Robert Hartley: January’s Featured Member

Robert Hartley is the NAIWE Featured Member for January 2016.For the beginning of the new year, we wanted to feature a member whose personal story is as interesting as his writing. Robert Hartley has been a NAIWE member since January 2012. During his membership he has continued to write steadily, publishing novels and memoirs, as well as blogging and maintaining a social media presence. Doing, in other words, all the things recommended by experts for writing success.

The No-Excuses Writer

Robert Hartley, author of Mossback Dragon and other works.I call him the “no excuses” writer. When we selected him to be the featured member for January, we asked that he share a bit about his writing journey. The resulting article, Beyond the Words, turned out to be a fascinating mini-memoir that not only introduces this versatile wordsmith and artist, but with a kick of humor, manages to blow up just about any excuse for not writing. Don’t miss it!

If you are hoping to get a writing career jump-started in the new year and feel that you are facing insurmountable obstacles, read Robert’s mini-memoir. Maybe even print it out and post it on the wall next to your writing space. It can be a reminder that steady movement — a few words a day, if that is all you can manage — can short-circuit just about any obstacle. Even death, so far.

Since 2009, Robert has written, designed, formatted, and published seven books, which are available in both print and Kindle formats. You can read more about them at his NAIWE member site, RobertHartley.NAIWE.com, as well as at MossbackDragon.com, and purchase copies at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Jim Sutton: NAIWE Member of the Month, April 2012

Our Member of the Month for April is Jim Sutton of Creative Solutions. Listen in to the recording below as we interview Jim on The Freelance Life. He shares some of the online networking skills he teaches others to help improve their online networking for profitability.

A self-described onion networker, who is passionate about networking and helping others master the skill, Jim built his LinkedIn network to 3600 direct connections in 6 years.  He has successfully managed complex learning management systems and led the creation of performance-based qualification programs.  To help improve the skills of job seekers he is currently facilitating a weekly interview preparation session.  He lives in Venetia, PA, is married and has a degree in computer systems and a masters in Training and Performance Improvement.

Tinie Tao, October Member of the Month

Tinie Tao, a freelance writer and editor, is NAIWE’s October Member of the Month. Tinie effectively uses her NAIWE website (TinieTao.NAIWE.com) as a showcase for her fresh, accessible writing style. I think you’ll enjoy her interview. Join us for the audio interview at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, the 13th of October at The Freelance Life.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

I’m currently writing and editing for The Infusion Project, an organization that promotes and throws live art events downtown for artists to get their work out there. I also write blogs for New Evolution Video, a San Diego video marketing company.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

I quit my admin/office job, which was my first position out of college, after about ten months there.  I knew from that experience that I wanted to jump into my passion and start enjoying every day of my life now.  I was already writing for New Evolution at the time, and I was able to ramp up the quality and amount of writing I did for them when I liberated myself from the day job hamster wheel.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

I actually create my highest quality writing when I focus on others.  I stay on track when I ask myself, “How can I help this client?  How can I best serve the readers?” My priority moves from being about  how much money I’m getting out of the deal to creating the most fun-to-read content I can for an audience.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

I love Carol Tice’s Make A Living Writing blogs and Steve Pavlina’s personal development blogs.  Steve teaches that we ramp up personal wealth by creating and delivering value.  We already know that we’re talented!

We create financial abundance by getting others to see our talents.  We profit when others recognize and purchase the enormous benefits to themselves from our products and services.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

Take risks, and try new things!

Q: What inspires you?

Sharing positive energy with entrepreneurs building amazing businesses.  I love that my clients’ industries (ie. art, entertainment, technology) are young, hip, and full of life.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

My NAIWE membership equipped me with the tools I need (ie. WordPress platform, examples by other members) to create and publish my online writing portfolio.

June Member of the Month: April Michelle Davis

April Michelle Davis of Editorial InspirationsOur Member of the Month for June is April Michelle Davis of Editorial Inspirations. April has recently celebrated her tenth year of editorial freelancing. She has a strategic approach to her career that any freelancer would benefit from studying. She shares many tips in this interview, and even more in the audio version that aired on The Freelance Life. Here’s the recording:

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

I have been a freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader for 10 years. I have a master’s degree in publishing from The George Washington University, a bachelor’s degree in English from Messiah College, a certificate in editing and a certificate in book publishing from the University of Virginia, and a certificate in professional editing from EEI Communications. My clients are both authors and publishers, and I work in a variety of genres.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

I officially began my business in May 2001, but at that time I had little experience. I was literally working on books for food. I would edit books for authors, and they would buy me breakfast while we discussed ways to improve their manuscripts. From that, I worked in-house for a few years while obtaining my certificates and then my master’s degree. And at the same time, I worked to build my freelance business. In 2007, I had enough clients to quit my day job and freelance full time, and that is what I have been doing since.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?

