December 2018 Indexer Q&A: Terri Anne Mackenzie

Terri Anne Mackenzie is a freelance back-of-book indexer and the honorary indexer for the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. She started tertiary studies to become a secondary music teacher. After a setback, Terri Anne concluded that teaching was not for her and transferred to a Bachelor of Arts degree at Monash University with majors in music and Russian. After a couple of years in the public service, she decided to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at the Melbourne College of Advanced Education. This led her to employment in school, government and other specialist libraries. After years of contract positions, Terri Anne embarked on a more flexible work–life balance and seized the opportunity to undertake an indexing course in early 2008. Terri Anne took up indexing as she needed a more work-friendly routine and flexibility while caring for elderly parents.

How has your month been?

Where do I start? In late August, I had to work on a name index for a cricketing legend called Joe Darling. I only had one week to do it because there were delays and a few amendments had to be made to the book.

In September, I was also travelling to Sri Lanka, and the index had to be done before the trip. Thank goodness it was completed. I came back from my trip to discover that my elderly father had had a fall and needed a hip replacement. After a post-operative struggle, my father passed away at the grand old age of 98, so the last couple of months have been spent worrying about him and then organising the funeral. I do not have siblings, so it was all done by me. Needless to say, indexing has been put on hold for a while.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

I suppose it would be trying to stick to deadlines. I do not find it hard to work from home, as home is fairly quiet, unlike a coffee shop or a library. If it is a nice sunny day, then it is tempting to do other things other than work. I don’t always want an index to come just before I am about to go on a holiday.

Indexing is quite a challenge, and one has to think about how one arranges the information to make it easy for the reader. It is not a job that one can do on a nine to five basis, five days a week. I have to work in blocks, for example, 10am to 1pm, and perhaps a block in the afternoon or early evening. It is also good to be able to work on weekends if the need arises.

What do you love about your work?

The flexible nature of indexing and sometimes being able to choose what days I work and fitting it in around my life. I am the honorary indexer of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and this job gives me great flexibility and time. I index the articles of the Victorian Historical Journal when there are no other pressing indexing jobs. I try to work three mornings a week, reading the articles and indexing, and if I am lucky can get the work done by lunch time. This gives me time to do other duties such as house cleaning, reading my book for book club and attending classes at my local University of the Third Age (U3A).

I also enjoy attending the monthly meetings arranged by Melbourne Indexers, where we can meet and discuss issues pertaining to indexing. Over the past 10 years I served on the Victorian Branch and Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers (ANZSI) Council, as well as attending international and local conferences. All this enhances my time in the profession and is very rewarding.

What is your average weekly workload? Does it vary throughout the year?

As mentioned previously, I have an ongoing job with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. Other indexing jobs vary. It is either a feast or a famine.

If you are comfortable discussing salary, can you give an idea of an indicative rate of pay for the kind of work you do?

This varies according to the nature of the job. A ballpark figure of between $1200 and $1800 is what I charge. The recommended rate, according to ANZSI, is $65 per hour.

If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

I would probably retire and do a great deal of travel. Volunteer in the community, enjoy life and stay healthy. Make a movie perhaps?

Thanks very much, Terri Anne, for telling us about your life as an indexer.

Terri Anne Mackenzie can be contacted at terrianne@bigpond.com  or on (03) 9890 7458. Her ANZSI profile is at https://www.anzi.org/profile/241/.