What Clients Say


Historical fiction
I had the opportunity to work with Mary for several months while preparing my book, Natural Destiny (available on amazon.com), for self publication through CreateSpace. Mary was extremely thorough from the very beginning of the project. She not only helped me with the customary editing (e.g., grammar, flow, and tense) but also put herself in the reader’s position throughout the book and pointed out where I needed to clarify, define, and expand. With Mary’s help, I rewrote several complete drafts of my book and still met my publishing deadline. I am absolutely pleased with the final draft of the book, and customer reviews continue to be overwhelmingly positive. I am in the process of writing the sequel to my book. Without hesitation I am once again hiring Mary as my editor.

Sherry Dixon
Boeing’s Director of Emergency Health Safety 
North Charleston, South Carolina

My goal in hiring Mary was to receive help creating a polished novel that could be published, a goal that I achieved.
She identified problems with the plot, point of view, and character development. Her feedback during the entire process was excellent and integral to the quality of the final manuscript. Mary was straightforward and detailed when it came to describing what kind of feedback she would provide and in giving her estimate for what her professional feedback would cost. Throughout the process her interpersonal style was very comfortable and non threatening. I would absolutely recommend Mary to edit a friend or a colleague’s manuscript. 

Linda Clement
Senior director of sales of a major software company
Charleston, South Carolina

My goal was to learn how to tell a good story in a way that would keep the reader turning pages, and Mary was an essential part of that process! Her feedback was consistently excellent–not only in terms of line editing, but also for the flow of narrative, character and plot direction, and expansion. She pointed out omissions of necessary information, advised clarifications of critical issues, and suggested revisions and expansions of plot and character. Her feedback truly broadened my perspective from the reader’s point of view, and there is a confidence about her feedback which is an essential motivator for a new writer. Mary also has a fabulous interpersonal style–she is highly collaborative, encouraging, and persuasive. I would recommend Mary most highly to edit anyone’s manuscript. She’s terrific!

Dianne Trumbull
Novelist and retired psychiatrist
Charleston, South Carolina

For many years I have been working on a book about my clinical method for children with autism. At every step Mary was there to help—with outlines, punctuation, sentence structure, tone, and style. I’m very grateful for her work and dedicated efforts to keep me writing. Without her, I would have dumped my drafts into the trash long ago. Thanks to Mary, Greenwood Publishing Group published Helping Children with Autism Become More Social 76 Ways to Use Narrative Play! (child-talk.com)

Ann Densmore, Ed.D., CCC-SLP/A
Clinical psychologist 
Boston, Massachusetts

Mary is an extraordinary editor; her insights and careful attention to detail will show in the final pages of your work. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of her craft strengthens my message word by word. I can’t imagine working on any writing project without the assistance of Mary as my editor while I was writing It’s About More Than Trees. She takes the time to understand the message I want to convey. Then, she helps me work the text into something masterful. Mary has a gentle way of helping improve my writing skills, while at the same time helping me meet my goals. I recommend her highly.

Colleen Carroll, Ed.D.
Director of NatureTalks 

Kaui, Hawaii

Health care
I sought Mary’s feedback about the organization, content, and style of my patient advocacy book. Mary provided the editing I was expecting and beyond to the point that I now refer to her as my writing coach. She showed a depth of understanding of the content as well as an innate ability to stand back and play the reader. I can’t think of a more trusted reviewer of my manuscript and proposal as I head toward traditional publication.

Laura Tutt
Veteran journalist
Charleston, South Carolina

Self Help
I originally hired Mary to help get my book, Cheership, done. Mary and I worked on it together for several months and made significant headway. I found the preliminary process for receiving an estimate for the work and a description of the nature of the feedback to be very clear, precise, and fair.

I was very new to writing, so I appreciated her leadership throughout our time working together. She was always very professional, collaborative, and encouraging. She also asked for feedback about how she could be more helpful. I adore Mary’s personality, wit, and creativity; she is also quick to offer value and help wherever she can. Though life got in the way and I had to set my book aside, I have recommended Mary to my friends. She has a rare expertise that most wouldn’t know where to begin to find.

