~This Writer’s Life~

Whether you’re editing someone’s autobiography, as I’m doing now, or you’re editing someone’s scholarship or college admissions essay, those words mean something to someone, be it the words themselves or what the client hopes those words will get them. This is why you should treat each writing/editing job, no matter what it is, as the most important job you are working on (even more important than your own writing because editing someone’s work is a sacred trust; they are paying you, after all). When people say I’m expensive, I tell them this is how I approach any job I undertake. When I charge someone, I consider my time, skills, access to resources, the education it took to be qualified to do the job, and my years of experience and expertise. When you hire someone to do a job, you are not just hiring them for their time; you are hiring them for what they know and can do and what you don’t know and can’t do (which is I don’t do my own contracting work). Know your worth and respect other people’s.

I recently received a referral from someone local who was looking for someone to edit her autobiography. The book would not be for publication but simply something she wanted to leave as a legacy, which doesn’t mean someone isn’t serious about their project. I mean, after all, if you’re leaving something to your family, wouldn’t you want it to be the best it could be? 

I’m not an aspiring writer or editor; I am published and have won several awards for writing, and I edit for a living. I have two Associate degrees and am working on my Bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. 

Recently, a friend posted something that resonated with me.

So, know your client. First, if you detest phone calls, and your client is old school who prefers long chats on the phone (something I don’t have time for) rather than text or email, make that clear upfront. Unless you’re willing to communicate their way, please don’t take them on as a client. 

I don’t know of a tactful way to ask someone if they’re computer literate, but if they’re typing their manuscript on WordPad and don’t know how to copy and paste, you don’t have the time to teach that unless you want to charge extra. (I have learned that I could make good money teaching people over sixty how to use a computer.) I spent about an hour-and-a-half over several phone calls (I was also rung up at eight-thirty in the morning and was called thrice in one day), trying to walk someone through the steps to sending me something via Google Docs, which was valuable time I needed to homeschool and work on my writing. 

And, most importantly, the minute they mention you sound expensive, and they have to go to the ATM to get the money rather than having it ready (even after you quoted them a price; for me, it was a dollar per double-spaced page in Times New Roman and 12-point font), and they give you a printed, single-spaced printout, you want to shut that down and say in the nicest way possible that you probably aren’t the right person for them (rather than the other way around). Don’t negotiate. You are not selling a house, you are selling yourself. Know your worth.

I always give a sample, one-page edit to show what clients can expect. I would never ask someone to pay me otherwise. This is the third time I’ve done a one-page sample edit for someone, and they’ve fallen through. However, another client, who I met through Upwork, had never even seen my work, paid me what I asked for. I think this is why I’ve always bought a car from a lot rather than an individual, as individuals can be flaky, though our first car we purchased for five hundred dollars from an elderly couple, which lasted a couple of years. We saved a ton in car payments.

Remember that you don’t just have to sell yourself to a potential client, but they need to sell themselves to you.  

I’m amazed at how many people are willing to pay four dollars for a cup of coffee but are unwilling to pay to have what is a labor of love (or should be) be the best it could be—something that will last for generations and hopefully be read and enjoyed by many rather than for ten minutes, enjoyed only by you.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

He pounded out hit pieces,
throwing hardball questions
& paraphrasing quotes
that weren’t provocative enough.
She penned puff pieces,
handing over softball questions
& doodling little hearts over her i’s
as she took notes.
He was as interested in presenting a caricature
as she was a character,
but then along came the biographer
who made their subjects human.

Marilee Readon suffered from writer’s flow,
but when she was sentenced to watch
SpongeRob FatPants
16 hours a day
for committing a lowercase crime
(a.k.a. misdemeanor plagiarism),
she developed writer’s block,
for her I.Q. points had been dulled.

