Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Power of Print

When we do what we were made for and follow it to a completion, when we offer our work as a way to touch others, it opens the way for more. ~ Colleen from “Book Signing”

My husband, Joe, and I recently attended the 1st Annual Franklin County Book Festival where I met other local authors and publishers. Held at the Rocky Mount Library, the day’s events were structured around morning and afternoon sessions related to Local Fiction, Regional History, Local Publishing, Memoirs, and more. Each session consisted of a panel of authors and publishers who shared their literary experiences and then took questions from the audience.

We arrived too late for the morning sessions, and so, after a light lunch at a local cafĂ©, Joe attended the afternoon session entitled “Jack Tales and other Appalachian Stories,” and I headed for the room where the memoir panel was converging. There, I listened to the following four authors: Ibby Greer, publisher of the Blue Ridge Traditions magazine; Judy Light Ayyildiz, creative writing teacher, founder of the Blue Ridge Writers Conference, and former editor of Artemis, a Roanoke poetry publication; Rodney Franklin, a Roanoke author and retiree from teaching and the military; and Diane M. Popek-Jones, freelance writer and author of two book on local history as well as 2 memoirs.

Each told a unique and interesting story of how and why they chose to write a memoir, and each, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, had self-published their memoir in some form or other.

When I lost my brothers 4 years ago, I already had a number of articles, commentaries, and poems published. It was natural for me to make meaning out of loss through writing. In fact, it felt as I was born to write “The Jim and Dan Stories” and that all my writing before their deaths was done in preparation for it.

I’m a firm believer that stories are meant to be told, that real-life stories are often the most interesting, and that the power of print should be accessible to the general population. On my website, where I chronicle how I came to write and locally publish my own book, I wrote …start where you are and let your expression grow from there, work locally, be famous in your own small town for whatever it is you do, because a small town is really just a microcosm in which the whole world is reflected.

One of the memoir authors at the Book Festival published her book via “books on demand,” a fairly new online publishing option that is affordable and available to most everyone. Another, pointed out that when you publish with a small press, you will be doing most of your own marketing anyways. With self-publishing, you have full control. The financial investment is all yours, but so are all the profits.

Indeed, after I set up Silver and Gold Productions as my virtual publishing storefront and then employed local resources to print the first 300 "Jim and Dan Stories," a couple of people wanted me to publish their books under the "Silver and Gold" umbrella (which I would do if I had more skill and ambition). This is often how small presses are born. It’s also an example of what “in house” publishing is. The following is a excerpt from an essay from “ Muses Like Moonlight“ called “Homegrown,” in which I address in-house publishing.

One of my husband’s mentors, Bo Lozoff, is an author and co-founder of the Prison Ashram Project, which teaches meditation practice to prison inmates. Bo has a new book out called “It’s a Meaningful Life: It Just Takes Practice.” After years of “in house” publishing, his new book was published by a mainstream publisher. On a recent visit to the Human Kindness Foundation in North Carolina, where Bo and his wife Sita live, Bo told my husband that mainstream publishing isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. He can’t get copies of his new book without buying them, which creates a problem since part of the Prison Ashram Project is making Bo’s books available to inmates free of charge.

I must have done something right because The Jim and Dan Stories, was first published in 2003 and is half-way through a 3rd printing now. Beyond that, all the re-connections that it’s rekindled, and the heartfelt positive feedback it’s received by the students at the Radford University class where it’s used in a grief and loss curriculum, through letters, emails, and in person…has been PRICELESS.

Note: Originally posted on looseleafnotes.com on September 5, 2005

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