This Excellence in Editing Award spotlight is on Talitha the Traveling Skirt by Becky Van Vleet, edited by Barbara Curtis (freelance) and Derinda Babcock (in house), and published by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

It takes a team. Irene Chambers, the EIE Award Coordinator for Christian Editor Connection (CEC), interviewed author Becky Van Vleet and editors Barbara Curtis and Derinda Babcock about working together and creating an award-winning book.

IRENE. Becky, how did you develop the idea for this book?

BECKY. My children’s book was inspired by a true family story. We have had a little red plaid skirt traveling in our family for more than seventy years, spanning three generations. All the little girls in our family have had a professional photograph taken in this skirt at age two, a tradition started by my mother in 1948. I turned this true family story into a fun tale for young readers.

IRENE. What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

BECKY. Every time I worked on my book, I truly enjoyed reflecting back on the family memories and talking with my sisters about the little skirt. The more I worked on this children’s book, the more I felt excited and gratified to preserve a family memory. When Courtney Smith’s lovely illustrations starting rolling in for me to preview, I couldn’t wait to complete the process.

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

BECKY. I would say I struggled the most with my huge learning curve. Although this was challenging at times, it was always positive. I was extremely fortunate to work with Derinda Babcock and Barbara Curtis, my two editors, who were very patient with me as well as encouraging.

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

BECKY. First and foremost, I will say I was very surprised. But now that I’ve enjoyed this honor for a few weeks, I can assuredly say that all the steps of the writing process, even the challenges, were worth it.

IRENE. What tips can you give authors about working with editors?

BECKY. Enjoy the ride, all the ups and downs! Listen to their advice and trust that they are directing you to land with the best book ever. The process is teamwork with all the roles working together.

IRENE. Barbara, how did you become connected with Becky Van Vleet?

BARBARA. I met Becky through the CEC when she bravely ventured into seeking an editor for her story.

IRENE. What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

BARBARA. Working with new authors and helping them bring their books to a polished state is very enjoyable, along with getting to know the authors through phone conversations and emails. I enjoy the back and forth and seeing writers grow in their skill. And for the editing process itself, I love finding the “puzzle pieces” and fitting them together to make the story whole.

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

BARBARA. Be gentle and encouraging! Especially with new authors, as they’re being brave in just showing their words to someone else—when it’s inevitable that they’ll get marked up. And to pray for each client and your input on their projects as you edit.

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

BARBARA. That editors are there to work alongside the authors, to help them deliver the best book they can and to add the “professional polish” to it. I’d encourage authors to take their time in finding an editor whom they feel they fit together well with in personality and style, as it is a partnership. And to be open to your editor’s input. To be confident that the editor has the author’s best interests at heart and that the editor is guiding the author in a beneficial way—even when it means cutting out beloved words!

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

BARBARA. I am thrilled for Becky to have won an award. I’ve so enjoyed my part in helping her with the initial editing of her story, from seeing the first draft, working with her, and helping her submit a proposal to Elk Lake Publishing, rejoicing when it was accepted, to seeing the final product they ended up with. And the lovely artwork is a beautiful finishing touch. It’s exciting even for editors to see their clients’ books in print!

IRENE. Derinda, how did you become connected with Becky?

DERINDA. I am Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.’s senior graphic designer and the managing editor for the children’s picture and middle-grade books. I edit the picture books ELPI contracts, which is how Becky and I connected.

IRENE. What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

DERINDA. I’m also an author. As I help other authors polish their manuscripts, I become a better writer. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

When I first started my writing career, editors would tell me to rewrite because I was telling. They wanted me to show. Often, I’d have to rewrite scenes containing point-of-view shifts or passive voice. These comments used to frustrate me because I didn’t have a clear idea what these statements really meant. But I rewrote hundreds of sentences and paragraphs and finally started to catch on.

Now, after editing other authors’ work, I understand what these editors meant. I try, with examples, to help the authors I work with understand how to address these issues. I especially enjoy working with writers who are humble and have a learner’s heart. I feel like a proud parent when they understand and can apply their knowledge.

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

DERINDA. Be patient. A new author needs lots of coaching. Things which are second nature to us are a foreign language to others. I’m thinking of Track Changes especially. We need to set expectations up front and not leave the authors guessing. Be kind. A book is the author’s baby, and they may be very protective of their work. Show grace. We all were beginners once—we all make mistakes—we’re all still learning.

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

DERINDA. Editors (and designers) who freelance usually have another job. They may take on freelance work to help pay the bills. This means editing projects must be worked into their schedules. Depending on the complexity of the manuscript they are editing, or on the number of edits needed, getting a manuscript to formatted book and ready for upload to the distributors may take longer than they expect. And they should ask questions—you won’t learn something you don’t know if you don’t ask.

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

DERINDA. When an author’s book wins an award, this means I accomplished my goal of helping the author and my publisher shine. The award recognizes our work as a cooperative team. The award also means others with expertise recognize my contribution to an author’s success. This makes me smile.

Thank you, Becky, Barbara, and Derinda. Congratulations again on winning the 2020 EIE Award for Talitha the Traveling Skirt! It takes a team!

About the Author:

Becky Van Vleet is a retired teacher and principal. She and her husband make their home in Colorado Springs, where Becky enjoys oil painting, gardening, writing, and hiking and biking in the great outdoors. As a baby boomer, Becky believes in sharing family stories with the next generations and encourages others to do the same. She has devoted her website and blogs to creating and preserving family memories. Becky relishes spending time with her family and especially reading books to her grandchildren.


About the Editors:

Editor Barbara Curtis is a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction and is a member of The Christian PEN and the Christian Editor Connection. She and her husband live in Connecticut and have one grown son. She enjoys reading, writing—and editing.



Editor Derinda Babcock is also an author, graphics designer, and online teacher.

For almost twenty-five years, she worked with students of all ages and many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The richness of this experience lends flavor to her novels. She crafts entertaining stories written for the Christian worldview. When she is not writing, designing, teaching, or editing, she furthers her own education.


About the Book:

Meet Talitha, a little plaid skirt that likes to travel. Through the years, she visits many two-year-old girls in a special family who wear her to get their pictures taken. But Talitha encounters problems when she least expects them. Filled with colorful and detailed illustrations, young children will delight in this heartwarming story about a little skirt’s adventures. Purchase Talitha the Traveling Skirt.

Enter the 2021 EIE Award Contest!

CEC wants to honor the teams behind well-written, well-edited books and is proud to sponsor our sixth annual Excellence in Editing Award. Are you the author, editor, or publisher of a book published in 2020? Submit it for the 2021 EIE 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 2020. Books must be written in English, have been released in North America, and contain a Christian worldview.

The publication teams (authors, editors, and 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. The deadline is December 31, 2020. (The entry fee is $35 until October 15, $45 until November 15, then $50.)