Our Diary

We’ve left it open for you, so you don’t even need one of those little keys. Because writing is life, and keeping it real means forgoing the line between the personal and the professional.

Contact Us Today for a
Free Consultation

Knowing Your Why: 2022 Tucson Festival of Books

Book Architecture’s very own Stuart Horwitz had the opportunity to moderate two panels at the 2022 Tucson Festival of Books. The authors who participated in the sessions have published novels across a swath of genres but, in their own way, each linked the success they have found in their careers to having identified and articulated the why behind their writing. Without that clarity and conviction, it becomes much harder to get a work over the finish line and into readers’ hands. Below is a compilation of some of their key thoughts from the TFOB panels and beyond. 

 

 

Beasts of a Little Land, Juhea Kim

Juhea is a writer, artist, and advocate based in Portland, Oregon. Beasts of a Little Land is her debut novel, but she is also the founder and editor of Peaceful Dumpling, an online magazine at the intersection of sustainable lifestyle and ecological literature. 

Juhea says, “Why do [I] write? No one ever asks me this but I repeat this every morning while taking a walk in my neighborhood. I write to save nature and reduce animal suffering. That’s the throughline of my work across genres (essays, journalism, short stories, novel) even when the writing in question doesn’t look like it has anything to do with nature. 

Knowing the reason I write was what kept me from giving up whenever I was staring down yet another rejection. And it will continue to inspire me through the ups and downs of writing life.”

 

The Scribe of Siena, Melodie Winawer

Melodie is a physician-scientist and associate professor of neurology at Columbia University. She has published over fifty academic articles and contributed to several anthologies. For her, fiction writing is an invaluable outlet that brings balance to her otherwise fact-bound life. 

“The way I do scientific research goes something like this: I come up with a question I don’t know the answer to. I try to look up the answer. If I don’t find an answer, I look harder, and in more sources. If I still don’t know the answer, I ask colleagues with expertise. If no one knows the answer, or even better, if there is disagreement, or even controversy about the answer, that’s when I know I’ve found my next research project… 

“But in fiction, uncertainty is a foundation for invention. That means I get to make things up. And that is intensely pleasurable.”

 

Our Woman in Moscow, Beatriz Williams

Beatriz got her MBA in finance from Columbia University and worked as a corporate strategy consultant in New York and London for many years. 

She said, “The business career was something I was doing to be successful at, until I had the nerve to try what I really wanted. I was always writing. I was literally writing books on company laptops and scrubbing the files before I turned the laptop in. It was always what I wanted to do.”

Once Beatriz stepped away from her career to have her children, she decided it was time to prioritize her decades-long urge to write with more commitment. 

“I thought, it almost doesn’t matter now if I crash and burn — at least my kids need me and love me. Now that writing was no longer the most important thing, I had the guts to go ahead and try it.”

 

A Ballad of Love and Glory, Reyna Grande

Reyna crossed the US–Mexico border to join her family in Los Angeles as a young girl, a harrowing journey chronicled in her memoir, The Distance Between Us. For Reyna, the why behind her dedication to her writing career had a real urgency to it. 

She said, “When I discovered books, I felt that I had been saved. My childhood was full of things that were beyond my control. Books gave me an escape. I was able to hide in the pages of those books and for a moment get away from all the chaos around me. 

“Once I discovered Latino Literature when I was in college, the books I read helped me to define myself. I was Mexican and American. I could celebrate my Mexican culture while at the same time also feel at ease in the American culture. They helped me not to feel torn between the two.”

Both of these things helped equip Reyna with the tools she needed to write her memoir. 

“A lot of books about immigration are from third parties who are researching the topic, and they’re interviewing immigrants to write their experiences down, but it’s very rare when that immigrant gets to tell that story herself without having somebody else tell it for her. That’s what I’m really grateful for—that I can use my own voice to tell my own story. I wish more immigrants had that opportunity,” she said.

