My Interview with Jane Friedman, former Writer’s Digest publisher

The interview I’ve looked forward to the most at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference blog is finally posted! My interview with Jane Friedman, who has an assortment of publishing industry credits including former Writer’s Digest publisher, is posted!

Just while researching my questions, I learned so much. That caused me to worry, though. How was she going to add anything more to the interviews already out there. How was I going to think of questions that allowed her to add new thoughts to the conversation?

To achieve this, compared to my past interviews, I asked a different kind of question. A more personal question about my own writing fears. How much energy should I spend obsessing over commas, grammar, spelling, etc. Are there any mistakes beginning writers are allowed to make without their manuscript being tossed into the recycling bin?

Her answer didn’t disappoint.

Jane: Let me allay your fears. Any agent or editor who rejects your work based solely on random surface-level concerns (stray punctuation errors or grammatical snafus), isn’t someone you want to work with. Great writing shines through stray surface-level errors—assuming those errors aren’t so numerous that they become distracting.

To be crystal clear: I’m not talking about the kind of bad grammar and punctuation that immediately reveals a writer who hasn’t even begun to master his craft. I’m talking about people who’ve probably been at work for years, and have the requisite skills to be a writer, but may not be flawless from a mechanical standpoint.

I’m a college writing professor who sees error-ridden work daily—but I can still spot fabulous voice, insightful observations, and provocative point of view through all those errors. Surface errors can be fixed. Boring stories can’t.

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