January 19, 2012

Editors Roundtable: Introducing Jennifer Hager and Amy Smith Bell

I met both Jennifer and Amy originally through the Northwest Independent Editors Guild, before they began participating in Author-Editor Clinic classes. Amy first gave me my first marketing tips ever—at a Guild meeting in 2005, before I even got my first business license. I still handwrite and hand-address holiday cards to my clients every year because of what Amy said. (She may not remember this.) Jenn I met only last year, but is one of those people you trust instantly. I hope you’ll keep reading to see for yourself why I love learning from my fellow editors! —Kyra Freestar


Jennifer Hager

How long have you been doing developmental editing for authors?           
About four years (though not full time)

What is your favorite thing about developmental editing?           
There are two. First, it thrills me to envision possibilities within and around a story: the wider world or context, the history, interweaving themes, the complexities of characters and relationships. Second, it’s an amazing privilege to work with an author on this level. When I was pregnant with my last child—a high-risk baby—my doctor performed a complete ultrasound exam in the last trimester, looking at all her organs, heart valves, everything. Doing a developmental edit is like performing that ultrasound exam.

What are your favorite genres to edit?           
Memoir, historical fiction, serious nonfiction.

What was your favorite book when you were 13 years old?           
My siblings and I were steeped in Edward Eager’s Half Magic and classics like Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Stevenson’s Treasure Island. As a dog lover and horse girl, I’d read everything by Albert Payson Terhune (Lad, a Dog) and Walter Farley (Black Stallion). But I was most intrigued by Hidden Treasure of Glaston by Eleanor Jewett, which brought me into the world of the 12th century in England.

What’s one thing you hope your editing clients say about you?           
“Jenn is a great ally,” and This collaboration is improving my writing.

What’s one thing about yourself that you think would surprise your editing clients?           
I spent 10 years in Hong Kong, raising a family and exploring every nook and cranny in Asia that I could get to.

Coffee, tea, or chocolate?           
Dark chocolate, preferably a large bar that I can squirrel away somewhere and nibble on when needed—could last me a whole month.


Amy Smith Bell

How long have you been doing developmental editing for authors?
I’ve been an independent editor since 1998 (I worked in-house for a variety of trade and academic book publishers before that). When I first struck out on my own, I did a lot of copyediting and proofreading, but for the past five years I’ve focused on developmental editing.

What is your favorite thing about developmental editing?
I find the whole process at once challenging and supremely satisfying. At the outset I may have a feeling of chaos and confusion about a project. But as I methodically work my way through a manuscript and carefully consider the bigger-picture issues (structure, voice, point of view, theme, characterization, pacing, chronology, setting, and so on), I always find my way clear in how to help the author strengthen the work. It’s very gratifying to help a writer achieve his or her goals.      

What are your favorite genres to edit?
Adult fiction, juvenile/young adult fiction, memoir, adventure narrative.

What was your favorite book when you were 13 years old?
Hands down, it was A Wrinkle in Time. I also loved the Anne of Green Gables series as well as anything by S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders, That Was Then This Is Now, Rumblefish, etc.). Other teary faves at the tender age of 13 were Bridge to Terabithia and Where the Red Fern Grows.

What’s one thing you hope your editing clients say about you?
I hope my clients say my work is thoughtful, insightful, careful, supportive, and above all, useful in helping them meet their goals.

What’s one thing about yourself that you think would surprise your editing clients?
I am a closet triathlete and will run my third half-marathon in January 2012.

Coffee, tea, or chocolate?
Coffee and chocolate (sip, bite, repeat).


[You can read introductions to six more Roundtable editors here, here, and here. But next month, I’m going to ask them tougher questions. —kf]

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