Each year, NCWA member Kirk Kraft posts interviews with the agents and editors that will be speaking at the Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal.
Jamie West, editor with Pelican Book Group, lives in the Midwest with her husband of 35 years, three dogs, and three cats. She enjoys reading, traveling, archaeology, and quilting. A worship leader at church, she does children’s sermons every month, and sings with the Praise Team.Six years ago, she was led of God to answer an ad for a job at a secular publishing company. When they sold their inspirational Christian division, she went with the new company, which became Pelican Ventures Book Group.
What’s been the most satisfying part of your editing career?
Helping Christian fiction writers achieve their dreams and mine. I get a kick out of editing. I actually enjoy the process. I like going through a manuscript line-by-line, reading an author’s work and “hearing” their characters speak, getting to know them for myself. The fact that the manuscripts glorify the word of God, sometimes just a little, sometimes a lot, is just icing on the cake. These writers are my people, we understand God exists, that we are called for a purpose, and that in our world, what happens in the manuscripts is not only possible, but that God permeates it all.
I love it when writers push an edge – we have some fantastic writers and they cover suspense, mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, thrillers, day-to-day life, broken homes, being alone, young adult – the whole human experience. Our authors transport me, as a reader, to other worlds, and I love it. Authors give me so much, a job I love, and characters who resonate long after the last word is read.
What are the primary reasons manuscripts fail to grab & hold your interest?
Flat characters. Solid characterization can carry an otherwise ordinary plot and make it something special and unique. You can have the most imaginative plot in the universe, but if your reader cannot connect with the protagonist, or another character, the book will be one of those “over-the-couch” books – you know, tossed over the couch halfway through reading and lost to the dust bunnies until it’s time to vacuum.
What one piece of advice would you offer an aspiring writer?
Write. And when you’re done, write more. And when you are done, write some more. Keep writing, because as you write, you will learn. And submit your work, too. We had a writer…she would write, and I would reject. But she kept writing, and each time she wrote a new manuscript, she’d improve, because of course, she kept practicing writing. And finally, she submitted a manuscript (I think it was her fifth one), and it was great. I edited it, and she learned from those edits. She went back to the rejected manuscripts, cleaned them up with what she’d learned, and re-submitted. We published them, too. She’s one of our bestsellers now.
What do you consider the biggest publishing myth?
That once a relatively unknown person writes their first book, they’ll make millions of dollars. That rarely happens.
Could you describe a typical today in your editing life?
Oh…yes. It’s rather ordinary, really. I usually start with breakfast, let the dogs out, let the cats out, talk to my husband of 35 years, grab some iced tea (in summer) or hot tea (in winter). My Dad made this beautiful wooden tea tray for me so I use it daily. I then go to my computer to check email, blogs, and social media. Some is work related, some is family/friend related, but I check it all, and then respond as needed, including phone calls. Then I let the dogs in and perhaps a cat or two, also. I usually start with 2nd edits on books in the queue to be published. Once I finish those, I start reading the new manuscripts in my inbox.
At 11 AM, I break to talk to my boss, CEO, Nicola Martinez, and for our daily prayer session. Yes, we pray over our authors and the company every day, unless we have other obligations such as doctor’s appointments or errands that must be done. We also discuss manuscripts, Christian theology, what’s in our Production queue, developing book covers/trailers, and other issues.
After lunch with my husband, I check the emails, blogs, and social media again, and then I start reading again. Afternoons, in between reading, I usually do whatever chores need doing around the house, or help my husband do stuff outside if we have planned tasks (we built a house a few years ago, and are still doing landscaping and adding little touches here and there, cabinets, new garden beds, and such). And with all this, I’m constantly letting one of the three dogs or one of the three cats in and out.
I make dinner most nights, unless I con my husband into it, and then he settles down to watch TV or work on his computer, and I head back to my computer. But first, the two younger cats need their cuddle time, so I generally just read a new manuscript while they wind around my neck, stretch across my lap, or swat me for not petting them long enough. Eventually, they get bored with my inattention, and leave. Then I go back to the manuscript.
About an hour before bedtime, I hit all the email, blogs and social media again, to make sure I’ve not missed anything. That’s a perfect editing day. Naturally, other things happen, and quite often, at least 1-2 days a week, nothing goes as planned, and I have to deal with other things. I’d say I spend a solid 6-8 hours a day working, about 3-4 days a week. The other days are taken up with other things, including church on Sundays.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished an adorable Young Adult novel for our new Watershed line. I’m also midway through a historical romance right now. We’ve contracted the first one, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be contracting the second, too.
In West’s Renewal workshop, she’ll explore how to develop the romantic relationship, write good dialogue, build strong characters, and infuse the spiritual essence of God into an Inspirational romance. Workshop attendees need to bring a hard copy/paper print-out of the first five pages of their manuscript and a set of four highlighters in blue, pink, yellow, and green.
When you register for the conference, you may sign up for a group editorial appointment with West on Friday.
Pelican publishes under three imprints. Click on each icon to browse by Imprint to research books they’ve published. White Rose Publishing is Romance, Harbourlight Books is all fiction genres, Watershed is Young Adult. To find Pelican’s specific manuscript needs, read here.
Kirk Kraft has been gripped by the “Writing Monster” for many years. A husband and father of four, he’s instilled a love of reading in all his children while chasing his dream of publishing. His favorite genre for both writing and reading is epic fantasy. He has been a member of NCWA since 2008.