Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Freelance Editor speaks Part 1

I’ve known Kathy for years through the American Christian Fiction Writers, and we’ve met in person at ACFW’s annual conferences. After chatting with her at the conference in Dallas last month, I asked her to share a little bit about herself and all the things she does in the Christian publishing industry.

Thanks for joining my blog, Kathy!

My pleasure, Tiff. Thanks for inviting me.

Tell us how you got started as a writer.

I’ve been making up stories my whole life. (Just ask my mom, who caught me in plenty of “fabrications,” bless her heart.) But it never occurred to me that this could be a good thing! (On the contrary, it usually got me in trouble.)

In 1988, a friend of mine told me she was putting together a Christian writers’ conference at Biola University, near where I lived, and she needed some administrative help (stuffing envelopes and binders and such). So I helped her out. She asked if I’d like to attend the conference. I didn’t have anything better to do at the time, so I said, “Sure, why not?”

That conference opened up a whole new world to me. I learned that the names on the covers of the books I loved to read represented real people, normal folks who weren’t all that different from me. They sat on the grass and ate hot dogs and potato chips, just like the rest of us! And they hadn’t all majored in creative writing or journalism in college and went on to work for a publisher 9 to 5, seven days a week. They fit writing into their “free time.” Well, I thought, I could do that.

What was your first published writing?

After that Biola conference, I wrote an article and mailed it to a magazine I’d found on the freebie table. It got accepted by the first publisher I sent it to (little realizing at the time how unusual that was). The next year, I sent out some play scripts I’d written for my church drama teams, and almost every one of them got accepted. I was on a roll! I wrote more, got more acceptances . . . and plenty of rejections, of course.

In addition to play scripts, I wrote magazine articles, devotionals, short stories, and Sunday school curriculum (before work, during lunch, after work, and occasional weekends) and getting them published. I even wrote a screenplay that was optioned by a Hollywood director. I’m now working on a near-future speculative novel and a couple of compilations.

In addition to writing, you’re also a freelance editor. How did that happen?

About ten years ago, I got tendonitis in both thumbs, both wrists, both forefingers, and my right shoulder. My boss decided I couldn’t do my job anymore, so he let me go. My physical therapist told me I had to find work that didn’t require using a computer keyboard or any other type of repetitive motion. Yeah, right!

My workers’ compensation coordinator got me a professional-edition voice-recognition software program. But I couldn’t find an office job that would allow me to sit around and talk to my computer all day.

After a few months of wondering what God had in mind for me, my husband asked me what I would do for a living if I could do anything in the world. I answered without a moment’s hesitation, “Writing!” But we’d just bought our first house, based on my income in a career I’d been pursuing for thirty years. And I knew I couldn’t make that kind of money writing, at least not right away. So he asked what my second choice would be. Well, I’d been in a writers’ critique group for a while, and my crit partners really liked my suggestions. And I’d done a few jobs for a friend’s manuscript critique service and really enjoyed that. So I told my husband that I liked helping other people improve their writing. He encouraged me to see if I could build that into a full-time career.

I told my workers’ comp coordinator the idea, and she asked if I had a degree in writing or editing. When I told her I didn’t, she told me my plan was “impossible.” When I heard her say that word, I heard God say, “Impossible is My specialty!”

So I pursued it. I started working at home, editing and critiquing and proofreading manuscripts, and I loved it! My clients consistently told me they liked my suggestions and appreciated my corrections. And with a little research on my own, I figured out how to type without exacerbating my tendon injuries.

Over the past ten years, I’ve worked for new writers, established authors, commercial book publishers (including Moody, Thomas Nelson, and Barbour), subsidy publishers (including WinePress and VMI), magazines, and organizations such as CLASServices. I edit both fiction and nonfiction book-length manuscripts, short stories, articles, devotionals, and play scripts. I mentor aspiring writers, taking them from “I’ve never had anything published, so I don’t even know if I have what it takes” to winning literary awards, landing agents, getting book contracts, seeing their work in print, and becoming best-selling authors. What a treat! (And I’m actually making a better income with my editing business than I ever made at my full-time day job. So much for “impossible”!)

Writing is my passion, and helping others improve their writing is my delight.

Thanks Kathy, and come back tomorrow for a special Friday edition of Writing Career Coach to learn about resources for writer’s Kathy has created to help us all write better!

2 comments:

Robin Johns Grant said...

Great interview! I'd heard so much about PUGS but didn't know the personality behind it. I love hearing stories like this, how God helps people take a bad situation and turn it into a whole new life!

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