 

Island Queen, Vanessa Riley

In addition to being a novelist, Vanessa has an astounding number of degrees (like we’re talking: a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a master’s in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Penn State University). While her published novels are rich and varied, they are united in putting women and people of color–groups that have largely gone voiceless in history books and historical fiction–in the spotlight, reminding readers that they too lived and loved fiercely, and had complex and rich lives and legacies. 

Vanessa said, “Female-centered historical novels are having a moment, particularly when uncovering little-known histories. Resistance to these narratives, which cast heroines with agency, hidden talents and extraordinary achievements, has declined, but only after a hard-fought battle. 

“Perhaps women have won the war and we can pen stories of our ancestors without the dreaded attack of the old guard — a patriarchy accustomed to controlling the narrative and wielding the term “historical accuracy” like a weapon.”

 

The Christie Affair, Nina de Gramont

Nina is a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She is the author of The Last September, several young adult novels, and The Christie Affair which was her first New York Times bestseller. 

Nina diligently worked at her writing career for years, motivated and sustained by the why that was entrenched deep within her. 

Upon the success of The Christie Affair she said, “If this had happened when I was 25, I’d think that it meant I was really brilliant. Happening at 55, I know it means I’m really lucky. So I’m appreciating it, for sure.”

Book Architecture Turns 20

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture Founder and Principal, Stuart Horwitz, upon the 20th anniversary of his independent editing business; how did he reach this milestone, what has he learned along the way, and what’s in store for the future? 

(No, he does not get special treatment simply because he’s the boss. My new interview format is my new interview format). 

 

MU: Initially, what appealed to you about a career as an independent editor? 

SH: I was speaking to my colleague, Anita Mumm, about this and she told me that one day she had an aha moment about wanting a writing life. I think that’s what hits all of us independent editors at some point. I wanted a life that has to do with the thing that I love, which is books and writing and words. There are more traditional routes and less traditional routes to getting there; for me, heading towards independent editing had to do with avoiding any more toxic bosses than I had already experienced. It was terrifying to have my life in someone else’s hands, for them to be able to handle my well-being whimsically–especially as I got into my thirties. 

 

MU: How did the vision that you had in your mind for what your business could be 20 years ago match up to how it has actually unfolded? 

SH: I didn’t expect Book Architecture to be my full-time job; originally, it was supposed to be a way to make money while I went to graduate school in East Asian studies. My goal was to become a professor of Buddhism. But over time, I came to find that the academic future I pictured was an image that I had for myself rather than my actual path. 

Concurrent to this realization, there were changes happening in the industry that were radically increasing demand for independent editors. The advent of self-publishing, the profusion of e-books–it was sort of like buying a stock at the right time. I was doing better financially than I would have as a professor, but it wasn’t just that; I was also getting a much broader context of exposure to the world through the projects I was doing. It was all just happening, and some of that is certainly luck. If I sit here and look at the last year, two years, five years, twenty years, it’s clear that nothing is clear. Book Architecture was just meant to happen. I figured it out before it was too late; that’s the only credit I feel like I deserve. 

Stuart’s former office in Providence, which had red walls because he wanted red walls. His current office is in San Diego, because he wanted it to be in San Diego. // Alternate caption, sourced from SH: “I am my own man.”

 

MU: Where did the name Book Architecture come from?

SH: I did an architecture course during my first master’s degree. There was so much more artistry to it than I realized, in the proportion and emphasis and repetition of stylistic icons. It struck me as a symphony in stone, something creative but also solid. That’s what I wanted to bring to my business; something beautiful, but also built to last. That is book architecture. 

Book Architecture also represents hope. The hope that you can structure your octopus of a manuscript in progress, that there’s some kind of clarity and sanity to be found. The hope that your voice is enough, that you as an author are enough. The hope that the critics in your head saying you can’t do it can be silenced and your creativity is inexhaustible. That hope has become my mission of sorts, to help strengthen the roots of confidence within others and myself. 

 

MU: Something we’ve talked a lot about is the intensity of this job, in being brought into clients’ worlds and entrusted with the details of the most meaningful and, often, the most painful parts of their lives. Can you talk about how that’s been? 

