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About Elizabeth Lyon


The Book-Jacket Version

A writing teacher and book editor since 1988, Elizabeth Lyon is the author of half a dozen books on how to write, revise, and market novels and nonfiction. In 2013, she launched a booklet series to explore one topic at a time in greater depth. Booklet #1 is Writing Subtext. Booklet #2 is Crafting Titles.

A reviewer for The Writer magazine selected Manuscript Makeover as one of “8 Great Writing Books in 2008,” and described it as “perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction.” Lyon is also the author of The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, and others.

Editing clients and students have sold their books to small, mid-sized, and large publishers; others have self-published. Elizabeth has long urged writers to complete the artistic circle, from idea to book to readers, whether by traditional publishing or on their own.

The Full Story

As a writing teacher, she saw gaps in the how-to literature on craft and marketing. Her first two books, on marketing nonfiction books and novels, published by Blue Heron Publishing (Hillsboro, Oregon, 1995, 1997), were welcomed by writers across the country who had struggled with how to sell their works. Over fifteen years later, updated and revised, they are still in print and continue to be praised by writers, literary agents, and editors.

In 2000, Blue Heron Publishing, pivotal in the development of dozens of authors' careers, was sold to investors and soon after closed its doors. The rights to Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write and The Sell Your Novel Toolkit reverted to Lyon. Now orphaned—no publisher, no agent—she turned to the relationships she had made with literary agents on behalf of her editing clients. New York literary agent Meredith Bernstein offered representation.

The next task was to find a publisher willing to acquire and reprint two abandoned books from a former and regional small press. That likelihood seemed challenging, but Bernstein was willing to knock on doors. With hope on her sleeve, Lyon traveled to New York in September 2001 to deliver a stack of each of her books to her agent. Understanding that her books might not be picked up, she also delivered a proposal for a series of writing books on craft and revision.

Lyon returned on a United Airlines flight departing from LaGuardia on 9/11, thirty minutes before the first World Trade Center tower was hit. Grounded in O'Hare, she and her daughter, who was traveling with her, eventually secured a rental car for the 2000-mile-drive home to Oregon. The last thing that Lyon expected was a phone call from Bernstein a mere 8 weeks after 9/11 telling her, "You've been offered a four-book contract!" Perigee, an imprint of Penguin USA, offered to reprint revised editions of the first two books, and to publish A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction and A Writer's Guide to Fiction. Lyon dedicated A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction to writers, aspiring and accomplished, who had perished on 9/11 and its aftermath.

Lyon's book editing business continued to flourish, with more client successes as writers found representation, then publication and, in some cases, won awards. Other clients chose the alternate path of independent publishing, either through traditional printers or by choosing web-based print-on-demand companies. Many clients now choose to create books for e-readers and on paper for sale. The digital revolution is here.

Approached by writers wanting to become book editors, Lyon began a training program, mentoring a dozen editors, some who became associate editors working for her with continuing instruction about book editing. Although now a sole proprietor, she experimented with forming a partnership, with former students who became professional editors.

With her many books on writing, Lyon is a frequent guest instructor and speaker at conferences, and a private workshop instructor for writing organizations throughout the country.

Her first four books were followed by two others: In 2005, Lyon compiled National Directory of Editors & Writers, profiling 530 freelancers living in 48 states. When the directory's publisher, M. Evans & Co, was sold to Rowan & Littleton, sales plummeted. In 2010 Lyon acquired the rights with tentative plans to produce a downloadable e-book, which will allow for updating.

Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Should Ignore was published by Perigee in 2009. As Lyon's last of six books for writers, it promises to become a standard on revising fiction.

Lyon's articles have appeared in The Writer and Writer's Digest magazines. The Writer's Handbook, A Complete Guide to Novel Writing, and A Guide to Literary Agents have also published her articles. Her essay, "Honoring the Lost Writer's of 9/11," was selected for publication in the 2004 edition of the St. Martins/Bedford Language Awareness for College Writers.

Lyon offers customized professional workshops for writing organizations, large and small, and gives inspirational, informative, and humorous speeches about the writing profession and the writer's life.

She holds a masters degree in Social Sciences/Counseling and a B.A. in Sociology. Her minors are in humanities, psychology, and physical anthropology. She currently lives in Springfield, Oregon.

No biography is complete without recognition of the teachers and mentors who made a significant impact on Elizabeth Lyon's career. An incomplete list includes: Gaines Smith, whose inheritance opened the doors to her literary career; Natasha Kern, who patiently mentored Lyon about professional proposal construction and novel craft; Dennis and Linny Stovall, owners of Blue Heron Publishing, who published her first two books; Denise Marcil for her generosity and professional advice; Meredith Bernstein, who landed the four-book contract, negotiated other contracts, and has become a life friend; the Corvallis children's writers' critique group who kicked butt; present and past critique groups for support and constructive criticism; and close friends—you know who you are. And others . . .

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