If you're a podcast fan who happens to write memoir—for yourself or for clients—you're probably familiar with the dulcet tones of Ann Kroeker, a writing coach who doles out advice and inspiration on her podcast, "Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach."
In today's episode, Ann talks about the role of a writing coach and how she went from "editing with a coach's heart" to "coaching with an editor's eye."
Win a free copy of Scrivener
Don't forget to enter our contest before February 18 to win a free Mac or PC version of the writing software Scrivener. To enter, submit a written review of the podcast to iTunes, then drop an email to amy@thelifestorycoach with "I reviewed the podcast" in the subject line. That's it!
Until next time, go out and save someone's story.
Excerpt from our interview with Ann Kroeker
Amy: I discovered Ann through her podcast. She creates these really wonderful short podcast posts about anything and everything having to do with writing. So I thought oh, how perfect to have her on the show. Ann, welcome to the Life Story Coach Podcast.
Ann Kroeker: Thank you, it's great to be here.
Amy: Why don't we jump into things by having you tell us a little bit about what got you into, not so much writing, but coaching writers.
Ann Kroeker: That is a great question. When somebody proposed that I might be a writing coach I said, "What's a writing coach?" So it's not something I intentionally sought, it's just something I naturally was doing. So I'll just back up a little bit prior to when I launched this business as a writing coach. I had been a writer, I really launched my writing life as a poet out of college, and then went into freelance writing, essays, and then eventually got online, like most of us did, with a website, and used the blog feature to write blog posts and what I now like to say just articles. 'Cause blogging is sort of transforming now.
Ann Kroeker: But I was creating content. And then I joined various communities, especially too, in particular, that were writing-focused. And through that, I ended up on the editorial team of two of these online organizations. So I was working with other editors and I had a managing editor. But then I was also still submitting content to other places too. So I was seeing writing from different angles. And my managing editor at one of those organizations said, "Ann the way that you edit these people's work is with a coaching heart. You really want them to succeed, you're trying to help them improve as you're editing their content." And it's true. And part of that came from her training.
Ann Kroeker: So at some point she said, "I really think you should become a writing coach." In fact, so much so that I said, "Oh, that's a good idea." I had already put editor as part of my tagline at the time, and she said, "No, no, no. Just writing coach." And I couldn't bring myself to do it. It used to be writing coach, Ann Kroeker, writing coach, editor, friend. And she said, "You really need to narrow that down to writing coach and just let that be your thing." And it took me a little while to even understand really what a writing coach could bring to people. But I went ahead and foraged on with this editor thing. And then I realized I can't do it all. I didn't have enough time because of some life restrictions that were happening with family.
Ann Kroeker: So I had to drop something, so I did drop editor from my tagline and from some of my ... I didn't offer that as a main service anymore. And when I did that I had to drop friend too, which my son thought was hilarious. "You're no longer anybody's friend." So I just became Ann Kroeker, writing coach. And I found that she was right. That focus really helped me begin to serve people, they began to identify me as a writing coach, and come to me for that kind of work. And then the more I did it, the more I began to see the possibilities of what I would bring to other people's lives, and how I could support their writing life.
Ann Kroeker: And for me, I know a lot of people, they zero in, and they help with a certain kind of coaching. In fact, that's what you're doing when you're coaching writers to write other people's stories. So you have a very focused kind of coaching business. And some people do focus on fiction and coaching people to write novels. Some people focus on non-fiction, but focus on books as a writing coach at the developmental level, like a developmental edit approach. But I, because of my life experience as a writer, I had experience with poetry, essays, developing a freelance writing business, writing online, developing a platform. So I just had all of this experience from all of these different angles. So I just bring all that to my clients. And I leverage all of that. So it allows me personally to customize to people and bring a lot of knowledge and experience to their unique situation.
Amy: And something that strikes me is that you're talking about coming to it with a coaching heart, which obviously is a little bit different than an editor's analytic toolkit. There's overlap clearly. But the interesting thing for me, is that we life story professionals, so the people who come into this field to write books for other people, or make videos or audios for other people, we also have to have that kind of service orientation. But you're not going to come in here and think that you're going to write your own book your own way. And I think as a whole, the industry attracts people who are service minded. And it sounds like you are kind of treading your own path, because you realized that that is an element within you. So you have a love of writing, but you also have this love of helping other people.
Ann Kroeker: Absolutely. You have to be others-focused. You have to be rooting for their success. Maybe at some point you would feel some level of jealousy at your clients' success, but I haven't felt that, and I've had some clients have tremendous success. You really have to be there to serve and just erase all sense of it being a zero sum game. You are here to serve and to see them succeed and go as far as they possibly can. At least as a coach, I'm rooting for their success.
Ann Kroeker: Now as a life story writer, you're there to shepard their story in whatever format and for whatever purpose they have in mind, whatever their goals are. But yeah, it's others-focused. And that is kinda hard for some writers to shift that mindset. Like you said, they're so used to doing their own work, that to completely serve someone else is a little bit foreign. I think because of the editing background that helped me, 'cause I'm already there to shepard their words. But even now, now that I'm not doing editing with a coaching heart anymore, I actually because of my editing experience, I can actually coach with an editor's eye.
Ann Kroeker: I used to edit with a coach's heart, now I bring my coach's heart to everything that I do for my clients. But I can also offer rich editorial input if they want it. But it's with the coaching purpose, not because I'm their editor. In fact, I always insist that the buck will not stop here. I will not be your last set of eyeballs on your work. I'm merely showing you and teaching you various techniques or seeing you're consistently doing X, and here's why that's not great. And then I would highlight it, but then I fix little things along the way and tell them why.
Amy: I'd like to follow up on that a little bit, it would be interesting to hear your take on what the difference is between an editor and a coach. Because I think for a lot of us it's very fuzzy. We're not really sure where the parameters lie. But also, because there are a number of life story professionals who offer coaching services. So they might not necessarily be writing the books, they might not be doing that work for the client, but they might be serving as a coach for the client who wants to write their own story. So can you start by telling us a little bit about just kinda briefly what the differences are between the two? And then maybe we can talk a little bit about how we can improve our skills as a coach to a life story client.
Ann Kroeker: Wow, that's an interesting thing. I've never really explored the difference quite so distinctly. I would say you're right, there's a gray area. Because I absolutely believe that if you are an editor who is a developmental editor, you're really doing a lot of coaching along the way. But a lot of developmental editors I know also can't resist providing really a lot of copy editing input, where they're really going to be marking up the copy and getting it closer to ready for publication, or submission, or whatever is the next step for that manuscript.
Ann Kroeker: But I think you're right. Developmental editors are thinking from such a high level. They're looking at the edit from a high level, and looking at the ideas, the organization, the flow, are there chunks missing here that we need to put in? And that requires a kind of coaching, asking good questions and drawing them out. So whether they know it or not, I think a developmental editor probably is coaching, whether they attach that title to what they're doing.
Ann Kroeker: But I think coaches, I mean most people who are becoming writing coaches probably have publishing experience, writing experience, and probably a little editing experience too. So likely they too, are providing input on other people's content. Although, I don't really know. I haven't compared notes with other coaches. But I do find that my clients are always shocked at how much input I offer when they sign up for that element of coaching. If they want me to review their content, they're always pleasantly surprised that I provide them with such a detailed amount of input on their actual writing.
Ann Kroeker: So maybe I'm doing more than the typical coach, you know? Value added service. I go above and beyond. But I feel like it would be easy if somebody wanted to offer coaching, just figure out what is different about it now?