Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Editor Update: Stacy Whitman

We last spoke in June 2006 about your work as an editor for Mirrorstone Books (an imprint of Wizards of the Coast). What is new in your editorial life since then?

Sadly, a few months ago, I was laid off from Mirrorstone, along with several other Wizards employees from various departments. It all came about in relation to a change in focus for all the company's lines, including books. All newly acquired books, including Mirrorstone books, will now be related to the Dungeons and Dragons brand or other "core brands" like Magic: The Gathering.

For Mirrorstone, that meant that we kept our Practical Guide series, including the Practical Guide to Monsters, which I edited, as well as my Dragon Codex series that started with Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (Mirrorstone, 2008) and R.A. and Geno Salvatore's The Stowaway (Mirrorstone, 2008).

After last fall season, books like the exciting Hallowmere series ceased publication because they do not tie in to any core brand.

For me, editorially, the layoff opened a few doors. I am currently freelancing for several publishers and am seeking to expand that. I copyedit, proofread, line edit, and do developmental editing for a number of publishers, and in addition I am looking for books to acquire for Tor's children's and YA lines as a freelance consulting editor. At the time of this interview, I'm still looking for the right first book.

To simplify matters for right now, I'm only open to agented submissions and authors with whom I've worked before, including those who have sent me full manuscripts by my request when I was at Mirrorstone.

I also do critiques for individual authors.

What new books that you edited have been released, and what's special about them?

My two main series are the Dragon Codex books and the Hallowmere books. Both are ongoing series full of adventure and magic. The Codex books are written for a middle-grade audience, but I recommend them for readers of all ages, especially readers who grew up with the Dragonlance books.

Hallowmere is a series for teen readers who love dark fantasy and historical fiction. Both series are great for reluctant readers and avid readers alike, which is what I love most about fantasy--how it hooks readers of all types. And me, of course!

[See the book teaser for the first Hallowmere novel, In the Serpents Coils by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2007)(author interview)]

The newest of the Dragon Codex books are Bronze Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2008), Black Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2008), and Brass Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2009). They tie in to the Practical Guide to Dragons, and it was fun reinventing an existing shared world while staying true to the spirit of it. The authors who assisted R.D. Henham with these books are Amie Rose Rotruck , Ree Soesbee, and Rebecca Shelley, respectively. Rebecca Shelley is the author who assisted in the first book of the series, Red Dragon Codex.

Queen of the Masquerade by Tiffany Trent and Amanda M. Jenkins and Oracle of the Morrigan by Tiffany Trent and Paul Crilley are the two most recent installments in the Hallowmere series created by Tiffany Trent.

This is the first series I ever acquired, and it's dear to my heart—Tiffany and her co-authors have created an expressive, adventurous series peopled by strong, active girl characters in a time when young girls were expected to be seen and not heard, while still staying true to the historical time period.

What new books are forthcoming?

With the changes at Mirrorstone, Hallowmere's last volume was Oracle of the Morrigan, which I think is a good place to end it (though of course not ideal!) because we get to see how the Unhallowed Fey began. Tiffany Trent has a few inventive books in the works, so I'm sure we'll be seeing more from her soon.

But the Codex books continue on, and I'm just as excited about the next two volumes in the series as I am about the books that have already released.

Then in June 2009, the last Dragon Codex I acquired and had a hand in editing, Green Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham with Clint Johnson's assistance, will be released.

I also worked on several books that won't be published by Mirrorstone due to the changes, but I hope to see them out in print soon. One is already contracted by another publisher, and I hope to be able to say the same about all of them. I want kids and teens to be able to read these books. And who knows, maybe I'll get to work with those authors again myself!

What's new at Mirrorstone? What do you want writers in particular to know about the current status of the imprint?

Mirrorstone is in the capable hands it's always been in—those of Nina Hess, my senior editor. Nina is an amazing editor, and she's been at the editorial helm this whole time, mentoring me and building Mirrorstone with her vision.

Along with the books I already mentioned, they had a strong fall 2008 lineup with Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley (Mirrorstone, 2008)(author interview) and The Stowaway.

With the streamlining, the books coming in the future will be just as excellent as the acclaimed and best-selling adventurous fantasies for children and young adults they've been publishing.

Everyone should, of course, continue to watch Mirrorstone's website as new books are announced, and if you're a writer, keep in mind the new submission guidelines.

They're still looking for great writers for the shared-world series, for which there are all sorts of possibilities. D&D is a very open-ended fantasy setting and they're not looking necessarily for writers with experience playing the game. As always, great fantasy writing is the main requirement.

Writing in a shared world can be a great way for new authors to get experience working with an editor and to get their names out there.

What's new in terms of your own career direction?

Well, I have moved to Utah, where I have a number of friends from college who are writers. In particular, Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells, among many others, have been very supportive in helping me to transition—not least of which by carrying heavy objects for me when I moved, which ended up being twice in a very short while due to an apartment flood when I first moved in!