SH: These are the things that make for the best books, so if I’m in a situation in which things feel flat or uninspiring, I’ll usually start digging to see what we can liberate. But truly, in these situations of working with a client before they go to prison or a client with a terminal cancer diagnosis who is aware they’ll die before the book comes out, it is a profound privilege to tell their story. Some of the books I’ve worked on with these kinds of stressors have impacted me profoundly and changed the way I view the world. Experiencing that was part of what validated my leaving academia; this work became better than more formal education. The courses I take now are all one-on-one, they’re more varied, and there’s a richness, an immediacy, a real-lifeness to them.

When you’re in the groove and collaborating together with someone, it feels like a multiplication and not an addition. So, being able to be in the creative process with people of quality, and getting paid for it, and setting my own hours? Yeah, sounds good. 

 

MU: How has helming Book Architecture impacted your personal writing endeavors? 

SH: One of the best things about this job is that it has allowed me to work on my own writing concurrently, whether that was my three theoretical books on writing, my memoir (which is in a very exciting phase), or the novel that I’m currently working on, which is incipient but glowing. I think there are some people who feel like they can’t work with words and then also do their own writing, like somehow they’ll be using up their talent or it’s too much in the same headspace. I can empathize with that. For many years, I thought I had to wait tables, because that way I would have my creative energy all to myself. That makes sense in theory, but in reality I was existing in a toxic and draining environment. While my creativity may have been safe and untouched, nearly every other kind of energy was being sapped, which seriously inhibited my ability to sit down and write effectively. 

Committing to my business full-time and being in control of my own destiny has had a huge impact on how quickly I’m able to clear my mind before a good writing session starts. Now, there’s a lot of cross-flow between the work I do for Book Architecture and the work I do for myself. I can do my job for five hours and then I can take a break, exercise, meditate, go to the coffee shop, whatever, and then write at night. I’ve created the context and learned the tools I need to access that headspace.  

 

 

MU: What are you most excited about moving into a new decade of Book Architecture? 

SH: In thinking through my answer to this question, I realize that Book Architecture is able to fit with everything that I want to do with my life moving forward. My wife and I are anticipating opening up a retreat center for writers in the next two years or so, and I fully intend for my work as an independent editor to continue through that. If there are areas of life that I’m more interested in learning about, I can seek out those clients. If I want to work more, I can get more clients. If I want to work less, I can get less clients. If I want to go be a digital nomad, done. I’m there. Over the past 20 years, it seems Book Architecture has become intrinsic to my identity and my lifestyle–and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

 

Clients Crushin’ It: Carla Albano

Madison Utley speaks to Carla Albano upon the release of her first book, Soul of A Swimmer, in which she tells the true story of Nicholas Dworet, a champion swimmer from Florida whose life was tragically cut short in a school shooting. While Carla first heard Nick’s name in relation to the devastating news, it became clear there was a much more complex story to tell about the young man’s life and legacy after speaking to his family, friends, coaches, and teammates. In this book, Carla describes the lifelong process of nurturing a child who has extraordinary talent and the drive to put it to its best use. 

 

 

Q: How was it that you ended up involved in getting Nick’s story onto paper?

A: The project is a little unorthodox, I know. When Nick passed away, I had just restarted my swimming career. Swimmers are all connected by a love of water; there’s a real community there. And so faced with the fact that we lost one of our ownmeaning a fish, a swimmerI felt like I needed to do something positive, as part of our community grieving and as part of my own grieving. 

Initially, I decided I wanted to write an application for Nick to be admitted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, but as I started to compile what I needed for that, I got to know his coaches and all these other people in his life. It wasn’t long before I realized: “Holy cow, this is bigger than an application. This is such a great story.” The more I learned about Nick, the more inspired I felt to write a book. I was exhausted by hearing about all of the bad things about mass shootings and body counts, but never knowing anything about who these people we lost are. And so, I decided I wanted to write a biography of this boy who was a champion swimmer, and one of my kind. 

