Welcome to the Salt and Sage Books Spotlight series! We believe that by honoring each other’s voices, we’re able to turn creativity into community, and change the world through story.
In this spotlight series, we welcome you into our creative community by inviting you to meet our editors and sensitivity/expert readers, and to hear a little of their own story, in their own words.
What do you do with Salt and Sage?
I do developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading. I’m also an authenticity reader for various issues/concerns including several brain health conditions, parenting and autism, fat culture, homeschooling (graduate and parent), and chronic illness. The full list is under my profile on the authenticity readers section.
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I was born in New York, but we moved when I was tiny. I remember South Carolina, Florida, Maryland, West Virginia, Missouri, and Utah then back to Missouri.
I currently live in Utah, in the United States. I’ve been here for nearly five years, and I have to say that the mountains are my favorite. Nothing smells as good as being surrounded by evergreens in the mountains on a cool night, except maybe the ocean. FYI, the Great Salt Lake does not smell like the ocean. *shudder*
I went to a writing retreat in Washington State two years ago and fell in love with the coast. So probably there. Or Ireland, maybe. Or Wales, like where Poldark is set. I want to stand on a cliff overlooking the sea with my hair blowing in the wind, all pensive.
What drew you to Salt and Sage?
I love the mix of professionalism with an emphasis on kindness. For many writers, handing a manuscript to an editor is basically saying, “Here’s a piece of my soul for you to give me feedback on.” I firmly believe that clients deserve an editor who is honest, direct, and kind. I want my clients to feel empowered after reading my edit letters.
What do you love about editing?
Every writer is too close to their own story to see it clearly because they already know it so well. When I help a writer figure out their vision for their story, it’s incredibly gratifying. It’s so rewarding to help a good story be even better—whether it’s a developmental edit or the final proofread before publication.
What’s your favorite resource for editing?
Oh, my. You know just what to ask me—but I can’t limit to one.
If you’re talking craft books, The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is a favorite. For middle grade and young adult, Writing Irresistible Kidlit by former literary agent Mary Kole is amazing. I have more but will stop there.
And for grammar, I love the website subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style because it’s searchable and includes forums where the most random stuff is answered. A free resource is the website The Editor’s Blog, which is also excellent. I use both.
What thing about writing and editing do you not want to have to tell someone but that you feel people need to know?
Please don’t come find me and kick me. But I believe the single best thing you can do for your first completed book is to write a second book.
A lot of people don’t want to hear this. They want to keep working that first book over, hire an editor, and get it ready to either query or publish. But you learn so, so much through completing a first book that you take with you to your second. And after you finish that second book and go back to your first one, things will be so much clearer.
You learn something new with every book you write. It’s not a process you can skip. You can go to writing conferences and have mentors and read craft books, but you still need to put in the actual writing time. Study and practice together will make you a better writer. Can you make a decent product out of a first book with help? Yes. And many authors do that successfully. But I see so many authors get stuck on wanting to make their first book perfect, and so they go years working on that one without trying to write another. But you won’t grow as much as a writer unless you keep writing.
Trust me—I know. My third book was what I called my “heart book.” It was close to my heart, and I had a broad vision for it, but no matter what, I couldn’t get it to look like I imagined it should. Finally, I set that book aside and wrote four more before I went back to that book. By then, I’d finally learned enough to make it better fit my original vision.
Who knows how many amazing stories you are meant to tell? Don’t get stuck at that first one.
When you’ve got a deadline, what do you do? What are your strategies, rituals, playlists…?
I make sure I’m fed and watered (I sound like a horse, right?) and wearing comfortable clothes. Then I open up my computer and say a prayer, asking for help to do the best job I can.
Once I’m focused, I read through a little of what I worked on the previous time to get me warmed up, and if I’m drafting, I put my fingers on the keyboard and just start without trying to think about it too much. I think best when my fingers are moving, and I don’t try to force it.