To be successful at freelancing, I have had to learn to be very determined. I am a stubborn person, so this does come easier for me, but sometimes I just get tired and want to give up. However, after an hour of feeling that—not even an entire evening—I know that I can’t. I love what I do, and it is my passion.

When I teach high school students, I ask them what they love to do. After they respond, I ask them how they can do what they love and make money. I have always loved books, and I have found a way doing what I love while supporting my family. That is key to not having just a job. Editing, indexing, and proofreading is not a job or even a career for me—it is my life. I live and breathe it.

Q: Are you working on any special projects you’d like to tell us about?

I just finished up a year-long project revising a volume of ten books. During this past year, I edited the books, made corrections in InDesign, corrected any layout errors, input proofreader changes, indexed the books, laid out the indexes, and wrote and laid out a compilation index. This volume is in its seventh edition, and I worked on a few of the older editions as well, so it has been great seeing this volume progress through the years.

I have also begun teaching a lot more. I host Editing 101 and Editing 102 classes, which are specialized classes designed for those who are in the editing industry (or who want to become freelance editors). Editors who have been in the field for more than twenty years have told me that they are great refresher courses, and people thinking about entering the publishing industry have been able to make educated decisions about their future. More details about these classes are on my website: www.editorialinpspirations.com/services/classes.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

Barbara Hart was my first editing teacher at the University of Virginia. She was very tough, and it was tougher for me because most of the students in my class were seasoned people in the publishing field, whereas I was just getting into it. I learned a lot from her, and I still have all of my class materials that I periodically review.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

People don’t always want to be mentors, and even when people find mentors they don’t always know what to do with them. However, I found it greatly valuable to take many classes both related to my degrees and certificates and other classes not related to them. From those classes, I did more than just learn the content. I critiqued the professors. I examined their qualities to see if I wanted to pick up any of them. I examined the way they edited, managed their business, or marketed, and I decided whether I wanted that to become something that I do. Therefore, I recommend finding mentors in everyone—even those people who don’t want to be your mentor.

Also, the publishing industry is incredibly difficult to enter. You need to stay determined. You will fail multiple times; learn from these failures and continue your efforts.

Q: What inspires you?

I love when authors and publishers send me packages. I still get excited to see a package at my front door step. I grab it as soon as I see it and run to the kitchen to grab the razor blade. I have to open it right away. And there, sitting in that brown cardboard box is a beautiful, shiny, new book that I helped to create. In the foyer of my home, immediately outside my office, I have a bookshelf that everyone must pass when entering my home. This bookshelf is only for books that I have worked on. I don’t brag about them and show them to everyone, but if someone asks about those books, I light up and begin showing them my work. If someone asks what I have worked on, I take them to my special bookcase.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

I have been a member only since the beginning of the year, so this is a difficult question to answer. However, I do have Google analytics on my website, and in those six months that I have been a member, several people have gone to my website from my NAIWE web page. I think that’s pretty good considering that I am still working on my NAIWE blog to get more content up on it. Also, when I Google my name, my NAIWE web page is listed six, bumping another April Davis to the second page and making a Google search for “April Michelle Davis” include on the first page nine of ten web pages about me.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Whether you are new to the publishing industry or have been in it for years, you can always learn new things and can grow professionally. Remember to stay current with the industry by taking classes and networking. With the publishing industry changing so rapidly with technology, those who don’t will be left behind.

April’s member website is AprilMichelleDavis.NAIWE.com.

May Member of the Month: Whitney Hopler

Whitney Hopler, Freelance Writer and Editor, NAIWE Member of the Month- May 2011Whitney Hopler, a freelance editor and inspirational writer, is the NAIWE Member of the Month for May. Whitney very effectively uses her NAIWE website (WhitneyHopler.NAIWE.com) by including the URL in her article bios and other materials, and she continues to develop her freelance career in a direction that’s both personally and professionally rewarding. I think you’ll enjoy her interview.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

A: I began my journalism career in college at George Mason University, where I served on the campus newspaper’s staff as an editor and worked for a chain of local newspapers as a reporter through an internship. After graduation, I went straight to work for the local newspapers as a reporter covering a wide variety of stories. However, several years into reporting, I began to feel depressed about my job. I had a nagging sense that I’d be better suited to writing stories that people reflected on more than newspaper reports, but didn’t know how to go about doing so.