Roxanne Thayne
Co-owner of Homeward Bound 

Charleston, SC

Academic Writing

Mary has been providing our laboratory with an excellent editing service for journal articles, technical reports, and presentations. She has worked well with many non-native English-speaking students and researchers both in person when she was located in Hawaii, and now through the Internet after her move to South Carolina. Her service is very prompt. I highly recommend her.

 Lloyd Hihara, Ph.D.
Professor at University of Hawaii, Department of Engineering
Honolulu, Hawaii

I was so lucky to have Mary as my editor for my doctoral dissertation. Since English is not my first language, I have a hard time communicating my ideas and thoughts in English. First, Mary helped me organize my ideas with an outline and stay on task with a timeline. Then when I sent her a draft, her comments and corrections helped me clarify my ideas. During the whole process, Mary kept me on task and encouraged me. She was also always prompt and considerate. Although we live in different places, we worked very well through e-mail and on the phone. I have told my friends about her and will definitely work with her in the future.

Chen-Wen Su, M.A.
Violin teacher
San Jose, California

I am a graduate student who speaks English as a second language. Mary’s editing of my thesis was so helpful that I hired her to work on my doctoral dissertation as well. Her comments and questions not only identified where I needed to clarify and elaborate on my points but also showed me how to write clearly, concisely, and beautifully. She respects my ideas and style, offering better ways to phrase thoughts without changing them. I trust Mary and feel very comfortable with her.

Ruriko Kumano, Ph.D.
Graduate student at University of Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii

I hired Mary as a copy editor with the goal of producing a clearer style for my academic journal articles. Mary was timely with her edits and her fee was as promised. I followed her feedback and as a result, my papers became more coherent and better organized. I would absolutely recommend Mary to any colleague or friend looking for an editor.

Andrew Johnston

Application Essays to College and Graduate School

With Mary’s help on my application essays, I was accepted to Johns Hopkins Medical School, my top choice. Her editing of my essays was unique because she not only made corrections, but more importantly, provided reasons for her corrections. In short, her help was one of the most critical components in writing a competitive application and getting accepted to the school of my choice.

Joseph Crompton
Student at Johns Hopkins Medical School
Baltimore, Maryland

Mary is an exceptionally talented editor who is passionate about helping others express themselves concisely and beautifully. Mary’s professional editorial guidance empowered and inspired me to write my best work. A seasoned professor told me that my application essays were “eloquent and concise—exceptional in every way.” I felt so wonderfully (and unexpectedly) calm after sending in my applications and know it is because of the work she and I did together. Had I forged ahead alone, I would not have felt such confidence in the strength of my application; the essays communicate everything I needed and wanted them to and were instrumental in my being admitted to the program.

Amy Rossiter
Graduate student at Baylor’s Physician Assistant Program
Waco, Texas


I connected with Mary relatively late in my college application writing process, so many of my essays had already been drafted once or twice, but her entry could not have been more aptly timed. She provided me with in-depth insight and critiques while simultaneously helping keep me on track to have my essays ready on time. Her honest comments and suggestions really helped me hone in on and clarify the central messages of my essays, and her involvement took the form of guiding my own words toward more clearly expressing my own thoughts. 

Mary’s guidance certainly smoothed out the application process, and I felt a lot more confident in my work after reviewing and editing my essays with her. I would certainly recommend Mary to other college-bound students and their parents. Her insight as a practiced essay analyst was invaluable and eye-opening.

Eve Crompton
Student at Harvard University

Mary was a huge help to me with my college application essays. She supported me in organizing my efforts and kept me on top of meeting the deadlines. Mary helped me recognize what was most important and unique about myself, which allowed me to create an end product that was mine and had my own voice. I appreciated her assistance in making my writing more clear, and she was great with revisions. For these reasons, I would for sure recommend Mary to other prospective applicants.

Brigham Johnston
Student at Washington University

Parent of College-Bound Student Applicants

Mary interviewed my twins, helped them brainstorm and strategize about essay topics, helped find schools that might suit them, created an online spreadsheet of deadlines, held them accountable for meeting deadlines, and edited and assisted with essays. I was able to completely back away and let them complete the application process with Mary as their mentor and taskmaster.

