I started my literary career late in life, and hadn’t developed the craft of creative nonfiction. My previous writing had been academic—grant proposals, some scholarly essays, a book, and a batch of annual reports. When I began writing a memoir, I ended up with a frustrating amalgam of autobiography and scholarly essay. I hadn’t learned the techniques of showing the kind of details that make a scene come alive. I tried some “how to” books on writing, but just couldn’t follow them.
I had published a few individual essays in literary journals, and about half the memoir was in good shape. The rest was a jumble and I didn’t know what to do with it. Lisa first provided a thorough manuscript evaluation: a critique of the whole and of each chapter, with suggestions and ideas for each. She suggested cutting a couple of chapters (the academic stuff) and adding two more. I spent a summer revising. We then entered a second phase of developmental editing, going chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, with suggestions, ideas, critiques, questions. We went back and forth with revisions and critiques until the book was right. I learned more about writing creative nonfiction through this process than I could have done through “how to” books and a dozen writing workshops (and spent less money, too!).