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Crafting your Best Writing

A remarkable year of book editing and writing coaching

I am a developmental book editor and writing coach, which means that I help advise authors through the writing and even publication process, if needed. Behind many of the best books you will ever read are editors and coaches like me, who gently aid writers, not all of whom, are on their first books, some of my clients have written multiple books. Most often, I am approached by authors who are in the early stages of writing, they have written 20,000 to 30,000 words and are now stuck, not certain how to progress and complete the book. On occasion, the author has a concept but is not certain how to begin, he or she may have done some research, but the opening lines or structure of the book evades them.

First steps
The client and I first discuss his or her project by email, in-person, or Zoom so that I get a sense of his or her vision and with that I can begin counseling them on directions they may want to go (and there are many strategies that can be used in books, as any reader knows), or I start editing existing copy.
A developmental editor checks and corrects grammar and punctuation, but more importantly for the author, we identify where you may need to clarify something; describe a scene or individual; add context or research; restructure a paragraph, scene, page, or chapter layout. In other words, I take you by the hand and help guide you through the jungle of your thoughts, research, or perhaps, confusion. The rate of progress depends on how much time you can afford to devote to the project.

Getting published
Once you have completed the manuscript, I help advise – if needed – on the book proposal (if this is a work of non-fiction), query letters to agents or publishers, or aid you through the self-publishing process. I give ideas about marketing and distribution, two critical factors after publication that will ensure how many copies of the book you sell. When I first started writing books authors were feted by publishers who took care of the marketing and distribution. Today, with fewer independent publishers, and all publishers with fewer staff, it is imperative for a writer to begin thinking of the marketing and sale of their book almost from the time they first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This can create exciting opportunities and initiatives that enhance your life.

What's Next
Books I have aided with this year and that are due for publication over the next two to three years, dependent on publisher schedules, include a remarkable wildlife adventure in southern Africa; an author who experienced a traumatic family event and used it to become an inspiration; a composer and his life journey to break through cultural barriers to become a famous musical talent; a work of historical fiction inspired by another famous work of classical literary fiction; a judge and what working in the judicial system taught him about people and the ways in which the law needs to change to better serve them. I am fortunate in the people I work with, they tend to be interesting and interested, thoughtful, patient, and dedicated to their work. I am grateful for these remarkable individuals and the new ways they help me see and experience the world.
 Contracting Me

I tend to be heavily booked but am always excited to meet with new clients. There is a low fee for the brief initial meeting, although many clients are referred to me by past clients and we get straight down to coaching and/or developmental editing. Please use the contact form on this site, remember to sign your name, give brief details of the project and how far you are, and how you hope I can assist you. I most often get back to clients within a day or two unless I am traveling, but even then I tend to respond relatively quickly.

Fall writing classes for students, 2023

The joy of discovery

Classes end on Friday, 22 December 2023. There are 16 weeks in this semester, for schoolgoers. These dates, however, also apply to adult students.
I have limited availability left in classes for schoolgoers. Writing classes for schoolgoers follow Common Core, and are pitched at a higher level with a wide range of subjects from knowing how to find and use literary devices to grammar, punctuation, poetry, literary analysis; the various types of essay writing, fiction, non-fiction, oratory (writing and delivering speeches), etc. Students read works from ancient mythologies to modern science and space exploration; sport to art and history; excerpts from famous works of literature to contemporary journalism. 
All classes are one hour and are on Zoom, unless by special arrangement. Some classes are now fully booked or close to being full.I have considerable expertise in working with academics on papers for publication or books. I offer private writing classes for individuals or small groups for young people and adults, but have limited time slots available. 
I offer standardized test training in writing and literature ranging from ISEE and SSAT, to SAT, AP, ACT, etc. and I coach for the college essay. 
6.30pm: Grades 9 & 10
6pm: Grades 5 & 6
10am: Higher Grades


Please use the contact form on this site to make enquiries.

Adult writing coaching and consulting

Writing a book, thesis, submitting an article for professional review, or a management proposal is never easy, which is why many would-be authors, or even established authors, academics, and businesspeople turn to me for help. 

I help you expand on your concept and create a winning proposal.

If you are writing a book or thesis you will be coached and encouraged through the process until you have a draft that exceeds anything you have written before. 

If you are an author, I will also assist with query letters, book proposals, or self-publishing, if needed.

Book Coaching and Editing

Writing a book is challenging. Many inexperienced writers start a book and in a short time write 40 or 60 pages - and then freeze: what next? 

      I help you to get over those hurdles, plan your book, and guide you through the process, all the while editing and helping you out of those dark places when inspiration flees.


    If you have a manuscript ready for an agent or publisher, I am happy to edit the document - I am a developmental editor so may make suggestions to enhance the text and will also ensure facts are correct - and will give ideas of how to write a pitch or query letter, or how to self publish, if desired.

    My writers include Ivy League deans and academics (I am Boston-based, although these days location is no longer an advantage, nor a hindrance). They include folk on four continents and in a wide range of fields whether judges, nuclear engineers, medical specialists, pastors, journalists, architects, and more. Their books have included non-fiction and fiction, ranging from memoir to historical novel; travel to crime writing; novels for second language speakers; educational or academic books; and more.

     My rates are competitive and confidentiality is assured.


Liz Magill signing the book contract with Joanna Bradley of Upper Room Books

Early in 2018, Liz Magill took an online course with me to turn her thesis into a book. This is not easy because a thesis is written in academic jargon. A book for the commercial market needs to be written in an enjoyable reading style.
I came up with a working title: Five Loaves, Two Fishes, Twelve Volunteers - the book is about food kitchens and feeding programs run by churches.
By the end of the course we had three chapters ready for submission to a publisher or agent.
At no extra charge I helped Liz with a query letter and book proposal to take to a publishing conference to help her to pitch to agents and publishers.
She succeeded! This is her signing a book contact with Upper Room Books, they loved the title and are keeping it.
Her book was published in March, 2020.


Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life by Charlene Smith (Random House)


With a bear on Lightning Mountain, New Hampshire, March 2013.

Don't Feed the Bears (see link below), The Boston Globe Magazine. 

"We underestimate the ability of wild animals and humans to get along,' says New Hampshire environmentalist David L. Eastman. 'But getting along also requires humans to behave.'"

On November 26, Charlene Smith was invited to speak on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Some 350 guests arrived, and a book-signing took place afterward.

Interviewing Nelson Mandela on the third day of his release, and first day back in Soweto

A referee wrote, “Charlene Smith is a powerful, highly skilled and experienced journalist, author and communications professional. She is adept at finding the right channels for messages. She has immense patience and love for people – no-one is unimportant or undeserving of her time or mentoring.”
As a journalist, author, authorized biographer of Nelson Mandela, and ghostwriter, I have been privileged to witness the best in the great and had the time to ponder their flaws. I am struck by the fact that humility and a true love of people is the mark of greatness.
Journalists are the first writers of history and so our responsibility to truth-telling and fairness is eternal.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, I reported on anti-apartheid resistance and economics in South Africa. In Japan and Argentina, I reported on politics and economics. Publications I have worked for include the Los Angeles Times, Independent, Guardian, Washington Post, Le Monde, and others. As a television documentary maker I worked with Tony Burman at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Ted Koppel at ABC Nightline, and Ed Bradley and Anderson Cooper at CBS 60 Minutes, and others.