2023 Editors’ Choice Awards Winners

Introducing the extraordinary winners of the 2023 Editors’ Choice Awards. Join us in celebrating their incredible achievements as we honor their dedication to the craft of writing. Get ready to be inspired, enchanted, and moved by the power of literary excellence of the 2023 Editors’ Choice Awards winners!

Christie Thomas, Author, Fruit Full

How did you develop the idea for this book?

I spent many years as the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church, and during those years I used curriculum for the Fruit of the Spirit a few times. After teaching through it, I often reflected that there must be more to the Fruit of the Spirit than character development and cute fruit pictures, but it took a few years to develop the idea into a book. One day I thought, “If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, then Christ must have displayed all the Fruits of the Spirit”. So I went on a search to discover times when Jesus’ actions or teachings indicated a Fruit of the Spirit, and ended up doing a 4 month study in the Gospels. That 4-month study was turned into 100 devotions for families to discover together, all based on how Jesus Christ displays the Fruit of the Spirit.

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

I love those times when I have no idea where to start, because it forces me to look around and get creative. God always pulls through with some little tidbit or point of view dropped into my mind, enabling each devotional to be unique and practical.

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

I discovered that writing devotionals is hard work! Every 400 words, I needed to come up with a completely new hook, as well as an application that was appropriate for kids of all ages. As a homeschool mom, I also wanted the majority of my examples to be applicable to homeschool children (rather than being all school related as many devotionals are), so I needed to get quite creative with scenarios that fit a wide variety of children.

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors?

When I first open an edited document, I have to be willing to be surprised. Sometimes the devotions I thought were superb were the ones that needed the most work, and it takes a teachable spirit to be willing to accept criticism and re-write your work based on the suggestions of someone who’s not privy to your thought process. I suggest reading the suggestions over once, then allowing yourself to consider them for a few days. Consider them like you would a rough diamond, turning them over to see where the suggestions will make your manuscript shine, where you might need to cut, and where you actually should just leave it.

What does winning the Editors’ Choice Award mean to you?

I’m absolutely thrilled to win this award. Back in ninth grade, I had a writing teacher who told the entire class we needed to find 20-30 things to edit in our work. She then leaned over my desk and whispered, “you only need to find 10.” That moment of teacher recognition has stayed with me as a testament to the power of a cleanly written document. To my ninth grade mind, it simply meant less work. Now, it means I can communicate more clearly and share the love of God with more people. And…it’s still less work to write clean from the start!

Janyre Tromp, Editor, Fruit Full

How did you become connected with the author?

I’m an inhouse editor so I was assigned the project. But I fell in love with this one in the acquisition meeting. I adore how Christie takes such a concrete view of the fruit of the spirit and makes it fun and interesting for kids and parents.

What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

Reading. Seriously I love to read . . . partly because I adore learning new concepts about new people and places. But I also love being able to help an author clarify their basic concept see a book really shine.

What tips can you give other freelance editors about working with authors?

Editing is all about being part of a team—you and the author—working together to spark something inside the reader. As an editor, I always make sure I know what the author hopes the reader will take away from the book. That gives me a frame of reference to direct the author. From there I keep in mind that even with 25 years of experience, I don’t know everything (just ask my kids!). I’ve learned that asking questions helps the author focus on what is most helpful for the reader rather than on what they’ve done “wrong.” And often my asking the question allows the author to find their own (often better than my) path.

What does working on an award-winning book mean to you?

I love that another one of the books I’ve edited has won an award. Really it means that Christie did a fantastic job speaking to her audience. I’m honored to have been a part of that.

Sandra Kay Vosburgh, Author, The Death Collector

How did you develop the idea for this book?

The Death Collector is a play on debt collector. I took a fourteen-year parenthesis from writing to get “a real job.” I worked in debt collections during that time, and being a lover of murder mysteries, I told my co-workers I intended to write a book called The Death Collector. The setting in a retirement village came out of the fact that the elderly are so often the target of evil perpetrators.

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

I loved seeing how the simple mention of an item or a fact early in the story turned out to be a clue without my having planned it. Romance is not my forte—my poor husband—but give me something that challenges my mind and I become like Ada in my stories. I won’t let it go until the truth is known and justice is done.

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

I struggled against the voice that kept asking, why are you doing this? What difference will this story make to anyone who reads it? Dorothy L. Sayers is noted to have said, “If we do not bring our readers to the bar of eternity, we have merely constructed an entertaining puzzle.” If Ada’s faith can show—not tell—a reader that God is actively involved in the life of His children, perhaps the story will ignite a spiritual journey that will lead that reader to Christ. That is why I keep writing, despite the struggle.

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors?

The money is not spent, it is invested. Your MS will be greatly improved and you will learn from the editor’s comments. When Susan Page Davis edited The Death Collector, I didn’t always appreciate when she didn’t want me to use certain words because they could be offensive. But having read a few Christian novels since and having found words that made me stop reading, I thank God for Susan’s insight. My tip—let the editor do what they are being paid to do.

What does winning the Editors’ Choice Award mean to you?

I grew up with a poor self-image and the need for my work to be affirmed. I don’t feel that need from others as much now—after decades of growing in Christ—but I do rejoice when my Father affirms my work. To me, the ECA is a treasured affirmation that He is in this with me.

Susan Page Davis, Editor, The Death Collector

How did you become connected with the author?

Through her publisher, Scrivenings Press

What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

I’m an author myself, and I like knowing I’m helping other authors.

