This Excellence in Editing Award spotlight is Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti, edited by Jamie Chavez, and published by Focus on the Family/Tyndale.

Christi McGuire, director of the Christian Editor Connection, which hosts the annual EIE Awards, interviewed author Cynthia Ruchti and editor Jamie Chavez.

Author Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia, how did you develop the idea for this book?  

Restoring Christmas is set in Algoma, WI—a real town that really does have a charming boardwalk along the shores of Lake Michigan. My brother and his family live in Algoma, so I’ve often (not often enough) visited, seeing the town through a tourist’s or newcomer’s eyes and also through the eyes of residents who understand the true flavor. Algoma and nearby Door County are enchanting areas. They’re places I go where I know my soul will be filled and refreshed. What better place to choose for the setting of a book that needs both the uniqueness of fall and the chill of approaching winter?

I’m a fan of home improvement and renovation shows on television, appreciating the creativity and problem-solving. Having the story revolve around a stone farmhouse restoration gave me the opportunity to vicariously walk through that process. As I began, I had no idea how deeply connected I would discover relationship repair, home restoration, and Christmas were connected on a larger scale. It’s a unique joy when the writer grows through the process of telling a story.

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process? 

I love exploring ideas. I love painting my characters into a corner and then unearthing a creative way to get them out of that corner. And I’m always delighted when God unveils hidden treasures in the story that I didn’t know would be there. The full story behind Elsie’s hesitance with her home renovation. What lay behind the scenes in her father’s history. Why Gabe’s Christmas tree was unlit. How honoring Elsie’s father would form such an important part of the Christmas celebration. All of it unfolded before me as I wrote. As they say, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

Readers may not realize that when an author is writing a book, he or she is also juggling dozens of other responsibilities. Except for deadline week, when a writer hunkers down and postpones almost everything except finishing, an author is likely engaged in promoting the last book written, creating marketing plans for the current book, interacting with book clubs on a book released three years ago, creating proposals for a book that won’t release until two years in the future, perhaps even conducting radio interviews or writing guest blog posts, to say nothing of inescapable household duties and staying available for family and extended family needs. It’s the same for me. The greatest struggle usually is preserving creative time among all the other responsibilities. That … and finding just the right word, phrase, or metaphor to express what I believe needs to be said.

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors? 

Relax into the process. If you find a good editor, trust their instincts. Don’t abandon your own, but stay open to the studied instincts of the freelance editor. They don’t make suggestions to prove they’re worth having on the team. They care about the story and about its ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The partnership between a hard-working writer and a skilled editor is invaluable.

What does winning the Excellence in Editing Award mean to you?

It was an honor to receive the award, made all the more meaningful by the EIE’s intent to recognize that symbiotic relationship between author and editor. On a personal front, it held significance also because of the people cheering for this book, Restoring Christmas, including the judges, the people accepting for me in my absence, and the attention of the industry as a whole. I was blessed that WorthyInspired and Jamie Chavez were given something to celebrate, and a reminder that the story they invited me to write was, and is, having an impact. Thank you, EIE.

Editor Jamie Chavez

Jamie, how did you become connected with the author?

I had a relationship with Ramona Richards, who was (at that time) the fiction editor at Abingdon Press, and Cynthia had a book deal with Abingdon. I’d worked with Ramona on several titles, so she knew my work, and thought I’d be a good fit with Cynthia. (Our first book together was When the Morning Glory Blooms.) I count it a stroke of enormous good fortune that I was paired with such a skilled writer and storyteller! Over the years Cynthia and I had opportunities to run into each other at book events or to get together when she was in Nashville to see her publisher, and I am blessed, now, to call her my friend.

What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

My mom always had a jigsaw puzzle going on a card table in the family room, and I loved staring at the pieces and noticing the little details that were clues to how the thing fit together. A fiction manuscript is like that—a lot of pieces, a lot of details that need to fit together in a way that will please the reader—and the author! So editing has an important collaborative aspect to it. The author brings a story, I bring my eye for detail, there’s a lot of back and forth … and I find a lot of joy in that. I love getting to work with an author on several books, because we get to know each other and the work becomes easier. So I guess the short answer to your question is I enjoy developing relationships with writers.

What tips can you give other freelance editors about working with authors?

  • Relationship is key.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. (Also, don’t be afraid to say yes.)
  • Smile a lot.
  • Keep an open mind (because you’re not always right, you know!).
  • There’s more than one way to solve an editorial problem.
  • You win some, you lose some.

What do you wish authors knew about working with freelance editors?

  • If you want to be a professional writer, you need a for-real professional editor. Having published a book doesn’t qualify anyone to edit—they are different skill sets altogether. And having an English degree isn’t a qualification either.
  • Editors aren’t inexpensive. Be prepared to make an investment in yourself, financially and in your level of effort. Get the most out of it.
  • There is no magic wand. Only work.
  • Buy MS Word and learn how to use track changes.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time formatting; when we’re editing, nothing matters but the words.
  • Come prepared to the editing experience: don’t send an editor your first draft. Ever. Send, instead, your very best effort.
  • No editor wants an adversarial relationship with an author; we prefer teamwork. A little bit of laughter is good too.

What does working on an award-winning book mean to you?

It’s a huge thrill when one of my authors wins an award for a book I touched. But I think it’s important to remember it’s the author’s work! After he or she does all the heavy lifting (that writing thing, it’s hard work), it’s easy for me to waltz in at the end and nip here and tuck there and tweak something from pretty good to suh-weet. That’s the part of the work I love—whether the book wins an award or not.

Thank, Cynthia and Jamie! And congrats again on winning the 2017 EIE Award!

About the Author

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. She serves as the ACFW professional relations liaison, helping connect authors, readers, retailers, libraries, and book clubs. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Visit her website at

About the Editor

Jamie Chavez worked for more than ten years with Thomas Nelson Publishers before becoming a freelance editor in 2004. She’s worked with some of the very best authors in the Christian publishing industry, including novelists Cynthia Ruchti, Jenny B. Jones, Deborah Raney, Nancy Rue, and nonfiction authors Rachel Held Evans, Aaron Chambers, Michael Hyatt, Cindy Morgan, and Michelle Ule—to name just a few. Books she’s edited have become New York Times best sellers and Christy and Carol award winners. The Advanced Writers and Speakers Association named her 2016 Fiction Editor of the Year. You can learn more at

About the Book

Alexis Blake set out to restore a neglected building.

What she didn’t expect was to restore a life …

Alexis has one chance to land her own show on the Heart-and-Home Network, and nothing—not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer—is going to stand in her way.

Elsie Raymond, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise.

Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and save Christmas memories from being lost forever?

Purchase Restoring Christmas.


Enter the EIE Awards!

Are you the author, editor, or publisher of a 2017 published book? Submit it for the 2018 Excellence in Editing Award! The Christian Editor Connection wants to honor the teams behind well-written and well-edited books and is proud to announce our third annual Excellence in Editing Award.

This award celebrates newly released books that are superbly written, well edited, and published by a CBA publisher or self-published by a Christian author.

The CEC Excellence in Editing Award is open to all books published in hardcover or paperback in 2017. Books must be written in English, have been released in North America, and contain a Christian worldview.

The publication teams (authors, editors, publishers) behind the EIE award-winning books will be honored for their dedication and work and may mention this honor in their marketing, promotion, and publicity. The most valuable aspect of the award is its use as a book sales stimulator.

Visit for more information and to submit your entry. Deadline is December 31, 2017.