editing books

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

My life has never been dull, but I planned it that way. I believe I chose it from the spirit world before I was born. It’s been very challenging with lowdown times, along with plenty of excitement, and I’ve been grateful for all of it—especially for all the folks who chose to be a friend or an acquaintance. Some stayed a long time; others came and went. I am a kind person and attracted kind people, for the most part. I believe that’s the way life works—you get back what you put out. But that doesn’t mean any of us have a smooth ride—think back to the histories of family and friends…

I got my worldly view starting at age four and living in Bavaria, Germany right after the disastrous WWII. I had been blessed with a Southern Virginia loving family upbringing, I was totally accepting experiencing a strange, harsh-sounding language and bombed out buildings and learned to speak German fluently. My stepfather was a stern Army officer and I towed the line, for the most part. Another highlight were my teen years in the 1950’s living in exotic Tripoli, Libya, a country of desert sand, camels and a lovely seashore once trod by Romans centuries ago. I can’t say I understand the full implication of the history or philosophy in those ancient lands, but I can understand and relate to their humanity, which makes me more accepting of the upheavals that area has been suffering—with no end in sight.

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

These reminisces are probably typical as we age and are faced with health, financial and social issues. Since I’m a writer and knew that was my destiny from the age of ten, I tend to mull over my life’s ups and downs. Perhaps a reader will glean some self-wisdom from my words.

Viki Williams in 1956--the family Ford in from of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

Viki Williams in 1956–the family Ford in front of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

I’ve had some typical experiences—a marriage, the birth of a girl and a boy (both fabulous, loving humans), and a divorce. I chose to pursue a career in journalism, writing for both weekly and daily Los Angeles newspapers, before I wrote several books (Melaynie’s Masquerade – a 16th century historical fiction and several other books based on some true experiences – all available on Amazon:) As an author and a longtime newspaper editor, I felt the next best step was editing books. During the past 15 years, I have guided many wonderful authors, some of them first timers, through a wide variety of books.

Although I’ve generally been very healthy, I was challenged in the past few years with mobility issues that were getting worse, but I thought 2016 was going to be a turnaround year since I was getting a new hip on my right side. Instead, I’ve been dealing with various complications that sometimes come with surgeries, like losing my appetite for several months. The latest involved flashing lights and dizziness. Between various tests and doctors’ opinions (it wasn’t a stroke, as I first thought), I’m slowly moving forward, hopes high. Thank the Lord that we can’t see the future, for the most part. And we’re responsible for our attitudes. I’ve always been an optimist, thankfully, and that attitude has always suited me.

Besides an inner knowing that it will all work out, eventually, it seems I won’t be needing to go on a diet or take drugs for high blood pressure in the near future. Since my operation in January, I have dropped 45 pounds. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this slender. And my blood pressure went down about 30 points. The future looks bright.

THE ADVENTURE OF EDITING BOOKS

I’ve been an avid reader since age five, as I remember, and I’ve never lost the passion for it. My joy expanded when I started writing—I wrote a story about a lost dog when I was about ten. At fourteen, I was writing articles for the school newspaper The Barracan at Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya. As the years went by and I moved to Southern California, I wrote columns for weekly newspapers and eventually became the editor of several newspapers and magazines.

When my book, Melaynie’s Masquerade, didn’t go on to fame and fortune, I needed to consider other avenues of moneymaking. I had had enough of newspapers and thought editing books was the next step since I had already done a few. I had self-published Melaynie with 1st Books (now Author House) and I applied to have them list me on their website as a private editor.

AndyWalksWithMe

It was a great beginning to a private editing career and an education in itself. In the next 15 years, I edited about 100 books and am still at it! I vividly remember each trip through a client’s imagination. Some authors had experience but most didn’t, and the level of education greatly varied. There were books I essentially wrote but I didn’t ask for co-writer credit. I had to pull the information out of various authors’ memories, especially Ralph Heidler, whose disturbed father had severely abused him. That book, Andy Walks With Me, has since been used in a university psychology course in Pennsylvania.

 

Stan Papell's book translated into Russian

Stan Papell’s book translated into Russian

My client, Stan Papell, who has since passed on, was an experienced writer of screenplays. But everyone needs an editor! His exciting adventure, The Second Confirmation, set in the US and Russia and involving an alien from another planet, was published in Russia a few years back. When Stan’s widow sent me a copy of his book, she underlined my name in the acknowledgments since it was written in Cyrillic.

Richard Lee, a retired Marine and a US government employee, was so moved by the World Trade Center catastrophe, he wrote an exciting story, Personal Justice, about a few New York police and firemen who get special training and hunt down Osama bin Laden. These fictional heroes killed bin Laden in the book long before US Seals managed to do the deed.

PersonalJustice

Wendy Wong was born and raised in Hong Kong but is now a US citizen living in Honolulu. I helped her expand the memoir of her challenging and successful life, When the Phoenix Rises. She felt I was able to really relate to her life as a Chinese woman. I didn’t think that was difficult—we humans are all more alike than different.

