The Writer’s Handful with Don McNair

McNair300dpiHarrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.

So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.

Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week three of The Writer’s Handful features Don McNair, a writer of journalism, fiction, and nonfiction, and a highly respected (and sought after) editor. His most recent book is Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave. Full disclosure here, Don is my cousin, or second cousin, or cousin once-removed or something; however, I haven’t seen him in decades, but love to be able to share writing news and ideas with him long-distance.

Welcome Don!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

In a way, yes. I’m now a full-time freelance fiction editor, and spend four or more hours every day Editor-Proof Your Writing Cover(including weekends) editing for clients. I spent my forty-year career writing for magazines and public relations clients, and it’s hard to get me away from the word processor.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

My first story was in grade school. The teacher asked us to write something about Mother’s Day, and the next day read my story to the class. A cute little girl came to me afterwards and said, “Donnie, I loved your story.” At that moment I realized I loved writing, and feared cute little girls.

What are you reading right now?

I have eclectic reading tastes, varying from cereal boxes to romance to adventure. Now I’m reading “No Easy Day,” by Mark Owen, the true story about the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

It’s hard to sift the “most important” advice from among the thousands of tidbits I’ve received. But for writing, I suppose it’s the advice to write about what I know. I’ve written ten published books—six novels, four non-fiction—and in most cases that’s what I’ve done. Research is a lot easier that way!

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

Boy, that’s a tough one. I could say “hound dog” because I sniff out the details, “cat” because I’m curious about so many things, or “workhorse” because I plow ahead through a confusing patch of ideas and research problems and usually end up with a smooth, fertile field. Or at least it seems that way to me. The ones who know for sure, of course, are my readers.


Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.

McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.

McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website,

McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes.


→Thanks, Cousin Don, for joining in our Monday conversations. And I look forward to reading your story collection The Man on The Park Bench. And thanks to you all, as always, for reading! -PMc←