I didn’t even read the applications until after they were submitted and completed; in order to preserve my relationship with my kids, I wanted to stay out of it as much as possible. I wanted and was able to be positive and encouraging without nagging about details and dates. Working with Mary gave me that freedom, which was beyond invaluable.

With her help and assistance, they were able to send in the best that they could produce. Their applications were not only honest and reflective, but also highlighted their strengths. They applied to schools which were within their grasp and were accepted to all. To the question of whether or not I would recommend Mary to other parents of college-bound students, my answer is yes, yes, and YES!!

Kristine Ellison

My main reason for hiring Mary was so that I could continue focusing on helping my daughter with homework, sports, and time management in other aspects of her life. My daughter and Mary got along well and my daughter was energized by the process; she really felt like she had created something personal and authentic. During the work itself, Mary got to know my daughter through engaging her in brainstorming exercises. She then set down milestones for essay writing and revising to help the process run smoothly. Mary’s help had a positive influence on my daughter’s application process and I would absolutely recommend Mary to any other parents of college-bound students. She has a great rapport with young adults and is clever, fun, and energetic.

Linda Eastley

Family Histories and Memoirs

Mary has helped me with a variety of family history writing projects. After my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she recorded conversations with him and wrote his memoir based on these interviews. Later she organized and edited his letters and talks. Mary works well from transcription to finished text, keeping the authenticity of the speaker’s voice and organizing material in a cohesive fashion. Mary also organized and edited two volumes of family letters, bringing order to material that family members valued but did not have the time and/or skills to complete. She is helping us preserve voices from my family’s past.

Charlotte Cannon, M.A.
Retired reading teacher, mother of four and grandmother of fifteen
Chicago, Illinois

Without Mary’s help and encouragement I would have never started writing my memoir. Being foreign born and not trusting my English language skills, I needed her expertise. She took on the challenge of pulling together my story and giving it the direction it needed. She also helped me recall and write long forgotten incidents. I am almost finished with my life story and look forward, with Mary’s help, to seeing it published.

Margit Benton
Hotel manager and author of The Other Side of Knowing: Searching for Truth and Peace During World War II and Its Aftermath
Charleston, South Carolina

Without the expertise and guidance of Mary Johnston, my memoir, Hush Now, Baby, would still be a rough draft. She is the consummate editor and writing coach. Struggling to shape my book, which is now in the publishing stage, I called on Mary to do three things.

First, to examine my manuscript with a fresh eye for detailed editing. In the process, she hammered my ubiquitous clichés and dashes, and polished both punctuation and language usage—all things difficult to spot in your own writing, even if you’ve taught English for over thirty years as I have!

Second, to help with clarity of purpose and continuity throughout my fifteen chapters. Peppering me with pertinent questions, she forced me to rethink specific passages as well as the overall message I wanted to convey. Together we reorganized chapters, decided where to put scenes, and what to delete. (She’s ruthless on the latter!)

Third, to hold my feet to the fire. I’m a procrastinator. In addition, I have trouble with closure, so I’d still be tweaking the text on my deathbed were it not for Mary’s insistence that we keep to a writing schedule.

No athlete has enjoyed a more rigorous coach or one with more encouraging words. She believed in my story, and it showed in all of the energy she put into our sessions. Mary met all of my expectations of a writing coach with candor, caring, and supreme professionalism.

Angela Williams, M.A. 
Life coach, writing teacher, and author
Charleston, South Carolina

At the age of seventy-three, with some physical weaknesses and mental limitations due to a stroke, I wanted to write about my life to leave a bit of myself for my grandchildren, who are very young and live far away. I had not written much for others to read and my mind was slipping. Until I spoke with Mary, I was not sure I could record my life story. She explained how we could do it. Across a couple of months she would interview me on the phone. (We live a couple thousand miles apart so meeting in person wasn’t possible.) After transcribing the interviews, she would weave together my stories. Then it would be my turn to make the changes I wanted. Despite my challenges with focus and memory, I’ve been able to tell my story with Mary as my writing partner and mentor. I never could have done it without her.

