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Interview with author and editor Linda Barnett-Johnson


Linda Barnett-Johnson

Folks, Linda has a very special place in my heart because she was the one who got me started writing fiction. Now I’ve had one book accepted for publication (will be out in early 2013) and am about to send out queries for the second. Linda, my hat’s off to you.

Oh, yes, and if you’re looking for an editor, a virtual assistant, or a teacher of writing, you can’t do better than Linda. She’s on my very short, short list.

Tell us something about yourself –

That’s a loaded question. Lol From a friends point of view, I am a happy person, love life, friendly, honest, a good friend and loving grandma (Nana). My husband and grandkids are my life. I love my church family and activities. I enjoy: oil painting, gardening, playing online games, board games, crafts, country driving, singing, playing the organ in church, working with children and life.

As far as the business side, I am honest, hardworking, determined, patient, friendly, will tell you the way I see it, line-by-line editor, assist writer’s and author’s to reach their goals, and a meticulous businesswoman.

You wear a number of hats as a writer. Which do you enjoy more, teaching, writing, or editing? Or something else?

I absolutely love the editing process. I enjoy the minds and thought process of writers. It’s amazing how we could give everyone the same topic, and the story would be different from each writer. I love the difference in our thinking. With editing, it’s a teaching process, as well. When I see something that doesn’t quite click, I give the author a few suggestions that might trigger another thought or scenario. I make sure their characters are fleshed out, dialog realistic, plot flows, content, etc. I haven’t written much since I’ve been doing the editing process, but I have been toying around with doing a book series. My writing and reading interests are the pioneer days. I’m sure my books would be in that era. If you read any of the authors below, you’d see what I mean.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Well, that’s a very good question. My favorite authors are Christian writers. I love the innocence of the characters, the pure love and well-written language. Instead of the profanity, which I abhor, I feel authors should write using the language that sets us apart from the norm. Too many writers use the cuss words to make a point. I feel we sometimes abuse the English language by writing that way. I don’t want to cringe when I read a love story. I do want to feel the romance and I do want my heart to flutter, but not to the extent of being dirty. I love the simplicity and honesty of using words and actions to describe the story. Here are some of my favorites:
Francine Rivers, Lori Wick, Gilbert Morris, Lynn Morris (his daughter), Lauraine Snelling, Tracie Peterson (Montana writer), Lynn Austin, June Masters Bacher, L.L. Chaikin, Kristen Heitzman, Beverly Lewis, Janette Oke, Judith Pella,

Who do you think has most influenced your voice as a writer?

I’ve never thought of that question before. I think we all are individuals and have our own unique style and voice. My influence stems from a teacher friend of mine. I didn’t think I even wanted to write until she read a few of her stories to me. After that, my mind wouldn’t stop creating. So, I would have to say that she brought out the creativeness for writing. I have written fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry. I never thought I could write a poem either. My grandfather wrote poetry. I never met him, but found an old journal with some of his writings. It’s a real treasure.

As a teacher of writing, what do you find you emphasize most?

Start your story with a strong hook. If you don’t pull the reader into the story from the first page, even the first few lines, you might lose them. I am a stickler for that. Also, show don’t tell. That is another part of writing that is important. Use your spellchecker. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read with typos.

What kind of stories do you like to write?

I have a soft heart for any type of abuse: elderly, children, women and animals. Any story that moves me that I may see on the news, such as Female Circumcision on children, genocide, women having to wear burkas, abuse of Afghanistan women, children of Africa, starvation and lots more. If I can help anyone through my writing, I would write continuously. I love to get inside a person’s mind and show what they must be feeling. I want to identify with them as a writer, probing like an invisible watcher. Do you ever wish you could be invisible and see a story unveil before you? That’s the kind of writing I like to do. Everyone can do that if they let themselves go. Be your character.

With so much on your plate, how do you organize and prioritize your time?

I would say that is the toughest thing I have on my plate. I usually try and read my email, but that’s becoming harder and more time consuming. I get my editing projects started or done. I also am a Virtual Assistant for authors. I like to divide my time doing both projects. Since I spend around ten hours per month for each author I assist, that gives me some time to do my editing. When I don’t have any editing jobs, I concentrate on doing networking, marketing, getting authors interviews from radio and blogs, write press releases, and anything else that will promote the author. I do a lot of blogging on my blog and ping a lot.

I also like to unwind by playing online games. That’s one of the things I do after hours. Actually, I don’t have any set hours. Depending on what I have to do, my hours may be long or short.

