Book Review: Letters to Eloise by Emily Williams

33977478Goodreads Description:

Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.

When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?

‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’, Abelard to Heloise.

Letters to Eloise is the heart wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.

Letters to Eloise is, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read all year. Before rereading the Goodreads description I quoted above, I was thinking of how to describe the book and “heart-wrenching” was the first thing that came to mind. It was an intensely emotional read for me, I think because I have the great blessing of being a mother. In addition to the emotion, there are a few things that really struck me about the book:

  1. Flora (notwithstanding her out-of-wedlock pregnancy) reminds me a great deal of St. Gianna Beretta Molla in her selfless giving on behalf of her child. The story is a true testament to the value and humanity of the unborn and the power of the bond a mother develops with the child growing in her womb. I don’t think Flora and I would have been friends, and that usually makes it hard for me to love a heroine, but in this case my ability to identify with Flora in her journey as a mother overshadowed everything else.
  2. The story is expertly set in the mid-1990s. So many aspects of the story just wouldn’t work in today’s world of instant communication. No cell phones, no text messaging, limited Internet usage – even reliance on the actual brick-and-mortar campus library! I marvel at the skill Williams demonstrates in having chosen the timing and format for the book and then in weaving the story together so believably. Truly brilliant!
  3. In contrast to some other reviewers, I was not surprised by the ending. HOWEVER – that did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the book, and I don’t think the story was “predictable” in the ordinary sense of the word. Instead, I think it was truly human. Because we read from Flora’s point of view, her faults are not glossed over; she is aware of her mistakes and forgiving of others’, and we have the opportunity to watch her grow as a person.

All in all, this book was amazing. I highly recommend this one AND Emily’s next book, Rafferty Lincoln Loves…, which I had the great privilege to proofread for her. Check her out at http://emilywilliamsauthor.blogspot.com/.

Five stars!

*Many thanks to author Emily Williams for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Professional Development – Copyediting Fiction

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A couple of weeks ago I participated in a webinar run by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) on copyediting fiction. It was taught by Amy Schneider, who has been copyediting for over two decades. This was my first foray into editing-specific professional development, and I was pleased with the course. Amy described it as “a look over one editor’s shoulders,” which was right on target.

My primary take-away from the webinar is that I am intuitively good at copyediting. (Yup, I just patted myself on the back.) My mind just works the right way for the job, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Much of Amy’s process and the things she says to look for I already do – I’ve learned it on the job. For instance, when I first started out I didn’t pre-read a manuscript before beginning to edit. I quickly realized I would be much more effective if I did so; this is something Amy described as standard practice for her. Additionally, looking for inconsistencies throughout the document (such as “e-mail” or “email”?) seemed to me to be just an obvious part of the job and something I do when proofreading as well.

Second, the presentation sort of cemented what I had previously only grudgingly accepted but now welcome with open arms: fiction writing is not bound by the same style conventions as nonfiction. Sure, I can use the Chicago Manual of Style as a guide, but hard-and-fast grammar rules just don’t really exist in fiction. Each author has his own voice, and it’s my job as an editor to ensure that voice is consistent throughout, not to, as Amy called it, “edit the life out of the prose.”

Finally, I learned a lot about editorial efficiency. I already do some of the process things Amy mentioned (though without the official-sounding names she had for them), but I can certainly benefit from learning about tools like Microsoft Word macros that can speed up the process. Though I charge by word and not by hour, my clients and I each benefit if I can be more efficient.

In sum, I enjoyed the webinar and will certainly look at taking more of the EFA’s courses in the future. And: I rock as a copyeditor.

I’ve been editing!

So yesterday I promised I’d share what I’ve been up to editing-wise. SO very exciting! Over the past several months I have had the great pleasure and privilege to work with a few amazing authors on varying projects. None of the books are out yet, but I will definitely let you know when they are!

First, I completed a combo line edit and copyedit for Anna Marie for her historical romance novel, Life According to Beatrice. By the time I finished, I was so emotionally invested in the characters that I kind of miss them! This was a one-pass edit, so I haven’t yet seen what Anna Marie has done with the story post-editing. I truly can’t wait to read it! Anna Marie plans to publish under her own publishing company later this fall.

Next, I had the chance to work on Lynn Woodall’s Sparrow and the Sheltering Tree, a lovely children’s book. Lynn is beginning the process of querying agents to publish the traditional way. I can’t wait to see the book in bookstores!

Most recently, I proofread Rafferty Lincoln Loves…, a young adult novel by Emily Williams. Earlier this year Emily published the exceptional Letters to Eloise, which I read in exchange for a review (it’s coming! next on the list. remember, I can’t review and edit at the same time…). What’s super awesome is that Emily wrote Rafferty Lincoln Loves… for charity, and all the proceeds will be donated to two horse charities. I am honored to have been a part of Emily’s charitable work, and highly recommend you get yourself a copy of the book when it’s out!

Also, and this is BIG NEWS for anyone who knows me personally and is therefore aware of my strong aversion to social media, The Edifying Word joined Twitter! Check me out @theedifyingword !

I popped up a “testimonials” tab here on the blog and I’m hoping to work in a logo, a headshot of myself, and a little more professionalization of this site in the coming weeks (ok, let’s be honest, probably months).

So, thanks for listening and being happy for my successes (you know you are! my enthusiasm is contagious, right?). Keep your eyes peeled for more excitement from The Edifying Word!

(PS – Did you just see me blog TWO DAYS IN A ROW?)