Category Archives: My clients/projects

oral history, biography series, proofreader Robin Martin

Remembering Hoboken

Though I’ve lived in California pretty much since graduating from Rutgers College in 1993, anyone who knows me recognizes that you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. 

I do make it a point to keep one foot there. For the family, for the food, for the hockey team (Go Devils!), for the “cultcha.” Although– give me California climate, grocery stores, and lifestyle any day.

It’s my Jersey roots that perhaps make me so gratified to be invited to be a part of the Hoboken Historical Society’s Oral History Project Vanishing Hoboken chapbook series. I’ve been working with series editor Holly Metz and designer Ann Marie Manca for a number of years now to keep stories of a working class industrial Hoboken from being forgotten as the city changes.

And Hoboken has changed. I’m not going to say for better or for worse. It will always be Jersey.

oral history, biography series,  proofreader Robin Martin
Historical Biographies
Proofreader: Robin Martin
EFA Conference, NYC, editing, Sacramento Editing

Highlights from the Editorial Freelancers Conference

I’d met Mary Norris and taken care of my obligatory awkward-stuttering-fan first words at the Under the Gum Tree booth at AWP in LA earlier this year. So starting the day chatting with Mary Norris, the Comma Queen herself, was nothing but a pleasure.

My takeaway: There is no need to be intimidated by your heroes.

Jane Friedman’s Keynote was called “The Competitive Creative.” Self-awareness led to Friedman’s departure from the daily grind of her Writers Digest job into something that she felt was more energizing and fulfilling, and now she loves her day job— freelancing!

My takeaway: If you are ignoring the call to be creative, stop! As Jane said, “Art and business don’t have to be at war.”

During two hour-long sessions, attendees could choose to attend one of four simultaneous programs in small breakout rooms. I enjoyed Jake Poinier, who provided pro tips on pricing our freelance editorial services, with the reminder that “the best deals make you and the client happy.”

The takeaway message: “Do what you want, it’s your business!”

Then, Laura Poole and Kristen Stieffel introduced us to some new (and reminded us about some old) ways to organize our clients, jobs, and general to-do lists, including this gem: “Make your to-do lists the night before!”

The takeaway for me: “Don’t let the tools get in the way of your work.”

The incredible, funny, Mary Norris had the ideal crowd for her Keynote address on Day 2. “A Life Squandered on Words,” revealed a love for language that every person in that auditorium seemed to share. She discussed her prescriptivism, and unabashedly held it higher than descriptivism—everyone in the auditorium did not necessarily share this view. One man in the audience felt the need to take her to task on what he perceived as the failings of The New Yorker’s editorial staff, to which she replied: “You’re fired!” Wonderful. This got some play on Twitter (#EFACON16).

Erin Brenner presented the last session I attended about editing for the web. She provided valuable reminders in this session sponsored by

My takeaway: What I am doing at Two Songbirds Press is consistent with best practices.

It was so nice to meet the new members of the Board of Governors, the EFA Chapter coordinators, and those members interested in starting a chapter in their part of the world (shout out Florida!), as well as fellow freelancers from the EFA Discussion List and Social Media. The next EFA conference may be as soon as 2018, and I hope to attend.



AWP16: Attending the Writing Industry’s Largest Event

In advance of The Association of Writers and Writing Program’s annual conference and bookfair, you can find serious tips and tricks for surviving it, and humorous explorations, such as this field guide. During it, you can follow literally thousands of attendees and exhibitors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even I did a bit of #awp16 @undergumtree tweeting this year.

sacramento editor, under the gum tree, Robin Martin AWP

And following the conference, of course, you can find everyone’s rundown of the panels they attended, the hands they shook, the swag they carried home and the colds they caught.

It is a very exciting industry event and everyone has something to say about it. It inspires. It disappoints. It overwhelms. It builds. It agitates. It connects a bunch of the diverse people who are in this writing biz. This year, over 12,000 of us.
This, my fifth AWP Conference, involved no air travel, fewer expenses, time in my comfortable (hybrid) vehicle with audio books, and lovely weather. The Under the Gum Tree/Fourth Genre event was a tremendous success by all accounts. While at the book fair, I was able to meet many writers that Gum Tree has published, prospective contributors and potential editorial assistants for Gum Tree, as well as current and former clients of Two Songbirds Press, colleagues from the Editorial Freelancers Association, and editors of other presses who have inspired me.

Even though there is no shortage of media posts surrounding this event, I feel compelled to add one.