A few clients keep writing and come back to me for editing. Pat Sendejas, an expert in the Chinese practice of Feng Shui and the Feng Shui personality types, started with Letting Go to Create a Magical Life and keeps on writing.

Debra Pauli has used me for several books, starting with the memoir of surviving her horrific childhood: A Survivor’s Closet. Now she’s working on a humorous but serious book on surviving life as a single woman.

 

 

 

 

 

EDITING…BEING A MIDWIFE

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide, it was a way of explaining editing to new, usually first-time authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.

Before I started editing books, I spent years editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. I became serious about writing as a high school freshman when I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, truthful writing, easily understood, to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important information is given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

A few of the 100 books I've edited.

A few of the 100 books I’ve edited.

 

I’ve edited about 100 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man on the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

Some of the books I’ve edited/co-written in my next blog.

 

THERAPY BY MEMOIR By Victoria Giraud

Setbacks Create Comebacks

 

 

One of my favorite genres in the book world is the Memoir. We all experience the contrasts of heartbreak and joy. Memoirs help us feel connected and hopeful—we aren’t alone in our pain and pain can be overcome.

I’ve had the privilege of editing, rewriting and even co-writing 15 memoirs, at last count. Each one was an emotional, meaningful journey for the author and for me. William McCloud, author of Setbacks Create Comebacks, proclaims: “It matters not what happens to you; it only matters how you react to what happens to you.”

The books I discuss here were all edited by me and are currently available on Amazon. William McCloud’s book, Setbacks Create Comebacks has a fairly recent new cover.

Bill’s mother Fannie, who was dark-skinned, gave birth to five children by four different fathers. When Bill was born, Fannie told the nurse he was too white to be her child and to take him back! In a sense he was “taken back” because his tough, no-nonsense grandmother raised him and his other siblings. She could be mean: she believed in whipping, but she made him a proud survivor. Every time life knocked him down, Bill stood up and managed to laugh about his misadventures with his grandmother, his mother and his siblings; it was great fun to edit. In 1985 Bill won an Emmy for his work as a cameraman on The Benson Show, starring Robert Guillaume. It had been a long journey from a small Ohio town to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.

I had a wonderful experience co-writing Wendy Wong’s memoir, When the Phoenix Rises. To help me with the project, she sent me a variety of photos, newspaper articles and other mementoes from her home in Honolulu. I had a privileged view of her life growing up in poverty in Hong Kong and her struggles to make something of herself. Although her family was a loving one, they didn’t think females really needed much of an education, and when she did get a college degree, they assumed she would teach and then marry. She surprised them all with her skills in the real estate business, a talent nurtured by a very affluent Hawaiian businessman/developer known as the Hawaiian Rockefeller, who had been her lover. Wealth, success and marriage, however, don’t ensure a carefree life. Wendy has weathered various financial depressions in Hong Kong and Hawaii, and she’s endured the heartbreak of a mentally challenged daughter. Her son, however, is a graduate of Yale, is training to be a doctor, and is newly engaged to be married.

When the Phoenix Rises

 

 

 

 

 

A Survivor’s Closet by Debra Luptak and Andy Walks With Me by Ralph Heidler and his co-author wife, Twila Lopez, were both horrific memoirs of childhood abuse. It was amazing to me how these individuals survived their physical and emotional torment. Humans manage to live through some incredible challenges. My own childhood heartbreaks seemed so minor in comparison.

Ralph’s father was a psychotic tyrant, who fancied himself a preacher when he was truly an avenging devil. During the frequent beatings he suffered from his father, Ralph would have an out-of-body experience. His consciousness traveled to a garden where “Andy” walked with him. His child’s mind had given new meaning to the old hymn “I Walk in the Garden Alone.” He interpreted the line “and he walks with me and he talks with me”  to mean: “Andy walks with me.” Andy (Jesus) gave him moments of peace and joy. However, when Ralph’s mother would appear to doctor the wounds from his father’s beatings, Ralph would awaken in pain, back in his bruised and bloody body.

Andy Walks with Me

In later years, although grown and married with children, his extreme childhood caused Ralph to one day disassociate from his past and disappear from his home in Pennsylvania. During the next 20 years, totally unaware of his former life, he married twice more. Ralph was living in Hawaii when his children found him, and he discovered the missing horror of his past.

He happily connected with his children, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Johnstown got to know Ralph and started using his book in a psychology class.

 

Debra Luptak’s strength of spirit and determination kept her alive despite the murderous attempts of her profoundly mentally ill mother, who claimed her daughter was part of the devil. She was tied up, placed in a straitjacket, burned with cigarettes, hidden in a dark closet and fed sedatives, all before the age of five. There was no magic rescue or instant healing: A Survivor’s Closet tells the gruesome years-long tale of Debra’s survival. When she was an adult, it took years of therapy, hospitals, family and friends to come to peace and self-love.  The mother of grown sons, Debra’s used her book and her talent as a speaker to help others deal with traumatic childhoods.

 

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