November 30, 2021

Staying close to the written word

Former bookstore owner takes to editing

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Kitty Jones in her home with a copy of her book, “Steps of Faith: God’s Provision in Overcoming Adversity.”

Kitty Jones has reinvented her life in retirement.

The 32-year owner of Spirit and Life bookstore on Main Street, Cortland, has discovered book editing, working with clients in England, Holland and Africa, and has completed her own book, “Steps of Faith: God’s Provision in Overcoming Adversity.”

The Christian woman, 72, diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, has new challenges as a senior citizen, using a walker.

“Getting old is not fun,” Jones said. “Getting old is not for wimps. I can’t sew anymore. I can’t garden any more … I am at the computer a lot.”

“It’s really hard going from an active person to not having the ability to do things you used to do,” she added. “You have to grab on to the Lord. He always finds a way.”

Jones’ book has been a writing project for 20 years — until, she said, God told her to get it done in February 2020.

“It’s just an inner knowing,” she said. “If you are tuned into his voice, you know when it speaks to you.”

The self-published book details her faith journey, dealing with a society that “hid the handicapped,” her challenges with family and school and owning the book store.

“If I got a story that inspired me, I wrote it. The challenge was putting it all together,” Jones said. “I had 12 chapters.” Readers said they’ve struggled with the back and forth of events in the book, so Jones added in a timeline at the beginning to help the reader.

As a self-published author, she had to learn how to format the book for printing.

A Colorado woman she met in a proof reading class helped her. “I had been praying to God to find someone to show me. I am a show me learner,” she said.

“There are things that are soft returns that have to be taken out. Styling you have to do,” Jones said. “Paperback (printers) are so picky. They are so fussy. eBooks are a lot less work. They are work, but not like paperbacks. It took me two days to get all the chapters to start on the right side of the book. Every time I would get it, something would happen. It would be all off. It was a nightmare.” But she pushed through.

Retirement an adjustment Jones had a hard time after retiring in 2014.

“I was miserable the first three years,” she said. “I had no reason to get up in the morning. I was cut off from people. At the store, I had contact all the time, and now, I had none. I was depressed all the time.”

Liz Haskins, director of the Cortland County Area Agency on Aging, has seen many new retirees struggle over her 18-year tenure.

“For a lot of us, retirement is exciting and we look forward to not working any longer. A common oversight however is not having a plan for the next chapter,” Haskins said.

“Begin working on a plan as part of the retirement decision,” she said. “Volunteerism and engagement activities are a crucial part of ‘successful’ retirement. We all need a purpose.”

And for those care givers of loved ones and grandchildren think about self care — “Taking time to focus on ourselves, spend time with friends and family, and learning new things are essential to healthy aging,” Haskins said.

A new foray Jones said at the beginning of retirement she would get books out of the library. “They were trash. So I discovered online free books to read.”

She discovered “PureRead,” a Christian publishing company in England.

“I started reading the books. They had so many errors. It drove me crazy,” Jones said.

She contacted the owner.

“Hey, I am a retired bookstore owner. I am bored. I have been reading your books. They are full of errors. Can I help you?” she said to David Martin, head of the company.

“My pay would be being able to read these books for free. It would make the authors’ work look better.”

Martin agreed. He sent her work for eight months and she edited it.

“Then Martin said ‘I need to bless you for blessing me. I would like to pay you for your work,’” Jones said. “He quoted a price to me and so our relationship started from there.”

Then Martin sent Jones four stories that readers complained about.

“Can you look this over? See what you can do with it.’” Martin asked.

“I thought, boy, he’s testing me. I better do a really good job on this,” Jones said. “I went over it with a fine tooth comb, two, three times. … When I did that I discovered reading a story one time isn’t enough. I discovered you found things the second and even the third time through. From then on I started reading it at least two times. Then when I took a copy editing course, I discovered you need to do it at least three times. Now I read everything three times.”

She’s worked with authors in Kenya and Holland through PureRead.

Now that Jones has learned formatting, she’s branched out to freelance editing, working with authors in Dallas, Minnesota and Cortland.

“I have known Kitty since she had the book store in town,” said Jim Sweeney of Homer, now living in South Carolina. “I am a Christian, also. I had a couple of churches, one in Richford and one in Whitney Point.”

After Jones closed her store, the two saw each other at a New Year’s Eve service. He told her he’d written a book. She asked to edit it.

“She has been helping me on a couple of books I have been writing,” Sweeney said. “She’s not demanding. She knows her stuff. She is a very educated lady.”

Jones has two associate’s degrees, in marketing and human service, from Monroe Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in social welfare from Stony Brook University.

But finding a job was difficult. Being self-employed, first as a small business owner, and now as an editor, has worked for her.

“I just want to touch lives,” Jones said. “I went through a lot of unpleasant things in childhood and adult years. If my experience can help someone, that’s what I want. I want to draw them closer to the Lord.”