You have a writing project in mind, and want to get some advice on it. The best way to begin is to come over to my house for a kitchen-table meeting for a couple of hours. It’s a big kitchen, with a table for your laptop and mine, and I can offer you anything from green tea to Scotch, depending on how the meeting goes.
You might want to write shorter pieces—blogs, columns, magazine pieces.
Or you might have a manuscript. You’re sick to death of it and want to get off your desk, so you send it to me to review. Or you aren’t sick of it, because you haven’t actually written it yet, and you’d like help planning it.
You might be thinking about a memoir? It’s helpful to have an objective eye to help you review the events of your story –that tangle of emotions, motives, repetitions, and complexities that is real life — and tell the difference between what was important or meaningful to you, and what is important or meaningful to the story.
As novelist Michael Crichton pointed out, you often start with a good idea of what you’re doing but you want someone to talk it over with:
“as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore … What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, “Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.”

Caveat: Resist the urge to get your project into more impressive shape before showing it to me. You be polishing pages that have to come out. In fact all you need for a first meeting is a pad of paper and yourself, and we will talk through the book together. You are welcome –encouraged—to record our sessions.
I charge $150 for time spent, whether in person or in reading work.

Praise from Authors Who Have Consulted With Adair
Jacqueline Winspear, author of the bestselling Maisie Dobbs series
I loved Adair’s memoir classes – so rich with content, conversation, advice and solid direction – however, she was always pressing me to try fiction, which I wasn’t at all sure about. Then when the idea for my novel, Maisie Dobbs, came to me, Adair read the first tentative fifteen or so pages and encouraged me to keep going.
Mary Patrick, author of Family Plots
Adair’s keen editorial eye and sharp sense of story arc helped me pare a 500 page manuscript into a tighter, plot driven read. Her coaching and enthusiasm opened doors to locating an agent that had previously been bolted.

Ruth Chambers, author of The Chinaberry Album
A soulmate among editors, Adair Lara’s skill elevates prose to its highest potential. Her expert editing resonates through every sentence, paragraph and page. The end result is equivalent to a college course in creative writing. I have no doubt that my manuscript has reached the finalist stage in a novel contest only because of her thorough editing. With Adair as your editor, the only way is up.

David Gottfried, author of Greed to Green
Without Adair’s guidance, sharp wit, coaching, seasoned interviewing skills, succinct editing and experienced counsel, there is no way that my 2003 memoir would ever have been published. She pushed me to find the best within myself and beyond. I recommend her highly.

Tanya Taskila
That was the best $200 I ever spent. I love the path you put me on; my vision is so much clearer. I’m so inspired to get back to work.

Peggy Kennedy, author of Approaching Neverland
Hey Adair: Hope you got my gushing call the other day. I LOVE what you’ve done for my book in too many ways to mention, but I’ll name just a few:
Father Hecht approached our circle “as though afraid we might rise like a flock of startled birds and fly against the walls and windows”
The title for the chapter including my green Volkswagen and Sue’s having the RR waiting for Paul and me at our wedding (love the way you tied the whole thing together!)
Joan as the little Who driving Miss Scarlet and nabbing a handsome boy (can’t find the phrase, but it made me laugh hard). Also makes the Chapter title “Who’s Zoomin Who” much more fun
The fact that you somehow knew that Mom smoked Benson & Hedges
The image you added of Joan and Mom feeding babies pablum in side-by-side high chairs
Simplifying everything down to what it needed to be
Keeping all the good stuff and weeding out the rest

Based on your suggestions. I’ve cut the manuscript by about 20,000 words and three chapters. It’s down to about 93,000 words, 35 chapters. I’ve cut pocket bios, tightened dialog, looked for inconsistencies, listened for clinkers, tried to strip out redundancy and make the narrative taut and linear, while retaining the lyricism and improving pacing and rhythm.
Your critique really helped me see how to cut and focus. I’ve carried your printed suggestions around for the past three months, the pages now tattered and coffee stained. I’m grateful for your thought-provoking suggestions and encouragement.
When I was driving home from class on Saturday I thought: I have met one of the most important persons in my life.
At this end of my career as a human, 72 now and working to hit 73, I have stumbled onto the best Want of all: writing. yI feel like I’ve been in a long parade called My Life, and I got to wear all of these different costumes as I marched along: baby, kid, art school student, wife, mom, divorcee, fabric store salesclerk, grandmother, artist, friend–all of these outfits, and me clomping along, changing shape, greying—and late in the parade when I was kind of pooped, I walked up to that massive, oak door that said “Writer” on it. I knocked, a little timid but very curious. YOU opened the door and welcomed me in, with your darlin’ grin and can-do attitude. That’s what you did for me, Adair Lara. You let me in and made me comfortable. And there is nothing better than deciding which words will come from my fingertips on this keyboard hee as I keep trying to find another round of truth inside my head. I had always hoped I had it, but until I met you, I wasn’t sure.

Your buoyant, generous, smart, kind, funny self and your incredible ability to get to the core of what we’re looking for, is responsible for my new lease on life. Oh, yes.
The way you question the sticky bits of our work, never a put down, always constructive, makes us safe. Makes ME safe. The “is that necessary right there?” sentence that you occasionally toss to us gives me pause. The work we just did on the scene, as I’ve already told you, was the most important work I’ve done with you.
You give me the feeling that you care about what we do. How about that? We listen and hear everyone’s stories and hear the class’ comments, toss it this way and that, and you say something…maybe, simply, “What does the character want here?” and somehow, while we’re hitting our heads, Homer Simpson style, the miracle happens. You’ve steered us to a new truth about the piece. You’ve gotten us past boring into compelling. Somehow, it’s always about the truth. Not fooling ourselves. Partnering with our minds to tap out what really happened and how it was for us when it did. Not for impressing anyone, but to find out who we are inside after squeaking by as imposters for so long. I love this so much and hug you for giving it to us.

feel that I am not alone out here with this book. Have you ever seen a porch being repaired? The roof is shored up by the scaffolding so soundly that the the damaged columns can come out safely. That’s how I feel about your coaching. You’re holdin’ up the roof so I can get the work done.
You are smart, funny and kind. I live for your scrawls on my work, I have finally figured out what belongs where and why. During this class, I have produced over 125 pages of new text. In the two weeks I wrote to my writing partner, my life changed. The inertia I had been experiencing lifted, and I felt a sense of purpose I do not recall ever feeling before.

How The Book Consulting Works

You have a writing project in mind, and want to get some advice on it. The best way to begin is to come over to my house for a kitchen-table meeting for a couple of hours. It’s a big kitchen, with … Continue reading

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Praise for the workshop

Praise for the workshop Half the people I know seem to haven take classes and workshops with San Francisco’s legendary writer and teacher Adair Lara. She is very savvy and smart and hugely entertaining. I admire her greatly. Adair Lara … Continue reading

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Praise from Published Students

    Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs series When I first met Adair, I wasn’t at all sure where I ultimately wanted to go as a writer – although I did, and still do, harbor a deep wish … Continue reading

Posted in ONE ON ONE WRITING CONSULTING, Voice and Persona in Memoir, writing coach, writing the memoir | Leave a comment