Do you have a writing/editing/teaching routine?

In a word: No. Whatever I have that’s to do, and whether it’s a rush job or not, that’s my priority.

Any favorite bit of writing advice? Any least favorite?

I have read so many well-meaning writers and authors give their advice. And they are all correct. I would have to say the best for me is to just write. Everyone has a story. That is, everyone in the whole world. Sometimes I may have a title that will pop into my head. I write it down. I may hear some dialog in a restaurant that will fascinate me, I write it down. Look around you; there are stories in every person. Whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction, talk to people. Interview them. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and contact someone to chat with. Start with a family member. Your own parents have a story. A close friend. A neighbor. What can they do to you? Really? We have to get over getting upset about someone telling you, NO. If you let it stop you from continuing, then you aren’t meant to write. Get over it! Don’t let anyone take away your power. Most people like to talk about themselves. If you want to write fiction, there is a plethora of topics to write about. Close your eyes and get a dictionary and point to a word. Write about that in a story. Put village, town, city, planet or whatever, behind the word and you have a title and, most likely, a plot. It will bring all sorts of situations to your mind. I have done this a few times in my writing forums. It is a lot of fun.

The least favorite tip I’ve read is to write about what you know. Are you kidding me? You have a World Library at your fingertips. Turn on your computer and start searching now. Don’t waste another day writing about just what you know. Write about what you don’t know. You can learn by researching. You don’t have to go anywhere as long as you’re plugged into the world. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t write. You may need to take a course or two, but don’t let it stop you. Reach out to someone that is positive and supportive. Join a writer’s group. I just happen to have a private writing forum that I’ve had going since 2001. I would have to say that everyone that joins (free), becomes a published author. I am not bragging, just stating the facts.

You and Denise Cassino started Long Story Short, an ezine for writers, as well as, Long Story Short School of Writing that offer writing courses and a Writers’ Lodge. Can you tell us about that?

Denise and I met online in a writing class. We became fast friends and decided we wanted to stay connected through out writing. We had some similar backgrounds. That’s when I suggested we start a writing forum where we could continue to write and support each other and other writers. That was started in 2001, and is still going strong. From there, we met *Sue Scott* (Passed away March 2009), a funny and creative writer. Her stories were witty and fun to read. In 2003, collectively, got together and decided to form a writing ezine for struggling writers, like us. That link is: We wanted to reach out and help those that were earnestly trying to get published, but were having a hard time. We would coach them and help fine-tune their stories to ready them for publication. We never knew that venue would take us on this wonderful trip. We have been voted Writer’s Digest Best 101 Websites for six years running. We have great writers submitting to us monthly. It used to take us a couple of days or weeks to accept/reject a story. Now it’s taking us 3-4 months. That’s saying something. Not only do we accept flash fiction, but we also have non-fiction, About Writing Articles and poetry. It’s a great place to visit and spend time with us. There is: Story of the Month (the winner receives $25.00 at the end of the year if voted Story of the Year), Poem of the Month, Poetry Corner, book launches, book reviews, blog and lots of other goodies. Denise Cassino does book launches. Check out her site for more information. If you want your book to reach number one on in one day, then you need to contact her at

We love each of our writers and have made some life-long friends in the process. Though we don’t offer money for the submissions, we do offer our guidance and fine critique when we see a story and/or writer that are promising. Together, we have helped hundreds of writers get the recognition they deserve and have gone on to write books and make money.

In 2005, we decided to offer writing courses for a price that most could afford, and have instructors that would truly help with, most of the time, one-on-one instructions. You can check that out here: There is a plethora of subjects to choose from.

I started writing fiction when I joined your writing forums. Can you tell us a bit about your forums, and how readers can join?

You know, first hand, how the forums helped you and others succeed in your writing goals. I have four fiction forums, two poetry and two novel forums. The novel forums are on vacation at the moment. In other words, unless I have more willing to post, they will remain closed.

I give four topics each month to write a fiction story. You have deadlines to write a first draft, rewrite and a final. Everyone is also given four topics for poetry. I require everyone to try a poem on the required months to post a poem. That happens about once every quarter. You don’t have to post a poem on the other months, but it’s always good to keep trying. You never know unless you try. (cliché, oh well.) You don’t even have to choose one of my topics for those months, but on the required month, you have to choose one of the topics and write and post a poem.

