Working with a sensitivity reader or diversity editor, is becoming more and more common in the literary world. Depending on the story you are writing, it can also be critically important in writing your best work.
But how do you go about understanding and then writing, someone who has a completely different experience of the world to you? How do you ensure you are not using stereotypical language or ideas? How do you make your characters and your story, truly believable and respectful?
Whilst it is important not to fall into the trap of cultural appropriation, if you choose to write only stories that connect with your own personal experience, you will have a narrow lens and will cancel the diversity that exists in our world.
I have been taught that inclusion of diverse characters and voices is very positive, but taking other people's voices, is not. It's a narrow line, but one that you need to understand.
For example, in my middle-grade story, Heart of Scorpius, I consulted with Elders in the Coonabarabran region where the story is set, to include some of their local stories, and developed a secondary character who is from the Kamilaroi nation. The main character is white and it is her story, but I did not want to ignore or leave out, the rich fabric of the First Nations Peoples of the region.
The same applies when writing characters that live with mental health conditions, chronic illness and disability, and when telling the story of people who have a different sexual orientation or gender identity to you, among a range of other things.
Sensitivity reading or my preferred term of diversity editing, will help you avoid the dangers of writing outside of your own experiences. When you consult with someone with the lived experience of your characters and/or ask them to read your work before you publish, you can avoid biases and stereotypes, ensure language is respectful and make your story far better, for everyone.
Sensitivity reading is not editing
I will not look at things like plot, structure, grammar or spelling. I will consider your use of language, how you present the experiences of people with mental and physical health conditions and any inherent biases in the story. I can work with you from any stage of your manuscript, from the formation of ideas, right through to your final draft.
What will you receive?
The format and size of your report from me will depend on what point you engage me to look at your work, how much detail is needed, how often we need to consult and the length of the work.
Bear in mind that as everyone, within every community, is an individual, hiring me, doesn't ensure you won't face any criticism. Sensitivity reading is very subjective. It's a way to create a richer, more sensitive, respectful and truthful story, rather than preventing all criticism, and after all, critisicm is part of the life of a writer.
What do I offer?
I have lived with chronic illnesses since I was a little girl, including asthma, type 1 diabetes, gastroparesis (gut paralysis), neuropathy, arthritis and sjogren's syndrome.
I have lived with mental health conditions since my teens, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, and panic attacks.
I have also worked as a social worker since 1989, hold diabetes educator qualifications and worked in diabetes for more than 16 years, and have a PhD in Psychology.
I can consider your work from any and all of these perspectives, in relation to characters living with physical and mental health conditions and chronic illness.
A bonus of working with me, is that I have also been writing for many decades and understand the publishing industry. This is almost as important as engaging someone with the lived experience of your characters, because I know firsthand what it's like to spend months, and even years of your life, creating a living breathing story, and the blend of excitement and uncertainty when launching it into the real world.
I will never put you down or offer overly harsh criticism. My job is to work with you on developing your best story and I understand the need to be both honest and gentle with your words and your heart.
What are my rates?
Rates will depend on the length and complexity of your work and the time expected. Please contact me here for a chat, so I can provide you with a quote and discuss expectations about time frames and how we will work together.
Need Some Help With Words or Social Media?
I love to work with small creative businesses, writers and authors, not-for-profits, educational institutions, vintage businesses, health practices, and sustainable and green businesses. To really connect with your ideal audience, I have to be just as passionate about your business, as you are.
That is why you won't see me writing for a big oil company or fast furniture store, for example, but you will see me writing for an artist or maker, woodworker, counsellor or nutritionist, op-shop, secondhand store, a solar company, DIY business, garden store, sustainable architect and so on. I create stories that matter.
I have a unique blend of skills, qualifications and experience, that mean I understand audience, voice and marketing on the web. As an award-winning writer, photographer, artist and social media pioneer, with qualifications in design, health, communication, and a PhD in psychology, I can create perfect content that sings your songs, to the people you want to connect with. I understand people, behaviour, communication, google and social media. I also have a great eye and can write words with an emotional connection.
I can also consult with you on how to use social media, how to build an audience, and which tools can help social media work for you, and not the other way around. I have worked with a range of small - large organisations on growing their social media and have over 120,000 social media followers myself. In particular I like to work with writers and other creative types, on improving their social media.