When “Humans of New York” became a thing,
she came up with “People of Pensacola.”
When she crossed over to “The Far Side,”
“Nearsighted” became her thing.
But when 50 Shades of Grey found her,
50 Ways to Gray became a hit-&-run,
becoming known as “Sticky Lit”
sticky being those fingers
that lifted from the bestselling,
if not the best.
Mediocre writers begged & borrowed,
whereas she stole the genuine article
& turned them into genuine knockoffs.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

She hated starting her day with business,
but she loved ending it with pleasure,
& when she made writing not only her work
but her way of life,
every day was a joy,
for through that writing,
she connected with others
by telling their stories
& in sharing hers.

Novella & Novelette,
the Italian & French literary expatriates
who came to America in a giant plum,
learned that just as there was a time to write
& a time to edit,
there was always a time to read.

She was the Grammar Queen,
he, the Punctuation King,
but when they were stung
by the Tory,
Spelling Bee,
they no longer knew
how to capitalize on their gifts,
& their crowning achievement
learning how to dress
their well-spelled word salad.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

She wrote about “Florida Woman,”
he, “Florida Man,”
each always seeking to outdo the other
by finding the most outrageous characters
who had done the most outrageous things;
but when the newspaper had to cut corners,
namely, their offices,
leaving these columnists feeling several stories too short,
they had to reinvent themselves in this new era
of shrinking newsrooms,
so they collaborated on the “People of Pensacola” project,
humanizing those they had once lampooned.

When Passive Voice met Active Voice,
Active believed ze was editorially superior
while Passive believed ze was the target
of numerous microaggressions,
perpetrated by English teachers,
but when they met Passive-Aggressive,
who wasn’t just talk,
P & A literally joined forces,
realizing that both had their place—
Active, when the question was “Who?”
& Passive,
when the question was “Who cares who?”

When Scholar Lee wrote her story
in the 1st person,
she was accused of making it all about herself;
when she revised it to reflect the 2nd person,
she was accused of telling her readers what to think;
when she rewrote it in the 3rd,
she was accused of being a know-it-all,
so she decided that she would write poetry,
where the only voice that mattered
was her own.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

She was a washed-up comedy writer
whose life was always taking serious turns,
turning her security-seeking self into a risk-taking one
because circumstances kept giving her no choice.
She drove a car with several dings that had given her cha-ching,
though now she could only open the doors from the outside,
so heaven help her if those windows quit working.
She lived on continental breakfasts at random hotels
& fancy leftovers from board meetings,
but never did the water that ran yellow
through the Pensacola pipes pass her lips,
for even though she may have been all washed up,
she had inadvertently made it happen
with the best Olay body wash her coupons could practically buy.

He was a nosy reporter,
she, a mouthy writer,
& together,
they not only captured the smells & tastes
of the world around them,
but they beat every lawsuit for slander & libel
that was leveled against them.
With his nose for news
& her gift of gab,
they leveled their opponents so swiftly,
they didn’t know what hit them,
though if anyone asked,
they would say it felt like
18 wheels & a dozen benders.

For him,
the clients were always ruder,
the women, fatter,
& his workday worse than the day before.
According to her,
her grandmother had played Sarah on The Andy Griffith Show,
her father was an illegitimate direct descendant of Diamond Jim Brady,
& she, the reincarnation of Bettie Page before her pin-up years.
Being tellers of big windies,
they always tried to blow the other away
with their vast stores of hot air,
so that as their stories got taller,
their credibility got smaller
& their notoriety got bigger.
When they realized the diamond mine they had
in spinning tangled yarns,
they made money cranking out fake memoirs—
paid for by GoFundMe accounts.

Summer mini-writing workshop: Last call


So, like my Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry prompts (and WD’s Poem-a-Day challenges in April and November), I am moving on to other projects. I am retiring this seasonal blog feature and will spend more time writing for paying publications (or at least publication credits). I’ll still keep a notebook of all the things I learn and share those on occasion in regular posts, but I’m tired and frankly, a bit overwhelmed with all the free (literally) writing I do, as much as I enjoy all the comments and feedback on it. I have fans, but I’m ready for customers.

