Permission Slips

by Jude Walsh Whelley

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Every Sunday I meet with my tribe of four women writers for a morning of what Eric Maisel calls Deep Writing. It is a lovely, centering time where we sit side-by-side and write. During occasional breaks we share information on craft, submission, and building platform. The shared writing energy keeps us focused and productive. On my drive home, as I process what I wrote and what we shared, I am frequently inspired. At those moments, I use the voice memo function on my phone to record my thoughts. I may listen to that voice memo and tranfer it to written form immediately or, if life grabs me when I get home, the memo may sit for a while.

In a recent burst of decluttering energy, I decided to review those waiting memos. I found this gem and want to share. I was looking for ways to honor my muse and prioritize time for writing. These are the permission slips I wrote for myself. Perhaps you might like to take a few moments and write some permission slips of your own?

I give myself permission to do what I love

I give myself permission and encouragement to pursue my writing dreams

I give myself permission to devote time to my writing first

I give myself permission to buy the things I need to help me accomplish my goals

I give myself permission to say no to favors or meeting someone else’s needs that distract me from my purpose

I give myself permission to do this without guilt

I give myself permission to write my truth without concern for how it makes anyone else feel because it is my truth, my writing, my story, and no one is going to keep me from speaking my truth.

I give myself permission to put myself first

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.

Beyond Rain Man Gives Unique Insights: Excerpts from an Interview with Anne K. Ross

By B. Lynn Goodwin

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It takes courage to write a memoir about family. An author exposes herself and her loved ones to observation and criticism as well as appreciation. Anne K. Ross has taken a close look at her family’s unique situation in Beyond Rain Man. She looks at his condition as both a mother and a school psychologist.

An accomplished writer who looks at the diagnosis from a unique perspective, Ross brings a full gamut of emotions to her observations. She compares her own reactions to the parents of students on the spectrum. This is the story of how they cope, survive, and come to terms with a condition that was barely recognized when her son was born.

LG: Tell us a bit about your writing background. When did you become a writer and how do you balance the lives of a school psychologist, a mom, and a writer?

AKR: I’ve always written, starting with a diary in fourth grade and then writing for my school newspapers. Later I got busy with my career as a school psychologist and always wanted to get back to writing creatively (school psychologists write thousands of words a year crafting psycho-educational reports, but it takes a different part of the brain to do that writing).

Then I had my kids and it was even harder to find time to devote to writing. But my eldest son’s behavior was so challenging—tantrums way past typical ages for them and resistance to certain types of clothing—so I started writing again, in a journal. I wrote it all down because I felt like I was a bad mother and I was going crazy. But as I learned more about the autism spectrum through my work, I became a better mom. And as I understood my son more and more, I became a better school psychologist.

LG: What is Beyond Rain Man: What One Psychologist Learned Raising a Son on the Autism Spectrum about and why was it important for you to tell this story?

AKR: It’s about my partner and me raising our two boys, our eldest who finally got the diagnosis of Asperger’s at age eleven, and our youngest, who is neurotypical (doesn’t have an autism spectrum disorder). It’s about all the things we learned along the way, how we did cope, how we raised two boys who have turned out to be wonderful young men.

I wanted to tell our story in order to help other families who are going through this extra challenging parenting journey so they wouldn’t feel so alone and so they could learn how to get the supports and services their children might need at school and in the community. Since I’m a school psychologist, I know the ins and outs of special education and wanted to share that knowledge.

I also wrote Beyond Rain Man in order to help educate professionals in the field—pediatricians, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists—about the breadth of the autism spectrum and how not everyone on the spectrum fits the type made famous in the movie, Rain Man.

LG: What was the most challenging part about writing this memoir and what was the easiest?

AKR: Probably the easiest part was writing it all down in my journals. The harder part—and it took me about eight years—was to form that writing into a true memoir, with a solid structure, well-developed characters, and a narrator with an appealing voice who has some distance from the events and who could look back with a balanced perspective and be both self critical and forgiving.