One day I sat in someone’s living room interviewing her for a profile and noticed her pet parrot nearby.  At the bottom of the parrot’s cage was a copy of that day’s newspaper, with my latest cover story featured in all its glory – and the bird had pooped all over it. That, for me, graphically illustrated the fact that my stories might have been interesting but didn’t offer much lasting value. It turns out that God had been using my restlessness to motivate me to seek His will for my life more, and when I did, I sensed that He was calling me to write about what I thought mattered most: faith. So I quit my job and devoted time to prayer while working on a freelance project.

At the right time, God provided a job that was a much better fit for me, and a much better job overall – as an editor for The Salvation Army’s national magazines. Ever since then, every job I’ve gotten has come to me through prayer and having the confidence to take risks to follow where I sensed God leading me.  After my first child – my daughter Honor – was born, I needed a job with a more flexible schedule, and over the years God has provided jobs that included serving as the religion editor for a newspaper chain and editing a channel for Crosswalk.com, the largest Christian site on the Internet. I’ve been serving as an inspirational writer and editor now for about 17 years.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

A: When a different corporation took over Crosswalk.com, I was faced with a dilemma: either move to a different area to keep my staff position, or work with Crosswalk.com on a freelance basis. I didn’t want to uproot my family, so I began freelancing for Crosswalk.com, and gradually added other freelance clients as I could. Now it’s been about 9 years since I began freelancing full time, and I’m grateful that I can continue to write regularly for Crosswalk.com and other clients.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

A: When searching for jobs or freelance projects, don’t settle for less than the best, because God will provide the best if you’re willing to trust Him. No matter what your professional field is, you have a choice. You can either jump into any job or project that comes your way simply to make money and have something to do, or you can ask God to lead you to what’s best for you and work hard to earn it, taking whatever risks you need to take to grow.

The times when I haven’t trusted God to lead me, I’ve gotten by, but I didn’t enjoy my work very much or see many positive results from it. When I have trusted God, though, my work has given me a lot of joy and led to something great happening – people’s lives actually changed for the better. So I’ve learned that people facing career decisions should seek God’s will (rather than just how much money they can make, what logistics are involved with job, etc., which are secondary to the primary concern of how they can best contribute to the world through their work) and be confident that God will lead them to what’s best.

Q: Are you working on any special projects you’d like to tell us about?

A: About.com has just hired me to serve as the guide for its new site about angels and miracles. I’m excited about engaging readers of all perspectives (believers from every religion and skeptics alike) online to discuss God’s angels and the miracles that He sometimes performs. I’m grateful that I get to be a part of delivering good news to readers, since the media so often features more bad news then the good news still that happens regularly, even in our fallen world. About.com’s angels and miracles site debuted in May. Please visit the site, tell your friends, and send me stories of your encounters with angels or miraculous events you’ve experienced. I’m looking forward to posting reader stories regularly. Also, I plan to blog about angels and miracles myself both on About.com and on my NAIWE site, so please plan to check out the blogs and let me know what you think.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

A: My high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Margo Tyree, urged me to overcome my shyness and take on an extrovert’s job – reporting for the school’s newspaper – as an introvert to gain confidence, and I did. I’ll always be grateful that she believed in my potential back when I was an insecure teen who just loved to write. Mrs. Tyree and many of my other teachers and professors also helped me become a stronger writer over the years. As for books and authors, the classic book The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White helped me vividly see the value of writing clearly and concisely, and I think every professional writer or editor should read it.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

A: Take the time to figure out what genre of writing and editing you should focus on, since you’re more likely to get hired and do a great job if you’re working on projects that are best for you. What are you most interested in? What distinctive talents and skills can you offer? For instance, some writers and editors are best suited for technical projects and others for creative projects. Some have experience covering a particular field, such as sports or business. If you’re not sure what to focus on, pray for guidance, and you’ll figure it out.

Q: What inspires you?

A: It’s inspiring for me to read a compelling story of how God has worked in someone’s life to change that person for the better in some way. I can’t get enough of stories like that!  All of our individual stories are incredibly significant because they’re connected to the ultimate story of what God is doing in our world.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

A: The website has proven to be a tremendously valuable tool to use when communicating with potential employers. To compete for freelance jobs today, every independent writer and editor really needs a professional website like the ones that NAIWE offers.  Also, knowing that I have NAIWE’s many resources to turn to for advice and support as needed encourages me a lot. It’s easy for freelancers to feel isolated, but NAIWE members are connected to a great community that can help all of us, so we never need to feel that we’re alone in our work.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: I just want to thank NAIWE for giving me an opportunity to share my professional story. Hope it inspires some other NAIWE members to have confidence that their work matters to God, and He’ll lead them to some great projects when they trust their careers to Him.