What tips can you give other freelance editors about working with authors?

Remember how you felt when you were just starting out—especially how it felt when you received criticism.

What do you wish authors knew about working with freelance editors?

They don’t have to go along with every suggestion the editor makes—unless their publisher insists on it.

What does working on an award-winning book mean to you?

I was overwhelmed when I got the news. I’m thankful that people felt I did a good job, and that it meant enough to the author to nominate me.

Samantha Mero, Author, Creation and the Flood: a Deep Study of Genesis 1-11

How did you develop the idea for this book?

For eleven years, I led a Bible translation project in West Africa. A major part of my job was making sure the translation stayed as close as possible to the original meaning by studying the Bible in Hebrew and Greek and researching commentaries and dictionaries.

When I returned to the US, God called me to use my expertise in translation and exegesis to create a free online commentary written in everyday English. It bothers me that so much wonderful information about Scripture is locked behind commentaries that cost thousands of dollars and use language that requires an advanced seminary degree to decipher. That was my motivation for creating God-Quest.com.

From there, I started receiving feedback that I needed personal application along with my commentary. This didn’t fit with the purpose of the website, so I decided to create a Bible study series. Creation and the Flood is the first book of the series.

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

I like to joke that I have the spiritual gift of research. I love to discover hidden details that shed light on the meaning of Scripture—whether cultural, linguistic, or scientific. That God allows me to then share that research with others through my writing is just a bonus.

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

Coming up with application questions is the hardest part of writing a Bible study for me. Some stories lend themselves to personal application. Others don’t or have similar applications to other stories, making it hard to not be repetitive.

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors?

Don’t be afraid of the editing process. A good editor wants to make your book the best it can be. A healthy author/editor relationship is a partnership working together toward this goal. This means that communication is essential. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and discuss options.

What does winning the Editors’ Choice Award mean to you?

Winning the ECA validates my suspicion that there’s a desire for scholarly Bible studies alongside the more prevalent devotional studies. Since Creation and the Flood is merely the first in a planned series, I feel more confident moving forward with publishing more books.

Lora Doncea, Editor, Creation and the Flood: a Deep Study of Genesis 1-11

How did you become connected with the author?

I met Samantha Mero through The Christian PEN.

What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

I enjoy helping writers communicate their message clearly, professionally, and impactfully.

What tips can you give other freelance editors about working with authors?

Find out as much as you can about the writer (from their website, blog posts, prior writing, asking questions). When you discover a writer’s personality, preferences, and goals, you can edit their writing more effectively.

What do you wish authors knew about working with freelance editors?

We work very hard and take your writing seriously. When you see a lot of corrections, it’s not negative. We are investing our very best in you to make your writing shine.

What does working on an award-winning book mean to you?

I am so honored to have partnered with Samantha on her incredible book. We work very well as a team, and it’s wonderful for our hard work to be recognized.

Patricia Butler, Author, Collision: How I Found My Life by Accident

How did you develop the idea for this book?

I was doing a file purge in December 2019 when I found a letter I had written to a friend shortly after I experienced a divine healing and deliverance. I thought it important to keep a copy to remember details. But before I refiled, I decided to update the language and put it on my website as a testimony. I rewrote, then submitted it to my critique group. They kept asking questions as we met monthly, and I grew increasingly frustrated as the months went by and it grew to a twenty-page document. But the group still wasn’t satisfied, nor me, so I cried out to God for help (July 2020). He responded, “You’re not giving this story the attention it deserves. It needs to be a book. Put aside your other manuscripts and write this to the best of your ability.” I didn’t know how to do so, but God led to a publisher and content coach who helped me develop the story. Remarkable, God inspired a GoFundMe campaign and I had the funds I needed within a week to start (Aug. 2020).

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

The interactive process of working with professionals and the Spirit. The coach was digging for roots to my story, and I resisted, saying, “There’s nothing from childhood—it was an accident!” She pressed me in our preliminary calls, and then the Holy Spirit took over! Guiding me through memories and prompts, he showed me how past events led meticulously to the moment of healing and beyond. I loved what he showed me, chapter by chapter.

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

Probably finding those roots. It took about a month before doing much writing, just jotting down ideas and notes. But I couldn’t get a way in till 5-6 weeks later. Once I found it, I wrote like a maniac for the next few months! But I only got a piece at a time. I had to trust the process. As soon as I finished one chapter or section, I asked, “What happens next, Lord?” And he’d drop something in my spirit. Fascinating.

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors?

Be professional. Become an excellent editor yourself. Join a writer’s group for critique. Submit as polished a manuscript as you can. You may save money, but either way, you’ll produce a better book and honor your readers and God. Cooperate with the editor, consider her words carefully, and unless you have a good reason not to take her advice, take it (even if you tweak it some). Then investigate Christian Editors Association to find a good editor!

What does winning the Editors’ Choice Award mean to you?

It feels so validating—like a “Well done, good and faithful servant” from God after the journey we took together. I think it helps my journey as an author along (it’s a great marketing piece!), but another win is to have discovered some excellent service providers. Not every Christian writer is as concerned with excellence as I am, but I was gratified to find how seriously—can I say sacramentally? —everyone approached the ministry of editing. Estee Zandee epitomized this in her workshop but I heard it from so many in the group. I love that. I very much enjoyed the group and felt more with my tribe than I expected.

 

NOTE: Dori Harrell edited this book, but due to health and time issues, she was unable to complete her interview.