She usually gets the least attention (and she’ll tell you that’s fine with her), but copy editor Angie Calabrese is crucial to the quality of the work we do at North Star Marketing Content. She is our backstop. Everything we produce here (including this blog post) has to pass the test of her steady eye before it goes to a client, or to publication.
She’s thorough. She knows the English language like people know their own names. And she lets us get away with absolutely nothing. By the way, she also runs her own editing business, of which you’d be smart to be a client. More about that here.
And apart from her work on her own, and her work with us, she is also the editor of the Today Magazines in Metro Detroit. Angie is an exceptional copy editor who makes our team look even better than we already are, so we’d like you to know more about her.
Q. You became an editor in an usual way, didn’t you?
A. I did. I’ve always loved books and stories – always loved reading. I spent a lot of my childhood in the library, burying myself in reading and writing stories. But I didn’t pursue it right away. There was a time in the 2000s when I was looking for something of my own to do. I pursued several things that didn’t work out. I’d spent some time doing editing work for the old North Star Writers Group syndicate, and I knew I was good at it. And one day we were riding in the car and I noticed some signs on businesses that had mistakes, and I blurted out, “These people should hire me to edit their stuff!” And it was kind of like a lightbulb went on.
Q. How did you make it happen?
A. I went back to college in 2014, after more than 20 years, to take an editing and proofing course. Then I took a business writing course. I wanted to make sure my skills were first-rate before I did this professionally. I really loved taking those classes. With me being older, it was such an experience going back to school. This time I actually paid attention and did my work! Once I knew my skills were at a high level, I established the business and started promoting it on social media. That’s how I got my first client, and that company is still my client.
Q. What has that first client liked so much about you that it’s stayed with you?
A. I make it a priority to turn the material around as quickly as I can. I’m more cost-effective than someone in-house. They don’t have to pay my benefits or pay taxes on me. But ultimately, I think it comes down to being available and doing thorough work. I’m Johnny-on-the-spot as much as possible. Sometimes I get jobs at 8:00 at night. Most of the time I try to get them done right away because I don’t want them to say, “You know, it would be easy for us if we hired someone in-house.”
Q. Making yourself that available has led you to bring your laptop to some unusual spots.
A. That’s true. I’ve worked on the beach. I’ve put my hoodie over my head on a sunny day at a Tiger game and edited a job. I think I may have worked on an airplane once or twice. I’ll work just about anywhere if I can get away with it. I don’t really take days off either. I’ll go places but I keep myself available.
Q. Is it worth it, making that choice to never really be off duty?
A. Sometimes I think I’d like a whole week where I really don’t work at all. And there will be days – like with my wedding anniversary coming up – where I’ll probably tell my clients in advance I’ll be out for the afternoon, and they can send me things in advance if they want. (And they will.) But then sometimes I’ll be on the beach editing a document and think, “How many people can do this?” My biggest worry is getting sand in my keyboard. There are people who work in cubicles and hate their jobs. I thank God I’m blessed with the job I have. I love what I do. So yes, it’s worth it.
Q. What’s it like working with your spouse?
A. It’s good now. At the beginning Dan and I had to iron things out. He had a definite way of doing things, and I have my own way of doing things. We have distinct personalities. But over time we learned about each other’s work styles and now it works really well. Business is business, and you get it done and hopefully then you can knock off at 5. Or 6.
Q. What is your favorite part of being an editor?
A. I like the different things that my business model allows me to do. I’m glad I don’t work at an ad agency where I’m just doing ad copy all day. That would be boring. I like that one of my clients is in HR, and with my magazine gig I edit so many different things, and there’s so many subjects I learn about.
Q. What has your position as editor of the Today Magazines taught you about managing people and teams?
I’ve learned that you can’t take things personally. You have to have a thicker skin, and that is something I haven’t always had. In a management position you have to be sure of your direction. If you have a certain opinion about something you have to be able to back it up and not be afraid to voice that opinion. I’ve learned to be more self-confident.
Q. Is there a favorite piece you’ve worked on that really made an impact on your job or your mindset?
A. There are a few different ones. Early on I worked on a book by a pastor. It was a really interesting book, but it was a lot of work for not a lot of money, so I learned not to undervalue myself. I really loved the story we did in Livonia about Susan Landmesser and her You Are Loved organization that helps the homeless. I thought when we did it that she would get a lot of feedback – and a lot of help – and that’s exactly what happened.
There’s a story that’s soon going to be on the cover in West Bloomfield about a teenage entrepreneur artist who has Down Syndrome, and she and her family are just gold. I love being able to tell stories like that. We also did a story in our Lyon issue about human trafficking, and we interviewed a woman who’s a survivor of incest. There were people on my team who questioned whether that story was too heavy for the magazine, and I pushed back. We don’t want to just be an event magazine where we only publish fluff all the time. We have to do stories that highlight people in the community. It got a lot of feedback, and people were really touched by the story. I love the event coverage but you need to balance it out or it’s not going to be an effective vehicle overall. As always, you can learn more about the work of Angie, Michelle and Dan here.