Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Roanoke Valley Bookfest

In Floyd we have locally famous artists, potters, wood-carvers, writers, and musicians; alongside well-diggers, saw-millers, hunters, and homebuilders. We also have midwives, herbalists, dousers, and rites-of-passage ceremonialists. Is it any wonder that I publish my books from my log cabin home, from a make-shift office that used to be my son’s bedroom, which is why Grateful Dead posters still hang on the walls? ~ Colleen, From "Homegrown"

My feet were still wet from the talk I gave about my book, “The Jim and Dan Stories,” at the Franklin County Book Festival last weekend, and I was just one in a panel of five authors scheduled to speak at Saturday's Roanoke Valley Bookfest. For those reasons, I wasn’t as nervous as I usually get.

Our collective panel was called “Local Voices,” and, besides myself, it included: Fellow Floydian, Fred First, author of “A Slow Road Home: A Book of Days,” a collection of seasonal poetic prose; Jon Harris, author of “Wings of the Morning,” an account of his experience as a pilot, shot down during Vietnam, Becky Mushko, humor writer, author of “Where There’s a Will” and other books, and Sally Roseveare, author of “Secrets at Spawning Run, a mystery.

We are all residents of Southwest Virginia and authors who have self-published, aka “in house publishing,” “books on demand,” or, as I like to say, “the small press just got smaller.” In my experience, some of the benefits of self publishing include: you have more control of your product, you can interface more personally with readers; it fosters a sense of self-sufficiency; and you can have book-in-hand quicker than you can when publishing traditionally.

Did you know that e. e. cummings, Carl Sandburg, and John Grisham all initially self-published? So did Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Thoreau. Blogging is a form of self publishing. Citizen journalism is on the rise.

From my point of view, I’m all for more access for everyday people to be in print. I think storytelling is our natural right and that a book to a writer is what a canvas is to an artist, or a stage is to a regional actor.

My motto is this: Start from where you are and watch how it ripples out.

Post Notes: Photos - 1. The Valley Bookfest author’s book sale table, staffed by library workers. 2. Some presenter’s perks, found in my goody tote bag.

For more on self-reliance, including self-publishing, read my WVTF radio essay, "Homegrown"HERE. Also, comments from readers prompted me to do a little research. The Hall of Fame list of authors who have self-published is more extensive than I knew. It includes Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Bly, Nikki Giovanni, and many others.

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on August 28, 2006.

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