University has gotten more intense (baccalaureate writing is tough), and I don’t need any more writing deadlines than I already have. I’m ready to streamline my process and not have to keep up with so many small pieces of writing, such as these workshops. Though I enjoy sharing writing tips, I’ve realized that creative writing, more so than ever, is my true love, and I want to make more time for that, among other things completely unrelated to writing and the craft. I hope those of you who are writers found the tips and truths helpful; these features helped me backlink to old posts—to get two for the price of one and refresh those old posts by running them through the Grammarly app (which I recently discovered), darken the font (for some reason, my WordPress text is set to dark gray), delete the stock photo and use an image that exclusively belongs to me, and add new tags and delete old ones. 

These past several months, I have been slowly removing things from my plate. I don’t like being in front of a screen all the time. I want to spend more time in green and blue spaces and work with my hands rather than my fingers all the time. I want to read more deeply (which I do so much better on paper) and scribble notes all over drafts (also on paper). I’ve had this blog almost seven years, and 1000+ posts in, I feel like I’m finally ready to make something great happen with my writing, and it has nothing to do with a college degree but all I have learned while getting it. I’m ready to put myself on an hourly rather than a daily writing schedule, where I will shut the door and work, and then put it away. I want to begin my day with some contemplation on the front porch, maybe a cup of tea (oh, who am I kidding? It’ll be coffee.) I don’t want to be up all hours of the night, toiling away at the keyboard. By treating my writing as a job rather than a hobby, I can make something happen, but does that mean I have wasted my time? Absolutely not, for everything I’ve done with my writing has led me to this point.

So far, I’ve come up with this formula (see below). When I start the fall semester, I will try to adhere to the formula below, even if I can only do it four times a week and spend the other two strictly on coursework (even God took a day off). 

1.5 hours writing + 1 hour editing + 30 minutes submitting = professional writing success?

Of course, I’ll aside time once a week to go through my photographs and work on my Shutterfly books, but that’ll be a weekend thing and not more than a couple of hours a weekend, at that. 



Summer mini-writing workshop: More on nonfiction writing


Just like query letters and synopses, writing blurbs, in this DIY world, is part of the process. https://blog.reedsy.com/write-blurb-novel/ Here is an example of a blurb for my postmodern short story, “Jordan/Jordyn,” where I used gender-neutral pronouns (it was a largely experimental project): Jordan Morrison has always felt his body was a mistake. His Catholic upbringing and gender dysphoria have started a civil war inside him, but it is his romance with Drew—a young woman with whom he’s been honest about his gender identity—that concerns him. Will she still love him when he becomes Jordyn, or does she only love what makes him a man? Will their relationship survive the transformation that will right what Jordan believes nature made wrong, or is Drew only pretending to support his decision because she knows it’s what he wants?

Part of my job used to be going through the daily obituaries. I’ve read some lovely tributes that captured the spirit of a loved one. Don’t wait until someone transitions before you record your memories of them, for what a treasure it would be to interview my grandparents and capture their stories—the ones only they could have told. In my Shutterfly account, I made memory books of my daughter where I document things—like how her dad and I used to put her duck, Quackers, on the fan blade and make him spin around till he fell off. Jot down your memories at their ripest and then freeze them at their freshest.

When I took Professional and Technical Writing, I learned how to create a beautiful and comprehensive set of instructions. If you can teach someone how to do something, great, but if you can help them teach themselves, even better. https://sarahleastories.com/2019/11/16/how-to-schedule-posts-ahead-of-time-on-your-facebook-author-business-page/

I already know what I think of myself and can only imagine what other people think of me. A great quote from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is when Mr. Toohey asks the idealistic architect, Howard Roark, “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us,” to which Roark replies, “But I don’t think of you.” For this exercise, you must dig deep—remove yourself from your writing and step into the mind (if not the shoes) of someone else who knows you fairly well. You are not looking in the mirror, but you are looking at yourself, looking in the mirror. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/26/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-26-theme-relationship/

Press releases may not be literature, but they serve a purpose, and the more types of writing you can do, the better you’ll become at the type of writing you like to do best.

