Sheila Athens

Sheila Athens cropped blue glasses books behind.jpg

I love when my questions spark a student's deeper understanding of their story.


What is your favorite part of the coaching process?

Seeing a writer conquer something that was previously a challenge for them.

What's your coaching style like?

Honest and encouraging

What genres do you love to edit?

Book-club fiction, southern fiction, contemporary fiction, romance

What do you love most about editing?

I love helping writers learn to welcome and embrace that crazy, mystical force that called them to create a story to begin with. I love when my questions spark a student's deeper understanding of their story.

Who's your ideal writer match? What are you looking for in a coaching client?

Someone who is eager for input, but is comfortable knowing which feedback feels right for her story and which perhaps doesn't fit. Someone who embraces the fact that the most important part of the story is the internal change the protagonist goes through, not the external events that happen. Someone who is serious enough about her writing career to want tough love, along with encouragement.

What was the moment when you felt like a real book coach?

When I got my first assignment to evaluate a complete manuscript.

What do you believe the most prominent difference between an editor and a coach is?

A book coach can be there from the beginning, helping a writer flesh out ways to turn her ideas into the story she needs to tell. The book coach can be there the entire time the manuscript is being written, guiding the writer and the work along the way. An editor—especially for a writer who isn't yet published—is usually involved only when there's an already-complete manuscript. 

What's been your greatest achievement in coaching so far?

When Michelle Hazen (also an Author Accelerator coach) asked if she could list me as the editor of her fun, engaging soon-to-be-published romance novel, A Cruel Kind of Beautiful. I was so honored!

How did you hear about Author Accelerator?

I read Lisa Cron's Wired for Story, so I heard about Author Accelerator when Lisa announced she'd be teaching Story Genius (her second book) in partnership with them.  


What's your favorite word?


What genres do you love to read?

Book club fiction, southern fiction, general fiction

What are five of your favorite books?

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

  • Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

  • Always by Sarah Jio

How about nonfiction?

  • Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink

  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

Who are five of your favorite authors?

  • Liane Moriarty

  • Jodi Picoult

  • Joshilyn Jackson

  • Karen White

  • Barbara O'Neal

If you could meet any author, who would it be and why?

Jodi Picoult. Because she writes bestseller after bestseller, exploring modern-day topics that often contain a moral dilemma (which is similar to my writing, so she's my writing idol).  

What are you most excited about right now?

I recently finished revisions on a manuscript. Woo-hoo!  

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer or playwright

What does a typical day look like for you?

Wake up on my own, without an alarm clock (a promise I made to myself when I left Corporate America).  Work on my own work-in-progress in the morning, listen to an audiobook or writing-related podcast while I exercise midday, book coaching in the afternoon and evening, reading from a hardcover or paperback before bedtime.

If you could fast-forward a year from now, what would your writing life look like?

Writing a new manuscript while trading revisions back and forth with my editor on my upcoming new release.

What about 5 years from now?

Writing daily in the study of my cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Exchanging revisions on an already-completed manuscript with my editor. Gladly leaving my hideaway from time to time for book tours/reader events and to spend time with fellow writers.