At Kindling Words, I participated in the editor track and got a lot of excellent advice from a number of editors who are at different stages of their careers. It was a wonderful experience and gave me a lot of new ideas that I'm implementing. For example, I hope to teach several classes in my local community on writing for children and young adults, specifically focusing on genre writing such as fantasy and science fiction.

I currently freelance for several publishers and am looking for more work, especially in children's and young adult genre fiction, including (but not limited to) fantasy and science fiction.

I have experience with all sorts of publishing (educational, newspaper, trade magazine—after all, my first job after college was with Electrical Apparatus magazine: industrial electrical motors), so to pay the bills I'm willing to branch out. But of course my main love stays with the children's book industry.

Hopefully, I'll find the right book for Tor, and it will grow from there, but perhaps the right in-house position will come along as well, and then I'll have some choices to make! And I am working on my own writing too.

Are you working with publishers, writers, etc.?

I work with a number of publishers on various projects from small pamphlets to full books. I prefer to focus on developmental editing, but I am a detail-oriented copyeditor and proofreader as well. I continue to copyedit for Mirrorstone/Wizards, and I've worked with Marshall Cavendish, Covenant Communications, and a few other publishers. Like I said above, I have just begun a relationship with Tor as a freelancer and hope that it will grow.

Also mentioned above, I do critiques for individual authors. I feel I can be of most help to those who are in the submitting stage, and who perhaps might even have gotten one or two rejections and feel they need an experienced editorial eye to help them take their manuscript to the next level.

I have two services: a short critique of the first three chapters and cover/query letter giving an editor's perspective on the first impression, or a critique of the full manuscript, which would include a full editorial letter and a full edit of the manuscript itself. More information on that can be found on my site along with recommendations from authors I've worked with in the past.

I love to help authors find solutions through coaching, careful questioning, and suggesting solutions. That's what I loved about working at Mirrorstone—working with new authors is thrilling, because they love to hear what an editor has to say and welcome their unique position in the creative process.

I'm also glad to consult with less-experienced writers and give them advice on their projects, though I hope that they have finished their manuscript first because that would be the time an editor's help is most useful.

How can people find out more about your services?

I'm still working on getting a full website up and running, but for now they can refer to my LiveJournal, where I have posted a listing of my critique services, including pricing and recommendations.

My submission guidelines for consideration for Tor are simple: agents or authors who have worked with me in the past may email me at stacylwhitman AT gmail.com with the cover letter, synopsis, and first three chapters, and I will get in touch if I want to read more.

I have gone green both for the simplicity of submissions and because as a freelancer, I can't guarantee my physical address will remain the same long-term.

And of course, any publishers who are interested in working with me can contact me via email (stacylwhitman AT gmail.com) and we can discuss details.

How goes your own writing?

Very well, actually! I am one of those editors who likes to write, but feels more at home on the editorial side of the desk. When I'm editing full time, that's where my creative energy goes, and that makes me a very good editor—but it leaves little time for my own writing.

Currently I have had a little more time than normal to work on my own YA fantasy novel, which has been a great experience both in learning the craft from the other side, and to discuss with other writers how they accomplish certain effects. Even with my own writing, I'm always finding new ways to communicate with my authors, too.

I've found that keeping in touch with a community of writers is essential to my writing process. I joined a friend's writing group, which of course gives me weekly deadlines.

Also, I participated in jonowrimo, which you may know was started by Lessons from a Dead Girl author Jo Knowles (Candlewick, 2007)(author interview) to get a head start on Nanowrimo and doesn't require that we start a new project.

It's a great way for writers to encourage each other on their writing goals, whether it's to finish a complete first draft (me) or a revision goal. Once again, I didn't finish a first draft during JoNoWriMo, which was my goal, but it was great to have the encouragement to work toward that goal.

Looking back, what has the last couple of years taught you?

I feel like the girl in the movie who says, "How much time do you have?" Because I've learned so much, and much of it is hard to quantify.

I've learned how to be a better editor from all my amazing coworkers, especially from Nina Hess and Phil Athans and Peter Archer.

I've learned to be a better negotiator and that negotiating with agents and authors isn't really all that scary. We're all on the same team and want the best for the book.

I think the biggest thing I've learned is how to become a better communicator in all facets of the job. Nina taught me how to phrase my critiques and suggestions so that they communicate more precisely with each author's individual personality—which allows us to understand each other better off the page as well as on.

Going to conferences to talk to teachers, librarians, and writers about Mirrorstone's books was as exciting for the chance to talk about all books with wonderful people as it was to help them know all about Mirrorstone's books specifically—but it was doubly exciting to return to a show a year later and have people recognize our books and remember how much they loved reading one, or how much a child they knew loved them.

And isn't that what it's all about? Getting kids to read great books and to grow in their love of reading is the goal of all of us in children's literature.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Just that this isn't the last you'll hear from me! I'm not sure exactly what my next permanent step will be, but I have plenty of options and I've been having a good time exploring them.

In the meantime, I look forward to working with a variety of individuals and companies to make good books even better.

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