top of page
IMG_5088 CROP2.jpg
Sarah Barnum

Glad to meet you. Freelance editor is just one of my many titles. I am also a Christ-follower. Wife. Recovering perfectionist. Mom. Teacher. Introvert. Sudoku specialist. Horsewoman. Writer.

Thanks for your interest in me and my work. Maybe someday I'll get to meet you through your manuscript. Or better yet, in-person.


The road to editing has been a winding one. It all started as I sat in the cramped counselor's office of a college I was touring during my junior year of high school. She asked what I wanted to study, and I gave her the same reply I'd given at all the other colleges my parents had carted me to. "I don't know."


My mom, who sat nearby, piped in. "We were thinking maybe English. She's good at writing."

Resentment rose in my chest as the counselor began describing the school's English program. Momma had spoken for me. Again. Later, I would come to understand how she was gently trying to offer direction to my aimless course. But, of course, it didn't feel that way at seventeen. Sure, I was doing well in my English classes. I'd just passed the Advanced Placement test that gave me a jumpstart on some college credit. But the thought of timed in-class essays, writing a thesis, analyzing some literary work I could not yet appreciate -- none of that was appealing. It was work. And I didn't want more of it.

I was good at writing, but riding was my passion. So, instead, I went to school and earned my bachelors degree in equine science -- once I convinced my mom there were career opportunities other than scooping manure. After college, I went to work managing the riding program at a Christian camp. For six months after graduation, I didn't write a single word. Then, a funny thing happened. As I sat in nature watching the herd of horses one morning, I felt inspired to write. That was when I discovered that writing could be creative. No grades, no word counts, no pressure.

I spent the next ten years pursuing my equestrian dreams, first at the Christian camp, and later at a therapeutic riding program for children with special needs. But on the side, I joined a critique group, attended writers' conferences, and wrote. All along the way, God dropped little notes foreshadowing his coming calling. When the time came to swap my job and my hobby, the transition was almost seamless. My first official editing job was a collaboration with my mentor. I felt insecure at first. I didn't have the English degree or the impressive resume, only the affirmation of others and some academic success. It was clear from the beginning that it was God's blessing, not my own efforts, that built my business. I did pursue some formal training in those early days through the PEN Institute, but most of my experience has been "on the job."

I love editing and the freedom it affords me. I love helping people. I love the variety each new story brings. But my favorite part is the transformation of a manuscript. I see past the punctuation and plot holes to the potential in stories, and I find fulfillment in the process of taking something unfinished or uncut or unedited and bringing it to publication. I love to help authors tell their story with excellence because I see editing as a ministry. It's my calling, and my way of contributing to the Kingdom. If seventeen-year-old me had known that this is what writing and editing could be like, I might have felt differently about my course. My mom saw that part of me before I ever did. You were right, Momma. Imagine that!


I respect the vulnerability authors experience in the editing process, and I value the trust they place in my judgment. I do my best to preserve the author’s voice. I've heard too many stories of an editor dashing someone's dreams by taking too harsh a hand. When it comes to grammar and punctuation, the rules of writing are fairly objective. But when it comes to ideas, content, word choice, phrasing, and such, editing can be subjective. As an editor, I have opinions that you might disagree with. As the author, you ultimately control your work and can make the final decision to implement or ignore my recommendations. But for my own quality control, I may ask you to leave my name out of your book if you choose the latter.


Encouragement and communication are key to a positive working relationship. I aim to speak the truth in love, and I like to take a teaching approach. As much as I can, I try to explain my marks because when you become a better writer, it benefits us both!


So about that academic success ... it's not something I drop in casual conversation, but I suppose I should divulge it here. I graduated valedictorian of my high school class and summa cum laude at my university. That's eight years with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and let me tell you, that takes a toll. My relationship with achievement hasn't always been a healthy one. But my time at school taught me to be self-directed, detail-oriented, hardworking, and persistent (aka, stubborn!) -- all of which serve me well as an editor and underpin my pursuit of excellence.

I'm proud to be a member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network). I serve as the administrative director for the West Coast Christian Writers, where I've found a place to belong and a wonderful community of mentors. I've taught editing and freelance business workshops for the annual conference for the last three years, and also presented at Flourish Writers events.


Writing and editing are different skillsets, but in my opinion, you need to be a writer to be a good editor. I write for pleasure and edit for work. I have a completed memoir sitting in the electronic drawer, and several other book ideas sketched out or floating around at any given time. Someday, I'll publish them. But in the meantime, I've pursued publication for shorter works of narrative nonfiction. You can read my stories in:


Congratulations -- if you read this far, you are really committed to vetting me! So, now for some fun stuff. I'm a California native transplanted to Southwest Virginia. My graphic-designer husband and I bond over our shared love of fonts and design fails. That is, when we're not chasing down our two young children. In my free time (ha!), I dabble in web design. In 2011, I finally fulfilled my childhood dream of owning my own horse, an Appaloosa named Ransom (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy, anyone?). He helps me stay sane, and together we enjoy exploring new trails.

bottom of page