Interview with Susan Ferguson Part One
Susan Ferguson, editor and writer
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Can you tell us a little about your writing and your editing?
I'm a native of Missouri with a very diverse professional background: I've worked as a farmer, florist, greenhouse manager, print journalist, marketing and editorial communications specialist in the daunting world of temp services, a graphic designer, ad copywriter, magazine editor, independent writer, independent editor, book designer, independent publisher, business manager and editor for two literary journals, and a college English instructor. Oh, and a mom. If I had to rank these things, I would say that editing and book design are my strongest skills, with “momming” not too far behind.
I have a bachelor's degree in English with journalism minor. Three years ago, I completed a master's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. I loved working as a print journalist because there was so much power in presenting the "truth" to readers, even if that truth was at times highly subjective in the minds of my sources. So it's no surprise that I gravitated toward creative nonfiction during my graduate work; creative nonfiction straddles that line between truth and fiction, objectivity and subjectivity, requiring that the writer maintain an intense level of honesty and integrity while at the same time interpreting the truth through his or her own experiences and knowledge.
My own writing includes nonfiction, creative nonfiction and fiction. Shortly after completing grad school in 2008, I wrote a 200-page study guide called "Pass English Comp: The Study Guide for Critical Thinking, Rhetoric, and College Writing" that I hoped students would use to cut through the academic agendas so they could learn genuine skills that would help them generate effective college essays. I self-published the book and used it in composition classes that I taught in Texas; an adjunct instructor at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph used it for his classes for a couple of years. Students using the book did indeed learn the technical writing skills needed for writing college essays, but because the book was self-published, I ran into roadblocks in trying to get it "adopted" as a curriculum text. It is currently marketed on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and on my publishing company website, ninthmonthpublishing.com.
Late in 2010, I released a collection of short stories: "Gaze: A Collection of Stories." Several of the stories have been previously published in literary journals, and a couple of the stories were recognized by the Missouri Writers Guild, but no editor has ever welcomed the entire collection. My "clock" was ticking, so I took the chance and self published fifteen of my favorite stories. "Gaze" is also available through the aforementioned outlets. As for other writing activities, I am currently revising a creative nonfiction work I started in graduate school.
As an editor, I have been reviewing other writers' copy and manuscripts for at least 25 years. For the first fifteen years, my editing work focused on articles for newspapers and magazines. In 2000, as the traditional publishing industry began to lose ground to self-publishing interests, I made a concerted effort to concentrate on providing editing services to individuals with book-length manuscripts; many of these manuscripts have been memoir and historical fiction. More than half of the manuscripts I've worked on have been published by small independent presses or by the writers themselves.
One memoir, "Journey Toward Justice," by Dennis Fritz,
received the 2007 Preservation for a Saner Society Literature award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for its powerful message about wrongful conviction and exoneration.
The National Council on Crime and Delinquency is a non-profit that focuses on criminal justice reform, with particular interest in assisting youths and juveniles with rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. From the council's website at http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/index.html:
"The PASS Awards (Prevention for a Safer Society) is the only national recognition of print and broadcast journalists, TV news and feature reporters, producers, writers, and those in film and literature who try to focus America¹s attention on our criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems in a thoughtful and considerate manner."
"NCCD established the PASS Awards to recognize and honor the media¹s success in illuminating stories that further public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare issues. NCCD is seeking stories that illustrate current realities or the promise of reform, especially those that help people understand the complex causes of crime and what must be done to prevent and control it. A critical link in successful policies related to these issues is the education of the public. The media is uniquely positioned to be this link, and we gratefully acknowledge their efforts to fulfill that responsibility."
I’ve heard Dennis speak. It’s wonderful that you were able to help him tell his remarkable and chilling story of spending eleven years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Why don’t we continue this discussion next week?