AKR: Be ridiculously tenacious. Find a writing community in person or online. Ask for and accept feedback. Write for the pleasure it brings you and not for any dreams of fame or riches.

LG: Where can people learn more about Beyond Rain Man and where can they purchase a copy?

AKR: The Beyond Rain Man website (www.beyondrainman.com) has links to reviews, an excerpt, and ordering links. Beyond Rain Man is available as a print and ebook.

LG: Thank you for sharing and inspiring, Anne.
Read more of this interview at http://www.writeradvice.com.

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BlynnPB. Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, http://www.writeradvice.com, and the author of both You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers (Tate Publishing) and TALENT (Eternal Press). Her blog is at http://blynngoodwin.com. Goodwin’s stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; The Sun; Good Housekeeping.com and many other venues. She is currently working on a memoir about getting married for the first time at age 62.

Talent CoverLynnG2

Literary Citizenship Tips

By Jude Walsh Whelley

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Writing can be a solitary occupation. At the heart of the matter, it is sitting down alone, putting words on the page, crafting them carefully, and revising until ready to release the words into the world. How does one prepare the world to receive these words?

Today’s writing universe has most of us doing our own platform building and marketing and for that we rely on help from fellow writers and readers. I like to think of my obligation to help another writer as more a priviledge than a duty. The best term I have heard for this kind of help is literary citizenship. In today’s post I am going to suggest fifteen ways to practice being a good literary citizen.

1. Buy books! This can be a print version, or Kindle, or book on tape, but by buying that book you are providing income for a writer.

2. If you enjoyed a book, take a few minutes and write a review. The more a book is reviewed, the better!

3. If you blog, offer to host an author when her new book is published.

4. If you read a blog post where an author is interviewed or her book discussed, write a comment. Nothing thrills a writer more than having someone want to talk about her work.

 5. If you belong to a book club, recommend your writer friend’s book for club reading and discussion. Most of the authors I know love to talk with book club groups and with skype or google chat, this can easily be arranged.

 6. Go to book signings. The author usually reads from her work and often shares information about how she got the idea, how it evolved, her publishing journey, and her life as a writer. This is also a great way to find out what her next book is about.

 7. Post on Facebook any  upcoming publications, book signings, author updates.

 8. Also on facebook, “like” all author pages.

 9. If a writer publishes links to her blog posts, share them.

 10. Twitter is our new friend! I am just learning how to manage twitter posts with tweet deck and know there are other ways of managing it but bottom line… tweet and retweet if you can.

 11. Volunteer to be a beta reader. A beta reader is someone who is not familiar with the manuscript and will read the entire document and respond in the manner the writer requests. This is a huge time committment, so it truly is a gift to the writer.

 12. Be an encourager! If someone tentatively mentions that she might like to write, encourage her to try. If a person is blocked, remind her that this too shall pass and the words will again flow. When a rejection is recieved, be the soft place for that writer to land until the disappointment passes and the urge to write and try again returns.

 13. Join writing organizations like the Story Circle Network (www.storycircle.org) or National Association of Memoir Writers (www.namw.org). It is the easiest way to find your tribe and many offer deep online connection possibilities.

 14. Attend writing workshops. I love the annual Antioch Writers’ Workshop (www.antiochwritersworkshop.com) in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I can reccomend Story Circle Network’s Stories From the Heart (www.storycircle.org/conference/) held in Austin, Texas every other year. Eric Maisel (www.ericmsisel.com) offers Deep Writing Workshops all over the world. Just google writing workshops and your city and you will be amazed by the possibilities.

 15. Take writing craft classes! This is great self care for a writer but is also a fast track to building your writing community. You will find kindred spirits and you can support one another as you learn. As many writers supplement their income by offering classes you are again helping a writer make a living.

 These are just my thoughts, please share any suggestions you have!

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.

The Secret Story Behind LOVING ELEANOR

 

 

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By Story Circle founder and president, Susan Wittig Albert

Some stories beg to be told; some books beg to be written.