You also give feedback to each forum members as well as receive them. That’s where you get the best information about your story. What did you like? Disliked? Where can they improve? What was confusing? How about the characters? Were they fleshed out? Was the dialog natural? Did they stay in the correct point of view? And lots more. I insist you always leave the writer on a positive note. I won’t tolerate being mean and nasty to someone. There will be a warning and then they will have to leave. That’s why these forums have been so popular since 2001. It’s like a close family network. They are also private.

The forums build confidence. That’s a big factor that has made them so popular. Having your peers help you to succeed and support you, helps in your effort to reach your writing and publishing goals.

If anyone is interested in joining, they can email me at [email protected] Make sure you put “Writing Forums” in the subject line. They need to tell me a bit about themselves and their writing and goals.

Denise came up with the idea of the Writer’s Lodge. It’s simply a home for writers. Denise does all the work, changes, and listings of each website. For only, $29.95 a year, you can have your own writer website. By the way, that’s a must for any writer. You need to have a website. You can have your story links, chat room, picture, important links and information, whatever you want. Denise keeps it up for you. How can you pass that up? It’s a place where writers can communicate with one another. Long Story Short gets thousands of hits every month. This is a good place to get recognized for your work. You can find out more on the home page of Long Story Short ezine. It’s under the Long Story Short name.

You are now offering editing services. Can you tell us something about the services you offer, and where readers can find you on the web?

Thank you for asking, Margaret. Since I’ve been in the business world for over forty years, and have done extensive business writing, proofreading reading and writing of contracts, reports, etc., I decided to help writers and authors. Since 2009, I have been editing short stories for writers and editing book(s). I am reasonable and honest. I guess you can tell your readers that if they ask. You know me to be that way. I could not do business with anyone that was dishonest or untrustworthy. That’s why Denise and I get along so well. Anyway, I have been fairly busy doing editing since that time. I am a line-by-line editor. I can’t edit any other way. I look for a strong opening hook, natural dialog, dialog tags, point of view changes, character build up, beginning, middle and ending, good resolution, story flow, typos, grammar, punctuation, and whether the story grabs the reader or not. I suggest where I feel there needs to be changes. I make suggestions or improvement. One of the most important aspects of my editing is whether the writer shows the story instead of telling. I want to feel the emotions and actions of the character. I want to see the characters in love. I want to hold my breath during a moment of tension. I want each chapter to leave me hanging until the next. Show me, don’t tell me. A lot of authors have this problem. If you can get lost in a good story, then you’ve succeeded in the process of storytelling. You have to be the director in your writing. The actors have to show you the story through their actions and some dialog. How would you like it if they just sat and talked about what happened? I think you get the picture. Showing is one of the most important elements of writing, in my opinion.

Along with editing, I am a Virtual Assistant for authors. This is what I do for them: I do all their social networking, marketing, press releases, blogging, pinging, build up of twitter followers, get interviews on radio and blogs, book reviews, etc. My motto is: Your Goals Are My Goals. If you want to succeed, then hire me to help you. I will do my best to get your name and book out there. I can’t promise sales, but I can promise that I will do my honest best to support you and let the world know that you and your book(s), exist. Don’t give up, and I won’t give up on you either.
My website is:

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Yes. Realize your dreams. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. Get an editor to read your work and help you. Join a writing forum and have your peers help you. Build up your confidence and tell yourself every day, “I AM A WRITER. I DO HAVE A STORY. I CAN WRITE ABOUT ANYTHING I PUT MY MIND TO.” Don’t let anyone, and I mean anyone: spouse, mom, dad, grandparents, kids, friends, and neighbors, STOP YOU! Don’t give up. Write and write until you can’t stop. The words will flow and you’ll feel that gratification that writers feel when they’ve poured out their souls, or blood, onto paper. When you get your story done and edited, submit it. Don’t let it sit around for months or years. You’ll never know how good you are until you do. Will you get rejected? Most likely. But, are you going to let it stop you? No. You might have to do more rewriting. Don’t be afraid to take out a sentence or a whole paragraph. Maybe you thought it was great, but in reality, it wasn’t necessary to the story. That’s where an editor can help you. Even the best writers in the industry have been rejected a time or two. What they did was overcome, and kept submitting. They eventually got accepted and some became famous authors.

Any last words?

Yes, I do have encouraging words for your readers. There is a rainbow at the end, a silver lining, a pot-of-gold, and an acceptance with your story and name in print. If you give up, you have no one to blame, but yourself. Now that I’ve used every cliché known to man, hopefully you all understand. You can do it, yes you can. (Post this on your computer, mirror and in your car).

