Meet a Fellow Heartlander: Carol Reed
By Shelley Quattrocchi
Carol Reed, editor of the Heartland Chapter newsletter and manager of the chapter website, has focused her freelance work on indexing for the last seven years.
Her original career path was biomedical engineering, leading to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech University. About the time Carol graduated, she found that there were few jobs in that very new field, so she stayed at MTU for her master’s in rhetoric and technical communication. Carol has always enjoyed writing and editing, and the technical communication field was a great fit.
Carol worked as a technical writer in the IT industry for several years, quitting when the first of her three children was born. While the kids were young, she freelanced as a technical writer, but spent most of the time as a stay-at-home mom.
When Carol was ready to start freelancing seriously again, she stumbled on indexing through the Society for Technical Communication. She had created indexes for software manuals and thought it was the most enjoyable part of the book production process, something a former tech writing client remembered and recently teased her about. “Having a software designer call me a geek—I guess I'll take that as a compliment,” she laughs. Learning that people actually did indexing as a niche business was a revelation. So she took the USDA course and started offering indexing services a year later.
Carol loves the work of indexing and the frequent changes in content. “I used to write about data communication and software projects for a year or more at a stretch,” she says, “so being able to move from geophysics to interior design to theology in the course of a few weeks is just plain fun.” She appreciates the flexibility, too. Even though she and her husband will be empty-nesters soon, she's thankful she can be available whenever her parents need a little extra help.
Other perks of indexing include getting together with fellow indexers at Heartland meetings (“I love hanging out with other book nerds!”) and working with her English springer spaniel puppy at her feet. The puppy is named after Sunny Beaudelaire, the baby in A Series of Unfortunate Events who often saved the day with her very sharp teeth. There have been several unfortunate events as the puppy lives up to her namesake.
For Carol, the biggest challenges of indexing are the sometimes-irregular workflow and the isolation. She's diversifying her business services to smooth out the work load, and meeting with other local freelancer writers and editors for mutual sanity checks.
Her hobbies include playing classical guitar, landscaping with native plants, vegetable gardening, making stained glass mosaics, and hiking in the Upper Peninsula. Like a lot of indexers, she is usually reading two or three books at a time, even after working with books all day. Carol also volunteers in her hometown of Ortonville, Michigan with a therapeutic horseback riding facility and a team that maintains a native plant demonstration garden.