Interview by Nathan Sturgis (PWR class of 2014)
As a graduate of Taylor University, what made you choose that school for your degree?
I chose Taylor because of the Professional Writing department. I sat in on one of Dr. Hensley’s classes as a junior in high school and informed my parents that this was the degree I wanted. I didn’t even consider another school after that.
You currently work as a line editor for Annie’s Publishing. How did the professional writing program prepare you for your current job?
My college degree taught me good writing habits that I apply in every manuscript I work on. It also taught me that every single word of a manuscript is important. You have to pay attention to the literal meaning as well as connotations. I also apply this attention to detail to each manuscript.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love the idea that I’m improving the work and enhancing the author’s voice. There is great satisfaction in knowing that your work makes something better.
What led you to your current position with Annie’s Publishing? What other jobs have you had in the past, and how did they prepare you for your current position?
I started at Yellow Pages Group in Indianapolis out of college. They honed my attention to detail, and there I learned about house styles (your publisher’s grammatical preferences). From there, I moved to a reporting position with the Decatur Daily Democrat, where I learned Associated Press style and the importance of publishing accurate facts. After that I became a copy editor with Annie’s, where I applied Associated Press, Chicago, and the house styles to all of their publications. My work on their cozy mysteries impressed the director of fiction, and she asked if I wanted to join the fiction team. I’ve been full time in fiction since November 2016 and enjoying every minute of it!
In a nutshell, what knowledge or skills do you want to pass on to conference attendees?
My goal is to pass on the basics of good writing that I learned in college and have picked up in the field since then. I will also give attendees resources that they can reference after the conference to help them in their writing.
What books have influenced you throughout your life?
Listen, no one has time for the exhaustive list, but I’ll try to narrow it down. Top of my list has to be the works of Tamora Pierce, who has been my favorite author since middle school. These days I tend to mentally edit her actual writing, but her character casts always feature strong, capable females, and she always includes life lessons that I think are extremely important for her young audience. L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series has to be one of the best I’ve ever read in terms of 3D characters and historical accuracy. I could go on, but I always come back to these books.
Please name a book, nonfiction or fiction, that is not directly about writing but has taught you something about writing.
We are responsible for a lot of society’s moral code, and we need to be responsible about it. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are always cast up as classics–and I love them as much as the next bibliophile–but I realized a few years ago that they’re not examples of healthy relationships. Additionally, the characters in them (especially Wuthering Heights) are actually pretty terrible under the beautiful writing. I learned from this that it’s easy to romanticize unhealthy relationships under pretty words and lots of drama. I don’t think this is bad in and of itself if the readers recognize it, but a lot of readers don’t, as evidenced by the recent Twilight craze. This is a technique used by a lot of authors, and one I strive not to let through in the manuscripts I edit. I think in general a lot of things get through in books and subtly become less objectionable in the reader’s subconscious because of the way they’ve been conveyed. I believe it’s something writers and authors need to be vigilant about when writing.
Rebekah will be teaching one session at the conference:
How to Write Good Well