I’ve known Jeanne Marie Leach on-line for years through the Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network. She’s a fabulous teacher and supporter, and I’m so excited to have this chance to interview her and learn more about her!
When did you start writing/editing professionally?
I started writing professionally in 1995, with my first book published in 2000. I started editing professionally in 2007.
Why did you want to be a freelance writer/editor?
I joined the ACFW in 2000, and enjoyed learning more than I ever knew possible about writing. I eventually became part of their critique group system. There I discovered that I actually enjoyed critiquing/editing more than I enjoyed writing, but I was afraid to tell my critique partners. Eventually, I stopped sending them my own chapters and simply critiqued theirs.
What’s your specialty/focus? Why/how did you pick this?
My specialty is Christian fiction, particularly women’s fiction, romances, and historicals. I picked it because it’s what I love to read, and I know these genres better than any others. They speak to my heart.
What’s your favorite part of this kind of work?
Setting my own hours, no longer punching a time clock, and helping other people attain their writing goals. I love to watch a beginning writer as their writing improves. Their dedication and hard work pays off, and their joy is contagious.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome during your career?
My “fear” of marketing. It’s actually a lack of knowledge and understanding of what goes into marketing my business, and frankly, I’m still struggling with this today.
What’s surprised you the most during your career?
That I’ve actually helped other authors win awards and reach the NY Times bestseller’s list. And that I still love editing after 9 years. This has turned out to be my dream job.
If you could give a new freelance writer/editor one piece of advice, what would it be?
Study everything you can get your hands on about the genre in which you wish to specialize. Just as writers are told to write what they know, I suggest that editors edit what they know. Don’t assume that if you edit non-fiction books that you can edit fiction, and vice versa. Continue to keep abreast of current trends in the industry. You’ll find this information readily at writer’s conferences and PENCON. Conferences are invaluable resources.
If you could do one thing differently in your career, what would it be?
Nothing. God led me to The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network before I started. I took every course they offered before announcing my business. It’s truly been my dream job.
What’s your favorite kind of work? Why?
Mentoring, coaching, teaching. I had to work on my writing alone for the first five years. Back then, the internet was still in its infancy and the library became my home away from home. I gleaned a bit of information from one book, a little more from another, and I slowly taught myself the basics of writing. Now, I like to help writers skip all that and help them take their writing and their books to the next level. Passing on what I learned the hard way brings me joy each day.
What does your work space/office look like?
I am blessed to have my own room as my office. It’s lovingly titled “The Crooked Room” because this is a one-hundred-year-old house, and my office was an add on. It’s kind of leaning toward one corner, and the framing and roofing was poorly done. But I love it! I have one of those huge armoire desks that I can open and close as necessary. It contains my work space, computer, reference books, files, and tools of the trade. I also have a chest of drawers that has been converted into bookshelves, and three long bookshelves on the wall opposite of my desk—all filled to the brim with books. My office doesn’t reflect the decorating style of the rest of the house, which is mountain rustic. This little room is filled with bright colors and interesting do-dads that remind me that God loves beauty, so I surround myself with it.
What is your go-to snack when working?
I always have something to drink beside me at all times. I rarely snack during work hours, but once in a while I’ve been known to sneak some M & M’s into my office. So, I quit buying them. My office is off the kitchen, so it would be easy to grab something, but once I get working, I remain focused until lunch. And I don’t snack in the afternoon either. But I do love to drink root beer once or twice a week.
Excluding the CMOS (that’s a given) what one editing resource would you recommend? Why?
Proofreading Secrets of Best-selling Authors, by Kathy Ide. I can find the rules I use most often much quicker than with my CMOS. I also recommend The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style if you plan to work on Christian books. I use this book almost as often as CMOS.
If you could only recommend one writing resource, what would it be? Why?
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maas. This book is an entire writer’s conference for novelist in one place. It teaches the basics of writing fiction that aren’t taught in creative writing courses in college. These are the tried and true “rules” formed by publishers based upon what has worked for their authors in the past.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” I like the way it says it in the old King James version best. We need to study whatever it is we choose to undertake and not go into it lightly. Learn everything you can, and let God be the CEO of your freelance business. You’ll find that your work will never become dull or get old as long as God is in control. He keeps it fresh and interesting and thinks outside the box. In fact, he says, “What box?” If I were asked to give a business model, I wouldn’t be able to because it varies from week to week because of God’s leading.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Have a blessed day!
Jeanne’s new website is still under construction, but you can take a peek at http://www.novelimprovement.com.