My Writings

"The Five Keys" — IACP Food Forum Quarterly, October 2005

The Five keys to working with a writing coach

The opening “When the student is ready, the master appears” hooks you as soon as you open Jennifer Lawler’s Dojo Wisdom for Writers: 100 Simple Ways to Become a More Inspired, Successful and Fearless Writer (Penguin Books, 2004).

But how do you, as a writer, really know when you need a master?

“Ongoing frustration,” says Jena Ball, a highly experienced writing coach, is why writers come to her, “and a sense that they are doing something wrong but don’t know what.” Jennifer Lawler, who coaches a select few with their book proposals, agrees: “You’ve done the groundwork – you know how to write a query, you’ve got great ideas, you’re willing to do the necessary research ahead of time – and you’re still not quite cracking the nut. A writing coach can help.” As you write, you should see an evolution, she points out – from rejections to considerations to acceptances. If you don’t see the evolution, it’s a red flag that you could use the help of a coach.

Coaches can help with a myriad of things – from basic sentence structuring to the art of querying to enabling writers to focus on the right markets for them. Many people, however, often go into the coaching relationship unprepared. They are not sure what to ask or ask for the impossible. This leads to less than successful outcomes. Preparing to find and work with a coach takes work, but it is truly worth the effort. The outcomes are more positive and focused. So how do you prepare for your coach and avoid the common mistakes most people make? Jena and Jennifer provide their in-depth insights into how to make the writer- coach relationship a productive one so that writers can gain maximum advantage.

What are the five keys?  Keep your eye on this spot for the whole article to be posted in a week or so.

I interviewed two wonderful coaches for this piece —

Jennifer Lawler earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do in 1994, when she was almost 29 years old. She has written extensively on the subject of martial arts, especially women in the martial arts. Her writing credits include Family Circle, Cooking Light, American Fitness, Martial Arts magazine, American Writer, ASJA Monthly, Working Writer, Weight Watchers and other publications. She has also written 20 books. She earned her Ph.D in English (medieval literature) from the University of Kansas in 1996. Jennifer is a former college English teacher, but try not to hold that against her. Currently, she devotes most of her time to writing and speaking about martial arts training.

Jena Ball has been writing professionally for more than 20 years. She started as a reporter for her college newspaper and moved on to freelance features and a weekly restaurant review column for The Japan Times. Her freelance work has ranged from adventure stories to business pieces. She has also written health and sports articles, profiles, cultural pieces, and reviews for publications such as Triathlete, Rambles Magazine, Winds, PC Intersect, and The Sacramento Bee. Her company Write from the Start, founded in 1993, specializes in helping small- to medium-size businesses improve the writing skills of their employees and generate effective copy of all kinds – reports, video scripts, marketing collateral, web sites, etc. In addition to freelance journalism, Jena has worked as a copywriter, developmental editor, and tech editor for companies such as Sony, Hitachi, Marubeni, Panache, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. Most recently she has been writing a nationally syndicated column called, "Halfway Over the Hill," and giving talks and interviews about the topics covered in the column.

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