For me, the story of the long and intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok was one of those stories–and Loving Eleanor was one of those books. Of all the many responses I’ve had when I’ve discussed the book (forthcoming Feb 1) with readers, the question I most often hear is some variation of “Why didn’t we know this already?”

The most important reason is the most obvious one: the over 3300 letters that document the women’s 30-year friendship were intentionally kept secret. Most of Lorena’s letters to Eleanor were destroyed, probably by ER’s children, after her death. However, Hick kept ER’s letters (and some of her own).

In 1962, after Eleanor’s death, Hick (then in her 70s), realized that she had to find a way to keep the letters safe. The most important threat came from the Roosevelt children, who would not have wanted evidence of the deeply romantic nature of their mother’s friendship with another woman to become public knowledge. They would have destroyed the letters, as they almost certainly located and destroyed the letters ER wrote to her longtime friend, Earl Miller. Another threat came from Joseph Lash, who considered himself the “official” biographer of the Roosevelt family. If Lash acquired the letters, he would likely solidify his relationship with the Roosevelt sons by destroying them. And of course, publishing them herself was not an option at the time, as you can guess.

Hick chose the best and most prudent course. She had a personal relationship with a curator at the FDR Presidential Museum, who urged her to leave her collection to the library. She took his advice, stipulating that the letters be sealed for ten years after her death. She trusted the professional librarians there to keep the letters safe, and they did–although it is fair to say that they had no idea what was in them. Hick died in 1968; the letters were opened to the public, without any announcement, in 1978.

To be continued… Watch this space for another installment of the story. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the novel and view my Pinterest photo collection on the book’s website.

Loving Eleanor will be published on Feb 1, 2016. It is available for preorder now on Amazon. Susan Wittig Albert is the founder and current (2015-2017) president of SCN. Susan is a New York Times bestselling author who is publishing her biographical/historical novels under her own imprint, Persevero Press.

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert is a best-selling novelist, memoirist, and author of both adult and young adult fiction and nonfiction. She lives on a 31-acre Texas Hill Country homestead with her husband and frequent coauthor, Bill Albert. She founded The Story Circle Network in 1997. Her website:www.susanalbert.com

30 Days, 50,000 Words, and the NaNoWriMettes

Facebook gifted me with a memory moment from November 2012, the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I had made a commitment with two fellow women writers to each complete the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge and had playfully coined the name NaNoWriMettes for our little cadre, harkening back to 50’s and 60’s girl groups. The photo Facebook reposted was of the three of us draped around one another at The Emporium, our Sunday morning writing haunt.

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WriMettes 2012 (003)

Aside from my dissertation, I had never written anything longer than a few thousand words and while I had plenty of ideas for a novel, the thought of actually writing one was intimidating. Making the commitment with two fellow women writers to hold my hand, write beside me, and encourage me made it seem possible.

And it was! In 2012 we all completed those crucial first drafts. I’d made a vow to myself that at 40,000 words, no matter where I was in the story, I would stop and write an ending. I had heard many cautionary tales about folks who wrote their hearts out and got their 50,000 words done but not a complete draft. At the end of the writing marathon they lost their forward motion and never returned to the manuscript, never writing the ending. When I got to that 40,000-word point, I was unsure about how the story would end, and thought it necessary to write the rest of the story before I would know. My compromise was to write three possible endings. That put me over my 50,000 words and gave me both endings and the desire to write my way to one of them! I kept writing and at about 115,000 words finally had a full draft with the perfect ending chosen. That book is now in its third revision and looking better with each pass. And thanks to NaNo 2014 and my NaNoWriMettes’ sisterhood, there is a solid first draft of a follow up book in what I am now envisioning as a series.

