I’m Now Offering Manuscript Editing and Consultation

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I’ve decided to foray, as many writers do, into the murky forest of manuscript editing. I have written, revised, re revised, ordered and re ordered several of my own full length and chapbook manuscripts and have acted as reader/editor in a professional and friend-doing-a-favor capacity for numerous others. I love the work, otherwise I wouldn’t be a poet, constantly nagging every comma and semi colon, cutting, replacing and shuffling poems like so many tarot cards. Oh well, I have that particular affliction so I might as well use it to my own and others’ benefit.
Below is a rundown of my rates and editing services. If you’d like to work with me on a chapbook, just email with page count and what you’re looking for and I’ll give you a price. You can find this info. on the Editing and Consultation Services page. Just wanted to get it into the blog stream which seems to transcend the lower levels of Google search in a speedy manner.

I hold an MFA in Poetry from Bennington College. My first collection Church of Needles won the Red Mountain Prize and was published by Red Mountain Press. Previously, it placed in contests at Alice James Books, Sarabande Books, Tupelo Press and many others. My second collection Split the Crow will be published in late 2014 by Free Verse Editions at Parlor Press. I’m also the editor of The Diary of Esther Small 1886. I have been a guest editor at various publications and have been a reader/editor during Kore Press’s open submissions period. See the Publications and About pages for further information on my publications and experience.

Rates and Options:

My hourly rate is approx. $45 and I offer a selection of manuscript consultation and editing services. I base my estimates on a 52-75 page poetry manuscript, as well as poem-length, density, style, and accessibility. Upon request, you may email your manuscript for an estimate based on the above criteria. A manuscript that has dense, experimental poems filling each page will be priced up from the estimates below. Once I quote you a price, I won’t alter it. All payments are due in advance via Paypal, check, or special order through my Etsy shop. Please email to arrange submission and determine turnaround: sarahasousa@gmail.com

Overall Manuscript Summary and Status: ($225 at an estimated 5 hours)

This is the least intensive of the options. I will read the manuscript and offer a one to two page written summary of its overall theme, strengths and weaknesses, areas of particular concern, poems that could be cut, or added, and basic suggestions to strengthen the whole. I may also suggest alternate titles if my reading of the poems suggests one. I will tell you if I feel the manuscript needs heavy or light editing and if it’s ready to submit for publication (in my opinion). I can suggest some venues for publication, both contests and open submission periods, if you’re interested. This service includes an email consultation where you can ask any questions pertaining to my summary or general questions you have about the manuscript, submitting, etc. When I read your manuscript I’ll be wearing several hats; that of ordinary poetry reader, that of a poet who has experience writing, revising and ordering a manuscript, and finally impartial editor; making suggestions based on your poems, your writing style, your unique manuscript.

Manuscript Summary and Partial Edit: ($315 at an estimated 7 hours)

Includes all the services in overall manuscript summary with the addition of line edits on eight poems (I prefer to choose the poems). I’ll explain my reasons for the line edits and how they service both the individual poems and the manuscript as a whole. You can take my suggested line edits and the reasoning behind the edits and apply them on your own to other poems in the manuscript. I’ll also suggest reordering of poems where that seems necessary, and may suggest alternate titles if I see stronger ones among your poems. This service also includes the email consultation.

Full Manuscript Edit: ($720 at an estimated 16 hours)

For this service I use track changes so would want a duplicate of your manuscript not the one and only document. I will conduct a thorough initial read-through of your manuscript and a line by line edit, including alternate title suggestions for each poem where necessary. Line edits will include grammar, punctuation, alternate phrasing, provoking questions where I feel more significant rewriting needs to take place, brainstorming, in short; anything and everything I see that could be strengthened or improved will be flagged in some way. I will make suggestions for reordering of the manuscript where necessary. I will also write a one page summary explaining the overall strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript and its chances for publication if the suggestions and edits are adopted (if you don’t want this advice just let me know). This service includes an in-depth email consultation where we can discuss the amount of time it took you to write the manuscript, how long you’ve been submitting (if that’s the case), where you would like to submit, what kind of press you envision taking on your book, as well as specific questions about my line edits and suggestions.

