Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Freebie: Author, Editor & Illustrator Laurie J. Edwards

This week, I'm bumping my "what I'm reading in ten minutes or less" post to Saturday and returning to my Friday Freebie roots to feature a fellow author. 

I'm absolutely thrilled to feature my friend Laurie J. Edwards. Laurie has been a freelance author and editor for more than twenty years, and I'm proud to say that I've known her for nearly all of that time. When she lived in Pennsylvania, Laurie and I were members of the same critique group and over the years, she has continued to be my cheerleader, critiquer, confidante and friend. 

Laurie has more than 2100 magazine and educational articles in print. Her longer works include the 5-volume UXL Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes and the books Pirates through the Ages and Rihannaas well as stories for the anthologies Summer Lovinand A Community of Writers. She speaks regularly at civic events, libraries, and conferences across the country. In addition to her impressive writing skills, Laurie is a talented illustrator as well.

Laurie latest book is Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullies. The book is a blend of stories and strategies on a timely topic, cyberbullying. 
Co-written with Survivors in Action founder Alexis MooreCyber Self-Defense offers expert advice on how to protect yourself online and beyond.

Welcome, Laurie! Lots of people talk about making a living as a writer, but you’re actually doing it. What does that look like for you?

I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to make a living at what I love to do. Most authors, even multi-published and famous ones, need a day job to supplement their writing. Many people think that selling a book means you’ll be wealthy, but authors know that advances and royalties are rarely enough to pay the bills.

That said, for years now, I’ve been able to make a good living as a freelancer, but it means being creative and doing a variety of writing and editing jobs. I edit for several publishing houses as well as individual authors in all genres: fiction/nonfiction, children/adults. I also do work for hire (writing books and articles for a flat fee) and work for book packagers (they come up with the concept and I write the books for them).

For example, since this time last year, I’ve worked on a variety of projects:
  • wrote 4 young adult novels set in the Wild West for a book packager under the pseudonym Erin Johnson (Book 1: Grace and the Guiltless came out in February in the UK from Curious Fox and in the US in August from Switch Press with different covers.)
  • signed with an agent for a nonfiction book, Cyber Self-Defense, written with cybercrime expert Alexis Moore. (The book sold on a proposal and the publisher, Lyon’s Press, wanted to release it this October, so the book had to be written in four months.)
  • signed a contract for 3 young adult nonfiction books: Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, and Ancient Egypt; the first book is due in early October, so I’m squeezing in this blog post as I race toward that deadline.
  • edited:
    •  6 young adult novels
    • 3 middle grade novels
    • 3 adult mysteries
    • a 17-volume children’s encyclopedia
    • a 3-volume science encyclopedia
    • an adult nonfiction book series
  • wrote 135 articles for a children’s educational publisher
  • signed with an agent for my children’s books and edited two of my picture books so she could submit them to publishers
In addition, I worked on my own projects: writing 2 adult novels, one of which is revised and now with an agent; revising several novels and picture books; illustrating a picture book; and writing 3 new picture books.

Oh, and doing this means working long hours and juggling multiple projects, but my favorite quote is “You’ll never work a day in your life when you love what you do.”

Wow, that’s a lot of projects! Do you have a favorite part of the writing process? 

It’s hard to choose a favorite part of writing because I enjoy almost all of it (with the exception of tight deadlines). I love the rush I get when I come up with a new idea. Often this is the part where I get in the zone, and words flow effortlessly. And when I look up, I realize I’ve been writing for hours, but it only felt like minutes.

After that comes the harder part of planning and plotting, but I do that using different colored sticky notes, rearranging them into pattern. That part is fun too. I don’t like to overplan, just get down the major plot points so I have a road map. Then I let the characters take over from there.

And for both fiction and nonfiction, I enjoy the research. As a former librarian, I can get lost in this part of the process. I have a bad habit of discovering interesting stories or facts totally unrelated to the book I’m working on. I end up following those fascinating rabbit trails and end up losing hours of writing time (but gaining lots of fun facts). To rein myself in, I usually record down the link in my “Ideas” file. When I run out of ideas for books, I can go there and explore those sites.

