Wednesday, October 27, 2021

What to Know About Editing, Editing Services & Accountability Partners with Beth Stilborn by Kathy Halsey

Today we're chatting with my accountability partner, Beth Stilborn, about editing, accountability and more!

Accountability and How We Met

Late December 2017/early January 2018, Kathy and I both participated in Julie Hedlund's amazing Twelve Days of Christmas for Writers, a 12 day experience designed to evaluate the past year and prepare for the new one. During a  discussion in the dedicated Facebook group, we were tossing around ideas about accountability, and Kathy and I decided to try being each other's weekly accountability buddy.


Three years later, we're still going strong. We email weekly to share what we’ve done in the past week, what we plan to do in the coming week, and to cheer each other on. We've supported each other through ups and downs, encouraging each other when the writing mojo isn't there, celebrating when things are going well, and making sure we keep on track. Just knowing I'm going to be listing my accomplishments and non-accomplishments for Kathy each week keeps me going, working to achieve my goals both small and large. In the process, we've become good friends, and buoy each other up in all sorts of ways. Thanks, Kathy!

Craft Chat with Beth


1. How did you get involved in the editing business?

When I was in university, I had a summer job helping to proofread the proceedings of the Legislature. After university, before I started working full time, I had a summer job as interim editor of the Saskatchewan Gazette, a weekly publication of the government here. Much later, in 2013, when I was thinking about writing-related income streams to pursue, I had a consultation with an insightful kidlit editor friend who nudged me in the direction of copy editing, particularly for the kidlit community. A dear friend came up with the name Flubs2Fixes for my new editing business, I registered the business name, got a business license, and worked with my first client in early 2014. I have been working with clients, honing my skills, learning and developing since then.


2. Across genres and manuscripts, what are the top mistakes you see in writers’ work? Any recommendations for books or remedies for these issues?

One of the most common problems is comma use. Commas are such sneaky little things. They like to wriggle in where they don't belong and wriggle away from the places where they do belong. Verb tense and dangling modifiers are a couple of other bugaboos. I often see questions about manuscript formatting, as well.


In the past, I've written blog posts addressing many of these issues, and I'm working on a way to make these posts more easily accessible to people who are looking for guidance on grammar, writing, or formatting problems. I plan to roll this out in November. Stay tuned to my editing blog for details!


I often recommend Grammar Girl for grammar questions. Her website is excellent, and she writes in a fun, approachable, and understandable manner to answer practically any grammar question you might have.


Something else that often trips new writers up is rhyme. New picture book writers often think they have to write in rhyme, and the truth is that isn't the case. Try writing the story without rhyme – it can often be told more easily as prose. If a writer finds that the story needs rhyme to make it work, make sure the rhyme and rhythm are perfect, or as close to perfect as they can be. Renee LaTulippe's fabulous videos on her Lyrical Language Lab YouTube channel are a great way to start learning about rhyme and rhythm. I also recommend her Lyrical Language Lab course, even if a person doesn't intend to write in rhyme.

3. Please explain the different types of edits: grammatical vs. copy edits, developmental editing, edits for continuity, and other types.

There are many ways of looking at the different types of edits. Some people divide the overarching heading of editing into three basic types, others suggest as many as six or more divisions. Here, I'll talk about the basic types of edits the average writer is likely to come in contact with.


Paid critiques and developmental editing are closely related. Often, paid critiques are offered by people whose primary focus is writing, but who want to share their experience and knowledge with other writers. They're similar to the feedback you might get from a critique group, but they're solely focused on your manuscript, and go into more depth in their suggestions.


Developmental editing digs deep into the building blocks of an effective manuscript, including narrative voice, story arc, character development, plot and theme development, story structure, and more. You will often receive an editorial letter, along with at least some line edits (comments directly on the manuscript). A full line edit takes this one step further, with comments on nearly every line in the manuscript.