There are plenty of critics of NaNo. I know one woman who claims she will never read or buy a book that was written during NaNo, implying that it would be shoddy work because who could write a draft of a novel in 30 days?  I find that an unwarranted supposition and unfairly judgmental. NaNo is not designed to have you complete a finished work. It is the exact opposite. The mantra is “Keep writing, no matter what.” Do not reread, do not edit, and do not revise. Just keep going! The goals are to get into the writing habit, to stay on the page, and to get words down so you have something to revise. NaNo writing is not meant to be polished; it is rather the often referred to messy first draft. Some well known books that began life as a first draft during NaNo include: Sara Gruen’s Like Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, and Hugh Howey’s Wool. I’m certain none of those writers published their first drafts. I’m certain all were revised and edited numerous times. The point is, you can’t revise what you haven’t written and NaNo gets you 50,000 words to revise.
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I am with my beloved NaNoWriMette sisters again this year but I am writing in a different way. I have committed to writing 50,000 words in a series of drafts for essays and short stories, even a few blog posts. I am staying true to the philosophy of not stopping to edit. I brainstormed a long list of topics and whenever I feel stuck or have a first draft completed, I just go to the next topic. This is working well. I have no trouble getting the 1,667 words per day needed to get to 50,000. On most days I exceed that number. The beauty of this is that post NaNo I will have so much writing ready for revision. If I revise a piece and need to set it aside for a while before I try again or if I have sent it to another writer for feedback, I have a plethora of other pieces to work on. I am RICH with words and I thank the National Novel Writing Month process and my writing tribe, the NaNoWriMettes for that.

Write on!

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.

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by Susan Wittig Albert

Last week we published part one of our interview with our Stories from the Heart Conference keynote speaker, Brooke Warner. Want to see Brooke in person? Make sure and sign up early for the conference!

Photo Credit: Edgar Valdes

Photo Credit: Edgar Valdes

Brooke Warner is the keynote speaker at Stories From the Heart VIII. She is the founder of Warner Coaching Inc., publisher at She Writes Press, and author of What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published AuthorIn her fourteen years in the publishing industry, including eight years as Executive Editor at Seal Press, Brooke has shepherded hundreds of books through the publication process. As a teacher, coach, author, and publisher, she is a champion of women writers, with a special commitment to memoirists.

Susan: At SCN, we believe that the act of telling the story is very much its own reward—and for many of us, that is our chief goal. We want to develop a mature writing practice that we can enjoy and that allows us to tell our story with a creative passion. But some of us also want to publish our work. As a teacher/coach, how do you know when a writer is ready to consider that move?

Brooke: Great question. I work closely with the writer to determine when they’re ready based on what’s going on with them. Because writers come in all different forms, some are very eager, too eager, to get their work out before it’s really ready. Others are overly hesitant. I have worked with authors who’ve been stuck in revision land for upwards of ten years because they’re stuck in fear of outcome, whether it’s positive or negative. They’re unwilling to let go of the project. If an author is overly anxious and I don’t think she’s ready, I tell her that gently, but I also can’t stop her from querying agents and editors if that’s what she wants to do. If an author is on the other side of the equation, I try to work with her to consider what it would look like to get her work out into the world. Readiness varies so much, and I give really honest feedback to anyone who hires me to look at the work. Sometimes a work is “publish ready” but not commercial, meaning that it’s a great book but one that a traditional publisher is unlikely to acquire. I help authors determine what their books need in order to be publish-ready, and work with writers to improve their books, to tighten and polish and get the books ready for publication. It’s a somewhat subjective question you’re posing, but the work of all teachers, coaches, and editors is to help a client get her book in the best shape it can be. And generally a person who’s in this field as a coach or editor does have a clear sense of a manuscript’s viability and should be able to convey that to the writer.

You’ve said that you and Kamy Wicoff founded She Writes Press because the barriers to traditional publishing were getting higher and higher for authors. Why were you interested in starting a press that would publish only women? What interests you in working with women writers?

I was interested in continuing to work with women authors after my eight years at Seal Press. I had been immersed in women’s publishing and the advocacy issues that come along with that. Although I do have male clients, I wasn’t interested in founding a press that would serve both men and women after having been in women’s publishing for as long as I had been. I was proud of the work Seal Press was doing championing women and giving women a voice, and I saw how I could leverage this even more at She Writes Press. I founded SWP for all those women I had to turn down at Seal.

