Editors are for “real” writers, you know, people who write books, not newsletters. At least that’s what I used to think. Sure, I enjoyed writing about my life on the field and trying to capture it. In pre-blog or social media days, I’d write letters and mail them to my parents. Dad would photocopy the letters at work, and Mom mailed them to my friends and family in an effort to keep everyone in the loop.
I also wrote newsletters that were processed by my organization’s communication department.
When I wrote my first book, I knew I’d need an editor . . . since book writers are “real” writers. How did such an absurd idea what is a “real” writer get planted in me? Maybe because I didn’t understand what editors actually DO. I now have two editors and today I’m thrilled for you to meet Stacey Covell, one of my editors. But more importantly, she’s been where you are, on the field writing letters. She gets you, and I can’t wait for you to meet her. Without further ado, here’s Stacey!
Stacey, I’m delighted to get to chat! Could you share a bit about where you’ve lived overseas and what you were doing?
I served in Ireland for just over 12 years. My husband and I were involved in many different ministries during that time: youth ministry, discipleship, leadership, church planting, creative ministries, etc. During our last few years there, I was heavily involved in ministry around the arts. As a creative myself, it was such a wonderful experience to work and minister to all kinds of artists. It was a lot of hard work but so, so beautiful. There were a group of us working together from several different organizations (a rarity!) and we were involved with artists from all walks of life and many different disciplines. I loved it.
Where are you now? What are you up to?
These days my family and I are living in Central Pennsylvania near the home of Hershey chocolate. It was quite the culture shock moving from a major international city to a small town area. We had never been to this part of the country (Mid-Atlantic) or area before moving here, nor did we know anyone! It took some time, but we’ve settled into our new community and are enjoying this season.
We moved to this area for my husband’s new job. In the early days, my time was taken up helping my family get settled in our new and very different surroundings. After a few months however, I was really missing the creativity I’d been involved in in Ireland. Since we were still in the thick of repatriation and culture shock, I didn’t have the same amount, (meaning hardly any), of creative margin that I used to have. The area we settled in also didn’t have as many opportunities to join into creative groups, and while I could see starting some groups in the future, it wasn’t possible at the time. This is when editing came into the picture.
I’m always curious what draws people to something that would never occur to me anyone would like. So, with that great intro, what drew you to editing?
Editing was something I’d done informally over a few years in several different writing and critique groups in Ireland. I hadn’t thought about doing it professionally until a former colleague contacted me looking for someone to edit an article for her and offered to pay. It came at the perfect moment too; the kids were feeling a little bit more settled, and I was looking to find something to fill my time and the creative gap I was experiencing.
As one editing job turned into two, then three, I realized editing professionally was something I really enjoyed doing. It felt like God had handed me a gift, telling me, “I still see you, and I know you need this. I know it will fill you up creatively and also be a way you can minister to others in your new life.”
I called it creativity in a box. While I didn’t have the energy to write and create as I had been previously doing in Ireland, I could take something that someone else had created and fine tune it. I could help writers carve their words, in whatever form it took, into the masterpiece it was wanting to and waiting to be. I’ve been editing ever since.
I love the art of words—how they convey meaning, and how each person weaves those words and meanings together in their own unique way. I love helping writers find their strongest words and meanings for their intended piece and audience. I also love helping people become stronger writers and more effective communicators, whether it be for studies, like a dissertation; ministry, a ministry resource, book, or prayer letter; or for storytelling, like a biography, or a novel, to name just a few examples.
The organization I served with had a “communications department” and proofread my newsletters. Because I didn’t think of myself as a “writer,” I didn’t know how to use an editor; editors were for writers. Would it be helpful for a cross-cultural worker to think about editing their newsletters?
The purpose of proofreading is to correct errors. This is valuable because everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Editing differs from proofreading in that it aims to assist you in saying what you want and mean to say in the strongest possible way according to your needs and goals. Editing makes a document more readable and enjoyable to read for those reading it.
Editing is a valuable tool to tighten up a prayer letter once it is written. This might help it read more concise and to the point for the supporter who wants to know how you are doing, or it could help expand certain areas to give those reading it a fuller picture of what you are communicating. Whether self-editing or hiring someone to do a light edit of your newsletter with objective eyes is always beneficial. Every person has something they struggle with when it comes to writing. Maybe you struggle to fit everything on a page or two, or maybe you struggle to fill a page or two. A good editor will always aim to assist and strengthen areas of weakness, preserve your voice (so it stays sounding like you), and ask questions in order to help you say what you mean to say in the best way for you.
You’re an editor, you’ve been on the field, and you receive newsletters, could you share one or two tips with people reading this?
When I read prayer letters, I want to hear how people are doing. Not only in ministry, but personally. I want to feel like I’m with them for a brief moment, joining into their lives. Sharing personal stories is a great way to connect with supporters. One thing that can really help with this is to describe things with the senses: How does it feel, look, smell, sound like, or taste? Writing with the senses can help readers and supporters really connect with what you are saying and experiencing.
Sometimes it can be tricky balancing sharing about ministry and personal lives, but for me, I always want to hear about day to day life and personal updates. When I feel like I am connected to someone on a personal level then I always feel more connected to their ministry, even if they don’t share everything about it in every letter.
I also recommend keeping things succinct. Aim to stay on point and say it as succinctly as possible. Share scripture if it applies to your letter. If it’s only there for the sake of being there and doesn’t really relate to the content of the letter, it’s likely that supporters are skipping over it as they look through your letter and update. Supporters want to hear how you are doing without extra detail or content to sift through in order to find it.
Stacey, thank you for sharing how an editor (you!) could help people with their newsletters.
Dear reader, if you’d like to talk to Stacey about editing your newsletter or other projects, you can reach her here.
Do you enjoy writing newsletters? You can!