I nearly always have to go back and rewrite the beginning a bit, so I focus on getting the main structure in place. Because, honestly? I hardly enjoy drafting a story at all. I breathe a sigh of relief when the bare bones are finished, and I can begin revising. I like to work best within an existing structure. (Probably not surprising for an editor.)
I also run a thirty-day no-guilt writing group four times a year, and that helps me to set goals and work on my writing mindset with fellow writers.
What was the first moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I have two answers to this:
First, when I wrote my first book at age four. It was a masterpiece: a cover made from a cut-up diaper box taped over pages that had stick figures drawn on them. No words. The title? Mommy and Rebecca Go to the Store. It was riveting, promise. Though maybe that was when I was trying to express just how much I loved books rather than wanting to be a writer.
Second, after I started telling my children stories I made up and they told me to write them down because I would forget. They know me so well.
What do you love about writing?
I’ve been reading ever since I was a very young child. Books were my world: my vacation, my schooling, my friends. I learned so much about myself and other people from books. They helped me process my emotions and still do. If I can be part of that process for someone else through my writing or editing? That’s the ultimate goal. Connection.
What scares you about writing?
I sometimes worry that I won’t be able to do the concept enough justice. But for me, if the process of writing a story doesn’t scare me at least a little, that means I’m not taking enough risk with it or stretching or growing in new ways. I like a challenge, even when it scares me. Makes the book more valuable to me as a writer.
What’s your writing process like?
I’ve tried a lot of different things, and as soon as I think I have my process figured out, a story will surprise me by throwing a wrench in the gears.
But what I consistently do is try to write a synopsis as a basic plotting outline. First, I get as far as I can until the ideas stop coming. Then I start writing. When I get to a point where I’m starting to feel stuck, I go back to my synopsis and try to figure out what comes next.
I’m not exactly a plotter or a pantser, but what I like to call a “plantser.”
How do editing and writing figure into your daily life?
I usually get up around the time my husband goes to drop the children off at school before he heads to work. Then I give the dog his medicine, catch up on social media, do dishes and the boring stuff you don’t want to hear about, and if I don’t have any appointments, I usually do some editing work in the morning.
If it’s an errand day, I run errands and then do some work in the afternoon before picking up my children from school. Kids get home, and then I make dinner or run around taking them places, and sometimes I work a little at night once they go to bed.
But I’m generally reading the next book I’ve downloaded from the library and petting my hugely fluffy cat—when she deigns to allow it.
Tell me what you love about one of your favorite books.
One of my recent favorite books is Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin. It’s a middle-grade novel that is beautifully written and depicts what it’s like for a girl growing up with a mother who struggles with brain health (I prefer that descriptor to mental health, personally), and how that affects all their family relationships. The writing itself is stunning, too.
What do you hope is the next big change or awesome trend in publishing?
I would love to see more heavily character-driven fantasy. People in fantasy worlds where the issue isn’t so much how to save the world, but features characters dealing with difficult personal problems and challenges that help them grow and change.
What change or trend are you enjoying or disliking?
I am very much enjoying the diverse landscape that has recently emerged in publishing. It’s so enlightening and wonderful to read about diverse characters in worlds I have never experienced. A recent favorite was Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.
What would you love to do to make that awesome change happen?
Because it matches up with my personal experience, I’d love to see more books accurately representing characters with diverse brain-health issues, or who are differently abled where their ability is not the story’s plot. Give me a book about a detective who fights crime while living with an anxiety disorder or a wedding planner who has insulin-dependent diabetes. (But please research everything well and have authenticity readers!)
What are you passionate about, that you wish more people knew about?
Brené Brown’s work, especially the topics she covers in Braving the Wilderness. If we learn to have real conversations with people who are dissimilar to ourselves, through the lens of trying to understand someone else’s point of view, we could benefit so much from each other.
What’s your favorite quote?
This is my favorite quote because it applies to everything in my life: writing, family, friends, my world. It’s how I make peace with the things in my past I can’t change and reminds me to keep learning and growing. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” –Maya Angelou