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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. She has helped hundreds of writers as a book editor. Scores have sold their books to small, mid-sized, and large publishers; others have self-published. Many have won awards. Elizabeth has long urged writers to complete the artistic circle, from conception of an idea to a finished book, whether by traditional publishing or on their own.

The Full Story

As a continuing education writing teacher, she saw a need for better instruction on writing, revision, and marketing. Her first two books, on marketing nonfiction books and novels, published by Blue Heron Publishing (Hillsboro, Oregon), in 1995 and 1997, were welcomed by writers across the country who had struggled with how to sell their works.
In 2000, Blue Heron Publishing, pivotal in the development of dozens of authors' careers, was sold to investors, soon after closing 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 finding a publisher willing to acquire and reprint these 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, Elizabeth traveled to New York City in September 2001 to deliver a stack of her books to her agent. Understanding that they might not find a home, she also delivered a proposal for a new series of writing books on craft and revision.

Elizabeth, who had traveled to NYC with her seventeen-year-old daughter who was seeing the City for the first time, left New York on a United Airlines flight from LaGuardia on 9/11, thirty minutes before the first World Trade Center tower was hit. Grounded in O'Hare, they 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 4 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 in its aftermath. 

Over the next decade, her career as an editor, conference teacher, and literary consultant flourished. She celebrated client successes as writers found representation, then publication and, in some cases, won awards. Other writers chose the alternate path of “indie” or self-publishing. 

Approached by writers wanting to become book editors, Elizabeth began a training program, mentoring a dozen editors. Several became associate editors working for her as they continued to learn about book editing. She experimented with forming a partnership, with former students who became professional editors, and chose the company name, Editing International. After two years, that ended and she returned to being a sole proprietor.
Lyon has been a frequent guest instructor and speaker for scores of conferences, including ones as large as Surrey International Writers Conference in British Columbia, and for weekend workshops as intimate as the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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. The directory's publisher, M. Evans & Co, was sold to Rowan & Littleton. In 2010 Lyon acquired the rights.

Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Should Ignore was published by Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in 2008. As Lyon's last of six books for writers, it promises to become a standard on revising fiction. The Writer magazine selected it as one of the "8 Great Writing Books" for 2008.

Elizabeth 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 holds a master’s degree in Social Sciences/Counseling and a B.A. in Sociology. Her minors are in humanities, psychology, and physical anthropology. She currently lives in Eugene, 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: the late Gaines Smith, whose inheritance opened the doors to her literary career; Natasha Kern, who patiently mentored Elizabeth 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; and present and past critique group writers for support and constructive criticism.

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