Ruth Thaler-Carter: April 2011 Member of the Month

Ruth Thaler-Carter, NAIWE Member of the Month-April 2011Here’s an interview with long-time NAIWE member Ruth Thaler-Carter. She’s been freelancing for many years, and has created an interesting, profitable career with multiple streams of income. We’re delighted to have her as our Member of the Month for April 2011. You can read the review, or click on the audio recording to listen to it.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

Oh, gosh, where to start? I write articles for association and independent magazines and for several newsletters; write, edit and produce newsletters for associations, nonprofits and businesses; edit manuscripts for magazines, a series of regulatory courses, a World Bank division and more; proofread marketing materials for a law firm; and teach classes for a local writers’ center.
Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?
Technically, by selling my first articles to a local weekly newspaper while still in high school, but formally, by recasting a full-time association communications job into a consulting arrangement, adding two part-time onsite editing assignments, and just plunging in, back in 1984.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?
Never give up, and always do your best work.
Q: Are you working on any special projects you’d like to tell us about?
Writing four-part series of articles on eldercare for a regional lifestyle magazine, a book on the same topic with a good friend, and articles for Copyediting newsletter and the magazine of an association for owners of animal hospitals, and writing parts of and editing a book celebrating the 35th anniversary of my writers’ group. My goal for this year was to do more writing, and it’s already coming into being.
Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?
My sixth-grade English teacher, Miss (Louise) Thomas, who taught us how to diagram sentences and instilled grammar and usage into my very being, and Miss (Elizabeth) Hart, my 11th-grade “Critical Reading and Writing” and 12th-grad AP English teacher, who gave me the organizational skills to write fast and accurately, and strengthened my belief in my writing ability.
I can’t think of any particular books, but the works of Josephine Tey, Dorothy Dunnett and Susan Roberts Shreve are long-time inspirations.
My parents, by the way, who taught me to love reading, learning and books in general; backed me up on every major decision; and demonstrated their pride in my independence.
Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?
Never whine. Learn from colleagues. Give back as much as you get. Join and be visible in at least one professional organization. Don’t sell yourself cheap. Don’t give up!
Q: What inspires you?
The thrill of seeing my name in print and of feeling like I’ve contributed something to colleagues.
Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?
Not sure yet, although this kind of opportunity should enhance my visibility, I hope!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I really appreciate your creating the NAIWE. The more opportunities for us to interact with each other, the better professionals and more successful we all should be.

Lillie Ammann: Member of the Month, August 2009

Lillie Ammann, writer and editorWe are delighted to feature an interview with writer and editor Lillie Ammann, author of Dream or Destiny. Lillie’s career path shows her deep understanding of the idea that most successful freelancers have an “and” in their job description. She not only writes fiction, but also works with self-publishing authors on many aspects of the publication process.

Listen to Lillie’s interview at The Freelance Life podcast.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

As a freelancer, I enjoy working with a relatively small number of long-term clients. Though I started out writing and editing, I have added a number of other services as a result of clients’ requests.I love working with authors who choose to self-publish, and I think of myself as a book midwife, helping the author deliver a bouncing baby book. I edit the manuscript, consult with the author on publishing options, format the interior layout, and find and negotiate with a cover artist and printer. Most of my author clients ask me to create and maintain their Web sites and blogs as well as write and submit press releases, send out review copies, and assist with other promotional activities.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

I started freelancing thirteen years ago after selling my interior landscape company. I had always dreamed of writing someday, but a stroke convinced me that someday had arrived.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

As an editor, my job is to make the writer sound exactly like himself or herself—only better. My voice has no place in the work. I smile every time a client reads the manuscript and says they can’t believe they wrote such a good book.

Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?

My personal writing projects are fiction.  Dream or Destiny, a romantic mystery, and Stroke of Luck, a contemporary romance, are published by a small press. My current work-in-progress is Act of Faith, the sequel to Dream or Destiny.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

I have learned so much from so many classes and books that narrowing the list down would be difficult. Although health issues have kept me from participating in as many events in recent years, early in my career I attended the conferences of several organizations each year. Some were better than others, but every one helped me improve my craft and expand my knowledge, as have the books I’ve read and classes I’ve taken.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

I always encourage writers and editors to join organizations to network and learn the business. The local chapter of a national romance writing organization and a local multi-genre writers group helped me tremendously when I started writing. NAIWE offers independent writers and editors learning opportunities as well as online networking and promotion.

