• Debra Stang

To Phone or Not to Phone


Years ago, I published my young adult novel, Visiting Grandma, through Booklocker. Booklocker has an interesting philosophy. They are a small, family-owned company, and they do not communicate with writers via telephone. All communications are handled through email.


Although there were times when I would have liked to hear a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone line, I swallowed my apprehensions and signed on with Booklocker. I've never regretted it for an instant. Every time I emailed them with a question or concern, a helpful response was lodged in my email inbox almost before I could hit the "send" key.

When I began my freelance writing business, I tried to emulate Booklocker's philosophy by limiting my contact with clients to emails only.


Then I met Marsha (not her real name). Marsha had a lot that she wanted to say, but she was simply unable to communicate in writing. Even her simplest emails were so garbled that I had to study them like the Rosetta Stone to divine their meanings. The hundred-page documents she sent me to edit were incomprehensible and left me with a splitting headache.


I finally gave up and called Marsha. I don't know what I was expecting, perhaps a woman with a thick foreign accent, but certainly not the woman who answered the phone with a smile in her voice and a distinct Midwestern twang. I asked her I could get some clarification on the documents she wanted me to edit.


She giggled. "They're horrible, aren't they? Any time I try to put something on paper, I worry I'll sound dumb, so then I throw in all the big words and phrases that I know and really sound dumb."


I encouraged her to forget the twenty-letter words and tell me what she wanted to say as if we were two friends chatting over coffee. She plowed into her subject matter, and all of a sudden the obtuse language and tortured logic began to make more sense.


After talking on the phone with Marsha for just twenty minutes, I was able to re-write her project so readers could understand it. Marsha was thrilled. Even I had to admit that throwing my no-call rules to the wind and making that one effort to reach out had saved me hours of frustration.


I still try to stick to a no-phone-calls rule when I can–like many writers, I communicate far better on paper than I do verbally–but I'm less Puritanical about that rule than I once was. Now, if I'm drowning in somebody else's words and think a simple phone call might clear things up, I'll reach for the telephone receiver. It usually helps.


How often do you communicate with clients by phone? Does it help you get projects done more quickly, or do you think it's a time-waster?


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© Debra L. Stang 2020. All rights reserved.

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