One more thing about writing, keep a notebook with you at all times. It may be just a purse size that can go anywhere with you. If you see someone’s mannerisms, write it down. If you hear some dialog that’s interesting, write it down. Write down settings, names, topics or titles that may come to you as you drive, jot down peoples dress and features. What did they look like? What were they wearing? Where did they work? What secrets do they hold? Your imagination can run wild, like mine right now.

Thank you Margaret, for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and writing information with your readers. It’s my hope they will continue to write and get their unique voice out there. Remember, we all have a story. Who knows it better than you? Something to think about.

* You can read more about Sue Scott at this link:

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Meet Author and Editor Margo Dill


Tell us something about yourself
Like my Twitter ( account says, “I wear many hats.” I am a children’s writer, writing instructor, freelance editor, book reviewer, blogger, and freelance writer.  I have run an editing business since 2006 where I edit and revise any written document. It’s called Editor 911 (, and I love helping people improve their written work and also working on resumes! I also love going to schools and writing groups and presenting programs as well as teaching online classes and telecourses.   
Your historical novel, “Finding My Place,” has recently been accepted for publication. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
Finding My Place is the story of 13-year-old Anna Green and her family’s struggles throughout the Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi) in 1863 during the War Between the States. Anna lives in caves, eats rats, works in an army hospital, experiences her first love, and strives to keep her family together through this horrible battle. Anna learns where she belongs in more ways than one while Grant’s cannons shoot over Vicksburg day and night, causing misery and grief for Vicksburg’s citizens.

How did you become interested in writing historical novels for kids, and why this particular subject?
I actually came up with the idea while I was teaching fifth grade social studies in 2000. I was a classroom teacher in Missouri back then, and we read about the Battle of Vicksburg. This battle was particularly fascinating to me because the citizens were the ones being bombed. The Union Army hoped the citizens would convince the Confederate Army to surrender, but the citizens held on for over 40 days, living in caves and eating anything, including rats, they could get their hands on. The people showed an amazing strength, and I wanted to write about this for kids.

How did you go about doing your research? Any particular pitfalls you encountered in researching this book?
Well, one pitfall was that I was scheduled to fly to the south from St. Louis on September 14, 2001 to start my research. Obviously after September 11, 2001, I wasn’t going to be flying anywhere right away, and so I rented a car and drove to Vicksburg. Going there was the best research I could have done. I highly recommend visiting the place you are writing about. The people in the town were very helpful and led me to wonderful resources, including the vertical file at the library.

What are your favorite historical novels for middle graders? What appeals to you about them in particular?
I really like the Little House on the Prairie series–what girl doesn’t, right? I also think that Gennifer Choldenko is writing amazing historical fiction books right now about Alcatraz such as Al Capone Does My Shirts. A great historical fiction novel about slavery is Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall.  I think historical fiction for kids is so great because it teaches them about a time period while allowing them to get involved in characters’ lives. Half the time, kids don’t even realize they are learning history when they are reading these books.

You also review books, have an editing business, and teach workshops. How do you balance all of this?
That’s a great question! Well, I’m pretty disciplined and work just about every day–even on the weekends and when I don’t feel like it. I have a calendar where I schedule what I need to work on each day, and I just work until I get it done. I also have a family and friends; and so sometimes, I am working into the night or early in the morning in order to get everything finished.

Any particular place you write?
I write mostly from home in my office, but I really enjoy going to coffee shops. When I am feeling a little writer’s block coming on or a poor attitude regarding my work, a change of scenery really helps. The public library is also another great place–and you don’t have to feel like you have to buy anything to use their free Wi-Fi either!

Do you have a writing schedule?
As I mentioned before, I don’t really have a schedule per say–it sort of depends on the day. If my stepson is here and out of school, I usually write in the mornings and at night. In the afternoon, we do activities. Otherwise, I try to write mostly in the morning and afternoon and then use the evening time for other activities, chores, spending time with my husband, and so on. All of this is about to change, however, when I have a baby in December.  Then my writing schedule will be determined by her!

What are you working on now?

I am always working on freelance articles and book reviews. For my creative projects, I have a YA novel that I am just about finished revising and a few picture book manuscripts that I take to my critique group–they tell me what is working and what is not–and then I take them back. Soon, they will be sick of these, but hopefully, they will be ready for publication. I am one of those writers who is always working on a ton of projects at the same time. I just can’t help it!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

The best writing advice I’ve ever gotten is that persistence is what leads to success. Talent is important, and so is perfecting your craft. But the most important thing is definitely persistence. As writers, we can not afford to give up on our dreams. The worst advice–hmmm? That’s a hard question. It’s probably just a comment or two that I’ve received at critique groups that didn’t do my manuscript any good. I’ve probably heard bad advice, but I guess I tuned it out because I just can’t think of any right now.

