“Writers are not special people. Every person is a special kind of writer.”
–Elsa Gidlow (poet)
Are you working on a novel, short story collection, poetry collection, memoir, volume of personal essays, or children’s book? Do you feel you could use a little support along with a detached, encouraging, critical eye? I am now taking on private students, and would love to help you make your writing the best it can be.
As the author of more than fifty books, I am comfortable working in any genre. I have been teaching for twenty-four years (where has the time flown?) and my philosphy has always been that everyone has important stories to tell and the ability to tell them. In the 1980’s I started my own business, Write from the Heart, teaching workshops out of my home in western Massachusetts. Since that time, I have traveled all over the country, teaching workshops at colleges and universities, professional conferences, and community settings, such as senior centers and nursing homes. Currently, I am on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine, and the Poet Laureate of Northampton.
I find the mentor/mentee relationship particularly rewarding and inspiring. It is truly an honor to work so intimately with someone on his or her writing, and thrilling to see how quickly each student improves and how beautifully the work shapes itself into a piece of art.
How it works: if you are interested in working with me, send me an email with a short description of your project and we will go from there. Please do not send me a sample of your work until I ask you to do so. We will discuss your goals and the status of your manuscript, and come up with a game plan (including a price for my services, which depends on many things, including the length of your book, and the amount of time we will be working on it).
Write to me—I look forward to hearing from you!
What former students have to say:
“Two years ago, I had an idea. I lay in my bed listening to a rooster crow outside my window. It was 5:00 a.m. I hummed with the rooster, and together we created a pretty cool tune. I wondered how cool it would be for a rooster to form a band. And tour. Of course, he would play an instrument, a guitar perhaps. And with no amplification, he would simply play unplugged. And so, Acoustic Rooster was born. It was not until six months ago that I took the time to write Rooster’s story. It came out as a 700 word/27 stanza children’s book, which I just knew was a hit. After sending the book to an editor, I was told ‘you’ve got something here, but it needs work. Let us know when you’ve got something good here.’ Having never written a picture book before, I knew as much about making it good as I did about sheep formations in Tuscany. My wife, who is not a writer, but a thinker, says those three words that sometimes come at the end of a heated discussion: you need help. Enter Lesléa Newman.
My Google search was pretty specific: ‘Children’s Literature, Poetry, Editing, Coach, Cheap.’ To my surprise, several sites popped up. One was about a week-long master class at UC Berkeley that focused on four of these areas. However, the tuition and travel were expensive and I’d have to wait three months for the next class. The second site displayed the work of the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. Okay, that’s one down: Poetry. Further exploration of her website revealed that she had written a novel-in-verse (which was another project that I’d finished and needed help on); several award-winning picture books. Check, check. And then, finally, I found a page that said she was available for manuscript evaluation and editing, if she thought your work was worthy. I emailed her immediately.
I write this note from Italy, where I have been writing the second Acoustic Rooster book. You see, after working with Lesléa Newman, the first book, now 330 words/15 stanzas, sold to a publisher. In one week. I write this note from a place called the Jolly Caffé in Monterspertoli, where I am finishing up the third novel-in-verse. You see, after working with Lesléa Newman, the first book doubled in quantity and quality, and there is a bidding war (though war is a harsh word to use) going on right now. I write this note from an Italian villa that I rented for myself and nine writers, so that we could write, drink wine, laugh, write. And, of course, count sheep formations.
This is what I know: Lesléa Newman is the truth. If you want to write something, read a book, take a class, study, journal, yeah, do that stuff. If you want to write something good, get the truth. Lesléa Newman will set you free. Ciao!”
“When I first met Lesléa, I had every intention of tucking my lovable character into a box and placing him on a shelf, most likely to sleep for a long, long while. But her simple question, ‘How does Mor’s story end?’ led me to reconsider.
Lesléa crossed my path when I doubted I could finish this particular character’s story. I wasn’t lacking in drive to finish the novel or tackle revision after revision, I just doubted my ability to accurately capture this little boy’s journey. As a mentor, Lesléa was instrumental in helping me find the courage to do so. She by far, is my character’s greatest fan! Her patience and guidance spurred me on and anytime I started to meander into murky waters, her thoughtful correspondences and suggestions nudged me back on solid ground. I’m forever grateful to her for the time and energy she put into helping me complete little Mor’s journey.
As a writer, two of the most important things we need to do are first, put our behinds in a chair, a hammock, or on a beach towel and write; and second, find someone who will not only encourage but help elevate our writing. I was beyond fortunate and truly blessed to find the second in Lesléa. I have no doubt she is the reason One Shadow on the Wall has found a publishing home.”
