One on one memoir consulting and editing
How It 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 a table for your laptop
and mine, and I can offer you anything from green tea to Scotch, depending
on how the meeting goes.
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, but do have some specific questions about it, or want someone who isn’t your mother to tell you if it’s publishable.
In that case, I read it and mark it and write you a detailed response, and often you then come over to meet with me.
Writing from life is overwhelmingly worthwhile, but it does carry its own challenges: it asks you to review the tangle of emotions, motives, repetitions, and complexities of actual experiences and be able to tell the difference between what was important or meaningful to you, and what is important or meaningful to the story. That’s hard: It was all intense and important when it happened.
As novelist Michael Crichton pointed out, you often start with a good idea of what you’re doing:
“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.”
If you are working on a memoir, I can help you outline the arc of your story
(as opposed to just writing down everything that happened in the order it
happened), and help you decide what to put in, what to leave out.
When the book is ready, I can help you with agents, titles, publishing, and the proposal.
Caveat: Resist the urge to get your project into more impressive shape before showing it to me. I want to see it at as early a stage as possible, as I can be most useful in helping to plan the structure. In fact all you need to bring is a pad of paper and yourself, and we will talk through the book together.
Working with a paid editor –on essays or memoirs-- helps long before you actually meet with him or her. I had a consultation with a woman who said she’s spent all weekend getting ready for the meeting — and thought about her book so much that she’d made a lot of progress in the three days since she’d emailed me.
I can record the meeting on my Ipod and email you the file, as it can be helpful to be able to listen it to the session later.
I charge $100 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.
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
Marie Estorge, author
Adair’s classes were so helpful in finding the through line of the story of Storkbites: A Memoir (2003)—she taught me to show not tell and make each scene jump off the page. She also suggested that I shorten title from Storkbites And Angel Kisses to just Storkbites. She was right.