Dragonfly editor Kelly Rickard has an affinity for foreign languages, whether it’s the Chinese she studied in college or the technical content she’s often asked to edit. The resident of Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, finds working with words to be a natural fit, as language has always been her thing.
Kelly studied French in high school and had every intention of continuing those studies in college. But when she went to register for classes at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, the French class she wanted to take was full. “I thought, ‘I love studying language, so why not just pick another one?’” she recalled. “Chinese was open, so I said, ‘Sure!’ I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but I loved it, so I just kept taking more Chinese classes.”
While a Chinese major may sound pretty marketable these days, that wasn’t necessarily the case at the time. “Now it sounds like, oh my, you were thinking so far ahead because every time I go out I hear people speaking Chinese,” she said. “That was not at all the case back then. Nobody here spoke Chinese. There was no Chinese middle class; there were no Chinese tourists. It was a different thing altogether.” Eventually, she decided her Chinese major needed something a bit more practical by its side. She added English as a second major.
She also added a husband, and when she needed to fill the time between her graduation and his, she endured a job as a claims representative for a workers’ compensation insurance company. When he graduated, the couple moved to China for a year. They taught English in Dongying, a city by the mouth of the Yellow River. “It sounds scenic, but it’s not,” she laughed. “It’s an oil area. I was officially employed by the Ministry of Petroleum.”
‘Why would you ever do that?’
When the couple returned to the States, Kelly found a job in technical writing. “I remember somebody expressing interest in technical writing when I was in college, and I thought why would you ever do that?” But when United Healthcare started an international division, they were looking for people who had international experience and were familiar with medical terminology and claims. Kelly got the job, eventually moving on to a similar position with McKesson in its software development division.
And then came Dylan. And Zoe. And Ada. And freelance editing. She quit her corporate job after her third child, but not without some consternation. She enjoyed the slower pace of life that staying home afforded her family but she didn’t like the idea of being completely out of the workforce. So her friend (and fellow Dragonfly editor) Michelle Anderson encouraged her to join a project she was working on for a company called Studio B. She gave it a shot, still worried about squeezing editing projects in between unpredictable nap schedules and other family obligations, but it worked well. Eventually, Michelle introduced Kelly to Samantha Enslen, and in 2014 Kelly started editing for Dragonfly.
Four years later, she’s still enjoying her work and her co-workers.
“I love the people at Dragonfly. Everyone I’ve worked with has been adept, congenial, and reliable. It’s just a pleasure.”
Kelly said she particularly enjoys the variety of projects she gets to work on. “I like the mix of new and routine. Some days I thrive on working with a new client or new content or learning a new technical skill. Other days I take comfort in working on something familiar.”
And even now, language and learning remain central to her experience. “Even though I’ve been doing this for years, I have so much more to learn. I’m intrigued by language, how people communicate, what makes content clear, and learning different styles,” she said.
All in the family
Kelly’s husband, JD, works for Wells Fargo in IT management. As for the aforementioned triumvirate, Dylan is now a junior at the University of Minnesota, Zoe is a senior in high school, and Ada is in eighth grade. All the Rickards recently met up in London, where Dylan is spending a semester as he pursues his bachelor of fine arts in acting. They got to see him perform Henry V at the Globe Theatre and also stretched their layover in Iceland into a few days’ stay.
“We are not globetrotters, though we’d love to be, so we don’t get to do a trip like that every year. When we get a chance, we just grab it,” she said. “The kids were all in a French immersion school, and a few years ago we took them all to France. So once in a blue moon we get to have an adventure.”
There’s also Ziggy, a Coton de Tuléar. (It’s the French word for “cotton” and the name of the port city in Madagascar where the breed originated, but it might as well mean “little white fluff ball.”) The Rickards chose her for the qualities they most wanted in a dog: smallish, not much of a shedder, and good with other dogs. What these Minnesota residents didn’t realize is that if they let her hair grow out, when she comes back in from the snow, “She has little balls of ice covering her entire body. The snow just adheres to her hair. She still likes going out, so she’s hardy, but she’s not practical.”
When not corralling the kids or removing balls of ice from the family dog, Kelly loves to read. She particularly likes when she can combine a good book with her love of art. Enter the Minneapolis Institute of Art: “They pick a book each month and offer tours related to it. Each docent chooses pieces related to the book somehow, whether it’s scene, characters, location, whatever. That’s one of my favorite things,” she said. Though she usually sticks to fiction, events like those at the art institute inspire her to read books she wouldn’t typically gravitate toward.
She also enjoys spin classes in the winter (she moves the cycling outdoors in the summer) and yoga, “because balance and flexibility don’t seem to be as natural as they used to be.”
On a more philosophical level, balance and flexibility are also important qualities for contract editors to possess. And while Kelly’s got those down pat, there’s one thing she’s still working on. “Something that I struggle with, like most editors I know, is determining when something is good enough, even if it’s not perfect,” she said.
Apparently, it’s hereditary.
“We joke that my youngest, much to her dismay at this point in her life, is my mini-me. I see those perfectionist tendencies in her, and I tell her it’s self-defeating. I say, ‘Let it go if you want to be your best self.’ Oops, I did it again.”
This post was written by Kathryn Flynn, an editor at Dragonfly Editorial.