Years of Experience
I launched my first web-based counselling service and online forum, way back in 2001, before there was any social media! Since then, I have won numerous awards and been a finalist in the Australian of the Year awards for this work. I have worked with many different small and large organisations, on developing their social media and blog content.
A range of services are available, including partnering with you on writing content for my own blog, about your business, brand or product, also sharing across my social media community of over 120,000 people; and/or, writing blogs for your website; as well as writing freelance articles for digital and print magazines and other publications.
If you want to take an adventure in words and pictures with me, just get in touch below.
Get in Contact With Me
Lovely Words From Lovely People
"We had the wonderful pleasure of working with Helen. Her fine eye for detail was a wonderful advantage for us. She gave great ideas for our campaign and our expectations were more than exceeded. We would not hesitate to work with her in the future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for agreeing to work with Pigeon and Weasel. Ariane and Prue x" Pigeon and Weasel
"We really admire everything about Helen and her Sustainable Home Hub. Personally, it's such a great resource and go to website for all products sustainable, packed with interesting and useful information. As a business owner I really admire all the hard work and commitment that has gone into creating the Sustainable Home Hub and it all if offers to customers and small business like ours". Bronwyn Riedel Bauwerk
"Helen Edwards has a solid working knowledge at the coal face of small to medium businesses for social media challenges and opportunities. Hers is a unique voice that has worn many hats, and could be of help to your business. Social worker, educator, PhD and small business operator, she might be the right ingredients for your next consultant.
"Helen is an experienced blogger and social media expert, and a pleasure to work with. Helen's strong communication skills, down-to-earth approach, creativity and perseverance have been paramount in her successful approach to engaging audiences across multiple mediums. Helen's experience ranges from founding an online counselling service for people with diabetes to now focusing on her sustainable living and decorating business. Helen's successful approach to social media and blogging has seen her business grow and she continuously demonstrates a strong passion for health, wellbeing and sustainability. - Nicole Bassett, PROJECT MANAGER
"I have worked with Helen since 2004, initially in her capacity of CEO of Diabetes Counselling Online, then as higher degree research student, and then as consultant for Decision Support Analytics.
Throughout this time, I have seen Helen present a diverse range of Seminars, Workshops, Lectures and Talks. She is a very competent speaker, able to engage with the audience through personal stories, while placing emphasis on the content and providing essential information in a clear and natural manner.
I highly recommend her to you
Prof Timothy Skinner
Head of Psychological and Clinical Sciences
Charles Darwin University
"Helen Edwards is one of those women who seems to juggle more balls in the air then the rest of us could even consider, yet she humbly acknowledges that life isn’t all Insta-perfect all the time, thank goodness, there’s enough of that going around! Her passion for all things ethical, sustainable and handmade is unsurpassed and she works extremely hard to help us average folk make better choices, have access to often hard-to-find resources and brings joy and inspiration into our daily lives through her social media channels and emails. A seasoned thrifter and upcycler, Helen’s styling blends vintage pieces with one-off handmade and is fun-filled, yet considered and balanced; encouraging the viewer to feel that they can achieve something similar in their own home without having to resort to living on lentils for the next 6 months. Helen is incredibly generous in her knowledge and impeccably professional to work with; I cannot recommend this lady highly enough!" Sarah, @seasoulstudio
"Helen is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced blogger and social media manager who engages her audience in a professional, yet authentic and relatable manner. Helen has a special skill and passion for building a genuine connection with people". Kelly Wagner, KIDS YOGA
"Helen Edwards is an expert on social media strategy. She has been a consultant to Decision Support Analytics Pty Ltd to develop the social media strategy to promote an innovative course at one of Australia's leading research Universities. Helen's own sites attest to her ability in generating excellent results through social media. She founded and managed Australia's most influential online diabetes counselling service for which she was a finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards. She has her own online business with over 140,000 followers, 82,000 on Facebook alone. I would recommend Helen for any social media development projects. Her advice is evidence-based and practical.
Dr Isabelle Skinner, Managing Director
Decision Support Analytics Pty Ltd.