When you first see the name proofreading-editing-services.com it’s easy to imagine a team hard at work polishing books, journal articles and business documents. What then becomes clear from their website is that this enterprise is a single woman team: Emma Parfitt.
And her journey isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Emma started from humble beginnings in Scotland, was lucky enough to receive a fully funded university place to study Environmental Science at the University of St Andrews. But, as she says, ‘My passion was always writing. I went with the safe option of studying science because I knew I could always go back to literature. That’s what I did, I then did a master’s in Creative Writing, followed by a Proofreading & Editing Course from Chapterhouse.’
Emma explains that having to support herself, she got a cleaning job, then transitioned into reception and office work. ‘I was doing the sensible thing. Working full-time in corporate pensions and writing in my spare time, but it was unfulfilling. After working my way up and being offered a step into the management program, I realized I had to leave otherwise I’d leave when I was retired! So I handed in my notice. That day, actually.’
Bravely, Emma did temp. work while waiting for a PhD/doctorate application to go through. She had decided to return to university to spend time fully dedicated to her writing. Unable to get funding, she worked three part-time jobs (in student welfare, IT and an online teaching program), to fund her PhD which from a vague idea of storytelling as healing, became a sociology project about storytelling, learning and young people. There wasn’t much time for writing, except for a publication with Macmillan:
A resulting book was published by Palgrave Macmillan (Young people, learning & Storytelling) for a special educational series. She published a companion book called Seascape, a collection of short stories, inspired by storytelling research. Quickly followed by Shattered Roses, a novella which retells the story of beauty and the beast in the interesting setting of a nursing home.
‘Although I loved immersing myself in a new context for a while, and I found my supervisors sociologist Mick Carpenter and author Sarah Moss to be fabulous support, I decided not to pursue an academic career as my personality is unsuited to the high-pressure nature of the university, where academics balance teaching with research and grant proposal writing. It’s always been about writing for me. And to support myself financially while working on new books I returned to proofreading, becoming an entrepreneur.’
Setting up a business
Emma set up proofreading-editing-services.com in 2017 helping other authors fine tune their writing before publication. But what about her writing?
‘I was working on a book about the resilience of friendship when the pandemic happened. I had set my book in Edinburgh, post-Brexit, and realized if I wanted to use the same time period I would have to rewrite the content to incorporate the pandemic. I found that my new training in sociology was an immense help in viewing the book through different societal layers. There are the main working-class characters, Fran and Heather, the other mums at the school are more working-class. The book even touches on social work and migration issues in Scotland’s capital. It may look on paper as if children are well protected in the city, but they aren’t. Plenty kids fall through the cracks of an underfunded system. Plenty adults too when it comes to health care, unemployment, and so on. It’s so easy to slide into poverty and against you to get out.
‘They say, “write what you know. So I went back to my working-class roots, wanting to express a small part of what life is like when you don’t have very much, and Fran and Heather aren’t even on the bottom step of the ladder, there are much harsher places to find oneself in. Ultimately, it’s a hopeful book, focused on friendship rather than women falling in love with insipid love interests.”
Emma’s book A Friendship of Thistles has just been published in 2022.
A Friendship of Thistles
Meet Fran and Heather who have been best friends since childhood.
Scotland, 2019. Fran’s husband appears on Heather’s doorstep choking on a secret.
Fran and Heather haven’t talked for a year and Hector begins to shed a light on why. It is only by going back to the beginning of their friendship that they will understand what life events drove a wedge between them, and whether faith and friendship is possible to repair.
Dive into the psychological mystery of friendship and find out whether relationships can heal.
Fran is a working mum – with three kids who may survive till adulthood – and in her spare time volunteers in the local community.
Heather is a single woman, an “aunty” to Fran’s kids, and “too book obsessed” for Fran’s liking: in other words, she needs to get a life.
Two women. Multiple secrets. The question is: how to forgive your best friend with a heart full of thistles?
Full of deep characterization and vivid imagery, this is perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult and Margaret Atwood. Second prize winner for the Just Imagine short story competition, Scotland, with A Traveler’s Daughter. Scottish author featured on BBC Radio 4, with How the Herring Became a Kipper.
Following her publication she won a runner-up prize in the Just Imagine Short Story Competition with the story A Traveler’s Daughter, an extract from her forthcoming book which you can access here.
Current market issues
The current market issue are foreign-based proof-readers selling their services, not doing an excellent job, and large companies hiring such people for peanuts. It is a job that involves skills and qualifications. Yet adverts are everywhere stating everyone can do it, so beware! There are unqualified people out there good at marketing themselves.
‘I always say go with your gut feeling when hiring someone. If there are red flags, like typos in their emails, English that doesn’t sound like a native-speaker writing, a lack of a fleshed out portfolio, and a cheap price, then avoid that person. I have been caught out myself by a person that proofread my work without tracked changes, and when I complained she said “do a file merge”. But I did that and found she had typed extra words in the document in a purple font as “corrections” and it left me with more work than it would have taken to do the proofreading myself. I do this for a living so I always provide a file with all the corrections and comments, and a clean one for the author to work from, if they wish.’
Questions to ask a proofreader:
· What qualifications do you have?
· How long have you done this work?
· What document files do you work with (Word, Pages, PDF)?
· What is your process if I choose to work with you?
· Do you have an example contract I can see?
· Where can I see your recommendations
Contracts are a great idea as they detail the work to be done, deadlines, etc., deposit and payment information and, importantly, what happens if the proofreader gets sick and cannot do the work. A proofreader without a contract cannot guarantee you anything. I have lots of recommendations on my website, and these were sourced from places like Google Business so that clients can verify that they are real recommendations. Trust your gut, if something seems too good to be true it often is.
‘It hasn’t always been easy,’ Emma says. ‘At the start I had truly little funds, and clients. At one point without Wi-Fi I was standing outside a café to access my email to then do my work at home. But the wonderful thing is that people have come back to me, happy with the work, and crucially recommended me to others. If only that could happen with my books!’
Emma explains that although she ticks the publisher boxes of prize winning, experience, and creative writing qualifications she’s been informed that if she wants to do this full-time then she needs a social media presence. So if you’d like to be on her mailing list for future releases please get in touch!
‘I’m confused, to be honest,’ she says. ‘Because I am a writer, not an influencer. If I were online all the time there’s no way I could write. As I work, I need any spare time to write and to spend time with my loved ones. My ideal quality of life does not include being glued to my phone, or being a celebrity. I’ve seen how draining this can be on one’s mental health and I’m putting my health first.’
To support Emma’s work. If you like to read buy a copy of A Friendship of Thistles, or if you need a proof-reader please get in touch at proofreading-editing-services.com. Emma specializes in UK and US fiction, non-fiction and helps international students polish their essays, dissertations and theses. And, as already mentioned, Emma has a reading list that you can sign up for here. To hear about future releases and get a free copy of a short story that came second in the Just Imagine Short Story competition.