I know you also do a lot to continue growing as a writer. Tell us a little bit about that.

I believe writers should always be honing their craft, so I attend a lot of workshops and online classes along with working on my MFA degree in Children’s Writing and Illustrating at Hollins University. I’m in my third year there and loving every minute.

I began my writing journey by completing the Institute of Children’s Literature home study course, which I highly recommend. Before I completed that course, I sold one of my assignments to Highlights for Children. I followed up by taking their Advanced Novel Course and joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), another must for children's writers. I go to many of their conferences and events.

Once I became interested in editing, I completed a masters program (which included reading the Chicago Manual of Style from cover to cover -- my favorite course!). Then I worked as an editor and senior editor at a small publishing house, which not only taught me a lot about craft, but also gave me the opportunity to see what life is like on the other side of the desk. I still work as an editor for several publishers, which helps me keep up with the market and improve my own revision skills. It also opened my eyes to the importance of meeting deadlines.

I've also taken many online workshops, including several this year from Mira Reisberg's Children’s Book Academy. She gets great co-teachers, and I was lucky enough to learn from Hilary Homzie, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, and several other great teachers. Also, because I want to work on my illustration skills, I've been taking online classes with Mark Mitchell and Will Terry.

You were just accepted to Kindling Words. Can you explain what that means? 

I’m excited to be headed to Kindling Words this February. I’d often thought I’d like to go, but I knew it was difficult to get in. They have requirements to meet, plus they have a lottery system, and you only have a few hours one day of the year to apply. I decided to try it this year and was thrilled when I got the email saying I was accepted.

Here’s a bit of information from their website:
For more than 20 years, Kindling Words has been the leading professional retreat for the children’s book world. Published authors and illustrators and editors hone the tools of their craft, engage in deep conversation with colleagues and fill the creative well with fresh ideas. 
Wow! Congratulations on your acceptance! Speaking of fresh ideas, tell us a little about your new book. 

Co-written with cybercrime expert Alexis Moore, Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullies is an easy-to-read book with lots of case studies as well as magazine-style quizzes to help you discover if people in your life are potential cyberbullies, stalkers, or abusers. As a former abuse and cyberstalking victim who now helps others through her nonprofit, Survivors in Action, Moore presents strategies to free yourself from any level of cyberabuse from cyberbullies to cyberstalkers/killers to identity theives. Read how others in these situations have triumphed.
But we didn’t want to stop there. Did you know that many victims of cybercrimes experience PTSD? And headlines show that cyberbullying victims sometimes commit suicide. We wanted to give cyberabuse victims ways to overcome their fears, rebuild their reputations, and avoid being victimized ever again. With my MA in creative recovery as well as training in emotional healing techniques, we’ve also put together, with the help of many experts, a series of fun and unusual techniques for emotional recovery.
Here’s the blurb:
Protect yourself from spurned lovers, angry neighbors, and jealous coworkers who use the Internet as the perfect way to exact revenge and wreak havoc on your life. In this essential book, Moore and Edwards introduce the ten most common personality profiles of cyberstalkers—such as Attention-Getting, Jealous, Manipulative, Controlling, and Narcissistic—and their threatening online behaviors.
Each chapter includes a quiz to help you identify the signs of that personality type to determine if you are in a potentially vulnerable relationship. Case studies illustrate how that particular cybercriminal operates, and the book offers tips to prevent and/or recover from each type of cybercrime. It also provides strategies to help victims protect themselves, reestablish their reputations and credentials, recover from financial losses, and rebuild their lives. The techniques range from recovering data, monitoring online profiles and social media information, and regaining self-esteem to changing identities and even going underground. 
The second half of the book includes information on emotional recovery from cyberbullying and cyberstalking, including some fun and little-known strategies for taking control of your life and reducing your fears.  

For more information on Laurie and her work, click on any of the links below. If you're really lucky, you might even get a peek at some of her artwork. 
Amazon author page:

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