I am ecstatic to be the one to tell you that our initial publication "Dark and Bitter" has been sent to the printer! We got the proof copy last week, it was very exciting, and looked amazing. As expected there were a few minor changes to make. These have been implemented and will make the final product look even better.
Through this publication process we have learned a lot. There have been trials and tribulations which could never have been predicted. I think it's important to review big projects like this for 'what worked' and 'what didn't work' so that we can improve on the next go around.
What Did Not Work:
Ordering local promotional materials. I personally thought that it was important to try and keep our purchases local. If we're trying to make sure that half of our authors are from the area then half of our products should be from the area too. This backfire in my face. We went to a local place to order our mugs. We were prepared for the cost to be higher than if we ordered them online. What we didn't expect was to have the product take four weeks nor the company to accidentally order twice as many mugs as we originally wanted, then try to charge us for it.
Doing the formatting for the ebook ourselves. This ended up taking a lot of time and making us far too frustrated. Next time we'll be hiring someone to do this for us.
Working with Susan Blackley of Written Image Press as our editor. She was absolutely fantastic. She went above and beyond what was requested. Her dedication and exceptional comments helped our authors bring their stories to the next level.
Working with up-and-coming local authors. Seeing their stories grow through the editing process, and seeing the author grow through the publication process, has been an absolute pleasure. It makes me really glad that we started this company. While I'm ready for a break for the holidays I'll be glad to get back at it with our next publication "Exploits in the Adirondack".
Life. Sometimes it can be wonderful and full of joy. Other times it can bring immense sorrow. Lately it seems that sorrow has been in the cards. The problem with this, other than the obvious, is that it gets in the way of, well, everything.
Going into this month of November my hopes were high. I had finished my last book and had a fully fleshed out idea for the next one. I was excited to get started. Life was going pretty well too. Friends and family were doing well and one friend had just welcomed a baby. This business was moving full steam ahead (and still is!).
Then everything fell apart. On October 31st we got word that a family friend wasn’t going to make it through the week. She passed the next day. What was supposed to be a month of writing and enjoying friends became two weeks of sadness. At the same time other friends, both at work and at home, went through similar tragedies. It began to feel like the world was falling apart. I did not start NaNo, but rather spent moments with friends and family and began to contemplate things.
What I came up with was this: Yes, life can suck sometimes, but it keeps going. Did I start my novel this month? No. Will I put it away and never think about it again? Of course not. For one, it gives me an excellent distraction from the craziness around me. Second, writing has introduced me to a fabulous group of friends (including the other pub518 ladies) who are always there to lend a hand. Plus these characters just won’t shut up!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, life can suck royally, but don’t let that stop you from living it.
“Fight the blankness” is what Colum McCann advises writers in his book Letters to a Young Writer. He means the blank page, the blank mind, but his underlying point is to remind writers that they have to write. The book has plenty of advice, much of it tongue in cheek, for anyone looking for inspiration from one who has sweat it all the way to the National Book Award ceremony.
I’ve read books called On Writing (by Stephen King) and On Writing Well (by William Zinsser), How to Write a Damn Good Novel (James Frey), and Bird by Bird (by Anne Lamont). Save the Cat (by Blake Snyder), itself a best seller, is written specifically for screen plays, and there are plenty of books, essays, and blogs about organizing and plotting a writing project. Each has contributed something unique to my understanding of the craft.
Given how much writing there is out there on writing, why is it so hard to write?
Writing isn’t just a skill or a talent. It’s a practice and an art. It takes showing up, and showing up, and showing up to make the words sing, the pages dance, and the reader delight. Show up, yes, and also be present. Be in the moment with your story, your characters, their triumphs and their worries. Build their conflicts so that they dwarf those real life moments that we can’t make up. In spite of poverty, depression, frustration, and social rejection (for, as James Frey says, “Being an unpublished novelist has about as much social acceptability as being a shopping bag lady.” Frey How to Write a Damn Good Novel p. 162), you must show up and focus.