Q: What inspires you?

As an editor, the joy of a newly published author inspires me to continue doing what I do.As a writer, a reader telling me they couldn’t put the book down inspires me to keep writing.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

I didn’t know about NAIWE until Words Matter Week, and the education and inspiration offered during that week sold me on joining the organization. Association with a professional organization of the caliber of NAIWE enhances credibility, and the blog, portfolio, and profile available to members give me another venue for people to find me.

Be sure to visit Lillie’s primary blog, to read her wonderful 8-part (so far) series on creating characters. You’ll definitely want to add her inspiring blog to your feed!

Philip L Ransom: Member of the Month, May 2009

It’s always interesting to learn more about our Member of the Month, and this month is no exception. As you read through Phil’s interview, I think you’ll enjoy his interesting history and clear, articulate writing voice. You’ll find his member site at PhilipRansom.NAIWE.com.

Listen to the interview as a podcast!

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

I’ve enjoyed good writing as long as I can remember.  Bed-time stories were great times for me as a boy, and I remember thinking a time or two as I grew up, “It’d be fun to write like that.”  We have some excellent joke and storytellers in our family so I learned fairly young how to tell a joke or story – and tell it well.

My high school guidance counselor was all excited to inform me one day that I was the first in Colorado to ace the composition portion of the SAT test, and tried to convince me to major in English so I could teach.

I majored in music, though, working as a contracted typist my last two years of college.  After graduation I accepted a position working with musicians and students in a Nebraska church. One of the two high school English teachers in our congregation saw a letter I wrote to a student who was moving away, in which I described how to start well in a new place.  She encouraged me to edit and re-write it with publication in mind. I began to write more, with those two teachers quietly encouraging me.  I enjoyed the process and a couple years later compiled a 90 minute Christmas work in which I chose the music and writing the narratives for between the songs. It was well received, and I was hooked.

Collaborating with other creative people is a great way to work.  Two of my favorite collaborative products are one, a musical drama built around Paul Harvey’s Christmas story, The Man and the Birds. A colleague and I wrote the script and chose the music.  Then he worked with the cast and I with the musicians. I remember the “rush” of seeing our thoughts and words come to life on the stage, affecting the people in the audience.  The other is a work in which a talented volunteer and I co-wrote and produced what we titled “An Unexpected Hope”.  We wrote for a small cast of five and choir, but also integrated several video segments we filmed off-site in advance for use on the large screens in our facility.  It told the story of two estranged sisters coming home to be with their dad his first Christmas after their mother passed away.  The tension was so thick in opening scenes you could feel it, which heightened the sense of relief when they began to reconcile.  We didn’t solve everything in “Unexpected Hope”; we wanted to leave something for people to talk about afterward over dessert!  It found its mark.

I served a while as public relations manager for a listener-supported radio network.  In that role I learned to write in the President’s “voice”.  I wrote most of the correspondence related to his speaking engagements and he’d sign what I wrote. I enjoyed studying how he would say things, crafting my words to fit his style.

I’ve since written for individuals and organizations, non-profits and companies. It is first a challenge, then a rush to learn each project’s specifications and write to those ends.  There’s nothing like sticking the landing with well-written prose!

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

In 1993, between jobs, living with my in-laws, and no leads for employment in view, I said to my wife,  “I’m NOT going to sit here and cry to myself. I’m going to find something I can do well and start working for myself.”  I spent several days in the library, where writing surfaced as what I’d really like to do if I was going to be my own boss.  About the same time a church music magazine replied to a query and I wrote what would prove to be a cover / feature article for them. In the article I described the method I had developed to teach K-8 kids the lyrics to our all-school musicals with perfect, long-term recall (and it was fun, which always helps when you’re working with kids). I wrote for several companies and individuals that year, then accepted a full-time position and the writing business took a back seat again for a while.  Finally, in 2006 I said “OK, it’s time” and chose the name Vibrance for my little company / consultancy.  Vibrance means “very much alive.”

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

Steady, consistent effort out performs bursts of ambition.   Every time I read The Tortoise and the Hare  the tortoise wins.  So I’ve learned to maintain a writer’s mentality all the time and keep at it, a little bit every day. I’m most productive when I write consistently, I remind myself to continually be aware of and gracious toward the people around me.  I never know when a future client could be in the room, and no one gets a second chance at a first impression.

Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?

