A Book Apart

Get to know Adaobi Obi Tulton

May 18, 2022

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Portrait of Adaobi Obi Tulton in front of a bookshelf.

Up next in our Meet the Team series is Adaobi Obi Tulton. She shares insights into how she uses her mistakes as learning opportunities, what she loves about word games and neighborhood walks, and how she makes working remotely work for her.

ABA: What do you do at ABA? (What did you do prior? Or if part-time, what other work do you do?)

Adaobi: I’m a freelance development editor, line editor/copyeditor, and proofreader. I work with a few different publishers, so my projects’ genres range from computer technology to business to cookbooks and social justice.

ABA: Where do you live and what do you love about your home?

AOT: I live in New York City, in a city within a city surrounded by greenery. It’s absolutely gorgeous here in the spring and fall. There is so much to do here that I never have to leave my neighborhood. I enjoy walks on the greenway and listen to jazz concerts in the summer. There are clubs of all kinds, and I can see the local library from my window. I joke with my husband that one day he might find me at one of the line dancing classes with the seniors.

Blooming pink tree in neighborhood in New York City.

ABA: What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day on the right foot?

AOT: I get up early out of habit, and the first major thing I do is work out. I don’t feel like I can function until I’ve done that. A good cardio session or strength workout wakes me up, and it’s something I can check off the list for the day.

ABA: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

AOT: Lately I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. I love learning new things, so I’m particularly fascinated by anything focusing on the sciences, like chemistry, biology, sociology, and psychology. I also love word games. It’s been a pastime for me since I was a kid.

ABA: What’s your favorite thing to come home to after a long day outside of the house?

AOT: Outside? What’s that? LOL. I work from home, and I’m a natural homebody, so after a long day of work, I just walk away from my computer and go to another room in my apartment for a while.

ABA: What book have you read and loved lately? 

AOT: I have not read many books for pleasure lately. I read so much for work, and sometimes it’s hard for me to turn off my editor brain. In the middle of a dramatic scene, I find myself wondering whether a semicolon would have been better than a comma. The last thing I finished was the first issue of a literary journal called Midnight & Indigo, which is a journal dedicated to short stories and narrative essays by Black female writers. And I recently started We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. I have a TBR pile of physical and digital books that keeps growing, but I have yet to make a dent in it.

ABA: How do you make working remotely work for you?

AOT: It wasn’t that hard for me to adjust to being remote. When I was working in-house, I relished the days when I could work from home, and I was so excited that going freelance meant I could do that all the time. Everything I do is through productivity software and other tools, and as long as I have an internet connection, I can work from anywhere.

ABA: What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

AOT: I love my little setup. My reference books are within arm’s reach, and I have a laptop and two large monitors so I can keep windows open and move them to where I can see them. It’s especially helpful for proofreading when I have to compare two PDFs to make sure changes made it from the first pass to the second pass. I also love the room color. It’s a very soothing green, and I’ve decorated the walls with various pieces of my daughter’s artwork.

ABA: In moments of self-doubt, how do you recharge and rally to keep going?

AOT: Imposter syndrome is real. I just remind myself that I’m here because I’m good at what I do and people trust my work. I would not have been doing this for over twenty years otherwise. When I make mistakes, I will beat myself up about them, but I don’t let the wallowing last for long. I take them as learning opportunities so I can improve for the next project.

ABA: Is there a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you? What is it?

AOT: I’ve gotten and read so much advice, but one thing I’ve always heard is that if you love what you do, it will never feel like work. I’m going to have to very adamantly disagree. What I do is hard work and it often feels like it! Long days, late nights. Days of failure and days of success. Really, if you love what you do, then you’re willing to ride through the ups and downs. You push through the hard parts and celebrate all the wins—preferably with cake.

Get to know more of the people who make A Book Apart go—browse the rest of our Meet the Team series!