Author of Divorcing Mom: A Memoir of Psychoanalysis
Lisa Ohlen Harris is an extraordinarily perceptive editor. She invested an enormous amount of thought and time—way above and beyond the call of duty—in my writing and helped me to understand both the story I was telling and the best way to tell it. The hardest part of writing a book-length work for me was to keep chronology and to maintain suspense. I had several longform essays I wanted to use and Lisa’s ability to determine when to cut or rearrange material, where to reveal and what to conceal, and how the climax should work, shaped my writing. I now have a publisher, Cynren Press, for my forthcoming book, Divorcing Mom: A Memoir of Psychoanalysis (Winter, 2019). I also have a much better sense of how to approach an essay or a larger project and follow through. The book would never have happened without Lisa’s help.
Author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way
I think of Lisa Ohlen Harris as a “tough love” writing coach. She doesn’t hesitate to offer praise for your work where she believes praise is due. However, this doesn’t keep her from sharing honest opinions about writing tics you possess or drawing your attention to consistent problems that are weighing down your prose. This combination of praise and honesty has been a gift to my writing. Her words encourage me to keep going but also help me pause (or even stop) to address areas of my work that she believes can be much better. As a writer whose work often explores themes of race, immigration, and identity, I welcome the combination of praise and honesty that I often struggle to find elsewhere. Lisa hasn’t necessarily lived or experienced much of what I write about in my essays, but she is able to offer robust feedback that possesses an awareness of the limits of her knowledge about the subject matter. Her insights have consistently helped my essays develop a richness that I wouldn’t have reached on my own. These aspects of her coaching personality have made her an invaluable resource and encouragement to me as I develop as a writer.
Author of Pilgrim River: A Spiritual Memoir
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!).
Lisa did a terrific job copyediting my book. Her services were exactly what I needed to turn my manuscript into a polished, ready-to-publish volume. I was impressed with Lisa from our initial phone conversation and continued to appreciate her excellent communication throughout the process. Her meticulous attention to detail kept all of the speakers in the book true to their own voices, and her style sheet assured consistent corrections throughout the manuscript. She was helpful with suggesting deletions or additions to content, especially with footnotes. It was a pleasure to work with Lisa and I recommend her to anyone.
Lisa Ohlen Harris is a remarkably gifted editor. Her evaluation of my 70,000-word manuscript was immensely valuable. Lisa helped me see what to cut, what to strengthen, and how to find the emotional arc of the entire story. After carefully working through Lisa’s manuscript evaluation, I won the Autumn House Press Nonfiction Prize and my book, So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village, was published in January of 2015. I cannot thank Lisa enough for her conscientious, intelligent work.
Lisa Ohlen Harris invested herself in my book, Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon, far beyond the manuscript evaluation and developmental editing package for which we contracted. I offered her a very rough draft: my first attempt at writing a book. Lisa’s encouragement compelled me to persevere somehow, when I otherwise would surely have settled for “good enough.” She spoke earnestly of potential in my raw writing voice. She coached me in overcoming chronic weaknesses. She suggested the right places to subtly foreshadow and add dialogue. She continued to insist the manuscript could be better until it was.