Like many Americans, Hillary Leftwich lost her job due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, which she called a “divine intervention,” the perfect condition to launch her new business. She’d spent years editing others’ work and realized she could turn this sought-after skill into a business.
Founded just six months ago in Denver, Colorado, Al·che·my Author Services is a launchpad in of itself, helping writers to jumpstart their stories from words on the page to publication. Its offerings include structural, content and line editing to copyediting and proofreading, and even query letters to publishers and agents.
And it doesn’t stop here. Al·che·my will even curate a list of journals that are best suited for the writer’s story, including monthly updates of journals with open submissions, which makes the company stand out in the crowded world of author services.
Finally, the Al·che·my Writing Workshop allows writers to teach from anywhere. Its aim is to give writers the opportunity to learn how to teach community workshops or a craft class, especially for those who don’t have the time or resources to study for an MFA in Creative Writing.
When Hillary began her writing career, she spent hours reading the journals she loved, studying the material they published. It’s the first order of business before a writer should submit their work, “but it’s hard because a lot of us don’t have time to do that,” Hillary said. “That’s where a lot of writers stop and that’s where I come in.”
Getting started with Al·che·my begins with a sample edit so both the writer and Hillary can decide if the relationship is a good fit. Autobiography and academic subjects aside, she will take all kinds of manuscripts. “But if I’m reading in the sample edit, or see something, I know I’ll have issues with, like racist comments that don’t support the character, I don’t want to waste my time getting into that kind of conversation,” she added. “I’m not there to educate, I’m here to help their writing.”
Even in emergencies.
Deadlines creep up on us, said Hillary, an award-winning author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock. She has had her work published 70 times and counting. She herself had to call fellow writers at the eleventh hour look over her stories before submitting it to a journal. This Emergency Editing service is something that everyone needs at some point, she said.
And they need a little magick. Al·che·my’s tagline unearth the magick in your writing is defined by alchemy, the art of causing change to occur in conformity of will, whereas magic is a trick of the eye. “I wanted to distinguish that and it’s a real transformation,” Hillary said.
It’s Not Personal
“Every writer has their weak spot and that could be long, unnecessary sentences, but we all have that thing that we do,” Hillary explained. “I had one incident where I had somebody look at my manuscript and they completely tore it apart. I knew it was their job to sell the book, not to say oh this is amazing.”
And she gives this same writer’s eye to clients, explaining what’s working and not working – the things an agent is not necessarily going to say. At the same time, she reminds clients not to take the feedback personal.
“It’s like when I used to be a bill collector, I would always tell the client, it’s not anything personal, it’s just business. It’s the same thing with writing, it’s always about the writing itself, it’s not the writer. I don’t want the writer to change, I want the writing to be better.”
The main thing is believing in yourself and not listening to the voice of fear, Hillary said.
Hillary Leftwich is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (CCM Press/The Accomplices 2019), featured in Entropy’s Best Fiction list of 2019, and a finalist for the Big Other Book Award. Currently, she runs ☿ Al·che·my Author Services & Workshop and teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers. She is the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review and curates/hosts At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series focusing on creating safe spaces for all voices. She is a Kenyon Review scholarship recipient for 2021 and a visiting writer at Western Illinois University in the fall of 2020. Her writing can be found in both print and online in The Rumpus, Entropy, The Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, Hobart, and others. She lives in Colorado with her partner, her son, and their cat, Larry. Find more of her writing at hillaryleftwich.com.