Q: How did your previous experience prepare you for this endeavor? 

A: During this process, I was able to call upon my own experience growing up as a swimmer while interviewing Nick’s friends, teammates, and coaches. I feel like that gave me instant rapport with the subjects who in turn gave me the material I used in the book. I even went on swims with some of them after the interviews were over, which was really bonding.  

As for the writing itself: good swimmers know that they need to have a good coach, so I started with Stuart from the very, very beginning. Given that it’s my first book, I had no perspective on how to structure my thinking or how to put the material together. Stuart was amazing from the start; he didn’t tell me what to do or how to write, but instead he helped direct my voice through this process and guided me towards where I needed to go next. We had a lot of dots to connect and I’m so grateful to Stuart for helping me with that. I wouldn’t have been able to get the message straight or tell the story the way it needed to be told without him. 

Q: Tell me more about your experience interviewing the people in Nick’s life. 

A: I believe this project was very healing. For many of the young adults that I interviewed, Nick’s friends and teammates, this was the first opportunity they were given to speak about him in a positive way, outside of the circumstances of his death. So it was a hard process, but one they thanked me for. They shared a lot of really intimate stories with mesuch great, happy stories. And that’s what I wanted to focus on, the bright and the good; I felt it was my mission to keep this boy alive.

Throughout the process of writing this book, I started to think our community is scarce on mental health/counseling resources. It seems people might not get the outreach they need to be guided towards help, so it was special to be part of this process. I’m actually still in contact with a lot of the kids that I interviewed. They’ve become part of my life and vice versa. They view me as a safe person to share their grief with.

Q: Who do you view as the primary audience for this book? 

A: Swimmers of all ages, young adult athletes, parents of athletes… The story is about how to cultivate and nourish a talented child, whether they are academically or athletically gifted. This book describes the process of identifying talent and helping encourage young people to get motivated and push towards their dreams. I truly hope that readers are shown what a family and what a community needs to do when they are entrusted with a talented child. 

The Independent Editor Podcast

Independent editing is a mentorship industry. There is little to no targeted training and an absence of concise, reputable-seeming resources available. Enter: the Independent Editor Podcast. With episodes dropping every other Wednesday, starting October 27, it is our aim to serve as a support for aspiring editors who may be experiencing a crisis of confidence, a community for those that toil alone, and a resource containing detailed and practical direction. Below, we present to you a sampling of what’s coming:

 

Why should you care what we say? To kick things off, we talk about how we each found our way to the industry—and to each other; Stuart tells us how he purposefully waded in while Madison explains the fortuitous manner in which she found herself shoved into the deep end. The stark difference in our paths (and experience levels, with Stuart 20+ years into this whole thing and Madison just three) means we’re able to speak to independent editors across the spectrum. Here, we also get into the changes in traditional publishing which allowed for the flourishing of the independent editing industry.

 

In this episode, we explore the breadth of opportunities that exist for the independent editor by talking our way through a project’s life cycle, covering many of the classic services that can be offered, including: coaching, developmental editing, ghostwriting, cowriting, line editing and ongoing assistance, copy editing, marketplace assistance (for both traditional and self-publishing) and publication support. But what you can do doesn’t stop there; we also discuss the endless possibilities for writers to turn whatever they are good at and like doing involving the written word into an income stream, and the importance of that very diversification.

You cannot be an independent editor without having clients. And so today, we talk about how to source them. They’re out there; it’s up to you to connect with them and sell your services with confidence. Believing that, earnestly networking, and accepting both when leads pan into something great and when they go nowhere are all essential parts of the equation. Which, of course, means you need to be comfortable hearing “no.” Are you ready?

 

When people search you out, what do they find? Are you their person? Your editorial platform is what determines this answer. All parts of your online presence work together to establish your credibility, express your personality, and show your engagement, but the crown jewel of it all is your website. In this episode, we cover both the general guiding principles and the specific building blocks you should consider while constructing your digital home. We also talk about social media’s role in your overall platform, as well as how to decide when the time is right to launch and invest in your editing website.