I love telling my stories above all others. Maybe that’s because I’m an introvert. I also enjoy telling other people’s stories, though I ensure theirs are the ones I want to tell.

Every family has their traditions. Mine was always opening gifts on Christmas Eve (with no explanation of why Santa came early). By becoming your family’s historian, you are preserving not just the family tree but the fruit borne from it.

A cover letter to a magazine should be simple. Here is an example:

Dear Editor (if you know their name, use it; if you must specify Poetry Editor, etc., do so),

Please consider “The Murderous Yogi” for Dog Day Mornings, which is 2020 words. I have been published on writersdigest.com, in Bella Grace magazine, and with The Saturday Evening Post. I am pursuing my B.A. in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, at the University of West Florida, and am a Writing Expert for Grammarly.

Thank you,

Sarah Richards

*If you read and liked one of the articles they published, mention it to show you read their journal; however, this isn’t a must-do thing.

Summer mini-writing workshop


There is a story behind every new technology. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/07/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-325-theme-forget-blank/

Just as Cecil B. DeMille believed you could take a page out of the Bible and make a movie, grab a medical coding book and find something to write about (other than cancer, unless it’s a memoir). The complexities of the human mind and body are vast.


Rather than write a movie review, write a poem about it. It still requires analysis on a deeper level. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/27/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-328-theme-movie-inspired-poem/

“Just So” type stories (a la Rudyard Kipling) have always helped me answer questions no one ever thought to ask. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/05/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-4-theme-once-upon-a-blank/

Write about something that seems like a contradiction but isn’t.  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/03/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-theme-united-andor-divided/

The metaphor is what poetess Kim Addonizio refers to as the shimmer. Make a list of your favorite things and come up with metaphors for each. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/18/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-17-theme-swing/

Pick a line from one of your previous works. If doing this sparks a series, tie the last poem in with the first. This is a great exercise because you never begin with a blank page. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/29/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-29-theme-response-to-a-previous-poem-this-month/

Serve up a slice of Americana. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/08/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-8-theme-doodle/

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites


The Shutterfly edition

He was always crunching numbers,
she, digesting words,
& together,
they made up a complex word problem,
describing an outlandish scenario
that would never occur in real life.

He’d sought Kodak moments,
she, Instagrammable ones.
Even though each believed
there was more merit in their medium,
they still managed to capture
the magic that was in each other—
his, in telling a story
& hers, in writing it.

When Fiddle met Violin,
they each believed they were better
than the other,
for Fiddle was preferred by the dirt poor,
by the filthy rich,
until they realized
that they still needed their bows
to make their bodies sing.

Summer mini-writing workshop: Writing tips


We all have something in our lives that makes living easier or better. For me, those things would be air conditioning, online bill pay, and, of course, coffee. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/23/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-23-theme-action/

Write a love letter to something you are running out of. Show your appreciation. 


Think of how much the world has changed in 1000 years (or even 100 years). Now, imagine how much it will change in so many years. Don’t worry about listing everything; just pick one thing and expand on it. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/20/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-20-theme-earlier-line/

When you write from life, you become a data miner. I save emails, newsletters, photos of random things, fliers, quotes, links, obituaries/newspaper clippings, and even job descriptions. This piece, for example, was inspired by some of the event fliers I saw posted on bulletin boards around campus. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/14/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-14-theme-report/

Jot down a list of mysterious titles like The Magician’s Daughter or The Undertaker’s Wife and write their story, never using their name. It worked for the second Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca.

Hilarity ensues when there is a miscommunication about an object’s intended purpose. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/12/21/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-419-made-sense-at-the-time/

Think of something you hate, and figure out how to repurpose it in such a way that you love it. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/18/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-18-theme-good-for-nothing/

Grammarly is an incredible resource. This article has some great ideas if you’re stuck. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/things-to-write-about/