Friday, October 3, 2008

Interview with Helen Ginger on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's interview is with Helen Ginger, freelance editor, book consultant, writer, teacher, editor, speaker, and former mermaid.

Wow, you've got a lot of titles! Are you doing all of those things currently, or are you focusing more on one area than the others?

I do seem to wear a lot of hats, don't I? Actually, though, if you look close, you'll see all of the titles -- Writer, Editor, Book Consultant, Speaker -- relate to writing. I do my own writing, mainly fiction but I'm venturing into nonfiction. And, of course, I've been publishing my newsletter Doing It Write for nine years now, every Thursday, with subscribers across the world. I edit for other writers. I do marketing primarily for a company I'm an Owner/Partner in – Legends In Our Own Minds® -- but even the marketing bleeds over into writing, since more and more I'm working with writers on things other than just editing. And I love to speak about writing. I have a Masters in Speech Communication and years ago I taught public speaking. So, all the hats are stacked on top of each other. The one I'm most focused on now is editing. I love working with authors on their books. Writers are, after all, some of the most creative people on the planet, right? Not only do I make use of my degree in English, I get to read all these fabulous books before anyone else! For writers who may be thinking they won't ever hire an editor to look at their manuscript because they couldn't stand all the red marks, I would suggest they ask themselves which would be worse – working with an editor to correct punctuation, find dropped words, correct continuity problems, cut superfluous adverbs and weak verbs, and other problems OR getting back query after query with form rejection letters? I don't edit to make a writer cry. I work with the author to get her or his book ready to go to an agent or editor.

What aspect of your collection of careers did you start with? What made you decide to get into it? What were you doing before?

Hmm, let me see here. Writing came first – some of my earliest memories are of writing. Then came editing since I worked with one of my degree professors by editing and grading papers, then came public speaking since my Master's specialization was in Oral Interpretation (orally interpreting the written word) and after graduation I taught public speaking at San Antonio College and Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas. Then after years of therapy, otherwise known as critique groups, I moved into editing for authors and companies. Marketing sort of grew out of working with businesses and my experience as Executive Director of the Writers' League of Texas. Why did I decide to get into it? All of it stems from my love of writing and books. I've never really visualized myself in anything else.

Out of all of your titles, 'Book Consultant' isn't one I've heard before. Can you tell us what that is?

Book Consultant encompasses more than just editing. I work with authors, when asked, on areas like query letters, synopses, promotion, networking … aspects of a writer's career beyond just writing the book. Recently, I did a phone consult with an author whose book was out with a very small press. He had hired a publicist, but didn't feel like the publicist was doing him much good and he couldn't afford to travel on a bookstore tour. So I talked to him about getting out into the virtual world. Yeah, he was late because the book was already out. But it wasn't like he could turn back the calendar. He needed to do what he could now. Every writer, from the time they get the idea for a story should start prepping to promote the book. If you wait until it's about to come out, you're almost too late. As you write, start getting ready to market your book and start networking.

One of the things that you teach is public speaking. I think many authors tend to be introverts. I still remember sweating through my speech for Civic Oration in the fifth grade! Do you think public speaking is something authors should be comfortable with? Any quick tips on how to do this?

I definitely believe authors need to be ready to speak in public. The days of the recluse author refusing to promote are long gone. While it's true that a lot of marketing today is done via the Internet, an author can't overlook face-to-face opportunities. At a book signing, you're going to have to talk to people, but if you can change that book signing into an opportunity to speak to an audience, your chances of selling books goes up. My advice is start small. If there's a Toastmasters group near by, you can join that. If you go to a conference or a meeting, make yourself raise your hand, stand and ask a question. If there's a social time before the meeting, go around and introduce yourself and talk, not just listen. When it comes time to speak, know your subject. If you want, you can write out your speech then make note cards with your main topics or subjects listed. Then practice, practice, practice. Don't try to memorize it word for word. You can take your note cards when you go to the podium or front of the room, but don't take the written speech. You do not want to read – it's a talk, not a reading. (And if it does involve a reading from your book, practice that beforehand so your words sound like they did in your head when you wrote them, not like a boring grocery list.)

Do you have any fun projects going on right now?

About a year ago, I did interviews with Biomedical Engineering Technicians in Texas and Massachusetts which eventually became part of a book – I recently received the ARC from the publisher. I'll be meeting with the publisher in early October to discuss more books on tech careers. I enjoyed doing the interviews and I went from having no idea what a BMET did to feeling like I have a working knowledge of the field. My understanding is that the publisher wants to have single authors working on future books in the series as opposed to several writers contributing to each one. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what other fields I can learn! I'm also currently working with an author on editing her paranormal mystery. I've already done the first few chapters and she has wonderful characters. I'm looking forward to getting the full manuscript.

You say that you used to be a mermaid. Could you expand on that? Or is it a secret? :)

No secret. Somewhere I even have postcards with me standing on a volcano, as proof of my three years as a mermaid. I swam at a resort/park called Aquarena Springs, which is no longer in business since Texas State University bought it and turned it into a research center. Most mermaids swam only in the summer, the busiest time of the year, but I swam year round. The park was open every day except Christmas, whether the temperature was a hundred-and-two or thirty-two. The water temperature stayed the same: 72 (that's the official line, although one time we tested it and the thermometer said 68). It was spring fed since the park was at the mouth of a river and had hundreds of springs. I did underwater synchronized swimming, blew air rings and, if you want to know how to eat and drink underwater, I can tell you.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

That's hard – not finding one, but narrowing it down to one. Okay. An agent who I think does a good blog for writers is Nathan Bransford. He gives solid advice, posts frequently, and is nowhere near as snarky as Miss Snark (no longer actively posting) or Evil Editor. Not that I don't like Miss Snark or Evil Editor, but they're both intimidating for beginning writers since if you asked a question, you were quite likely to get snarkicized.

I'm also going to name two authors who I think are doing great things. One is Susan Wittig Albert, a multi-series mystery author. She's a great author, but one reason I recommend her is because she is one of the best at virtual book tours. If you want to know how to conduct a successful blog book tour, follow one of hers and learn. Plus, she usually does a follow up at the end of a tour to share how she did it and what worked and what didn't. The second author is Diane Fanning, a multi-published true crime author with two new mystery series. She's a really good writer. But what amazes me is the work she puts in day in and day out. She'll have at least one, sometimes two, true crimes coming out every year, plus true crimes that she's doing updates on so they can be re-released, plus a mystery. When she researches a true crime, she attends trials and travels all over the US interviewing people. She does speaking engagements and book signings – if Diane Fanning is ever in your area speaking about the serial killers she's interviewed, go hear her. I attended her talk, with slides, at the University of Texas. It'll send chills down your spine. Just listening to her schedule tires me out, yet she is the nicest person you'll ever meet.

Okay, that's it. I'm done. (Even I'm tired of hearing me talk.) Thank you so much, Emma, for inviting me here to your blog. I'll stick around today in case anyone has questions or comments. This was fun!

About the Author
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and writer. You can visit her website and blog, follow her on Twitter, or join her newsletter, Doing It Write.

© Emma Larkins and Helen Ginger
Post a Comment