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Supporting the community

editor sacramento editorIn 2009, when I joined the ranks of full-time freelancers, I discovered the Editorial Freelancers’ Association, an education and support organization for editing/writing/publishing professionals. I wanted an affiliation, and I needed to learn. Not long after that,  fellow EFA member Susan Herman and I started a Northern California chapter of the organization.

I remember at an early NorCal meeting, a participant (not an EFA member) asked what was in it for him. Were we going to generate business for one another through some kind of referral percentage system? How would we deal with competition among our ranks? This guy wanted to know how we could share information without giving away our own business. How would he wind up with more money in his pocket when he left our monthly meetings?

He didn’t get it.

Increasing skills & helping others understand what we do

Instead of looking myopically at how much money we will see going into our pocket in the short term, consider that building a network of professionals in the same field and discussing best practices may be the best way to support our community, increase understanding of what it is exactly that those in our field can do for a variety of clientele:  a publisher, yes, but also a small business, an author, a tech company, an insurance lender, etc.

Not all editors are the best fit for any given project, and neither are they necessarily in direct competition with one another. In just a small group, like the NorCal EFA chapter for example, we could have an academic textbook editor, a scientific journal editor, a business blog writer, a health ghostwriter, and two or three fiction editors. One of the fiction editors focuses on genre (sci fi/fantasy) fiction, the other on short stories and literary fiction.  While it is true that many of the required skills do overlap, and some of us do more than one thing well, experienced editors often have a niche in which they specialize. (Maybe it is related to subject, i.e. “music”; maybe style guide, i.e. “APA” ) Every one of us is likely to bring different experiences, personalities, policies, and price structures to the playing field.

Seven years later, Susan still has the Nor Cal EFA chapter going strong, and I am the organization’s International Chapter Development Chairperson, helping to facilitate the growth of chapters in order to increase the skills and exposure for EFA members. And I’m not afraid to link to her freelance-editor site from my freelance-editor blog.

Has supporting the editorial freelance community in this way put money directly in my pocket? I’ll say it has, because I believe it, but I have no stats to prove it. However, I am decidedly richer. Sharing, learning, being a part of a supportive community is valuable not only for me as a business owner, but also as a human being.

Sacramento editor keeping busy this winter

I thought I’d post a quick rundown of what’s been keeping me occupied lately, and what I’m looking forward to in the near future.

I continue to work with short-story and novel writers to hone their craft. One is working on a series of connected pieces that we are putting together as a single collection, a novel-in-stories (a la the much-discussed Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno). I find this kind of work engaging and tremendously fun. Please feel free to fill out an editorial services survey and reach out if you would like to consult with me about your writing. I have a spot or two available.

Speaking of Anthony Marra, I recently attended a CapRadio Reads event featuring this fine crafter of prose. He is not only brilliant, but also charming. My colleague Kate Asche released her book of poems (Our Day in the Labyrinth, Finishing Line Press) at a reading at a well-attended Sac Poetry Center event. Also, Radio Silence (currently on hiatus- boo!) hosted Elvis Costello in San Francisco; a great event in conjunction with the release of Costello’s memoir. So, I’ve been getting out a bit.

I’m enjoying engaging with musician-writers and other music-aficionados on Twitter @Sacramentorobin. Rock and roll memoirs and biographies are almost an obsession of mine. My pet department at Under the Gum Tree is the Soundtrack category, where I get to work with writers for whom music holds a special place in their hearts. That’s where I worked, for example, with the terrific Samuel Autman (watch him rocket to greatness!) when he wrote about Donna Summer.

At Under the Gum Tree, things continue to grow. Pick up a print copy for your coffee table. Send your creative nonfiction to us! And if you will be at AWP 2016 in LA, be sure to stop by our booth at the book fair and come to our event (details TBD). AWP, of course will get its own posts here when the time comes.

I am, as always, reading lots. Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Ploughshares, Writers’ Chronicle, Poets and Writers, Essay Daily, J.M. Coetzee, The Sun, Mother Jones, The New York Times. Etcetera. I just picked up Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, and am wondering how I ever missed it.

