Meet a Fellow Heartlander: Maureen Johnson
By Margaret Hentz
Like a lot of indexers, Maureen’s path to indexing was a winding road. After obtaining a B.S. in microbiology, her career started in a R&D laboratory for a company that made immunodiagnostic tests (rapid strep tests, home pregnancy tests, etc.). The stock market crash of the late 1980s sent her to the unemployment line. After a few months, Maureen found herself employed in a job she really didn’t enjoy and she began thinking about writing.
Technical writing seemed a good fit for her interests and she went to graduate school and obtained a M.S. in Scientific and Technical Communication. She spent a few years as a full-time technical writer; after her son was born, she continued to work part-time as a freelance writer. When her daughter was born, she transferred from Minneapolis to Cleveland, Ohio. Since this transfer was to a state where she knew no one and had no work contacts (a bigger obstacle in those pre-Internet years), Maureen focused on raising her children and adapting to a new environment. By the time her children were through grade school, she decided it was time to get back into the job market. Indexing was something she knew about from her technical writing days, and it seemed to be a great fit for her skills and lifestyle.
Known professionally as MoJo’s Indexing Service, Maureen currently indexes mostly textbooks with an occasional trade book thrown in for variety. She prefers to work in the health and biological sciences, since they are a good match with her educational background, but she has indexed all sorts of subjects from accounting to zoology. Last year, she worked on a series of books for the construction trades that covered everything from electrical wiring to welding. This past month, her project list included books on world politics, health insurance, nursing, criminal justice, and a title on the history of the Maine Medical Center.
When Maureen noticed that more and more of her kids’ high school textbooks were available online, she became concerned about where the textbook industry is heading and how best to position herself to be marketable. She started researching publishing trends, trying to decide which professional development activities would be mostly likely to provide a return on her investment. She started listening to Early and Associates’ webinars on content management, took Heather Hedden’s taxonomy course through Simmons College, and read Hedden’s The Accidental Taxonomist. Each of these she recommends highly to other indexers looking to broaden their skills.
Maureen also stumbled upon information about Joshua Tallent’s e-book publishing business, eBook Architects. Since he seemed to be interested in including indexes in e-books, she emailed him with a general question. He called her on the phone, and by the end of the conversation they had arranged an informal partnership.
“He lists me on his website as a source for indexes for his e-books,” Maureen explained recently. “I give him a small finders fee for projects that come through him. At this point, my indexing for e-books is standard book indexing. I create the index from a formatted, paged PDF file. I send it as a Word file to the author for review and formatting. The author sends it to Joshua who codes links to the ‘pages’ from my index. The final product is not exact, due to different page display on different devices, but it gets the reader in the general direction.” So far, Maureen has done about ten of these indexes for Joshua and other self-publishers. The e-book authors she’s worked with can’t imagine not including an index.
To Maureen, the biggest reward for indexing is the ability to control her own schedule and work around her role as a parent. She loves the fact that she’s never had to miss a school function, she’s been able to help in the classroom, and she’s easily managed to take care of sick kids when necessary. She can toss in a load of laundry, put dinner in the oven and still work on a deadline. Having that flexibility, as well as the freedom to develop her career in the directions she chooses, make her feel very fortunate.
When she’s not indexing, Maureen enjoys spending time with her wonderful husband, two children, dog and cat. She loves to do many things including kayaking, hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, gardening, cooking, and learning to play classical guitar. She used to read for pleasure but since she is now reading all day when indexing that seems to have fallen off her list of things she wants to do in her free time.
Maureen has written an excellent article on “Why Your EBook Needs an Index”; it appears on Joshua Tallent’s eBook Architects website here. More about MoJo's Indexing Service at http://mojosindexing.com/ .
© 2011 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.