July 2016 Q&A: Jackey Coyle

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Jackey Coyle’s business, Wordy-Gurdy, offers project management, substantive editing or rewriting, proofreading, research and writing for short stories, books, ebooks, magazines, newsletters, theses and websites. Jackey has broad expertise in business, roots music and travel, with interests in arts, science, lifestyle and health. She’s been writing and editing since 1992. [And has been Editors Victoria President for the last couple of years, Ed.]

How has your month been?

June is always full on, what with tidying up tax for the end of the year and getting my purchases, subscriptions and memberships in!

The first three weeks also has the insanity of quarterly magazine production, as we put Issue 13 of Inside Small Business to bed around mid-month. It’s a 0.4 contract, so I weight my hours towards the end of the quarter – it becomes more like 0.6 or 0.8 at production time as the hours evaporate with the minutiae (it’s hard to believe just how many details there are).

I have a soft spot for the magazine, not only as the founding editor with free rein as to how it looks and how the reader navigates the content, but because it’s for people like us, who don’t think of themselves as ‘business people’ but run their own show, whether they’re editors, musicians, osteopaths, interior designers, baristas, artisans, food producers, mentors or online entrepreneurs. So the magazine is shaped to the rhythm of a freelance or small business year: winter for finance planning, spring for marketing, summer for operating, autumn for business planning. And we don’t have images of guys in suits, but try to reflect the diverse demographics of a creative, innovative, hard-working bunch of readers.

Initially, I make a rough page plan and slot in the features we’ve already roughed out while the previous issue is in full swing. Because of the four annual magazine themes, we know the general drift of three of the five feature articles but we like to be right on with current thinking when briefing the other features and the one-page articles, forewords and case studies. I don’t officially write a lot but each 80-page issue ends up with me contributing between 2000 and 7000 words: 10 to 12 book reviews, editorial foreword and usually a case study or two plus leads and cover lines. Each page needs to be commissioned, images arranged, briefed for the subeditor and designer and then moved around on the page and proofed in layout. We were bought out last year by Octomedia, so we have a designer in the Philippines and our sub is in Vietnam. The content manager is in Sydney at head office so our team in Melbourne consists of me, my assistant editor, who also is online editor, and a sales team of four.

I’m ghostwriting a book due out October so that goes to the publishing house mid-July. My co-ghostwriter (is there such a thing?) came down with a lurgy which knocked out three weeks – the joys of freelance – and then a job came in proofreading a true crime book, which I couldn’t resist, which had a deadline of the end of the month.

Dance Steps for the Self-Employed Editor, my freelance training course begun at Editors Victoria in 2012, will run again in October as a Dance Steps Advanced, so an update is bubbling away.

I’m also looking for someone to update my Wordy-Gurdy website and endeavouring to get back to my own book writing and marketing calendar.

Working on Editors Victoria matters, as we prepare for the IPEd transition with our brilliant committee and staff, I’m totally excited to be a part of Melbourne Writers Festival this year with a sponsorship of a masterclass event. This continues Editors Victoria’s deepening involvement with Melbourne as the world’s second City of Literature, expanding from meetings and events at the Wheeler Centre and Writers Victoria. Stay tuned for more news as this unfolds!

My monthly radio spot on PBSFM, ‘Wordy-Gurdy on the Radio’, features music and music writing. In June we featured music from my recent trip to the New Orleans JazzFest. We put a spotlight on the poetry of prolific American poet, novelist, playwright, columnist and social activist Langston Hughes, which has been set to music by American-Haitian singer Leyla McCalla, who plays banjo, guitar and cello.

My laptop died and I guess if there’s one good thing about this it’s the thought of a new MacBook Air to play with, although the thought of setting up a new ‘puter was daunting. But Apple makes it easy – I was delighted to find my favourite websites etc magically appear on the new one.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Conserving my energy and making good use of time. My father was a physicist who had the ability to switch off and focus absolutely on the matter at hand, and this has been useful as a starting point for learning to carve up my time. It’s been a long learning curve to manage the number of wildly differing things I want to do while having good times with my partner, friends and family.

What do you love most about your work?

Ideas and stories.

How did you get here?

Growing up, I couldn’t decide between fashion design and science. So I began in fashion design and modelling, then switched to seven years of aeronautical research while studying engineering. I went to work in the UK with a letter from my Australian employer but they wouldn’t employ women (yes, it was the Stone Age!) so I paid the rent by modelling, retail and reception work in London and Amsterdam.

Back home, after I’d spent two years working in an industrial photographer’s darkroom, a shop in Richmond came up which led to Coyle’s, my gift shop, which I ran for 18 years in Richmond, Fitzroy and Collins Street. While moonlighting managing bands and learning to play steel guitar, I was asked to interview my teacher, which led to a two-year research into Hawaiian music in Australia and a 15,000-word academic article. This is when I fell in love with the power of words – I wanted to tell these stories to engage people, not merely inform them, and began writing for a music magazine.

Looking for more tools in my writing kit, I began postgrad studies at Deakin Burwood, with units in fiction, non-fiction, editing and travel writing. This is where Jenny Lee got me hooked on editing and I ended up completing a Masters in Writing and Literature with a creative novella as my thesis. From there my freelance career developed with work for Lonely Planet and various magazines while expanding the client base.

What is your average weekly workload? Does it vary throughout the year?

Wildly. I’ve learned to block in time away and book my work around it.

If you are comfortable discussing salary, can you give an idea of an indicate rate of pay for the kind of work you do?

I work so fast and intensely that an eight-hour editing day isn’t sustainable, so it’s hard to compare myself with someone else who may have a different style. I don’t believe it’s earning a livable wage to go below $80 per hour for a casual project and I guess the upper range would be $150. But a regular gig that pays on time can be worth a lesser rate.

If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

Hmm. Choices, choices … film directing would be number one.

Thanks so much, Jackey.

You can find out more about Jackey at www.wordygurdy.com.au or contact her at jackey@wordygurdy.com.au.