In her seminal work Steering the Craft, Ursula K. Le Guin (daughter of the wonderful anthropologist Al Kroeber), advises writers to ‘deserve their gift’. “To make something well is to give yourself to it, to seek wholeness, to follow spirit.” It takes talent and energy and spirit, not talent or energy or spirit.
We mold our work like diatomaceous earth, conscious-fully following some rules and breaking others. Every writer's end goal is similar, but it is the journey itself that is the point of the travail, and improves our crafting.
Writers must constantly “fight the blankness”. We must show up and shadow-box with the barren landscape of the page, the screen, our mind, even the desolation of our own vacant soul, when no thought worth sharing bobs to the surface. And from deep within our scarred ego we must find vigor that we did not know we possessed; we must show up and show up and show up.
November is filled with excitement. The holidays are almost here, National Novel Writing Month is underway, and the 518 Publishing Company’s debut publication will soon be released. Dark & Bitter is an anthology of short stories by authors from the New York’s 518 area code and beyond. The common denominator of the genre-spanning anthology is: characters who enjoy coffee. Many of the authors selected are heretofore unpublished, and it was a great experience to work with them. We kick off November with a series of author interviews from our maiden publication: Dark & Bitter.
I’m at Denny’s having coffee, of course, with Rosanne Braslow. Her story, What Waits in Quiet Places, is an intriguing mystery with a shade of paranormal.
“As you know, 518 Pub is blogging about the authors of Dark & Bitter, and you are the first interviewee.”
We clinked our red coffee mugs in honor of the upcoming release of the anthology.
”What’s your connection to the 518?” I ask.
“I went to college in Albany and lived in the 518 for many years. Although I’ve moved around the country, the Hudson Valley is my home base. I’m all about Upstate NY. It’s the setting for most of my stories.”
“Albany’s a great place, with many notable schools of higher education that bestow not just textbook knowledge, but a sense of being. How did you get into writing?” I asked.
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but not taking it seriously. Seven years ago, a friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo, and later I joined a critique group. This month I’m celebrating my first published credits: a short story in Dark & Bitter, and a poem in 56 Days of August,” Rosanne replied.
”Congratulations! National Novel Writing Month is a fabulous way to get a novel under your belt. Just think, 50,000 words in 30 days. It was the same for me. A good friend encouraged me. It was a challenge, but I did it. And a critique group is crucial for growth as a writer. What genre(s) do you write?”
“Primarily horror, but I’d like to try lighter fiction, maybe a mystery. I’d love to create work that is both horror and literary fiction, like Shelley’s Frankenstein or Stoker’s Dracula…,” Rosanne said. “I also write poetry (non-horror!)
“I love horror. Where do you get your ideas? Sometimes they come from peculiar sources.”
“I was raised on Dark Shadows and Creature Features. My mother is a great storyteller and a believer in ghosts, so my love for the supernatural was passed down. Everything we’re exposed to sparks ideas, everything we read and hear. It helps to believe in things that you can’t see, nor explain, if you are going to write horror,” Rosanne said.
“Your mother must be an interesting person. I love to listen to stories from older people. What was the inspiration for your story, ‘What Waits in Quiet Places’.”
“My protagonist was originally intended to be a grown-up Nancy Drew. When I submitted it for a Nancy Drew-themed anthology, the publisher felt that my Nancy Drew who enjoyed martinis was irreverent! So I tweaked it and submitted it to Dark and Bitter, where I thought it might be a good fit. Thankfully, 518 Pub agreed.”
“518 Pub is pleased you submitted. Your story is fast-paced and mysterious. I loved it,” I said. “Last question: what is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Inertia. When I haven’t written for a while, I fear that I’ll sit down and find that the words have dried up. The longer I go without writing the harder it is to sit down again. Hence, a daily routine makes good sense.”
“I was thinking that, as I work on my own NaNoWriMo novel for 2017. I’m so glad we got together so that our readers have an opportunity to know a little about the author behind the short story, ‘What Waits in Quiet Places’.”