Copy editing is basically editing for grammar, spelling and typographical errors, incorrect word use, capitalization, punctuation, clarity, sentence structure, redundancies and/or inconsistencies, consistent point of view and consistent verb tense. The copy editor also looks for issues in continuity. It should come near the end of the process for the manuscript, after developmental editing (if the author chooses to go that route), after all revisions have been made, just before it is ready for submission.


Proofreading is the final step, either before starting the submission process (for someone seeking traditional publication) or before creating the book (for someone self-publishing.) In traditional publishing, a proofreader goes over the final proof copy of the manuscript just before printing. The proofreading I offer includes checking for typographical errors, formatting errors and irregularities, awkward end-of-line word divisions, alignment, line length, spacing, consistent font size and style, and checking against the original manuscript to ensure there have been no omissions.


4. Do you edit your own work, or do you also use an editor? How can writers be their own editors?

I copy edit my own work. I have used a developmental editor in the past, and have found it a valuable tool in seeing all the issues with plot, characterization, voice, structure, and so on. I have often been amazed at how much better my manuscript becomes after I work through revisions based on a developmental edit.


I am well aware that writers may see editing as an expense that is simply out of reach. I understand that completely. At the same time, I want to emphasize that the writer gets great value from hiring an editor, whether a developmental editor or a copy editor, or a paid critique. I think it is vital for those who are self-publishing to work with editors to bring their manuscripts up to the highest level that they can. In either case, it is truly an investment in the writer's future and in the future of the manuscript.


That said, there are tools available to help those seeking traditional publication who can't afford to hire an editor or editors. The plans I have in place for sharing basic information on grammatical issues will help. For broader self-editing, one option is a tool Emma Walton Hamilton has available for purchase, either for self-editing picture books or for novels, called Editor-in-a-Box. (The picture book version is at this link. The novel version is at this link


Self-editing is by no means a complete substitute for the fresh eyes and in-depth experience and knowledge you get if you hire a developmental editor or copy editor, but for those who are seeking traditional publication and are on limited budgets, it is an option.


Above all, at least make sure you have a critique partner or critique group giving you feedback.


A great place to find the right editor or critiquer for your manuscript is the listing on the KidLit411 website.


5. What do you enjoy about editing?

Since I am a writer as well as an editor, I understand how it feels to entrust your manuscript to someone else for feedback of any sort, and so I am sensitive and encouraging while also being as helpful as possible. The joy of editing is not pointing out errors, but rather is helping another writer to learn and grow and make their manuscript shine. I find that all I learn with the goal of honing my own writing makes me a better editor. I continue to learn, and to teach — we all are teachers — and I love to help my editing clients learn more about the craft of writing through the comments and suggestions I make on their manuscripts.


I currently offer copy editing and proofreading, and plan to add picture book developmental editing/critiques early in the new year. You can learn more about my editorial services and how to work with me at my editing website, Flubs2Fixes.




Beth Stilborn is a writer and copy editor located in Canada, but available to editing clients all over the world thanks to the magic of the internet. She has been writing and learning about writing for a number of years, and started her freelance editing business, Flubs2Fixes, eight years ago. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Copy Editors Society (ACES). You can read more about her editing qualifications and services at her website. There, she also shares resources for writers, and blogs about grammar and editing-related subjects. At her more general website and blog, By Word of Beth, she shares more writer's resources, interviews authors, and blogs to share books, encouragement, teaching, and hope. She is active on social media and is co-admin of the Children's Book Hub Facebook Group with author, editor, and educator, Emma Walton Hamilton.


Find Beth on social media here.





Wednesday, October 20, 2021

GROG Roundtable: Routines and Cues to Keep You Writing Consistently with Facilitator Kathy Halsey

Fall photo
by Author Chris Mihaly

We're on the final quarter of 2021 and the GROG team is circling back to goals to keep us writing in a season full of festivities. To make writing a consistent habit, it helps to have cues or prompts. We don't think about true habits - you brush your teeth every day, or may have coffee at the same time each morning. Generally, we have a cue that says "time to brush your teeth."

