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Kimberly Smith Ashley

Professional writer, editor, and writing coach Kimberly Smith Ashley is the sole proprietor of KM Smith Writes. An active member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Florida Writers Association, she holds an MA in English and an MEd in educational leadership. A published writer and experienced editor, Kimberly brings her exemplary dedication to quality and service to every writing project. Consistency, clarity, coherence, and correctness are her guiding principles.

Kimberly began her professional freelance writing and editing career in 2008, after a successful career as a teacher and bookstore owner. Since that time, she’s won multiple writing awards, established long-standing client relationships, and helped numerous authors ready their manuscripts for traditional and self-publishing. She specializes in combining editing with coaching services that enhance a writer’s skill level.

MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box?

My heart desires YA and MG manuscripts in the contemporary, magical realism, paranormal, mystery, speculative, and soft sci-fi genres. I'm drawn to issue-driven stories that carry a message but refrain from moralizing. Adult thrillers, literary, and memoir (with a clear narrative thread) can also send my heart soaring. I'd love to see an edgy YA story around recovery from addiction to substances or behaviors. 

What is your writing and editing background?

I'm a teacher turned bookstore owner turned editor. For years, I taught creative writing while honing my craft and earning an MA in English and an MEd in Educational Leadership. My editing career began when I closed my bookstore in 2008 and opened an editing business that specializes in helping independent authors self-publish with the same high-quality editing standards expected in the major publishing houses. Starting January 2017, I'll balance a booming business with earning an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

What are your major editing accomplishments?

In 2013, I won a Royal Palm Literary Award with the Florida Writers Association in its memoir category for coauthoring and editing a client's memoir. I participated in the initial P2P in 2015 and had an incredibly successful experience with my writer. My greatest accomplishment, though, has been watching my clients for the past six years publisher their books and accomplish their dreams and goals.

Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

I'm for getting down to the basics: what works and what doesn't work, and why it doesn't work and how to revise with a clear direction and goal. I'm "big picture" in the beginning, but I can be intensely particular at sentence-level writing. I believe in John Gardner's description of fiction as the "vivid and continuous dream."

What types of books do you enjoy working with?

I love books that capture my heart and imagination in a way that makes me reconsider my own life and that gives me something positive and meaningful to share with others. When I can work with a book that I can't help but tell others about, that's a major reward of being an editor. I want to work with books that strive to go beyond entertainment or escapism. However, I don't want my fiction, or nonfiction for that matter, to be moralizing or didactic.

What are the most common mistakes you see in new writer's ​work?

I see a tendency for new writers to forget that their characters are acting and reacting in a setting and are not just "talking heads" in a vacuum. World-building is tough, but we need to be fully immersed in a fictional universe. I caution writers not to overuse or misuse dialogue. Overwriting is the opposite problem, and I'm guilty of this myself. New writers often believe that they need to show and tell everything. Readers are smart and can fill in the gaps. Keep us going.


What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

It would be hard to speak for most novelists, but what I've learned is that revision is hard work. It takes seeing a manuscript with fresh eyes and admitting where narrative elements don't work. Writing is an act of courage, and revision is accepting truth and mustering more courage. I would like everyone revising to practice faith, in themselves and their stories.

What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Read. Read deeply and widely. Read from many genres and many styles. Then, go a step further and study as you read. Why does the sentence, the chapter, the novel work? Writing is not mystical, it has a method and system and construction that makes it work for the reader. Read as a writer.

What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?

I tell writers that a good fit of writer/editor matters. Not every qualified editor is right for a project, no matter his or her success level. Look for someone who "gets" what you're trying to do, especially if it's experimental or blends genres. Consider someone who's open to questions and sees the relationship as a partnership.

Why would a writer need a book editor?

Every writer needs that skilled editor who can tell him or her when the narrative is hitting the right notes and when the story has gone off-key. The editor helps shape the manuscript's vision and is a benevolent force moving the manuscript toward that vision.

What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?

I focus much of my time on health and wellness. I'm into the auction and estate sale scene, if one can call that a "scene." My husband and I love old movies and new restaurants. Really, I have a boring life. 


Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?

I enjoy a well-balanced meal that involves lots of fresh veggies and is free of sugar, wheat, and flour. If I could get away with it, though, I'd eat pasta all day long.

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