There are times I feel like I’ve lived a Forest Gumpian life. (I’m a writer. I can make up adjectives like Gumpian.) For instance, I’ve been in a movie. Brought a puppy back to life. Delivered my niece. It’s all been quite Gumpian. But my life with books, though, can be summed up in 3 acts—so far.
About Me, In 3 Acts
A Beginning, a Middle, and an...
Books were a part of my career from the beginning. After homeschooling my children, I went to work at a middle school where spent several years in the library, sharing favorite authors like Lois Lowry, Jerry Spinelli, Judy Blume, Christopher Paul Curtis, Richard Peck, Mildred Taylor, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and so, so many more. This is also where I started my writing and publishing.
Eventually, I landed in a public library where I shared not only children’s literature but a plethora of authors like Sara Gruin, Janet Evanovich, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Dave Barry, Audrey Niffenegger, Liane Moriarty, Blake Crouch, Kate Morton, and so on. As my work expanded, so did my love for all things publishing, so I started Boot in the Door Publications and self-published several books under the names Lesa Boutin and Lesa Howard.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was at a writing retreat where I met a woman talking about her writing residency in an elementary school. I went straight home when it was over and searched to see if there was anything available like that in my area. There was, and, bam! For the next 12 years, I worked for a nonprofit organization called Writers in the Schools, teaching creative writing to students in third through eighth grade.
I had some extraordinary experiences in these residencies, working closely with teachers, meeting new children, and expanding my scope of art, music, and creativity. And though there wasn’t a day go by that I wasn’t in tune with the next great thing I could turn into a writing lesson, it inadvertently took time away from my writing. My own work lay dormant for a while. What I didn’t see at the time was that all those years using poetry in the classroom (Time was too short for teaching fiction.) were making me a better writer. I learned how to write tight.
Along came the pandemic, and schools shut down. During that time, I applied for a remote internship with a literary agency. I spent six months reading manuscript after manuscript after manuscript. Doing this taught me to find the superfluous as well as the essentials in constructing an engaging story. I also learned why agents tell you to only send a query and the first five to ten pages. You really can tell if the manuscript is ready for reading in those first few pages. At least, when it’s sitting with a stack of 200 more to be combed through.
I enjoyed that time at the lit agency, but I was frustrated by reading manuscripts that were close to being accepted, but ultimately rejected because there just wasn’t enough time to take on a manuscript that needed editing. What’s worse was there was no time to write an assessment of the manuscript to give to the author. So, the author would receive a rejection with no idea that their writing was good, but simply needed some adjustments. Having been on the receiving side of an enormous number of rejections myself, I decided to leave there and begin offering editorial assessments, developmental edits, book coaching, and ghostwriting.
If you’re one of those people who received a rejection and want some help getting beyond that slush pile, check out my services and see if there’s anything there for you.