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Editor & Writing Coach

I’ve taught writing in workshops and in private groups whose members write fiction and non-fiction and I’ve edited academic papers in healthcare and the humanities. I work individually with writers on a variety of projects, with a plan tailored to each writer’s needs and budgetary constraints. I can help you:

  • Shape your ideas and material into a focused, compelling story, article, or book.
  • Develop and refine your interviewing skills for fiction or non-fiction writing, so that you ask the questions you need to ask and get the information you need: not only the facts, but the critical information between the lines.
  • Improve your writing and so that you can tell your story with all the power it holds within it.
  • Edit and critique your draft or manuscript, whether it’s completed or in progress, with oral and written comments.

To learn more, contact me at

Kickstart Your Writing

This is from notes for a class I call “Seven Practices to Kickstart Your Writing.” The class is about some practices that I’ve found helpful for getting into a piece of work and staying with it. Some of it I’ve learned from other writers, either face to face or from interviews, and some I’ve developed myself in doing my own work and working with writers. They’re the practices I turn to on the days when I wonder what I’m doing and think about getting into some other line of work, like smoke jumping or mucking out stalls at the race track. Some of these may be helpful for you, some not so much.

Find your way to get started You’re at your desk. You need to shift gears, settle down and start. Different writers do it different ways. I’ll tell you a few that I know.
• I need to get nagging tasks out of the way first: the email that needs an answer stat, making the dentist appointment, paying a bill. I can’t focus until I get them off the table. Then I look at what I wrote the day before. I edit for word choice, for flow, for how it fits with the structure of the whole piece. I like to do this kind of editing, because as I edit I can see improvement. After I’ve done that for 10 minutes or half an hour, I can feel myself slipping into the work groove and I’m willing to turn to the harder work of clawing out new ground.

• Arthur Salm, who was book editor for the San Diego Union Tribune and now writes young adult fiction, says he gives himself half an hour to screw around on the internet, then he’s willing to get to work.

• The novelist Kent Haruf, who wrote Plainsong and half a dozen other novels, described what he did when he was starting a new chapter: he pulled a wool stocking cap down over his face so he couldn’t see, and then he’d write longhand, ideas, scenes, details, whateve came to him. He said, ‘It takes away the terror when you’re blind and you can’t go back and rewrite a sentence,” he said. ”It calls for storytelling, not polishing.”

• John McPhee, who’s written some of the best literary nonfiction in America, starts by
transcribing his notes. In an interview in The Paris Review he says, “First thing I do is transcribe my notes. This is not an altogether mindless process. You’re copying your notes, and you get ideas. You get ideas for structure. You get ideas for wording, phraseologies. As I’m typing, if something crosses my mind I flip it in there. When I’m done, certain ideas have accrued and have been added to it, like iron filings drawn to a magnet.”

It’s not easy to get yourself started. But you have to do it, and whatever you find that works for you, work it. It’s always better once you’re started.

All the best, and write well,

Barbara Davenport