Always learning, reading like a writer. Not so much writing, but lately the bug has been making me itch. I will be hankering down soon.

Thank you for reading my blog. Remember, I’m here if you would like support with any part of your writing process.


Tweet tweet robin joins Twitter

sacramento editor, songbirdsShe rocks in the treetops all the day long

hoppin’ and a boppin’ and a singin’ her song

All the little birdies on Jay Bird Street

Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

As any Angie, Sarah, Daniel, Jude, Alison or Mandy knows, if there is a song with your name in it, you’ll hear it sung to you many times during your life. For me, I’ve had to live with “Rockin’ Robin.” I’m sure it was Bobby Day’s original being referenced by the older folks, and Michael Jackson’s rendition by the younger, but it doesn’t really matter; the question was always the same.

“Are you Rockin’, Robin?”

I like to think of myself has having a dry sense of humor (some people will say too dry) and developed a standard reply to anyone who brought up the song.

“Tweet. Tweet.”

Recently, I was working with a client on a experimental-form memoir and helping her get ideas on how to find a potential home for her manuscript. Since I worked with Andrea Hurst Literary Management in 2009, I’ve seen a few transitions in the way calls for submissions/queries are communicated. It used to be that every year we pre-ordered Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers and Agents: A big FAT exhaustive and reliable PRINT guide to who was where and looking for what. We’d find an intriguing listing in the book, then find the website, then cross-reference industry news, then go to the website, and then pick up the phone (gasp) and talk to the editor to make sure what we were trying to sell was indeed what they wanted to buy. Targeted pitching. The right way to do things.

I knew that any printed guide is not relied on heavily anymore, thanks to the up-to-the-minute accuracy of information a publisher can post on the internet, but what I learned this most recent time around is that even the websites are becoming more and more static. Updates aren’t always likely to be posted to the site in a timely manner. How is this information being conveyed? Wait for it.


(I did.)



So I’m one of the last to land on the branch, but I’m going to try to rock it. (Okay, that was bad.)

You can find me @sacramentorobin.

It’s another tool for the #publishingindustry (See what I did there?) Something else that is helping with democratization and accessibility. And, it’s actually kind of fun.

tweet tweet


Milestone: First pair of reading glasses

I’ve never much liked milestones. I know some people love them, live by them, use them to congratulate themselves on their accomplishments and admonish themselves to work harder in the future. Milestones to me mark one thing: the passing of time. And time is one of those few things I can’t control in my life. My mother’s retirement, my son’s departure from primary school, my husband’s first grey hair, his last brown hair. (My hair has miraculously gone blonde!) Last month, I got my first pair of reading glasses. Most of the people I tell this to have no sympathy for me, after all, I’ve had perfect vision for almost half a century.

When I was twenty-three and teaching high school, I was pretty sure if I wore glasses the kids would shut up and listen to me, so I bought one of those fake pairs. For the hour I wore them, it didn’t help. Alas. And the lenses became smudged and couldn’t come clean. That was it for that.

But now I have reached that milestone and find myself trying on 1.25 reading glasses any time I can find them in the checkout line. I need a pair by my computer, next to my bed, by the kitchen table, and in my purse for menus. And they are always smudged.

sacramento editor, Robin Martin
My first pair of reading glasses. I have arrived.

For me, this is significant. I cannot go back. Working harder won’t help me here. I didn’t do anything to get me to this place. Out of my control, it caused me severe panic for about three weeks. But it’s starting to settle in. I’m starting to accept this as a milestone, and maybe even like it. I find that it signifies for me an arrival, an organic movement into a place of experience and wisdom. Look at me. I wear readers. I’ve arrived.