How did you get started as a writer?

I have always liked to write as most writers have–creating “novels” as a young teenager. Then when I was in high school and college, my creative side took a back burner until in 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine that said, “You can write for children!” This was an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wound up taking their beginner correspondence course, found a local critique group, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be, and why?

Interesting question, and I think I would have to say–Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. These books, in my opinion, are brilliant. I’ve read them all a few times, and I just can’t get enough. I love Hermione because she is smart, does magic, wears her heart on her sleeve, and is a loyal friend and girlfriend. You can’t ask for a better character than that. Not to mention, I would have LOVED to go to wizarding school!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Figure out your writing goals, and figure out a way to achieve them. We all have busy lives and distractions. Don’t let your distractions get in the way of your writing dreams.

Where can readers find you on the web?
I have a website that tells about me and my editing and speaking services: I also have a blog where I write about children’s books, and I also have a special section on books and organizations that help women and children around the world. I have a lot of author interviews, book giveaways, ideas for parents and teachers to use with books, and some lesson plan ideas, too. That address is I also teach online classes for WOW! Women On Writing. I currently teach three different classes: Social Networking for Writers, Writing Children’s Short Stories and Articles, and Blogging 101. You can find these classes at: Finally, I am an instructor for the Children’s Writers Coaching Club (

Any last words?
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. Good luck to all the writers out there–go get ‘em!

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Meet Author and Editor Renee Gray-Wilburn


Tell us something about yourself?
I am married to Derrick, a personal trainer, and have three children–Conner, 13; Cayla, 9; and Chandler, 5.

We live in the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, with a view of Pikes Peak from my window.

I started writing when I left my job in Silicon Valley as a technical recruiter to be home with my first born. I haven’t had a “real” job since, and I love being able to do something meaningful, yet be home with my kids.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
I honestly don’t have a favorite. It usually changes based on what I’m reading at the time!

What are you working on now?
Several projects: two different children’s curriculum projects, four magazine articles, finishing up sending out proposals for a book I’ve been writing, a small-group study guide to go in conjunction with a DVD series for Wallbuilders, polishing up a children’s book to start sending out, and working on clients’ proofing/editing projects as they come in.

How do you go about editing your work?

Since I am equally right and left brained, I have a difficult time not editing my work as I go. So, I’ll typically finish a section of whatever I’m doing then go back and review it. After the whole project is completed, I’ll edit for content first then do a final proof. Depending on what it is, I have editor friends who will review my work as well. I always recommend having someone else look at your work. It’s amazing how much you miss!

Do you have a set process?
I always start with a content edit so I can get a feel of the overall flow, organization, and structure. Otherwise I get too bogged down with the little stuff. After I’ve edited through the big picture, I’ll go line by line and look for sentence structure, passive voice, weak verbs, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and so forth, trying to tighten up the writing as much as possible. Lastly, I’ll proof the work. Here is where I’m checking for spelling, punctuation, proper capitalization, use of italics, etc.

If you’re editing your own stuff, how long do you “let it sit” before you start editing it?
It depends on what it is. If it’s something short, like an article, maybe just a day or two. If it’s a picture book or the curriculum I write, usually a few days. I’ll continually go back and forth between working on it and letting it rest. I always have so many projects going at once that I’m never at a loss for things to do while something else is sitting!

Any favorite books on editing? On grammar?
I have a book called Essentials of English, published by Barron’s that I refer to often. I also rely on the old-school standby, Elements of Style by Strunk and White. And, because so many publishers I work for prefer the Chicago Manual of Style, I keep it within arm’s length at all times!

Any tips for aspiring writers?

The only way to get better is to practice and then let others critique you. It’s great to go to conferences and take classes, but you have to put it into practice. Having a trusted critique group to turn to is invaluable, regardless of the type of writing you do.

Once you start getting published, look at the finished piece your editor used compared to the final draft you sent her. You can learn a lot by seeing what was changed and eliminated. I like to ask my editors why they made some of the changes they did, just so I can improve next time. They’ll love the fact that you are trying to grow as a writer and you can take constructive criticism.

Any last words?
If you’d like more detail about self-editing, please take a look at my blog ( under the category of “Self-Editing.” I have some articles that speak to this subject. If you need help with editing or proofing, you may contact me at [email protected] I also provide critiquing services for picture books, children’s and adult short stories, articles, and books.

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