Today we'll share our tips on how writing becomes a TRUE habit. (Something we DO automatically!) Mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 10 for Part 2: Revision Routines and Cues.

Sue uses an assignment sheet as a visual cue

Kathy Halsey: 
Deadlines are my cues. They are self-imposed. I know to write a haiku every Saturday for #haikusaturday. I know I have a critique group  every Friday, so if I want feedback,  I need it done then. I also call a set of months by a theme, like Summer of Revision, Season of Submission. My focus for theme months is to make that theme my North Star. All other writing work comes after that.

Christy Mihaly: 

I've found that it's easier to get into the routine when I have a designated writing area. My designated area changes with the seasons (by the fire in winter, on the porch in summer), but once I set up my books, lists, computer, and notebooks, entering my writing area makes me feel compelled to write! 

For me the difficulty is making sure I spend enough time writing new work, in addition to the time spent critiquing, promoting, and keeping up with social media. For that, I agree with Kathy, deadlines can be magical.

Carol Coven Grannick:

For me, a habit comes from a decision, and then practice (which includes failure, then restarting). Although writing virtually every day has happened for years as I carry paper and pen or pencil with me, I established an early morning writing routine long ago. It took hold powerfully when I had a full time job that began at 7-ish, close to home. I wrote from 4:30-6 am—either work on a project, revision, or scribbles to keep my brain/hand memory functioning. 

I’d been an early riser for many years, but those seven years before I “retired” from a day job set the habit in stone. And I continue the habit of writing ideas, thoughts, phrases, poems down as they pop into my brain.

Sue Heavenrich:
I use Morning Pages (thanks Julia Cameron!) as a way to kick off my daily writing - even when I don’t feel like writing. I sit with coffee and scribble anything from lists to responding to a prompt to working through a section of an article or book I’m working on. Other tools include an “assignment sheet” on a clipboard that I hang next to my desk, a bullet-journal where I break down monthly projects into do-able pieces, and a daily list of what I hope to accomplish that day. It might be one item: revise a picture book, or it might be 2 or 3 smaller things, such as outlining my next science column, or building a word bank for a story, or even searching for an answer to a friend’s question about woolly bears - a question ended up becoming a blog post over at Archimedes Notebook.

Suzy Leopold:  

Setting SMART Goals supports my writing. These goals are:

specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. 
Creating a set of short-term and long-term goals helps 

me to stay
focused, organized, and gives me a clear sense 
of direction with writing projects. After a goal is achieved, 
I often revise and adjust a set of SMART Goals for further 

I picked these flowers for you!
Goal Setting

Julie Phend

Every morning, I begin the day by writing down 3 things I am grateful for and 3 things I want to accomplish that day. Starting with gratitude puts me in a positive frame of mind, and setting only 3 goals ensures that I meet them. I make them very specific: Write Chapter X, or Revise next 3 chapters, or Query X. I set timers for each task, ensuring that I don’t get hung up or spend too much time on the easier tasks. When the timer rings, I can choose whether to spend more time on that task or not.

Thank you, Julie, for adding a note to include gratitude in our habits. Doing our work gladly with our readers in mind, makes our cues and routines easier.

Readers, share the cues and routines you have already have that might work others in the comments.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Intentional Emotional Roller-Coaster--Guest Post by Beth Anderson

Author Beth Anderson is no stranger to the Grog Blog. In celebration of her latest picture book, Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle, that published October 5th from Calkins Creek, she's here with more expertise about writing narrative nonfiction. 

Take it away, Beth!

Last year I did a presentation at an SCBWI conference about navigating the author’s journey. It focused on being intentional in one’s choices, and to do that you have to self-reflect, identify your needs, seek opportunities, and choose the path that will move you forward. As I write and revise new manuscripts, learning more with each one, I find a similar intentional process creates a story journey for the reader.