I thought I’d change it up a bit and instead of writing about my experiences (although I did have a great time and am writing —inspired by a panel I attended), I asked some questions of two colleagues who attended the event for the first time this year.

Gary: Gary is a long-time psychotherapist in private practice. He has two graduate degrees, one of them in literature, but has never formally studied creative writing until he became my client. He writes linked and unlinked fiction, and had never heard of AWP until I suggested he attend the bookfair this year. So far, he only writes privately.
Jen is an emerging young creative nonfiction writer, who has a MA in Creative Writing and three children under 6 at home. Her work has been published in a number of places whose names you would recognize. Jen has a website where you can learn more about her:

I am looking forward to receiving their responses and sharing them here!

Look sharp! Editing adds professionalism.

Professional Tip: Hire an editor to refine your language.

Wait– maybe “refine” isn’t the best word for what I do, because most of my clients are average-Joes who don’t want to sound like they are drinking tea with their pinkies in the air. So because “refine” has this subtle unintended meaning associated with snobbery, let me find a better word to explain myself exactly. How about “clarify” or, even better perhaps, “sharpen”? Because who doesn’t want their language to be precise, to cut right to it, and to get the job done efficiently, like a sharp knife?

What I did here in my first paragraph is precisely what an editor can do for your writing. An editor will sharpen the language you use to communicate with your audience.

This might make some people fear that their personality will be cut right out of their writing. (And too many writers have had that experience with editors; it is true.) Doggone it—you want to sound like you! And if you’d never-ever use the word “doggone” in a blog post, no one should add it in an effort to “refine” your language.

A good copyeditor will listen to your voice and maintain your personality while cleaning up wordiness and redundancy in the language of your post or web copy.

Your casual voice, the way you talk, is completely fine for blogs and social media posts, which are intended to be friendly and build community based on who you really are. It is important not to come across as stiff or fake. But it is easy to miss silly things when we read our own writing. (Like using “also” and “too” at different ends of the same sentence.) So an outside professional is better equipped to notice the tics that make you who you are, and emphasize them; as well as notice the tics that make you look unprofessional (or idiotic) and eliminate them.

And for more formal writing, like whitepapers, cover letters, or printed marketing material, a copyeditor can also help identify jargon that hides meaning from the layperson you’re trying to attract. A copyeditor can trim down the number of words so you can have a more attractive layout. (Some editors also do design work.)

A proofreader can make sure your autocorrect hasn’t added an auto-error, that you haven’t misplaced an apostrophe, that you haven’t used the word “tick” when you meant “tic;” or, (heaven forbid!) “there” when you meant “their” or “they’re.” These are things that should have been eliminated from your writing by ninth grade, and these errors poorly reflect your professionalism.

If you’re interested in learning more about what an editor can do for you, you may want to visit the Editorial Freelancers Association, or, head over to my Contact Us page, follow the directions for completing TSP’s Editorial Services Survey and I’ll get in touch with you.





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.


Tonight’s Google Hangout with Gum Tree Live!

true stories, live reading, lit mag


Don’t forget about tonight’s Google Hangout with Gum Tree Live, at 5 pm Pacific time.

Here’s our Google+ site. 

Here’s the Under the Gum Tree Facebook page. The link to the reading will be in one or both of those places. Please join us for a cross-continent live reading of true stories by great writers.


Fourth Anniversary for Under the Gum Tree

true stories, creative nonfiction, litmusI received my print copy of Issue 17 today. It’s a fat one– 108 pages! And it is, as always, beautiful. The art on the cover and inside are interpretations of poetic forms by Scott Helmes, an artist who introduced himself to us at AWP in Minneapolis. I was quite pleased to find his work had been selected by our Art Director.

Make sure you check out Brad Guillory‘s piece, “Lyrics and Panic: The time my mom found my tapes and the devil,” it is really funny and perfect for October. He put a link to both of the TV specials he refers to in the piece on his website. And we have a 24-frames piece this issue, a real monster. It is so long, it really should be a Feature, but we’re thrilled to have Ben Winterhalter‘s amazing writing for this department.

If you write true stories about film (or music or food!), check out Under the Gum Tree. October is open submission month, which means there is no fee to submit.

Please mark your calendars for #gumtreelive! On October 21 at 5 pm Pacific time, you can join a handful of our Issue 17 contributors on a Google Hangout as they read excerpts from their pieces to celebrate this new issue. More information is at the Under the Gum Tree Facebook page.

Thanks for your support!