In my capacity as editor and consultant to your manuscript, I strive to serve you as a poet by helping you craft a strong collection of poetry while honoring your voice, style and aesthetic. In all of the above services, it’s essential to be open and honest during the process. I look forward to working with you, and seeing you in print!

Disaster and Poetry; A Prompt

circusfire Hartford Circus Fire of 1944

In July 1944, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top burned to the ground in Hartford, Connecticut, killing over 100 people and injuring 700. The fire started in a corner of the tent and was dismissed by those who first saw it as a minor disturbance that would soon be dealt with. The big top was coated with over 1,000 pounds of paraffin wax, essentially creating a candle once it caught. Many died of burn injuries from raining hot wax and pieces of searing big top, but panic and stampede contributed to the majority of deaths. People waited too long to get out and became trapped. A tiny detail in Stewart O’Nan’s The Circus Fire; A True Story of an American Tragedy intrigued me. O’Nan mentions that several people were saved that day because young boys with pocket knives sliced the tent canvas, creating escape hatches. Big top canvas is apparently pretty tough, so the job wasn’t as easy as a quick swipe of the blade, but the fact of it seemed so perfect, so simple. Plus the birth imagery….
In the following poem, I tweaked the idea of boys with pocket knives. Read the poem first, perhaps, to understand the prompt, which is this: write about something (an ‘it’, a mystery, a ghost, invisible force; think ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ style) without naming that thing. Allow images and other sensory details to accumulate toward a kind of shadowy, peripheral understanding of your unnamed subject. Honestly, you don’t even have to be clear, and probably shouldn’t be, about what this ‘thing’ is yourself. The fun of writing this type of poem is allowing yourself to free associate and catalogue, you’re mixing the concrete with the invisible here, like throwing a cloak over a ghost. It’s challenging but also allows for an amount of irreverence; trying to catch a glimpse of something through the corner of your eye. I could go on and on with similes but it’s just something you have to get into the swing of and try for yourself. You could also do as I did and take a detail, or several, from life, an urban myth, or story that resonates with you and tweak it, change it, to suit your needs and create a fresh meaning. This is a great exercise for both aspiring and practicing poets. Writing begins in darkness and leads us toward understanding. As a writer, you want to be surprised; it’s not your ‘to-do list-brain’ that’s going to write a genuine poem. We’re pulling things out of the depths here; that’s the name of the game. Leave revising and tightening for another day. Most poets will tell you that their best poems don’t result from sitting down with a big idea. So, go forth in darkness. Have fun!

It Left the Room

It left the room as fact, but in the narrow
hall shadows whispered: leaf rot,
forgotten potatoes, their eyes protuberant.
It left the room as fact
but darkness and history waylaid it in the hall.
Jugs of wine followed, wine spiced
with the entire spice rack, dried oak
leaves, worm castings. The fact is,
it left the room (its first mistake)
came back story-flocked, feverish, babbling—
blanked on names, the number
of gallons, depth of graves. Like one traumatized
or in the eye of ecstasy it invented details:
how the big top burned like a candle,
how all the people would have melted inside
if it weren’t for the girls with pocket knives.

Poetry Reading, Thursday July 3rd

ImageBridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA

If you’re in the western Mass/southern Vermont area on Thursday July 3rd, drop in at Mocha Maya’s on Bridge Street (which is the main thoroughfare). I’ll be reading, along with poet Neil Shepherd at 7pm. Caffeinated drinks will be available before and after the reading, not during: the space is intimate, the espresso machine loud. Come early and take a stroll on the above Bridge of Flowers and a walk down to Salmon Falls where you can see the glacial potholes. You’ll just happen to pass Lindsay’s Emerald Store and Confections. I was only in long enough to buy three of her famous Grammy’s Cream Puffs, so I can’t speak about emeralds, but there were plenty of confections in sight, and oohh the cream puffs! There’s the standard vanilla, the filling of which seems to be a mixture of real whipped cream, vanilla pudding and something made in heaven. She offers a couple flavors of the day and, of course, ice cream filled cream puffs! Shelburne Falls has also become something of a movie-making Mecca which, for us locals, means a lot of hassle when you need a gallon of milk. Kate Winslet, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have all walked the streets of Shelburne Falls. Sadly, they’re long gone, so come for the poetry, the cream puffs, and the glorious summer weather. I forgot to mention that: we’re at the height of summer perfection. How can you resist?