“Working with Lesléa and experiencing both her attentiveness to my poems and her skill as a writer/editor, as well as her unflinching honesty and generous praise, I felt that my writing could not be in better hands, and that her suggestions were all in the service of strengthening my work. She showed a deep appreciation and respect for me as a writer in her comments, and was incredibly generous with her time and availability. When I received my manuscript back along with her long editorial letter, I found that Lesléa’s comments were clear and helpful and greatly improved my poetry. After working with Lesléa on my manuscript, I absolutely felt that I wanted to continue our mentor/student relationship in the future.”
“Thanks to Lesléa Newman, I just sold my first novel!
After four years of editing and reworking my novel on my own, I knew something had to be done to change my book from “good” to “We’d like to offer you a contract.” So, I made a call to Lesléa Newman, who came highly recommended by the leader, and published author, of my writing group. This phone call was the smartest move I have made on my writing journey.
While editing my book, Lesléa was always professional, with a keen eye for seeing the big, small, and invisible errors in my novel that I had lost sight of in during my numerous rewrites. She offered a perfect balance of experienced criticism and encouragement. Even after the book went through its final edit and rewrite, Lesléa continued to be an amazing resource. Because of her editing help, my novel got the attention of two prominent publishing houses in New York. She helped me navigate my responses to each editor and guided me through choosing the right publisher for my book, all while celebrating my novel’s success. Thanks to Lesléa and her never-ending help, my dream of publishing my book is coming true. She’s even helped me translate my contract.
Every aspiring or published writer should be so fortunate to work with an editor, teacher, and author like Lesléa Newman. My only regret is that I didn’t call her sooner.”
“After a single manuscript review, a few follow-up emails, and a face- to-face conversation, Lesléa Newman helped to raise my poetry to a new level. I felt like a white belt in karate working with a black-belted master. I know some moves, but Lesléa knows many, many more. She praised what she thought praiseworthy. Then she moved on to perceive logical, auditory, and formal infelicities in my work and offered gentle and clear advice on how to repair them. She also taught me how to use titles, epigraphs, line breaks, and sensory details more effectively. But she never changed my vision or voice. I took all of her suggestions seriously and even experimented with ones that seemed “not me.” On the occasions when I ultimately decided not to take her advice, Lesléa listened to my reasoning and did not push me to change. Hence, as a mentor, Lesléa has worked with me to strengthen my voice without compromising my individuality—a boon to any aspiring artist.”
“Lesléa Newman is an invaluable coach on the writing journey. We worked together for almost two years and her critique was both critical and affirming. She is able to achieve these results because of her sharp eye, deft language skills, superb objectivity, professional insight, and her years of experience and expertise. These skills make Lesléa, quite simply, the perfect editor. She is also an invaluable mentor who understands what it takes to complete a book and keeps the writer on track and upbeat throughout the long process. Not only did she keep me focused on the story I wanted to tell, but she reigned me in whenever I began drifting away, guiding with constructive, detailed and encouraging feedback, as well as her purple pen. Lesléa’s suggestions and comments not only made my story better, but made me, as a writer, better too. Her considerate, comprehensive, and spot-on critique guided my 400-page ‘doorstop’ into a polished, final manuscript which I would never have achieved on my own. Her feedback streamlined my rewriting process as it guided me with specific suggestions. It was easy to trust her comments as I was not only a client, but a huge fan of her books. I highly recommend Lesléa Newman to anyone who is serious about turning their own manuscripts into honest-to-goodness books.”
“Lesléa Newman was one of my mentors at the Stonecoast MFA program (University of Southern Maine), and was the first to take a look at a fledgling young adult novel I began while a student. Throughout the program, she was a friend and advisor, providing so much valuable encouragement and insight that I decided to continue working with her after graduation. Working with Lesléa proved to be exactly what I needed to transform my novel from a work-in-progress to a publishable manuscript. We set up a schedule in which I sent monthly packets, which kept me accountable and on task. Lesléa always responded quickly with comments and line edits, and her feedback was invaluable. Not only did Lesléa’s expertise help me polish my manuscript and whip it into shape, her encouragement helped give me the confidence and motivation to finish and submit it. I’m thrilled to report that my debut novel, Being Henry David, was published by Albert Whitman Teen in 2013, and I was able to fulfill my dream and publicly thank Lesléa on my acknowledgements page. Thank you, Lesléa, for all your help!”