. How goddam awful life can be sometimes 😞

  3. Reblogged this on writermummy and commented:
    For some reason I felt the need to share this beautiful tribute to a person I don’t know (written by a writer-friend) ❤️

  4. Lynne Jones

    What a lovely story. I have also been a proofreader and editor so I understand much of what you spoke of.

  5. I never had her edit anything but I enjoyed her comments on my blog and reading her own posts. She will be missed.

  6. Sad when someone so lovely dies so young. hugs.

    • Thanks. I still feel like it hasn’t happened, like I’ll get an email full of questions tomorrow about the next stage of the edit she was doing. Just gutted.

  7. A beautiful tribute to Kate, MT. She will be missed.

    • Thanks. I’m just glad I got to work with her, I learned a great deal and I hope I’ve also learned what working with a decent editor feels like enough to spot the next one.

  8. With your eulogy you’ve made her real for people who never met her.
    Remember her warmly, she was worth it. Remember her lessons, she’d appreciate it.
    In time you’ve treasure the fact that you were lucky enough to know her.

  9. Shattered to hear this. So sorry that she’s gone. She made some wonderful comments on my book, just as you said she would. I’ve been trying to improve it, and was ready to resubmit. I suppose it’s good to hear rather than to send it and have someone at the other end intruded upon. So sorry for her family and friends. Honoured to have received her advice.
    RIP Kate

  10. Beautiful tribute to Kate. She sounds like a truly amazing person. I am so sorry she is gone, but I am glad you knew her for as long as you did. Much love – speak766

  11. Diana

    This is a lovely tribute. And I am so so so so disappointed that I never got to submit anything for her to critique. She encouraged me several times to start a blog — and every time I took a step further in that direction it was always with a confidence that I would have at least one reader. I know you know how blessed you are to have worked with her. May your new editor — whoever it ends up being — be as wise, as funny, and as quirky as Kate.
    Thank you for sharing your interactions and your relationship — you have blessed me with these snippets.

    And now some questions: They really did go off grid? What did they end up with? The last post had them considering this. Also, did whatever ailment that Tosca was eating jamon for get sorted out? Was she still in Spain? Do you know if there is anything we could offer to do to support A.?

    Oh — and you are also smart and funny. I suspect Kate really enjoyed your interactions. Enjoy your memories, and the ongoing process of writing. Kate would be proud.

    • When it comes to the going off grid I’m not sure. When I last corresponded with her – a week before her death – it was still a work in progress. I am not sure where it happened I assumed that when she contacted me she was in Gib where internet access was easier.

      Just heard back from Adrian, will send you her address tomorrow – I’m on the wrong computer tonight.

      Also thanks for what you said about me. I hope she had as much fun add I did. 🙂



  12. What sad news. From the way you describe her, the world of writing and the world in general will be the poorer for the loss of this lady.

  13. Rebecca Douglass


  14. Condolences, MT, and thank you for this tribute to Kate. You describe her, her work and the way she dealt with authors so well. I had just recommended her to two writers and was about to introduce them by email. We’ve lost a special person. I’m sad for Adrian and all who loved her.

  15. lostgirl172000

    You described her amazingly. check me out if possible

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