New York Times Mag, Maud Newton & the Wreckage Tour

Maud Newton, who I know originally from my work with Narrative Magazine, talks about Wreckage of Reason II in her last New York Times Magazine mini-column this weekend, out online today and in the print magazine this Sunday. In her column, titled,”And for the Rest of Us, There’s Twitter,”  Newton writes: 

In her latest story, “How to Shake Hands With a Murderer,” published in the anthology “Wreckage of Reason II,” Elizabeth Bachner turns to ancient myth for inspiration, charting a modern katabasis — a tale of descent into the underworld. Borrowing from “Leda and the Swan” and Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” she creates a lyrical narrative about lost love and the lengths to which the lonely will go to recapture the feeling. “Wreckage of Reason” is a collection of experimental writing…” You can read the rest here. 

This week’s stop on The Blog Tour, features a fascinating interview with Laynie Browne and Julianna Baggott.

Also, last week, WoRII blog tour organizer Lillian Ann Slugocki posted Holly Anderson’s link to her Author’s Corner Interview. Check it out!
WORII contributors Margarita Meklina & Karen Lillis did a reading at Bird & Beckett Books with two other women experimentalists in San Francisco on July 27th. (Sorry to get the word out late; for sure it is sad to have missed it!)  It was called “Fertile Chaos: Experiments in Prose & Narrative.” One of those other women experimentalists was my colleague at Narrative Magazine, Olga Zilberbourg. About her: “Where Does the Sea Flow, a short film based on one of Olga’s stories, was short-listed at the Manhattan Short Film Festival. Olga’s English-language writing has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Santa Monica Review, Eleven Eleven Journal, Café Irreal, Mad Hatters’ Review, Prick of the Spindle, HTMLGiant, and other print and online publications. Olga serves as a consulting editor at Narrative Magazine.” 

The literary world is indeed a small one.  Best of luck to Maud Newton on her book. Hi Olga! Sorry to have missed your reading.

Wreckers, keep on working it! 


On selling out and selling

Something to think about:  A really excellent writer, who happens to be a friend of mine, spent the early part of her life as a writer reading and writing romance novels which she has since relegated to the trash bin as being beneath her. And you know what? She’s right that she can write “better” stuff than that. She can compose incredibly beautiful stories that surprise the reader and can rock the world of literature. She is also pretty set on hitting the big time as a writer, making a living at it. If she can write marketable romance novels and sell them while also working on crafting a literary-language based piece, maybe she should. What do you think?

Is it possible to switch back and forth in our writing?

Do you object to what may appear to be an implicit denigration of romance novels in this post? Or do you understand the distinction I’m making, and that I’m not making a value statement so much as a statement acknowledging the different purpose and goals of genre and literary fiction?


Anthony Marra, President Obama, and Me

Okay, first of all, I know the title would have to read, Anthony Marra, President Obama, and I  in order to be grammatically correct as a subject, as in Anthony Marra, President Obama and I have this book in common. Anthony Marra wrote this book, and the President and I are reading it. But if the sentence was, This piece is about Anthony Marra, President Obama, and me, (note the Oxford comma), then me in this case would be the object and it would be correct.  However, I also know that sometimes, a writer will intentionally choose a particular grammar to create a tone or a rhythm in the language of a piece and well, damnit, the holidays are upon us and I’m feeling punchy, so I say–go with me!

Anthony Marra, Robin Martin, Narrative MagazineNow that that’s out of the way, this post is simple, really. My mother just gave me my first Christmas gift of the year, and it is Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Last week, President Obama was spotted at the book store purchasing this book. It’s hot. Tony Marra was first published in Narrative Magazine in 2009. I’m proud to say I was one of his first readers in the submission queue. This is a smart smart young man and a talented writer.

Sadly, while on an assignment to interview him, I had a conversation with Tony that ranks up there as probably my most awkward interviewing moment, and I’ll probably never be able to completely let it go. I have no desire to drudge up the details, and at the 2012 Narrative Night asked for and received forgiveness from this super nice guy.  Oh, if I could do it over… (of course, now I’d be following Jacki Lyden and many others, like this.)

I can’t wait to read this novel, and in the new year, Marra’s collection of short stories (Hogarth).

Congratulations, Tony, on your success. Congratulations, Mr. President, perhaps we should be friends on Goodreads?

