My Blessed Guest today is Suzanne Gosselin. She's an editor with Clubhouse Jr. Magazine/Focus on the Family. I always enjoy what editors have to say. As a writer, it's easy to get caught up on the receiving end of the job. I can't imagine anything worse than having to reject a writer's work. I know first hand Suzanne Gosselin does say "YES" to submissions on a regular basis. She recently accepted an article from a friend of mine.
Welcome Suzanne, it's great to have you here. There are so many questions I'd love to ask you, most especially, how did you begin your journey in the world of publishing? Was this something you always wanted to do? Did you go to school for this?
I knew in 10th grade that I wanted to be a magazine editor. I actually wrote to Susie Shellenberger, the editor of Brio magazine (Focus’ magazine for teen girls) and asked how I could get a job. Susie wrote me a personal letter back suggesting that I study journalism or communications in college, get published and write for my high school newspaper. I took her advice to heart and studied biblical theology and journalism at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Ore. A fellow student graduated a year ahead of me and got a job as a copyeditor at Focus on the Family. When I graduated, he told me about the job as Assistant Editor for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. I was hired that fall. In September, I will have worked with these magazines for 10 years.
What do you love about being an editor?
I am more of a writer at heart. I love communicating someone’s story in an effective way. I believe, especially in Christian writing, that each article is a divine appointment. It is the mingling of your story, God’s story and your reader’s story — and an article truly can change a life. I’m constantly delighted to hear how God used something I wrote or published in the magazine to encourage someone just when they needed it.
I also enjoy coaching writers and helping them to make their work sparkle. I go to several Christian writers conferences each year, where I meet one-on-one with writers and discuss their ideas and give feedback on their work. It is exciting for me to coach a writer and see them come back with a manuscript that is twice as good as the original. And, of course, I’m a grammar-holic. I won’t lie; I find satisfaction and joy in discovering an obscure mistake.
What don't you love about it?
I am a people person and editing is solitary, concentrated work. But I find my social outlets elsewhere. My husband and I perform with a comedy improv troupe in our free time, which helps alleviate any ill-effects of the isolation I feel at work. :)
What has surprised you the most about your job?
I haven’t encountered many surprises. Perhaps I was surprised at how quickly I felt at home in the world of editing once I left college. I suppose that’s a testament to Multnomah’s excellent journalism program.
When it comes to a new writer, what do you think is most important for them to know when submitting to your magazine/publishing house?
The most important thing to do before you submit to Clubhouse Jr. is to read several issues of the magazine. You will see that the things we publish have a specific tone and style. We also have recurring types of articles: fiction, Bible stories, poetry, animal features and rebus stories. Know the magazine. Those who do, and write accordingly, often have their very first submission accepted.
Are there any red flags an editor sees that will give a writer an immediate rejection?
My answer here is similar to the last. The first red flag is when it is obvious that the author has not studied our magazine. This may be apparent in an inappropriate tone or style, or in the actual content of the piece. Because we publish poetry, we once received a manuscript from a Veteran recounting in graphic detail his experiences on the battle field. Obviously, he wasn’t familiar with our magazine.
Is there anything, in your opinion, that writers pay too much/too little attention to?
Writers pay too little attention to current children’s trends. If you want to write beautifully for children, you need to study what is popular in children’s writing. Go to Barnes and Noble and spend an afternoon in the children’s section. Read award-winning books; see what innovative things are happening with children’s writing. Nobody likes a stale, overdone idea.
Anything specific your magazine/publishing house is looking for right now? (Types of books, articles, sidebars, etc.)
We are looking for well-written retold Bible stories. We don’t want these to be standard, Bible story book, stories. Add a fictional flare. For example, the feeding of the 5,000 from the perspective of the boy who gave his lunch. Or go a creative direction. One author recently submitted an Easter poem from the perspective of the stone that was rolled away. We hear the stories of Noah’s Ark and David and Goliath repeatedly, so choose lesser-known, but still rich, stories.
Who has made the biggest impact on your life?
My parents definitely made the biggest impact on me. I was home schooled my entire education by a mom who was a home school pioneer. She was diligent to train me in good study skills and encourage me in the things I was passionate in. During high school, I put together my own “magazine” for home schooled teens. My mom would allow me to take a whole school day to put this together. She was allowing me to engage in the editorial process and teaching me to meet deadlines — at the expense of geometry. :)
What do you think about blogging? Do you have your own blog?
I have been blogging professionally for the Boundless Line (boundlessline.org) since 2006. This is Focus’ blog for college students and single young professionals. I wrote an article about blogging called “Blog Responsibly” ( http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001341.cfm). I believe more harm than good can be done on blogs. Especially, when Christians give in to graceless chatter that does not build up fellow believers. However, blogs can also serve as a very positive place for people to meet, find encouragement and community, and discuss significant topics. I always encourage bloggers to exercise their Christian beliefs in the blogsphere and if they find themselves unable to do so—to quit. Kind of the “if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out” idea. It’s not worth wrecking your Christian testimony. However, blogging can also be a powerful tool for building God’s kingdom.
How about some tried and true blog randomness:
Do you have a favorite scripture?
Since I was a teen I have loved 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” I still consider myself young enough for the verse to apply. But I also use it to encourage the children I write for and minister to. They can make as great of an impact — or greater — than an adult. And they need to recognize that.
What would surprise us about you?
I gave a hint. But I am a comedy improv actor. Five years ago, I founded the improv troupe Stick Horses in Pants (thestickhorses.com). We perform all over Colorado and have given shows for NASA astronauts.
What's your favorite flavored potato chip?
Favorite thing to do with your family?
Hang out at Starbucks.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
No book except my Bible. I’m not much of a reader.
Last food you ate?
Sausage breakfast burrito.
When was the last time you played the air guitar?
Teaching second through fourth grade at my church. My husband and I volunteer there together, and one of the songs requires an air guitar.
Thanks so much for stopping by Suzanne. I know your words have encouraged many writers today. Now that I know about your gift of comedy improv - next time it's a podcast interview!
And, if you haven't already read it, march on over to Suzanne's article about blogging responsibly. It's a keeper.