She Writes Press is known as a “hybrid” publishing house. What does this mean? Why is it important? What do authors need to know about this kind of publishing model?

To me, hybrid is anything in the gray zone between a traditional publishing model [where the publisher is responsible for underwriting the full cost of editing, producing, and distributing the book] and self-publishing [where the author underwrites the cost and does or manages the work of editing, production, and distribution]. She Writes Press is a hybrid; we’re also a partnership publishing model. We are a publishing company, and our authors pay to publish under our imprint. The authors absorb the financial risk of their publishing endeavor; in return, they keep a high percentage of their royalties. We curate and have a selective acquisitions process. We have a publisher at the helm—me—making sure that here’s a cohesive vision and that all of the books are adhering to a level of quality that’s on a par with traditional publishing. We offer traditional distribution and the extra benefits that brings, including preordering and data management. Our authors, like those working with traditional publishers, qualify to submit their books to the traditional review channels, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. This is a boon to authors who depend on reviews to drive sales—namely novelists and memoirists.

I think the main thing authors need to know about hybrid models is that not all companies are created equal, and that publishing a book is not a reliable way to make money. There are companies out there taking advantage of authors, making false promises, and delivering substandard services. Many of these companies are not transparent about costs or possibilities for earnings. Some of our authors are earning back their initial investment and even earn a profit, but it’s not part of what we promise. What we promise is the opportunity to play in the big leagues and to produce a book that can rival its competition. But there’s no sure bet in publishing—not in traditional publishing and not in hybrid publishing.

As a publisher, in what way do you think She Writes can be an “industry game-changer”?

I think we already are a game-changer because we’re forging new ground in the hybrid space. We’re doing the hybrid thing at least as well as anyone else out there, if not better. Our covers are superb, and that matters in today’s publishing climate. We have all the right elements in place to have a breakout book or two—and I believe that will happen for us. When it does, it will raise the bar on what we’re doing even more. In the interim, I’m very focused on advocacy issues. I write a lot about the prejudice against authors who pay to publish. The traditional publishing industry is looking for ways to classify “us against them” and I’m fundamentally opposed to this concept because it’s archaic and it doesn’t hold up. Authors subsidize their work at all different points in the process. Traditionally published authors may pay for their work to be edited before they land deals, and the savvy ones have their own publicist. No one balks at this. So the notion that a book is lesser because the author pays to publish (never mind the fact that selfpublished and hybrid authors reap the reward of much higher royalties) really gets to me. But the discrimination goes way past this, extending into book reviews, association membership, contests, and more. I feel that She Writes Press is a trailblazer because we’re not trying to hide the fact that our authors invest in themselves. We’re proud of this partnership, and the authors have earned a right to publish with us because we’re not publishing just anyone. That’s what should matter—the book’s quality. We have begun to make some progress in leading this conversation and we have a lot of support for what we’re doing. There’s a surprising amount of controversy in publishing, though, and strong feelings about almost every issue. This keeps it challenging—and interesting.

 

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by Susan Wittig Albert

BrookeWarner_177x200Brooke Warner is the keynote speaker at Stories From the Heart VIII. She is the founder of Warner Coaching Inc., publisher at She Writes Press, and author of What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author.

In her fourteen years in the publishing industry, including eight years as Executive Editor at Seal Press, Brooke has shepherded hundreds of books through the publication process. As a teacher, coach, author, and publisher, she is a champion of women writers, with a special commitment to memoirists.

Susan: Many members of our SCN community know they have a story to tell, but they find it hard to get started. What suggestions do you have for them?

Brooke: In my memoir-writing classes I always say to just start with one single memory and then to create a single scene. (This holds true for fiction, too, though in the beginning it’s important to write what you know—whether you end up with fiction or nonfiction.) A scene will lead to a story, and a story can lead to a book. I know a lot of writers struggle with overwhelm, especially when they’re working on a book. The sheer length is daunting. And that’s why it’s important to take small steps, to find a regular practice, to get into a rhythm. Writing is a discipline. It requires attentiveness and care. Doing a little bit a few times a week gives you confidence, until you discover that place where you actually want to do more.