Effective Critique: Avoiding dogma and snobbery

Professor Doug Rice, author of Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist and A Good Cuntboy is Hard to Find, (and more) was the second reader for my graduate thesis and a remarkable teacher of the craft of writing.

One assignment from my first master’s-level creative writing course with him required us to share our favorite short story by a published author. Each day, one of us would bring in one of these stories and we would critique it; we’d workshop it like we were concurrently doing with each others’ stories, but of course we had the knowledge that these stories were published stories that were loved by at least one of our colleagues in the class and likely a multitude of other readers in the world.

When it came time to share the story I had chosen, by a little known writer published only posthumously- Mary Ladd Gavell’s “The Rotifer”– a short story that had been influential in my deciding to enter graduate school for creative writing, I became acutely aware of all of the adverbs throughout, and I got scared for my writer and scared for myself. Rice rails against adverbs, can rant about their overuse for hours, replete with flying saliva. But instead of sharp criticism, I remember him asking me: “How do these adverbs work for this author, this voice, this piece?” And he said it kindly and invited us all to explore what was working so well. I left that class not with any shame about my taste or my lack of intellect or lack of sophistication but with a better understanding of critique and audience and purpose.

This exercise created new ways of reading and responding to literature. It enabled us to see “the rules” and how and when a writer successfully strays from them; to resist dogma and snobbery when evaluating a manuscript. This, of course, has been a foundation for me in my work with Narrative Magazine and Under the Gum Tree, and with my clients.

NaNoWriMo? No. No.

Did I write the first 50,000 words of my novel? Is that why I’ve been MIA from my blog for so long? Sadly, no. And, happily. Instead of writing a pile of you-know-what, I’ve been working on some excellent projects with some excellent clients.

Brad DeHaven, Sacramento Editor, Robin Martin

November 1st saw the release of The Addict Among Us, my second book as a developmental editor with prescription drug abuse activist Bradley V. DeHaven. In this picture to your left, the completed proof sits upon some of the hardcopy work I did, as we took the manuscript from 100,000 words of stream of consciousness writing and copied/pasted emails to an organized self-help book about how to prevent, detect, treat, and live with opioid (or any) drug addiction. This is another excellent book on the subject by Brad, who has been on the go spreading the word about how this epidemic sneaks up on the most unsuspecting of families, and of course, spreading the word about his book as well.

The Under the Gum Tree editorial staff selected the next group of pieces for Issue 6 from a nice batch of submissions. The mag is getting designed as we speak and will be on the newsstands in the first weeks of the new year.

During November, I also began a substantive edit on a 600-page mainstream fiction manuscript with an author I began working with in November of last year. At that time, I did an evaluation and critique on an earlier draft, which he took to heart and spent nearly the next year revising. I really enjoy seeing a writer develop his or her craft, being receptive to feedback about plot and character, point of view, and the finer points of language. And I enjoy seeing the result of hard work on the page. While this writer was planning on going directly to self-publishing, I am going to encourage him to seek a traditional publisher because I think the manuscript could attract interest in the current market and he doesn’t really seem that interested in becoming a publisher/marketing professional.

Speaking of this, I have two other clients heading on a traditional publishing path. Of course, I’ve advised them to stop querying agents now, because agents like to have a holiday too, you know. But these writers have had some promising attention and I have high hopes for them.

Meanwhile, three of my former clients have successfully self-published their novels in the last few months, and my friend and mentor Andrea Hurst has done so as well. There are many paths to publication, and everyone has to do what feels right to them. I don’t want to spend time here discussing the choice between traditional and self-pub, as there are so many excellent bloggers out there doing it for us. Let me just say I believe there are very good reasons to pursue either one, depending on one’s goals and resources. The debate is, frankly, getting pretty stale. Just do what you’ve got to do.

I guess I feel the same way about NaNoWriMo. For some people, attempting to meet a writing goal with 300,000 other people is the way to go. Just the motivation they need. For others, not so much.