I’m assisting a major healthcare manufacturer while a staffer is out on maternity leave. In that role I’m supervising the documentation process for things the FDA would want to see in an audit. It’s exacting and precise work – makes creative writing feel even more creative!

I’m helping a local travel agency develop the religious and educational facet of its business, which includes brochures, letters, press releases and a growing web presence.

I’m writing two novellas (9,000 – 10,000 words)  for an Australian periodical.

I write several times a week for my blog  (http://vibrance.wordpress.com) and am thinking about starting another blog targeting personal productivity.  I need to do some more infrastructural work on that idea, though, before I jump in.  If I can’t do it with excellence, I’d better say no.  Or at least “not yet”.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

As I look back on everything, I’d have to say Mr. Herbst, my sixth grade teacher, probably kick-started creativity in my young mind. He was remarkably creative, and I learned well under him.  We studied the Inca, Maya and Aztec cultures that year, and for Mexico we wrote a play as a class. We used the entire blackboard, him writing as we “wrote” together.  A classmate with good penmanship would copy the half of the board we just finished while we wrote the next “page” on the other half.  When we finished the script he had it typed and gave us all copies, then we memorized and performed it for the whole school.  I’ve never done anything like that since, but wow did I learn – and we had fun!

Jerry Jenkins, novelist, editor and educator, taught a graduate-level class called Writing With Confidence.  I learned a lot from him about quality in the writing process, and how to consistently produce for a targeted readership.  Two things he taught us stand out in my memory:  1)  Good writers are better re-writers than writers.  Most projects and documents will go through six or seven re-writes and ambitious edits before they are ready for the public. (This interview is no exception.)    2)  To write well, one must write; even when there’s no deadline pushing you.  “What’s good writing look like?” he smiled, “The seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. Now write.”

Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion, has an engaging and captivating story-telling style.  My parents introduced me to PHC when my wife and I were home for a visit one time, and I fell in love with the way he spins a tale. I’ve since studied his methods.  My tours at Ten Chimneys (http://tenchimneys.org) are Keillor-esque by design, and I’ve written about a dozen monologues in his style we used in PHC-style Thanksgiving Eve services fashioned after live radio broadcasts.

My aunt Pauline, a retired English and Literature teacher, encouraged me and urged me forward at a time when I wasn’t very sure of myself. I respect and value what she drew out of me in a creative sense.

Mark Bergren’s “Improvise This!” helped me see there’s instant creativity available if I’ll just tap into it and keep the faucet open!  It’s an innovative, fun read, and I devoured the whole book on one flight across the country, but it had a significant influence on me.

Strunk and White – Elements of Style.  I reach for that little book often!

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

Oh, my!  I’d say “Keep reminding yourself it will probably take longer to get rich by writing than it would if I farmed. Or shined shoes at the airport.”  Because it probably will.  But if it’s what you enjoy, write. Write. Enjoy the process, enjoy the pleasure you derive from writing –and writing well.  Don’t let discouragement put a cap on your fountain pen or close the lid on your laptop.  Just as it’s easier to steer a car that’s moving, even slightly, it’s easier to maneuver as a writer when you’re writing, even if it seems insignificant at the time.

Q: What inspires you?

Seeing those little bits of wonderful word-smithing here and there, knowing I’m responsible for them.

Hearing back from readers that something I said touched them, made their day, urged them on.

And, there’s a little global map on my Vibrance blog that shows where people live who have read something I’ve written.  I see that map grow each year and think to myself, “Really?  From the other side of the world?  Amazing!  I’ll keep on!”

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

Because so much of my writing has been for in-house organs, as they’re called, I needed a professional association that adds credence to my work to date.  Some writers can point to this publisher or that for evidence that they write well; my writing has been for different genres.  So NAIWE helps me establish that credibility.  I like the name, the logo is attractive, and the personal web-site / blog provides that quick overview a busy manager or independent business owner needs to help him or her decide to talk further about an upcoming need.   I’m still in my first year with NAIWE so I look forward to the benefits of a long-term association.  Could be quite the story!   I hope so.

Noelle Barrick, April 2009 Member of the Month

For April, we welcome Noelle Barrick as Member of the Month. She’s a talented writer and copyeditor whose articulate and humorous blog posts allow potential clients to hear her distinctive writing voice. Enjoy the interview! Click this link to listen via podcast.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

NB: My professional history is a bit like a buffet–take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and you’ve got a great career! I have a degree in English from Webster University in St. Louis. After I graduated, I worked at Graphic World Publishing Services in St. Louis, where I learned that I loved working with the editorial process. Because of family issues, it became important for me to move back to my home state of Kansas, so I resigned from Graphic World and started freelancing while I applied to grad school at the University of Kansas.

