May 14, 2012

Writing Editorial Letters and Changes at the Author-Editor Clinic

I started the Author-Editor Clinic in the fall of 2004 with the support of several wonderful women from my University of Washington developmental editing class. They were eager to get more experience editing manuscripts and I was just as eager to see how a small, weekly seminar in Seattle that focused on writing editorial letters could help us all become better at analyzing long texts and communicating with writers.

Over the last eight years many writers with full-length manuscripts have come through the Clinic and it’s been our pleasure to work with them. Some authors have gone on to a measure of success, finding publishers like Scholastic, the University of Alaska Press, and Hawthorne Press. Others have happily self-published. And others have gone away from the experience with a long, in-depth editorial letter that, we hope, inspired them to revise the current manuscript and most of all to keep writing and keep believing in themselves as writers. A changing roster of editors seeking more experience with long manuscripts has passed through the Clinic; most have gone on to make careers as developmental editors.

Now that aspect of the Clinic has come to an end. As of this summer the focus of the Clinic will be on teaching and mentoring editors through online classes. I’ll be teaching my eight-week introductory class five times a year and Karalynn Ott will give her business class twice a year. We’ll continue to offer short Focus classes on specific topics, sometimes repeated, by editors with experience in the subject and a commitment to sharing resources. We’re also considering offering one or two classes specifically for writers.

For developmental editors with some experience working with writers who’d like to learn more about writing substantial editorial letters, I’m offering a six-week course, Writing the Editorial Letter , from May 24 to June 28. We’ll work on many aspects of what makes a novel tick––general structure, characterization and point of view, plot and pacing, dialog and inner monolog, scene and summary. Editors are welcome to use the manuscript of a friend or past client as practice material. For questions about this class or to register, feel free to contact us at

––Barbara Sjoholm

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