Blanche Johnston
Retired law librarian
Salt Lake City, Utah

Mary was easy to work with and thoughtful about how to best achieve our end goal (i.e., facilitating my dad writing his autobiography). Mary did a great job of not only structuring and editing his writing but also adding meaningful elements like timelines, newspaper articles, quotes, as well as interviews with his kids and others that made the autobiography very accessible and easy to read. The interviews that Mary conducted were great! (I was one of several that she interviewed.) Mary was easy to talk to and share my experiences with. She was always punctual and efficient; she knew what information she needed and made it easy for us to be a part of it. I know my dad really enjoyed the entire process and trusted her input. She did a great job of making my dad’s history interesting, engaging, and a true representation of his life.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife
Marriage therapist
Chicago, Illinois

Mary did a remarkable job working with my mother to tell the story of her life. The process began with a series of interviews during which Mom felt very comfortable telling Mary anything and everything about her life. The beauty of the finished product was in how well Mary organized sometimes disconnected stories into a series of chapters that captured the major aspects of my mother’s life and accomplishments. I learned things about my mother I had not known. My mother is very proud of the book, and her extended family, friends, and members of our community have loved reading it. I appreciate Mary’s wonderful writing, her attention to detail, and her commitment to keep the project on track so that my mother’s extraordinary life story got told. As I worked with Mary to revise and edit the book, while also adding pictures with important captions, Mary was a complete professional—a delight to work with at every step. I highly recommend Mary’s work!

Laura L. Bush, Ph.D 
Owner of Peacock Proud, LLC
Mesa, Arizona

I’m writing my autobiography. When Mary received my book, the story was disjointed and unorganized. She helped me fill in gaps in my timeline and expound on parts that were not fully explained. Thanks to Mary’s expertise, my book is now close to being completed. If I had found her earlier, perhaps it would not have taken me five years to write my story.

Val Johnson
IT specialist
Charleston, South Carolina

Other Manuscripts

We hired Mary to edit Head Start curriculum, as well as brochures, essays, and newspaper articles about child development and parenting. She ensured that we had a) consistent formatting; b) correct grammar, punctuation and spelling; and c) clarity of content. Because she is a thorough editor who writes well, we know that whatever she edits is ready for publication. In addition, she is easy to work with and returns manuscripts in a timely matter. Without any doubt, my colleagues and I highly recommend her as an editor.

Mary Ann Nemoto, M.A.
Administrator for the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii

Writing group facilitator

I have been a musician and music educator for the past thirty-five years, and most of the writing I have done has been in music. Recently I met a young man who told me a very compelling story, and I was motivated to write it in the form of a novel. Fortunately, I was introduced to Mary, who is helping me bring the story to life with her expert editing and guidance. With her nurturing and that of our writing group, I am gaining confidence in my approach to the subject and characters. I am learning to be consistent, to balance dialogue with narrative, and to make each sentence have a purpose.

Madeline List Hershenson, M.M.Ed.
Violinist, pianist, teacher, and conductor
Charleston, South Carolina

My association with Mary began with a non-fiction writers group that she led for several weeks, under the auspices of the Center for Women in Charleston, South Carolina. Several of us continued to work with Mary after the “official” group was finished because she was conscientious and thorough in her critiques and because we appreciated her way of gently prodding us to improve the clarity and style of our writing.

I found her thoughtful and competent editing extremely useful and asked her to edit another manuscript, which she tackled with zest and greatly improved.

I have recommended Mary highly as an editor to several friends because she is thorough, competent, and thoughtful in her approach to editing a manuscript. She not only scrutinizes the written details but also analyzes the overall structure of the work. She has edited other books I have written, including The God That Says I Am: A Scientist’s Meditations on the Nature of Spiritual Experience and is helping with another. I trust and value her commentary and insights.

Jo Anne Simson, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus from Medical University of South Carolina and author of Speaking With Strangers, Russia Revisited, Saving My Life, and The Bewildered Patient’s Whole Body Health Guide
Charleston, South Carolina

Not sure of what to expect, I walked into the first session of one of Mary’s writing groups. My hope was to find advice and direction on how to write and publish my first book. I learned that and so more from Mary, who was the facilitator for the group.

Under Mary’s direction, I have learned many essential components of nonfiction writing. I wanted candid and comprehensive feedback on both my book topic and my writing. Mary delivered on both! Her style is gentle yet insistent, non-threatening but very informative. She obviously loves her work and that positive spirit shows.

