Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Interview with the Amazing Patti O'Brien, Editor


Besides being a fellow member of the South Jersey Writers Group and a friend, Patti is also my editor. Patti has a few other feathers in her cap including: journalist for The Courier-Post, South Jersey's largest newspaper; columnist for The Newsweekly in Moorestown, N.J.; technical writer for the Navy; taught creative writing to hundreds of high school students as a Honors English teacher, and as an instructor at the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG).

In her role as journalist, Patti interviewed professional athletes Michelle Kwon and Tara Lipinski right after they won Gold, along with actors, such as, Vanessa Redgrave, Donald O'Connor and Dawn Wells. But the night she spent at the Philadelphia Art Gallery at the request of Joseph Barbera (The Flintstones) was very special. She not only got her interview, but also saw his original cels from the cartoons.

If that wasn't enough, Patti worked in Public Relations and Marketing, and for a short time was Kelly Ripa's boss.

So with great admiration, let me introduce you to Patti O'Brien. Patti tell us a little bit about yourself

Well, I am a mother, a teacher, a writer, an editor and a friend. Oh, and a pretty good chorus girl when I put my mind to it!! I used to do Community Theater and made many great friends onstage. Now, I sing karaoke and my new passion is Flash Mob dancing! I just participated in my first one at a wedding in Philly—and I’m hooked.

When did you discover your love of writing and who was your inspiration?

I don’t actually love writing, I’ve just always been able to do it easily. I won my first award—a big trophy with my name engraved on it—when I was in first grade; the contest was mandatory for all the first, second AND third graders, so it was pretty exciting to win over the bigger kids.  I got to attend the PTA meeting—at night!—and had to walk up through the whole room (the cafeteria) to get the trophy. When I turned around, my mother’s entire table, which included several nuns, was crying because I was so small they couldn’t even see me walking up. Of course, I started to cry, too, even though I had no idea why!

At the 2012 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, I was a top winner with three awards, and that was just as exciting! It’s nice to be acknowledged for your work.

I didn’t grow up thinking about being a writer, but as soon as I read JD Salinger, I knew that I would never be as good as he was, but I could try. Today, Pat Conroy is my go-to writer: like Salinger, he knows how to write an exquisite sentence and just drop it into a paragraph like it’s nothing special. No italics, no bolds, no pull-out quotes for emphasis. I don’t know any other writers who do it as well.

If I could pick what I was good at, it would be singing. I’d rather be Barbra than Hemingway. True story.

 When did you begin editing and what do you offer your clients?

I have been editing as long as I’ve been writing. I believe I’ve gotten A’s on every essay test I’ve ever taken because I write clearly, succinctly and correctly. It’s just the way my mind works: I see mistakes and I know how to fix them. It’s a blessing and a curse, of course, because not everyone wants to know about his mistakes! I try hard to hold my tongue when I can, but it’s tough.

Now, I edit other people’s work and I have to tell you, it’s an honor when someone trusts me with her manuscript or web content. I can help anyone write anything, but my passion and joy is to help writers achieve their dreams…it’s an awesome job. I follow my clients and support them in making their pieces clean and polished; it’s a long, sometimes arduous task, but I love working with the writers. I also do freelance work; I know I can help any writer make his work better, I always do. It’s a point of pride for me: go ahead, make a mistake. I’ll find it, I promise. And along the way, I will suggest how to make your dialogue ring true, your prose flow, your characters interesting and real. As Stephen King wrote in On Writing: “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”  

I look at the forest and chop away the dead trees. I’m a lumberjack.

What are some of the common traps that new writers fall into and how does giving their manuscript to an editor help a writer succeed in getting their book published?

There are many, many rules for writing. Too many. And I think writers spend an awful lot of time trying to make their stories fit those rules. Look, rules are fine to be used as guidelines, but we’ve all read the classics that, if they were to be pitched today, wouldn’t make it past the agent’s desk. There are all kinds of ways to write a book; in fact, I suggest finding a new way! Do it brilliantly and you’ll get noticed. But as everyone knows, you can’t really edit your own work; you just don’t have the objectivity needed. Get an editor and she will show you what you may already know, but don’t have the heart to admit. She will show you where the problems are and make you go back and fix them, even when you don’t want to. Think of it this way: if your editor doesn’t think it’s good, neither will an agent or publisher. Your editor is your first professional reader and she has nothing but your interests at heart. Although critique groups can be helpful, getting a dozen opinions from other fledgling writers is not always the best way to go. Pay a professional, you’ll get what you need.

What is the difference between proof reading and the developmental editing that you offer?

Good question! A good editor cannot help but edit as they proof, but a proofreader is really just looking for mistakes: typos, incorrect punctuation, misspelled words. An editor looks at the whole story: plot, dialogue, flow, truth…as well as mistakes. I recently changed a large company’s motto on its brochure because I thought it could be better. A good editor sees everything and tells you about it so you can decide what to do. A proofreader fixes errors. When I have my way, I edit, then hand it back to the author who fixes it and hands it back to me for a final proof. Editors don’t always get to see what’s done after they work on it, but I like to have that last look.

What advice can you give a new writer?

Listen to your heart. Write what you know. Get an editor. Enjoy the ride.


Thank you so much Patti for visiting my blog. Everyone can find Patti O'Brien on these sites:

http://www.editingiseverything.com  (for info and testimonials)


http://www.pattiobrien.wordpress.com  (This is for A Broad Abroad)

that pic is my first night in Dublin with my first ever Guinness! The other pic is my "brand" photo, lol.

www.toopoopedtopop.wordpress.com  (about Salicylate Sensitivity)
  (good place to go for my experience and recommendations)

(I have 72 boards and lots of great pins!)



  1. This was a lovely interview, Marie. It was nice having a chance to get to know Patti better.

    1. Thank you Mieke. I try and promote everyone of my friends and I think it's time we put the spotlight on you:) What do you think?

  2. great post, I can't wait to be ready to have Patti look at my book! Will share with friends!

    1. Thank you Marianne. I can also interview you on your health wellness career:)

  3. Thanks for posting this! She was inspired by Salinger. Cool! I was just watching a piece on Salinger on Sunday. Brilliant writer...kind of a recluse though. I liked what she said about the role of an editor. Excellent interview!

    1. Thank you for the comment Uriah. Hope to see you, soon.