Because I have lived long enough to see disaster slam headlong into writers, I am frankly neurotic when it comes to protecting my work. When I have invested a billion hours in a project, I start to think in terms of worst-case scenarios. What if my computer crashes? What if my office explodes? What if I get hit by a truck? What will happen to the project and my client if something happens to me?

I know. I know. I know …


Diana TonnessenFrom my first book contract and letter of agreement, I have written a sort of little “last will and testament” into the clauses. If something happens to me, I have designated a writer of skill greater than mine to rescue the work, complete the project, and take the balance of the fee. This person has to be uniquely gifted in the art of ghosting: assuming an identity and speaking in voice other than her own; hitting the right style, energy, vocabulary and intellectual level of the “author;” assimilating several tons of research and spinning it into text that sings the right song, and hunkering down in the Zen-like discipline that it takes to write a non-fiction book and put it on an editor’s desk on deadline and in perfect form.

I know of only one writer as facile and skilled as this.

Diana Tonnessen.

I think so highly of her that I’ve often thought to fake my own death just to get her to work on a project that’s giving me problems. And lest you think I’m insane, I’ll tell you something else. I’ve actually put her ability and this bizarre relationship to the test. Not so long ago, I got into a little medical situation that stopped me dead in my tracks on a complicated article. Tonnessen stepped up without missing a beat and saved my fanny. And though I am loath to admit it, she did a better job on the article than I could have. (Don’t tell her I said so.) The woman is a genius.

She taught me most of what I know about our profession … and she continues to stand quietly behind me, keeping my work safe and me (kind of) sane. One phone call away, she is the voice of reason when I’m on the ledge.

Who is this goddess?

Diana L. Tonnessen has more than 25 years of experience as a magazine editor, freelance feature writer and book author. Her feature articles on health, medicine, parenting, and nutrition have appeared in Health, Glamour, Self, and Working Mother. From 1996 to 2007, she served as Editor in Chief of Pause, an award-winning national circulation health magazine for women over 45 (and where she employed me to write for several years). She is the author of eight books on health and medicine for general audiences, including 50 Essential Things To Do When the Doctor Says ‘It’s Diabetes.’ She currently works as an associate editor at Gainesville Magazine, selected in 2008 as best overall city magazine in the region by the Society of Professional Journalists. Diana also teaches as an adjunct professor in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. In her spare time, she’s a wife-mother-writer of her own great work-daughter-friend-artist, and … well, frankly, it’s more than any mere mortal should attempt.

If you’re coming to the Anhinga Writers’ Studio Summer Workshops, introduce yourself to her. She’s one of the most amazing writers and editors you’ll ever meet. You’ll want her in your tribe, too.


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