I worked off and on as a freelancer during grad school, primarily informally helping a friend or two with their seminar and conference papers. After I finished coursework, I looked for a part-time job so that I would have time to study for my comprehensive examination and write my thesis. I took a job as a part-time receptionist and that led to a full-time job as an administrative assistant; I spent most of this time writing client communications and editing communications written by other employees. After a little over a year at that company, it became clear to me that what I really wanted was run my own company. So I took the plunge, resigned from my job, and started marketing myself as a freelancing copyeditor and proofreader.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

NB:Last August I started looking for freelance clients, and when I had three (yes, only three) solid leads, I resigned from my job and started working on making freelancing a full-time business. That’s about as real as it gets!

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

NB: Freelancing requires much more discipline than a typical office job. I have to be very strict with myself about managing my time. There’s no one who’s going to get on my back for not being at work by 8am, so I have to get on my own back. My first month or so of freelancing was very unproductive because I’d get up whenever I felt like it, putter around the house for a couple of hours, do an hour or two of work, and then decide that since it was a nice day, I’d better go out and weed the flower bed or mow the yard or just sit in the sun. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of paying work done that way–although the yard looked great!

So I finally decided to write up a “company policy manual” for myself, even though the company is just me. Putting a schedule down in writing gave me the focus that I needed to actually put that schedule into action instead of wondering where my time went. I set up rules for myself like you’d find in any company–when breaks are to be taken, how often to follow up with potential clients, when to work on my record-keeping, when to deal with non-work e-mails, and so on.

Of course the joy of working for myself is being able to adjust the schedule according to my own needs. For example, our local zoo charges a $2 admission on Wednesdays during the winter. The last Wednesday in February was a beautiful day, so I and my mom, who is semi-retired, decided to spend the afternoon at the zoo! I spent some time working on the following Saturday to make up for my afternoon out. The freedom to set your own schedule is, to me, the whole point of freelancing. But you do have to actually set a schedule and stick to it.

Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?

NB: Right now I’m working hard on finishing my Master’s thesis. It’s about the political implications of religiously motivated social justice activism. I’m also having fun keeping up with my blog. If you check it out, you’ll see in my first post that I consider myself more of an editor than a writer, so that’s enough of a challenge for me at the moment.

Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?

NB: I haven’t heard from her for years, but I have to give credit to Suzanne at Graphic World. My cubical was next to hers, and she answered all my stupid newbie questions. One of my proudest moments was when I asked her to review a chapter I had edited, and she gave it back to me with only one error marked. (And from that day to this, I have never forgotten to treat “World War II” consistently!)

As for books, Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook was an invaluable resource when I was first starting out. Today, the book I pull off the shelf most frequently (other than Chicago and the dictionary) is Garner’s Modern American Usage. The breadth of information in that book is astounding; Bryan Garner is one of my heroes.

I am also thrilled to be on a listserv with many very intelligent freelancers who can offer up sound advice (and a Chicago cite to back it up) in a matter of minutes. Chief among them are Katharine Moore-O’Klopf, Ruth Thaler-Carter, Geoff Hart, and of course, Janice Campbell <g>.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

NB: Well, I think I’m still “seasoning.” But at this point in my career, my best advice is, when marketing, make phone calls whenever possible rather than sending out blind e-mails. Often if you call the main number of a potential client and ask for the person who manages freelance editorial staff, you will get to someone who is at least sympathetic, even if they’re not hiring. You can keep that contact’s name on file and follow up every three months or so.

Of course, 90% of marketing seems to be luck. I got one of my best clients when I made a blind call to their office, and happened to hit the production editor on a day when she was swamped and had more manuscripts than freelancers. She thought I had dropped from heaven.

My other advice is to be persistent even with clients who’ve already hired you. If you haven’t heard from a client for a while, send a “just-checking-in” e-mail to remind them you’re available for work. Just last week I landed a project through one of these e-mails. The client answered my initial e-mail to let me know she didn’t have anything available, and 20 minutes later she e-mailed me again to offer me a project that had just come across her desk. I got the job because I was at the top of her mind.
Q: What inspires you?

NB: This is where I get a little sappy. I love knowing that I help books come into being. I love helping authors communicate their ideas effectively. I see myself as a partner in that process.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

NB: I am a new member and am still exploring all the benefits of NAIWE. Right off the bat, I am thrilled to be able to add content to a pre-designed website. I’ve already received positive feedback about my website, and I look forward to keeping my blog up to date. I’m also still exploring the Library, and it looks like it will be a great resource.

