It simply amazes me how the Internet gathers people from far and wide and through this amazing technology one can forge endearing friendships without meeting face-to-face. Lea Schizas is one of those people in my life. Even though she is busy beyond compare, she always has the time for aspiring and accomplished writers. She is a multi-published author and award-winning editor of two Writer’s Digest 101 Top Web Sites, and she is an editor at Red Rose Publishing. How does this one woman accomplish so much, so well? Read on and become inspired.
DMc: You are the master of multi-tasking. Award-winning writer, editing services, editor-in-chief, founder and coordinator of the Muse Online Writers Conference, and mother of five. (I’m exhausted typing all this…LOL!) How do you balance all the aspects of your life?
LS: Sometimes I wonder that myself, Donna. To be totally honest, there are times where it’s extremely stressful for me because deadlines are moved up, I spend too much time reading emails, sick for a day or so that puts me behind schedule…I get things done but at a cost: Advil to get rid of migraines. Would I have it any other way? No. I love what I do.
I don’t spend every waking moment on the computer although it may seem like that at times. I sit for no more than half an hour, get up and do my ‘motherly’ chores around the house, then back to my writing. Flipping my mother hat to my writer’s hat is not hard because I’m used to flipping my editor’s hat to my writer’s hat all the time. Writers need a balance, one they can comfortably get back into with any disruptions that occur around them. By balance, I mean able to focus on writing, and then focus on outside commitments…accomplishing bits and pieces of commitments to make you feel victorious. Otherwise, you end up feeling as though a mule kicked you every which way but loose. And no, I’ve never been kicked by a mule and never want to.
DMc: Besides the numerous hats you wear, you are also the founder of numerous websites. Do you maintain them yourself or do you have assistance?
LS: Every site is maintained by me. Call me crazy but I like to have the freedom to go in, change, add, move things around without having to bother anyone to do that for me. I use Frontpage for some of my sites and the rest I use the site’s easy-to-use templates. No HTML for me. Too old to learn that crappola. No patience. (Can I say ‘crappola’ –oops, I did again.)
DMc: When a manuscript arrives at Red Rose Publishing and you know the author personally do you pass it to another editor or are you able to stay unbiased?
LS: Totally unbiased. One thing about me is that I am able to switch off the friend part and go right into the business Lea. First off, friend or no friend, if the manuscript needs a complete overhaul, where would the justice for Red Rose or the author be if I accepted the manuscript? Writers need to understand that at times publishers/editors will require changes in a manuscript before they consider a contract. Writers have to prove they are able to handle and manage criticism and the editing process. After all, this is part of the game.
DMc: Have you had the opportunity to edit a writer’s manuscript through your own editing services and encouraged them to submit to Red Rose Publishing? Or do you need to keep the two professions separate?
LS: My own editing services feels to me more than just ‘an editing service’. I go that extra mile and if I discover a manuscript that any one of the publishers I know might be interested in, then I recommend the author to send it to them. I’m like the unpaid and silent agent. And yes, I have recommended and accepted a few writers because their stories merited acceptances.
DMc: What do you look for first when you receive a submission packet?
LS: First thing I read is the blurb or synopsis of the manuscript. This usually tells me right off if it’s a good mix for Red Rose knowing what our readers enjoy. If it passes that stage then I hop on over and begin reading the manuscript. In all honesty, that first chapter (actually, more like the first opening paragraph) must pull me in. If it does, I continue reading.
I’m looking for slants on similar storylines, something different and one that has a thoroughly fleshed out ending. A twist ending is always a plus.
DMc: What are your thoughts about a writer creating a platform prior to getting their first novel published?
LS: This is a must for all writers. I’ve had writers contact me asking when their release dates are so they can begin promoting. I tell them don’t wait until your release date…START NOW! Writers must begin building a following, readers who enjoy their blogs, newsletters, or info found in their websites. Starting cold turkey on a release date is not the smartest thing to do.
DMc: If you feel a platform is essential, what are some important steps a writer should take towards forming a platform?
LS: Build a website. I know many right now are going to say to themselves “But I don’t have anything to put on my site.” There are tons of things you can put on your site to begin building a platform, to begin branding yourself as an expert in your field. Here are just some ideas to work on:
Look at the genre you love to write in. Find other like-authors and exchange links with them (Now you have a LINKS page all set up in your website.)
Write short articles on the craft of writing in that genre (now you have an ARTICLE page on your website or begin a blog using that theme)
Readers love to find out about writers on a personal level (now you have an ABOUT ME webpage on your site)
To go with the short article theme above, write articles and submit them to Article Banks. Ezines and newsletter editors pick these up and post them in their sites. How does this help to promote you? You include a bio with a link back to your site. Readers from these various sites now have the opportunity to ‘traffic’ your site and find out more about you.
As you get publishing credits, add these to MY WRITING CAREER page on your site.
An area many don’t think is part of the promo is joining writing groups and participating in as many as possible. At the end of each email, make sure to have a signature so members can link back to your site.
These are just some simple beginning steps to take. Study other author websites and see what catches your eye and interest and try to implement something similar. The way we read books to expand our writing the same diligent effort is needed to improve our websites. You can have a glimpse of my own for ideas: http://www.leaschizas.com
DMc: What advice would you give to writers in their attempts to get published?
LS: First off, read the publisher’s guidelines. Make sure the publisher you are targeting accepts your genre. You would be surprised how many times I get submissions for genres we don’t even publish.
Second, read, read as many books in the genre you like to write in and study other authors.
Hone your writing by eliminating the passive voice, delete unnecessary back story, remove ‘that’ if the sentence’s meaning is untouched. Flesh out your characters so readers can believe they are real. Never end a story without finalizing any foreshadow you created at some point. And never, ever have a new character suddenly appear near the end to save the day. That just won’t wash. That’s called cheating a reader and you risk losing that reader’s respect forever.
DMc: Is there a particular genre you prefer to read? Or are you open to almost anything?
LS: My favorite genres are: children’s books, Young Adult, romance in any subgenre, dark fiction/horror, mysteries, and fantasies. These genres I prefer to read and review.
DMc: A signature request I like to ask every author, illustrator, editor, etc., I interview is for the individual to share with us a tidbit from their lives that the reader will find either humorous or surprising. Lea, can you please share one with us?
LS: I am a high school graduate. I am a cosmetology graduate. Never went further than high school. Is this humorous? Not at all, but it’s one that puts me in a stress level whenever I have to workshop. And to be honest, I avoid hosting face-to-face workshops because my fear (this is the surprising part) is that I will be asked a simple grammatical question and will look like a dork if I don’t know the answer.
I have a gift and that gift is picking off storylines of interest; able to pull together an author’s manuscript and tighten it; spot plot holes, weak characters, mundane dialogue…but put me in a room full of eager writers who want to find out what the heck a homonym is and I begin to feel my food inching its way up my throat, ready to hurl any moment. I suck when it comes to grammar terms; easily spot them in a manuscript but please, don’t ask me those questions. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Meet Lea Schizas: http://www.leaschizas.com
The Muse Marquee: http://themusemarquee.tripod.com/
The Writing Jungle: http://thewritingjungle.blogspot.com/
The Muse Book Reviews: http://themusebookreviews.blogspot.com/