Writing, Editing, Unearthing Opportunity: A Conversation with Christina Newberry

by Reija J Roberts

“When you’re self-employed, you are always selling yourself. You should be able to say what you do in fifteen seconds.” Preparing her “elevator pitch” is only one key to success for freelance writer and editor Christina Newberry. Her website, which boasts glowing testimonials and tangible work samples, ranks high in a Google search for “Vancouver writer and editor.” She has written articles about “how to improve the search engine ranking of your website,” which probably has something to do with her own top ranking. You can also find Newberry on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. “The internet is my life,” she confesses. “The job that I do now didn’t exist ten years ago.”

Newberry didn’t always want to be a writer. When she first applied to the University of Victoria, she thought that she wanted to major in economics. What she ended up with, was a degree in English. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to be a teacher.” After graduation, she worked in a book store for a year. She says of the store, “I loved it, but I knew I wasn’t going to make any money doing that.” However, it was there that her interest in professional writing was sparked. She began creating promotional material for the store. She even designed a website for it. This experience prompted her to apply for the one-year journalism program at Langara College. Although she soon learned that she “had no interest whatsoever in being a journalist,” she acquired vital skills and abilities through the program.

When she left Langara, Newberry ambitiously applied for the Senior Writer position with a company that sold nutritional supplements. She lacked experience, but the hiring team liked her. A “junior writer and proofreader” position was created for her, and it wasn’t long before she made the climb to senior writer. By the time she left the company, she was the corporate editor.

Newberry next found herself working for the Internet Marketing Center as a writer. Newberry stayed put for five years and eventually became the managing editor, managing a staff of eleven and producing courses about online marketing. From there she found employment with CGA-Canada, as its editorial supervisor. This was to be her final desk job. When her work with CGA was through, she left the office for the comfort of her home. “It had always been my goal to go freelance,” Newberry explains. “For one thing, I am not at all a morning person.” For another, she had realized that the big money was in management. Being a manager, she had found, was no longer something she enjoyed. And since she couldn’t conceive of descending her ladder to a writer’s position, she swapped her manager’s cap for pajamas. Her desk is now in her bedroom, and her laptop enables her to work from her balcony or couch. But Christina Newberry is no loafer.

Newberry’s website describes her work as “writing, editing and communication strategy.” Her track record includes travel writing, ghost-writing, eBooks, profiles, press releases, and project coordination and consultation. She works with individual clients, as well as corporate and small businesses. And her work isn’t limited to her geography. “I do some writing for a website based out of Hong Kong, and some editing work for a company in India.” Newberry appreciates the variety of her work. “I really like what I do,” she reveals with a laugh, when asked how she stays motivated. This is particularly true when it comes to projects that require editing, a skill she didn’t even really consider until her studies at Langara. “I know what I want to do and I like making the changes.”

Newberry is particularly invested in her eBooks. So far, she has published two — The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home and How to Write an Obituary: A Step-by-Step Guide. She attributes the success of these books to a formula: “Find a niche market, figure out what information they need, and give it to them in whatever format makes sense.” She says that Adult Children Living At Home took about six months to complete. “I went back and lived with my parents after I finished university for about eight months,” Newberry reveals, when asked how she conceived the idea. Turns out, there was a desire for information on that subject. From there, she researched, wrote, revised, and published the book, with virtually zero publishing costs. “My goal is really to push the eBooks,” she says of her plans for the future, adding that she is now working on a third book. Once the books are up and running, they leave time and resources for other more worldly pursuits. “Ideally, I would like to be gone one month out of every three.” Travelling while working is high on her list of priorities, a fully attainable goal given her trusty laptop.

“Be really good at what you do, know what your specialty is, and develop a style and a voice that works for you.” That is Newberry’s advice to aspiring freelance writers and editors. She is also quick to add, “Keep an open mind and always look for the next opportunity.” Making contacts, she says, is absolutely critical to her success. “You never know where your next contract is coming from,” she explains. “So you have to constantly be working your contacts, and looking for new opportunities.” This effort may sound daunting to some, but Christina Newberry is obviously not someone who shrinks from a challenge.


Reija J Roberts is a student in the Print Futures Program at Douglas College.

How to win a mini-press kit

As a proud sponsor of the Small Business BC Entrepreneur Showcase, I’m happy to announce that just by attending the event you could win a mini-press kit, including a business profile and one press release, plus a one hour consultation with me. Loads of other great prizes are up for grabs, and it’s sure to be an excellent networking opportunity. With George Moen, President of Blenz, set to speak, it’s an event not to miss!


Be careful with your placeholder text

Using placeholder (or “dummy”) text when your final copy is not ready, or when you’re creating a template, can be a good way to get the design process moving and make sure you allow adequate room for the text destined to fill a space.

But there is potential for disaster when using placeholder text, as evidenced by this screenshot from an e-mail promotion I received today from Flight Centre.


