Wednesday, 8 June 2011

An Interview with Writer and Editor Lisa Stowe

As promised, I'm back with the promised interview post.  This interview should have been posted two months ago but as you already know, life happens sometimes. I apologise to Writer and Editor Lisa Stowe for the delay.  

Lisa has edited some of my writings, one of which was sent to a writing competition (my first time to enter a writing competition in the UK) and another one is going to be in an anthology in, hopefully, late 2011.  As a writer and aspiring author, I find Lisa to be so helpful.  She encourages me to continue to write and points out where I need to improve in a way that inspires.  Her comments are honest and constructive.  

I've enjoyed this interview so much and learned a lot.  Thank you, Lisa!
Note:  I've underlined and highlighted in colour my favourite parts of this interview.

What is your goal as an editor and how do you meet that goal?
Lisa Stowe (LS) :  I’m sure I’m expected to say that my goal is to help writers polish their work and hone their craft.  That’s part of it to be sure, but I absolutely love developing a friendship over the course of an editing project, of seeing a writer who, after getting their packet back, is excited and enthusiastic about their project.  There’s nothing worse than seeing a fellow writer discouraged.  I think those feelings of failure come from our nasty inner critics, and from harsh critiques.  I try to meet my goals by editing the way I’ve been edited, with empathy, respect, clarity, and concrete suggestions.
Does editing others work detract from your own writing?
LS:  Well to be honest, sometimes editing is an excuse to avoid my writing!  For the most part though, editing helps me improve my stories.  It’s kind of weird but I see things in other’s writing that I miss in mine.  Too close to the work I guess.  What’s also kind of weird is that when I leave a writer excited about their project, I end up just as excited about working on my project.  Like that enthusiasm is catching.
Do you edit in a different medium than you write?
LS:  I can edit other people’s work on the computer or with a hard copy.  My material though, is easier to edit on paper.  It’s like the computer screen is too small a window.  I think the difference is because with others I don’t know the story as intimately yet.  I also write to specific kinds of music but edit to silence.  It seems to create more of a working environment and less of an organic, flowing moment.
Does helping another writer improve not create competition for your own writing?
LS:  Not in the least.  How can there be competition when every voice is so unique and each story so individual?  Plus, the world is big enough for an infinite number of writers.  And think about the feeling you get when you realize the person you are talking to is also a writer.  That’s not competition, that’s kindred spirits.  Maybe if I was up in that rarified air where the top best sellers are I might be more worried about competition.  But down here on the ground floor I’m just happy to not be alone.
Tell us about your work space.  Do you have a special place at home where you write and edit?
LS:  Before I can write or edit I have to build a fire, light kerosene lamps, close the door on a tiny cabin, and try to ignore the creek, the woods, the mountains, the bears in the garbage can, and the raccoons on the roof.  I write while two stray cats that have moved in keep the mouse population from coming out of the walls.  I have a tea kettle on the wood stove for tea, and I’m very lucky that my husband gave me a laptop with a powerful battery.
Do you also provide a critique and not just editing of grammar, spelling, and the use of language?
LS:  Yes, and technically a person could hire me for one or the other.  A line edit with grammar, punctuation, etc., or a full edit with plot development, character arc, and so on.  I find it easier to do line edits on non-fiction.  It’s harder for me to do only a line edit on fiction though I do it if requested.  I get too wrapped up in the stories and end up wanting to dive in and do a full edit.
You are both writer and editor – which do you like best and why?
LS:  Oh, hard question Len.  When I can see a story coming, breathe it in, when the words are flowing, there’s nothing better than writing.  But editing makes me happy.  Not to sound corny or clichéd, but it does.  And it’s a different happiness than writing.  Imagine sitting down with your best friend over tea, and sharing something you both love deeply.  That’s what editing is for me.  Maybe writing is a private peace while editing is a social joy.
Do you edit any kind of genre?
LS:  Anything and everything.
When you receive a manuscript from a writer, what do you expect to see?
LS:  If someone has a first rough draft that they haven’t edited themselves yet, I prefer only a few chapters.  Rather than having the writer pay for a full edit they may not be ready for, I’d rather do a few chapters and let them see what is involved.  Then they can decide if they want to continue or wait until they have a more complete draft.  I also caution writers to think carefully before sending me something that’s not finished.  Many writers find that if they expose the story too soon, it dies and they’ll never finish it.  
How long have you been writing? And editing?
LS:  I’ve been telling stories since before I could write.  But the first one I remember writing was about age nine.  I wrote an adventure starring myself and my first crush, Huckleberry Finn.  The original fan fiction!  So I’ve been writing more than forty years.  But a lot of that was in secret, the result of being told I was no good.  No wonder I hate negative editors.  For editing, I’ve been doing that about ten years now.
For those interested in sending you their work, how can they contact you?
LS:  The website is being built slowly.  One brick at a time, I swear.  So for now, I can be reached by email at  Put ‘edit’ in the subject line.  I also have a blog that has a page with more editing information.  That address is
Any words of advice you’d like to tell aspiring authors out there? 
LS:  Sure, ‘do as I say, not as I do’!  As in, don’t give up, don’t listen to that inner critic, never be afraid of rejections, never be ashamed of being a writer.  And then try the things I have done, like building a trusted circle of fellow writers for support.
Thanks for interviewing me Len, and I’m still waiting to read your story again!
Lisa,  again, thank you for this wonderful interview!  And please let me thank you for giving me the courage and confidence to enter a writing competition and for telling me other avenues to get published! It means a lot!
Don't forget to visit Lisa's blog and website:
Coming up Next:  An interview with a writer from The Mediterranean island at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus.  Don't miss it! 


Jen Daiker said...

Fantastic interview, and as they say, BETTER LATE THAN EVER!! I love learning more about editors and what they enjoy most about the whole process. This was fantastic Len! Thank you for sharing!

Old Kitty said...

Len!! Yay for getting your story in an anthology and for submitting another to a competition!! Good luck with these fab opportunities!

Awww Lisa Stowe sounds so fabulous - so helpful and just gorgeous!! Thank you for a fab interview! I love her words of advice most of all! Thank you! Take care

Theresa Milstein said...

What an interesting interview, Len. You're lucky to have Lisa working with you!

Lisa, your cabin sounds like such a different experience than my life. For me, it's kids, traffic horns, people shouting at one another, and video game fire. I love when I get to write when it's quiet in the neighborhood, nobody is home, and the cat sits on my lap. But I take what I can get!

I've never thought of music aiding the creative process, and then being absent for the work of editing. I may try that approach.

I learned a lot. Thank you both.

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview, Lisa sounds amazing! I love her advice, "never be ashamed of being a writer". I think being an editor and a writer would be fun! Thanks for sharing.

Hilary said...

Hi Len and Lisa .. great review and background details .. loved it. I completely agree with Lisa - if you're friends with your writer-author then you'll be on the same wave length and get a feel of what's what ...

Negativity at school is a killer isn't it .. in fact negativity in general is a pain! Cheers and I look forward to reading your books .. Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting that Lisa enjoys editing more!

Margo Benson said...

Thank you Len and Lisa for a lovely interview. So much more can be achieved, I think, when editor and author are friends. Great post.

Glynis said...

Congratulations, Len. How wonderful for you. X

Love the interview!