I write historical fiction or narrative nonfiction, so I’m working with pieces of a puzzle. I seek out my “heart” thread first, choose scenes that will build an arc, attempt to craft an opening that invites and an ending that resonates. All very intentional. Yes, I’m a “plotter.” But there are also “pantser” elements as the story flows onto the page. Well, actually it’s more herky-jerky and a very long process of revising and crafting. Eventually, if I’m lucky, revisions smooth it into a story that looks and sounds pretty good, maybe even submittable. But wait! This is the make or break point.

 While a story needs to unfold seamlessly, it also has key emotional points that need to pop—spots that need to be recognized and sharpened. Sometimes I have so much backstory in my head that it all seems obvious. Confession: I tend to leave more to the reader, and that’s why I’ve had to learn to be intentional about strengthening and clarifying these points. It’s not enough to let it fall on the page. (And it’s too much to be didactic.)

From critiquing others and myself, I’ve learned that most of us tend to focus on the physical plot. The physical plot is interesting. But it’s the emotional arc that’s compelling and resonates in the end—the reader connection. Because the emotion runs beneath the surface and isn’t as explicit as the physical conflict, it helps to be intentional to ensure that we provide the depth needed for a reader to become invested in the story, to feel the pull, and to go vicariously on the journey.

As I get closer to final revisions, I print off the manuscript, lay it across my desk, and attack it with colored highlighters. Here are some of the elements I’ve learned to look for in the emotional arc and a few examples from TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE: PANDEMONIUM AND PATIENCE IN THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE.

 middle of revision 19 (subbed rev 25), looking at push back, learning differences challenges, emotional rewards

First and foremost is my “heart” thread, also referred to as the “so what?” or vital idea (Thank you, Barb Rosenstock and Candace Fleming!). It’s not theme, but my unique take, why I had to write the story. Every scene, every action has to serve and support that idea. This creates a tight, meaningful focus.


Tad and Abraham Lincoln each provided what the other desperately needed. I loved that a boy sustained a president! One way I threaded this through was the twinkle in Abe’s eyes when he’s lifted by Tad’s joy. I made sure that the twinkle appeared in key spots to help carry that idea.


Motivation is key to understanding characters. [And…besides character motivation, what’s the writer’s motivation for each scene?]


Tad’s learning difficulties motivate him to seek positive experiences, like a hug from Papa. “But letters didn’t make sense to Tad. Lessons launched him down the hall and out the door.”


Abe’s twinkle also serves as a motivating factor for Tad. “But Tad had seen the twinkle in Papa’s eyes…” 


For every action, there’s a reaction. Reactions keep the main character front and center, and connect to motivation.


Tad is very reactive throughout, but in one of the beginning spreads where Papa is the active character, “Tad watched and listened and learned.”


Stakes are huge and provide the pull for the reader. Unique traits or issues of the main character can be used to enhance stakes.


From the start, with Tad’s unintelligible speech and learning difficulties, he is faced with failure and rejection. His ability to be a child and the comfort of “home” are at stake. Towards the end, his pet turkey’s life is on the line.


I sharpened a few spots to show how his disabilities further threatened his success and also show his strengths. “Though numbers on a slate confused him, Tad understood business.”


Enhance turning points. These are the height of inner conflict that steer the story. Slow the pace a bit and dig in.


“Papa’s shoulders slumped lower, and his face sagged sadder” is motivation for Tad and also a turning point where he takes action.


Another turning point where Tad uses his voice came through loud and clear when I finally found the right words. “When the cook protested—this was the President’s House!—Tad persisted. But this was his home!”


After discussing editorial revisions for my latest manuscript under contract, it’s clear that this is a learning process, that each story presents unique challenges, and I have a long way to go!  :)  Intentional crafting of the emotional journey allows the reader to experience the bumps and potholes, the depth of conflict, the pull around the curves, and the intersections where choices must be made. So let’s get out our highlighters and sharpen the heart thread, motivation, reactions, stakes, and turning points. Take the reader for a ride on an emotional roller coaster!

Thank you, Beth!

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. Beth has more coming in 2022: REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE, illustrated by Susan Reagan; FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, illustrated by Caroline Hamel, and CLOAKED IN COURAGE: THE STORY OF DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER, illustrated by Anne Lambelet.

