We’re running a series of interviews to introduce you all to our wonderfully talented group of independent indexers and taxonomists who enable us to say “yes” to the variety of project types and turnaround times our clients are looking for. Today, we’d like you to get to know our talented book indexer, Martha Malnor
PI: How long have you been an associate at Potomac Indexing?
I believe Seth Maislin hired me for my first job with Potomac in 2007. The project was creating an index for a text called Fair Lending Compliance.
PI: Tell us your indexing (or other information access system) origin story. All superheroes, including indexers, have an origin story.
I left the corporate world in 1995 after working as an accountant for Amoco Pipeline Company for 15 years. As part of the severance package I accepted, Amoco paid for me to go back to school for a year. Always a book lover, I thought that I’d like editing, so I enrolled in the University of Chicago’s publishing program. The most important thing I learned in my first editing class was that I was not, in fact, the amazing speller I thought I was. In my next course, which covered running your own business, I was given an assignment to interview someone in the publishing industry. Having read about the indexing profession in Money magazine, I decided to search for indexers in the Chicago area. Luckily for me, I was able to arrange a telephone interview and then a face-to-face meeting with a local indexer. After that meeting, I signed up for U of C’s indexing course and I’ve been freelancing ever since.
PI: What are your specialties and/or favorite subjects?
My specialties are business and accounting, but my favorite subject might be city planning. I also really enjoy health and lifestyle books.
PI: Pick one of your favorite subjects and tell us why it fascinates you.
City planning interests me because I’ve lived in a number of big cities-Chicago, Denver, Houston-but I had never considered how those cities were created, why some designs work and some don’t, and what drives the evolution of city design. I think that I might have enjoyed city planning as a career if it weren’t for the politics involved.
PI: What’s your best productivity or indexing secret tip (that you are willing to share, that is)?
I prefer to use a desktop computer for indexing. Get a giant monitor and look at the manuscript and your indexing software side-by-side.
PI: What do you consider the most challenging aspect of the work?
Marketing my services.
PI: Where do you usually work? (Please include a photo of your office setup unless it’s a secret superhero location)
Most often, I work from a home office using a desktop computer. When I began indexing, I used my office primarily for work, but now that the Internet has become part of our daily lives, I find that I’m at my computer outside of work hours much more often. It can be a challenge to keep personal business and indexing projects from overlapping in my office space, so I use tricks like closing the office door or playing music to “remind myself” which thing I’m supposed to be doing.
PI: Talk about your process (and this can be for book indexing or other related projects, like keyword tagging, embedded indexing, etc.). Any advice for other professionals—new and experienced?
I always hope to receive front matter, including a table of contents, on each project so that I can get a feel for where the book is heading. It can also be helpful to read the final chapter of a book at the start of a project. (I once struggled to organize a major concept throughout a text, only to find a simple explanation-including charts-in the final chapter!) If a project arrives in its entirety, I usually index front to back, editing as I go, followed by a final read-through of the index. I keep a running list of questions as I index so that I don’t get “stuck” on something that may become clear later in the text.
PI: What are your favorite/most-used tools, for indexing or other business purposes?
I use Cindex software and either Adobe or Word for reading the text. I also like to keep the stopwatch on my phone running as I work so I can calculate my speed in pages-per-hour. That data is handy for estimating how much time I’ll need to finish the current job and in setting schedules and rates for future projects.
PI: CINDEX, SKY or Macrex (or other)? What do you like best about your choice?
I have only used Cindex, and I’m happy with it. The formatting options and tools it offers are very effective.
PI: If you could only recommend one book about indexing, what would it be?
Nancy Mulvaney’s Indexing Books
PI: Where do you live (just approximately, since this will be published on the Web)? And if you like, tell us a bit about your surroundings and folks you live with (including furry friends) if you wish.
I’ve lived in the Houston area since 2004. In 2014, my husband and I, now empty-nesters, downsized to a much smaller house. It was wonderful to divest ourselves of so much extra stuff-I recommend it! Our current plan is to head up to the Midwest this summer to visit family and to escape the Texas heat. Our dog, Beau, will go with us and won’t let us forget to get outside for a walk every day.
PI: Tell us about your hobbies. Are there specific ones you turn to as a break from work, or any that are a special treat in between or at the end of projects?
Reading (or listening to) books is my favorite “hobby.” I also love trying out new recipes and watching NFL football (the result of many years living with an avid fan). Dog walking and bird watching are nice breaks from work, and a friend recently got me started on something called Zentangle, which I would describe as meditative doodling.
PI: What’s the last book you read for fun?
I just finished a book called Behind Closed Doors. (Very creepy. I liked it!)
PI: What’s your superpower?
Seeing the bright side.
PI: Thanks so much for your insights and stories!
Martha began indexing in 1996 while living in the Chicago area. She moved to Katy, Texas in 2004 and has been active in ASI’s South Central Chapter.