Being a total newbie to book writing, I would have never been able to progress as far as I have without Mary’s expert guidance.

Jane Perdue 
CEO of The Braithewaite Group and Get Your Big On
Charleston, South Carolina

I joined Mary’s writing group because I wanted criticism on a few short stories I had written to try to improve them for publication, but my ultimate goal was to improve myself as a writer and editor. After almost a year in her groups, I can say I’m now further along in a novel than I’ve ever been and the most recent writing group meeting have helped me shape my novel into the story I want it to be.

I believe that collaborative effort is essential to the process of crafting a better story, and you have Mary there the whole time as a line editor to help on the technical side of things. And my fellow participants have an intense focus and a desire to be better writers––two things I appreciate immensely. This group has given me the chance to learn some of my own shortcomings when it comes to writing and to adapt my own creative process as I receive feedback.

Alexander Lanning
Historian, marketer
Charleston, South Carolina

For many years I have wanted to write a book about my travel and food experiences. The process seemed overwhelming. Fortunately, I crossed paths with Mary and that process became “a piece of cake.”

A group of us who are aspiring writers meet monthly and Mary guides us. Her feedback is clear, helpful, and consistent. Mary has shown me how to make my readers smell flavors and see sights. She has taught me to paint with words!

Dani Manilla
Chef, cooking instructor, and culinary tour guide
Charleston, South Carolina

To be welcomed into one of Mary’s writing groups is a sublime experience. Her writers come together from different backgrounds and with different goals to share a love of words, ideas, and narratives. Mary leads the group by reading each piece with a discerning eye and focuses on the importance of consistent perspective-taking and grammatical integrity. Her enthusiasm is boundless as is her talent for shepherding words and ideas into creative compositions.

Dianne Trumbull
Novelist and retired psychiatrist
Charleston, South Carolina

I have been part of one of Mary’s writing groups since 2013, when I stepped full-time into my second career as an author and creative artist. I thought I was a good writer in 2013, but looking back, I was unpolished and constrained by a career spent writing technical content. Under Mary’s tutelage and with exposure to other people’s writing, I have freed myself to explore a range of styles and approaches to fiction. Today, I am more confident in my writing and more in love with my characters and the world I create for them. With Mary’s encouragement, writing has become a passionnot a labor like it once was.

Ken Ryan
Novelist and captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Charleston, South Carolina

I joined Mary’s writing group because I was looking for editing support and objective opinions about my writing; I treated it like a focus group that would tell me what worked in my writing and what didn’t make sense. Any and all expectations I had coming into the group have been met and then some! I am ready to go to print with one book and discovered some real gaps in my second book that I am doing additional research to fill. An unexpected bonus was that I also made new friends. During my time in the group, I have learned that seeking help is a necessary part of the creative process; it is not a solo art. I would recommend all writers to join a group to stretch and grow their writing abilities. Mary is an amazing and talented editor; she is also a cheerful and encouraging person when the writing gets hard, which makes all the difference.

Patricia Kurent
Charleston, South Carolina

For years, I planned to capture my father’s stories, but it was not until joining one of Mary’s writing groups that I made any meaningful progress. The monthly deadline required me to stay focused in the midst of other commitments. I expected that the peer pressure of the group would  keep me on task, but the unexpected and pleasant surprise of the insight gained from the other writers was far and away the better benefit. Mary’s facilitation techniques allow participants to fully receive the impressions of the other group members, and as a result better edit their own and others’ work. I am grateful for the improvements that this group has provided to my project, and I am also thankful for the relationships that I have formed with the other writers in the group.

Ginny Carson
Charleston, South Carolina 

My reason for joining one of Mary’s writing groups was to receive feedback on my fiction writing in hopes of improving it. This writing group has given me perspectives I would never have considered, and I am now more inclined to make sure a character is not only likable and interesting but possesses a clear and present desire. After my time in Mary’s group, I would definitely recommend participating in one of her groups to any fellow writer, as I personally have learned the importance of having people read your work who are unfamiliar with your genre of writing. They offer an “outsider” perspective, which exposes blind spots you could have otherwise missed.

Alston Badger
Charleston, South Carolina