Susan Sheppard, March 2009 Member of the Month

Our March Member of the Month is Susan Sheppard, owner of WordsRight. She is a skilled copyeditor and proofreader, with an focus on corporate clients. Her love of genealogy and history inspire her personal writing projects. You may read more about her experience and skills at her website and blog. Susan has a reputation for  “above and beyond” service that makes her clients look good, and keeps them coming back, year after year. I think you’ll enjoy meeeting her!

Listen to this interview as a podcast.

Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.

A: I am a “mistake-fixer” for words; I am a proofreader and editor. I work within the wide world of business, specifically for advertising/marketing firms and on newsletters and client alerts for law firms. Although having an ear for the English language is something organically within me, my professional development in proofreading and editing began with my employment at what was then the Virginia State Library (now The Library of Virginia), in the Publications Branch. I later made the jump from proofreading and editing for academia to proofreading for advertising/marketing agencies. Included in the latter is more than a decade of work for The Martin Agency in Richmond, VA, either as a part-time employee or as a freelancer. My doing-business-as name is WordsRight, although I imagine most of my clients simply think in terms of “Susan Sheppard.” My clientele includes or has included other (than Martin) advertising and/or marketing firms, the law firm of Hunton & Williams, nonprofits, local government agencies, an IT security firm….

There are differences between the proofreading of academia and that of the world of business, not the least of which is that the very definition differs! For businesses, the term “proofreading” covers anything and everything from actually comparing one document to another (which is “proofreading” for an academic press) to copyediting to fact checking to editing. And the “due date” for a press or scholarly organization might be several days or weeks away, while for a business, when a job is due is much more likely to be a matter of minutes or hours. Or if one is very lucky, “by tomorrow afternoon.”

Q: Is it important, really, for a company to have things proofread at all, and couldn’t they just have someone within the company check the material?

A: It is very important for companies to have things proofread, whether it be websites or advertisements or client alerts. Not only are those things part of the public face of the company and an error could be costly in terms of public perception (would you want to give your business to a company that erected a billboard with a typo in its own name?), but errors can also result in concrete financial loss.

As for who should check that material, unless they have a proofreader on staff, they should outsource the work to a professional proofreader. It makes a difference for many reasons.

Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?

A: My work grew, and the business evolved, over such a long stretch of time that it’s hard to answer “when” exactly! The beginning of my training and work with proofreading and editing was about 30 years ago, at the Virginia State Library. I resigned from that job, to work with my husband (from home) and to be with our daughter. When I started getting into nonacademic proofreading, I had occasional work from a handful of marketing/advertising agencies in Richmond, to which I added The Martin Agency. The latter eventually became work as a part-time employee for almost five years. I then went back to being totally freelance, keeping Martin as a client, getting gradually more work from those other agencies, and adding other agencies by virtue of recommendations.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?

A: Networking is a very necessary activity, and I’ve got a lot to learn about it!

Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?

A: I’m working on transcribing two 19th-century county documents, which I then hope to annotate and publish, probably as ebooks.

Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?

A: Is “seasoned professional” another way of saying I’m older than dirt? <G>

Practice your craft, increase your skill level. Determine what your niche will be and concentrate on that; be a specialist, not a generalist. I’ve read, and it’s probably quite true, that the more narrowly defined your niche, the more work you will get.

One of the most helpful things for me in gaining knowledge was reading the entire Chicago Manual of Style (several editions ago). And I recommend keeping up with any reading that is aimed at increasing your skill and knowledge in your field.

Also, one can’t do everything, not only because of lack of time but because one isn’t good at everything. Do what you are good at and outsource what you aren’t.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Income. And freedom.

I love being independent, i.e., freelance, and I wouldn’t want to have to go back to working for a company. That is a big motivation.

I am also motivated to expand the work I can do via the Internet and not have to go in to a place of business, because I want to move “back home,” which is 80 miles away and I really don’t want to commute to Richmond!

It’s not exactly inspiration, but I do like the fixing aspect of what I do. Moving a phrase and suddenly the sentence is easier to understand. Rearrange some sentence structure and suddenly a whole paragraph is understandable, when I’d had to read it five times to get a clue what it meant to be saying! I like making something “better.

Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?

A: I’ve been able to use the database to find a ready pool of people to refer extra work to, and I’ve actually succeeded in getting my profile and blog post up, even though I’m not technically oriented. The webmaster was very helpful when I got stuck, and I’ve found everyone I dealt with to be very encouraging.