You can visit her at; @BAndersonWriter on IG, Twitter, and Pinterest; and on FaceBook

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Celebrating WATER with Christy Mihaly

by Sue Heavenrich

Barefoot Books Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery 
by Christy Mihaly; illus. by Mariona Cabassa 
64 pages; ages 8-12
Barefoot Books, 2021

Kick off your shoes and roll up your pant legs, because exploring Christy Mihaly’s newest book is bound to get your feet wet. It will whet your appetite for learning more about our watery planet. And water world we are; water covers a titch over 70% of Earth’s surface. That’s 326 million trillion gallons of water. If you add all the zeroes it looks like this:
326,000,000,000,000,000,000. Looks like a lot, but (because most of Earth's water is ocean or ice) less than 1% of that is precious fresh water, good for drinking.

Filled with stories from around the world and hands-on STEM activities, this book introduces water as an ecosystem, a resource, a science lab, and a challenge for the future. Gate-folds allow extra room for annotated maps and provide an interactive component. A comic water droplet chimes in with commentary and the occasional fact ~ and every now and then you come across little invitations to DIVE DEEPER! 

Flip up the flap to reveal instructions for an experiment or activity.

There are so many things going on in the book, and I wanted to know how Chris was able to keep all the moving parts going in the right direction. So I picked up the phone and called her….

Chris: Barefoot Books is committed to publishing books that highlight environmental and social justice issues. In early 2020, the editorial staff was creating their fall 2021 list, and wanted to focus on conservation, community, and connectedness. They identified water as a theme they wanted to pursue. They wanted a book that would put water into a global context. Then they went looking for an author. They found me through a chain of connections: one of their authors knew an environmental activist who knew me. It was a little bit of serendipity and a bit about becoming known as an author who writes for kids.

Me: This book was a “pandemic project” for you, right?

Chris: Totally! Back in March 2020, I had a calendar full of bookstore and conference events for Free For You And Me, my book about the First Amendment that released that month. But with everything cancelled, I ended up with a lot of blank space on my calendar. So when Barefoot Books called, I had plenty of time to devote to a new project.

Me: Talk about doing research during a pandemic. Was it easy to locate resources?

Chris contemplating water...
Thankfully, I didn’t need to travel to visit archives. There was so much great information available online from reliable government and academic resources. And the book was reviewed by scientific experts. One thing I did was use footnotes during the drafting process. I love footnotes; they help me keep track of what sources which facts came from. That information helped as I went through the many revisions of this manuscript, and needed to check on facts. And the cool thing: footnotes are easy to insert while writing, and then you can take them out at the end.

Me (flipping through the pages): Water seems like such a huge topic… there’s salt water, fresh water, the water cycle, things that live in water...

Chris: It is! Even though the book is divided into sections, everything is related to everything else. I wanted to convey how wondrous water is, along with Earth and all its natural systems, to provide facts, share ideas, and give young readers a sense of hope. I want kids to come away from this book caring about water and feeling empowered to act.

Me: Often the writer has little opportunity to talk with the illustrator. What was your experience like?

Chris: Isn't the art amazing? I haven't talked directly with Mariona Cabassa, the illustrator, but I saw numerous rounds of her sketches and rough art and had plenty of opportunity to review it both for accuracy and for how concepts are presented. I did some educating, for example, about the shape of raindrops (round) versus the shape of water drops from a faucet (tear-shaped). (It has to do with surface tension and gravity.) And I had countless conversations with Emma Parkin, who did both editing and art directing, about not only the text but also the design of spreads, including where we might place gatefolds and the fold-up flaps for activities. The whole process was extremely collaborative, more than any other project I've worked on. 

Me: Opening the gatefolds and the Dive Deeper invitations created a nice interactive touch. Thanks for dropping by the GROG today. 

Check out the book trailer here. Chris is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her and her wonderful books over at her website. Review copy provided the publisher.