Summer Reading: True Stories

#undergumtree #telltruestories I love getting the email notice that the new Issue of Under the Gum Tree has arrived! It means, of course, that all of my team’s hard work has produced a thing of beauty that others can enjoy. It means that it is almost time to get to work on the next issue. And although I’ve already read every word between the covers several times, it means that my print copy will soon arrive, and I get to sit in the shade by the pool and read them all again.under the gum tree, creative nonfiction

The publisher had an Amazon-related snafu recently where all of our subscribers were deleted and their subscriptions cancelled! Major snafu for a little lit mag like us. Each issue we just about cover our operating costs (we are a 100% volunteer staff!). Though Janna contacted every subscriber individually, most haven’t taken the time yet to solve the problem.  Our goal is to reach 100 subscribers before Issue 18.

Will you help?

If you’ve previously subscribed, then, yes, really, you do need to subscribe again. Sorry for the trouble. If you haven’t before, consider it now. Beautiful art and photography, stunning high quality design, and true stories.

“The editors of Under the Gum Tree have created lovely space for creative nonfiction and visual art, prioritizing connection between artists, readers, writers, between people. It is the kind of publication that makes you feel, and allows the human experience, in all its variety, to coexist in these pages, as well as in the space between these pages and the reader, and in doing so, makes something beautiful.” In Stories (and Art) Without


Issue 16 is available for your summer reading now. In it, you’ll find an excerpt from Nick Jaina‘s musical memoir Get it While You Can, as well as many never-before published pieces of literary magic.

Thanks for your support!

@undergumtree #telltruestories #CNF


The #AWP15 Rundown part 1: Small Press Publishers


The first year I attended the conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, I went as a writer. I was really focused on improving my own writing and hearing amazing authors read their work. That role for me has gradually morphed, and this year I identify more as an editor, and attended the conference as the Senior Editor of Under the Gum Tree #telltruestories. My attention was split between panels and readings that would promote and inspire the literary magazine and those that would help me support my freelance editing clients.

Man, it was a good mix.

At their annual pre-conference meeting, CLMP‘s Jeffrey Leppendorf and SPD‘s Brent Cunningham discussed their respective non-profit service orgs–here to support small presses. They also announced their Firecracker Award winners, which included our friends at Etruscan Press, publisher of Renee D’Aoust‘s Body of a Dancer and Peter Grandbois’ Nahoonkara, two books I often use with my clients and refer back to again and again when I want to be moved by language.

Small presses are so important to today’s publishing landscape, and this was illustrated at panel R154: Small is the New Big: Working with Independent Presses to Build a Literary Career. Two agents from Folio Literary Management (Michelle Brower and Erin Harris), the executive editors of two mid-size presses (Coffee House’s Molly Fuller and Greywolf’s Ethan Nosowsky), and the executive editor of Harper Perennial (Cal Morgan) talked about the role of small presses. The big takeaways:

  • Some agents will shop your work to small presses if they believe they are cultivating the career of a writer at the beginning of his/her career arc, even though small presses don’t pay large (or any) advances.
  • A smaller press might be the best fit for your less commercial book because of the opportunity it provides an author to acquire cultural capital, as well as the small press ability to maximize the possible audience. You will be the big fish in their small pond rather than the other way around.
  • Small presses with good reputations are scouted for talent. Even the execs at the Big Five know that small presses have the most creative, most adventurous writing. They read Greywolf books. They read Coffee House Press books. They even read Nouvella, Rarebird, Semiotext.

Gotta love it.

University Presses are considered small presses, and quite a few panels at #AWP15 were inspired by University Press publications. Like this one:

Published by the University of Nebraska-Gender Programs, the anthology Being: What Makes a Man, was the catalyst for panel R274: Tender Moments: The Role of Tenderness in Men’s Narratives. Kevin Clark, Lee Martin, Dinty Moore and James Engelhart were assembled by Jill McCabe Johnson to have a conversation. No conclusions were drawn, other than the fact that there is a subtext of great tenderness in nearly all of the most admired writing by men. Even Hemingway, Richard Ford. Think about it. My takeaways:

  • Tenderness appears in the moment where the façade we create can’t stand any longer. It is woundedness. It is when the writer is open to his own pain and is able to transcend self-pity. It is when he is aware of other people, when he has empathy for the human conditions.
  • A good writer of any genre and of any gender will focus on language to avoid sentimentality, and as I believe it was Lee Martin said: “Earned sentiment is found in the furniture of the world.”

#AWP15  #underthegumtree  #CNF