The printing industry has, for hundreds of years, had a standard set of dummy text, known as Lorem Ipsum. It’s a chunk of scrambled Latin text that is best to use when you need a placeholder. Why?

Well, first, if you are trying to determine whether you’ve got a good design, it’s much easier to tell what it will really look like when you insert your finished text if you are using varied letters and word lengths rather than repeated words.

But what’s most important is that when you do your final spell-check (you *do* do a final spell check, don’t you?) the made-up words that form the Lorem Ipsum text will be flagged if you’ve forgetten to replace them with your finished content — so you won’t send out an e-mail promotion like the one above. 

Here are the first two paragraphs of the standard Lorem Ipsum text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse arcu sem, bibendum vel condimentum eget, posuere a tellus. Aenean non arcu lorem. Fusce ut dolor erat. Cras posuere, mi eu convallis facilisis, tellus turpis molestie lacus, vitae tempor magna felis a erat. Etiam sollicitudin aliquet dapibus. Cras euismod urna in purus semper condimentum. Pellentesque malesuada porttitor odio, ac mollis nisi consequat eget. In in nisl neque. Integer vel consectetur quam. Nunc quam libero, accumsan in placerat at, lacinia feugiat arcu. Aenean convallis lobortis justo, vel scelerisque nibh consectetur a. Maecenas eu gravida nisi. Praesent sed magna dui, sed cursus magna. Donec euismod, neque at dignissim cursus, arcu libero egestas ante, a egestas augue lorem eget arcu. Phasellus vel nibh non tellus porta fringilla eget quis urna. Morbi vitae est sem. Sed sodales tristique nisl, vel rhoncus orci placerat mollis. Curabitur posuere nibh ligula, sed iaculis massa.

Pellentesque libero tortor, laoreet ac vestibulum et, placerat vel nisi. Etiam ultrices faucibus gravida. Praesent porttitor interdum tempus. Morbi lacinia massa sed nunc iaculis in mattis ante consectetur. Phasellus eu felis massa. Maecenas ac dolor dui, sed dapibus sem. Fusce velit nulla, iaculis ut consectetur non, facilisis non quam. Praesent in orci dui. Vestibulum at adipiscing mi. Sed tortor lectus, porttitor et congue vel, eleifend nec mauris. Suspendisse potenti. Curabitur placerat porta vehicula. Nam non purus justo. Praesent hendrerit lacinia pulvinar. Nunc venenatis sapien et dolor adipiscing et tempus magna viverra. Integer porta pellentesque magna, vel feugiat odio aliquam sed. Cras facilisis, lectus vitae elementum iaculis, dui odio gravida elit, at auctor urna libero eget mi. Cras vel quam vitae velit iaculis aliquam. Aliquam non volutpat nulla. Nulla non ligula massa.  

If you need more, there’s a Lorem Ipsum generator online at www.lipsum.com.

Hard-copy vs. electronic editing

Here’s link to an interesting blog post from the folks at 37signals about hard-copy markup using copy editor’s marks vs. electronic editing using track changes in Word. The post and most of the comments lean towards hard-copy editing being superior. My experience is that electronic editing is far simpler, faster, and easier for authors to understand, especially when there are lots of changes (in which case a marked-up hard copy can become extremely unwieldy). I do recommend a hard-copy final proof if time allows, but for substantive and copy editing, my view is that track changes is the way to go.

What Went Wrong? The NYT corrects 7 errors in one published article

A surprising number of writing and editing mistakes combined to result in the New York Times publishing an article about Walter Cronkite that contained a whopping seven errors, including incorrect names and dates, among other problems.

When I was in journalism school, we were automatically docked 50% on any assignment that had a name spelled wrong or a date incorrect, since those things are such a huge deal. I once got a failing mark on a story because I’d incorrectly tacked an “e” onto an “Ann.” So for the times to slip up this many times in one piece about a public figure is surprising, to say the least.

Perhaps that’s why their Public Editor has analyzed the situation in an interesting article that you can read here. 

Here’s the short version of what happened:

Even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done. Five editors read the article at different times, but none subjected it to rigorous fact-checking, even after catching two other errors in it. And three editors combined to cause one of the errors themselves.

It’s an interesting study of the editorial process, and what can go wrong.

Ever wonder exactly what editors do?

Vanity Fair has taken a jab at Sarah Palin by setting its editorial staff to work on her resignation speech. The point of the excercise from VF’s perspective, of course, was to further hammer home a point that has been made many times already — the speech had some issues. I’m posting their work here because it provides an excellent picture of what editors do, and how much an editor (or three, in this case) can improve text. So whether you’re a Palin fan or not, if you’ve always wondered what editors do, take a peek at this link. How much could an editor improve your printed materials, scripts, or presentations?

A freelance travel & lifestyle writer/editor in Vancouver, B.C.