Insights into the Literary Art of Writing and Editing
Jeanne Curcio is an author and editor who worked for a number of years as a human factors engineer, technical writer, editor and French teacher. Throughout her career, she has completed a variety of technical white papers, research projects and articles that focus on the uniqueness of the human person and the gifts and challenges in life. Being able to blend her love of writing, humanity, and her faith brings her great joy and contentment. Jeanne recently launched her book, Joyfully Married, Wisdom from Couples Married 50 or More Years.
How did you get your start as a literary artist?
When I was a child, I remember I used to like to write and I loved to read; that’s important, that comes first. To know how to write you have to read. Then writing went to the back burner for a while, I was just writing for assignments in High School and College. But it’s interesting that when I was in graduate school—my degree was in engineering—I took a course called Technical Writing for Engineers and I actually liked it. But I do remember way back in High School always enjoying my English Grammar class and Senior Level Literature class. Writing just stuck with me, and I very much enjoy editing.
Who or what has been influential in your writing career?
Back in high school, some of my teachers encouraged me. I don’t have a particular author that I love. I think I take different things from different authors, so I appreciate a lot of their gifts. There is one particular quote from Father Richard Neuhaus that appeared in a First Things magazine several years ago. His quote was, “If you want to write, then write.” That has stuck with me. That really helps me overcome any negative thoughts that I have or the inner voice that says, “why are you doing this?”
When did you first sense that God was calling you to use your gifts as a writer?
Well, there was one particular event about eight years ago. I was home and just doing stuff around the house, and I felt a strong voice that said, why don’t you start a writer’s group at your church? I’ve never had that thought before, it was not something that I contemplated doing. But it was such a strong suggestion that I followed through, and it’s been wonderful. We have a regular meeting and people come and go and that’s ok. It’s been very fulfilling for all of us who have been involved.
What do you most enjoy about your writing career?
What I enjoy most about writing is that it is something that comes naturally. I have other interests and hobbies, but I have to work harder at them. When I write, it flows, I don’t critique myself when I’m writing.
Would you speak about your work as an editor?
A few years ago, a friend who manages a few different websites asked me if I would consider doing some editing work. And at the time I was busy and said “No, not right now.” He asked a second time, a year or so later, and I said no again. When he asked a third time I thought, ok, ok, I have to do this! It’s been wonderful to read what other writers are proposing. I think it also helps my own writing in a certain sense in that I see how they are shaping their pieces.
I like to compare the writer and editor this way: Think of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. Typically, the male dancer makes the woman dancer look good. I think that’s what the editor does for the writer. I don’t want the credit, but I want to make the writer shine, to help polish what they are doing.
Do you have a favorite genre of Literature? What do you like to write?
Nonfiction seems to be what always comes out of my pen. I think that’s from my background as an engineer. I also prefer reading nonfiction articles and books.
Speaking of nonfiction, tell us about your recently published book.
The title of the book is Joyfully Married, Wisdom from Couples Married 50 or More Years. The idea to write this came to me one day when I was in prayer and thinking about my parents and other long-term marriages and pondering, how did they do it? I thought, people need to know this because they are not hearing it from the culture. I wondered, where am I going to find couples who have been married that long? Sure enough, I found most of them at my parish and the others amongst friends and family. So, it was a wonderful project, that took about two years during COVID, which kind of delayed a few things. (Review of Jeanne’s book)
Do you have any current projects you are working on?
A couple of articles and possibly a book, all of which, coincidentally or not coincidentally, include some reference to marriage.
As a writer, what challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?
Probably a big challenge for me is the messy desk, but somehow, I was able to get beyond that while working for two years on this book. I think it was grace of the Holy Spirit, I was able to look beyond that and focus on the project.
Time management is another big challenge, but, somehow again, something was driving me to finish this. Even throughout the school year when I was teaching, I spent a lot of my spare time just working on the book. Any time I had, just any tiny pocket of time, I sat down to work on it.
Any words of wisdom you would give to new, frustrated, or burned-out authors?
Pray! Spend time in Adoration. It’s amazing how the Hoy Spirit works and speaks to you in that time alone.
Be with other authors. Spend time with other authors. Not just writing but talking. That will help grow your confidence and you will get encouragement.
The one, I’d say, the most critical or important thing that happened during the development of my book was that I spent time weekly with another author reviewing each other’s work. We always opened and closed our meetings in prayer, so having that as the lead in everything was big. Also, the one-on-one, having an accountability partner, really helped keep the project moving.
Where can we go to find your book?
I self-published through a company called Westbow Press, so it is available on their website. It is also on Amazon and at the Stella Maris Center, a Catholic apostolate, and will possibly soon be in bookstores.