What is your advice for memoirists, especially novice writers, in writing groups? What should they look for in a group? What should they be wary of?

Great question. Finding a supportive group is so important. My main piece of advice is not to stay in a group if it’s not fully supporting you. I know a lot of writers who’ve been eroded by their writing groups. The place that was supposed to be a safe place turns out not to be. People bring their personalities to writing groups, so if you’re in the position to start one, or if you’re laying ground rules, establish what’s not okay. Discuss with the group how you want to give and receive feedback. Have accountability structures in place so that if someone gives feedback that stings, or that’s not delivered in the right way, tthat member of the group gets feedback as well. Writing groups sometimes suffer jealous members, and people can poison the well. But then there are also members who champion each other, who are each other’s biggest advocates. When you find that, it’s gold, but don’t think that you have the power to change a difficult person or a complicated dynamic. If you’re experiencing something like this, it’s probably best to leave and search elsewhere, or start your own group.

You’ve said that memoir is your favorite genre. Why? What about it has captivated you? What challenges you?

During my tenure as Executive Editor at Seal Press, I worked mostly on memoirs. Women’s voices and stories were always at the center of the work. I loved bearing witness to the honesty a memoir requires. I loved being in process with authors and their truths—watching them triumph after so much struggle. Memoir is a unique, storydriven genre that asks so much of writers, and then it’s so often dismissed as somehow “less,” as if opening your heart is something we shouldn’t be in awe of. I personally am in awe of it, and I love reading it, teaching it, and editing it. It’s very fulfilling for me, and I find memoir writers to be a very courageous bunch.

You wear a great many hats: you’re a teacher, a coach, an editor, a publisher. As a teacher, you see a great many writers up close and personal. What kind of help do you think they need most? Do they need assistance in defining and focusing on their stories? On ways to tell the story? On the mechanics of writing?

The kind of help authors need has a lot to do with their personalities. Some need support and validation more than anything. They don’t struggle with writers’ block but do struggle with validation issues. They might not have anyone who’s supportive of their writing. They might be the black sheep of the family. They might have people actively discouraging them from writing their book, or for spending time on “that hobby.” Other writers need help with their process—organization, how to schedule their writing, how to manage their time. These are my accountability clients and students. They just need someone to report into, and to help them brainstorm ideas and ways to actually do the writing. Then finally there are the craft folks, who really don’t understand certain elements of writing—scene, scope, character development, takeaway, whatever. These authors want someone to teach them the ropes and make their story better. They’re trying to figure out what’s not working, and they’re actively wanting to learn along the way. Some of my clients and students want or need support in all these way, but others are more definitely in a particular camp. My work is getting to know them as writers, figuring out what drives them and what their strengths are. The variety is rewarding to me. It keeps me on my toes.

At what point do you think a writer can best use a coach? What should a writer look for in a coach—and how does she go about finding that coach?

I think writers would do well to look for a coach at the beginning of their writing process. Of course you can always look for a coach later, but too many writers come to me after a manuscript is complete, looking for a “fix.” They know something is wrong but they don’t know what. If they had worked with a coach from the beginning, there are so many rabbit holes they simply wouldn’t have fallen down. But of course any point in the process is a good place to seek support. It’s just that too often writers want to be lone rangers, and can’t see all the ways a coach provides value, so they wait until they have a problem.

Finding a coach. Good question. There are many writing coaches out there, but too many of them who hang out their shingle without true experience other than having written their own books. I would recommend that authors ask other writer friends about coaches they’ve worked with. Coaches are easy to find at writing conferences, and usually they won’t be invited to attend unless they have some credentials. Once a writer has identified a few coaches, they should ask to talk to them, and then if they want to, they can contact references. Even if publishing is not your end goal, it’s good to look for a coach who has a track record of supporting authors all the way to publication. Many coaches will also refer other coaches they know and like. SheWrites actually has a stable of coaches, and I’ve been working to cultivate this list.

Join us next week for part two of our interview with Brooke Warner!