Share this page:

Allyson's Blog

She Writes, Indeed, an essay by Suzanne Adam

 

 
Suzanne Adam and I met in 2010, while I was leading writing workshops at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Santiago, Chile. I was a structural editor for her first memoir, Marrying Santiago, which was later awarded the 2016 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award. Suzanne, a member of the long-running Santiago Writers, is about to release her second book, a collection of personal essays. She shares her editing process and pre-publication experience here.

 

I read and reread my manuscript and am satisfied. It is ready. Time to make the big leap . . . Or is it?

As I read the text yet again, doubts flood me. I’ve read it so often that it sounds flat to me. Will readers actually find engaging this mixed bag of expanded blog posts, travel pieces, and musings from my past? Will a publisher be interested?

There is only one way to find out.

A friend of a friend recommends She Writes Press. I check out their website. It’s a hybrid press (author and publisher share expenses), designed to give more opportunities to women writers. That’s for me. Copy. Attach. Send.

Days later, the publisher’s name appears in my email inbox. She’s accepted my manuscript, Notes from the Bottom of the World, A Life in Chile! Then I read on. My manuscript needs work, she writes, and she assigns me to Annie, an independent editor.

Weekly thirty-minute Skype sessions with Annie are equivalent to a semester in creative writing. We first tackle structure for this essay collection, written over the past three or four years. Picking the first and last piece is easy, as is arranging the essays in chronological order. I’m filled with satisfaction when themes and chapter titles reveal themselves to me bit by bit. I cut up colored index cards, big pieces for chapter titles and smaller ones with essay titles, and set them out on the floor to organize. It’s like a game. I move the cards back and forth and gradually see my book taking shape.

In addition to perfecting my writing skills, I must become a saleswoman. It doesn’t come naturally to me.  I dread facing this aspect of publishing but also see it as a challenge. I can do it! Sales hook, book description, selling points, target audience, biography, key words for Amazon searches, and endorsements. To my surprise I find learning these new tasks enjoyable, as is working on the book cover with the SWP designer. What a sense of satisfaction when we get the cover just right.

Do I need a publicist? Posts on the Fall 2018 She Writes Press Authors Facebook page convince me that I do. The cost of hiring a publicist makes me reluctant, but living overseas I recognize that I will need help if I want to reach a wider public through book talks, news articles, and podcasts. I find Isabella, a local publicist in the San Francisco Bay Area where I plan to spend a month at the time of my book’s publication. Isabella is guiding me through this daunting marketing process. Enthusiastic, she reassures me when I express worry about public presentations. People will want to get to know you, the person behind the words, she says. She has excellent contacts at libraries, clubs, and bookstores. I am even scheduled for a book talk and signing at my favorite independent bookstore, Book Passage, where I’ve attended author talks over the years. A dream come true.

Isabella is planning more activities as we get closer to my November 6 publication date. I must also advertise on Facebook and send out emails to friends and acquaintances. Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), which will look just like the published book, will be sent to me and my publicist within two months, and Isabella will distribute copies to reviewers.

I’ve spent years bending over a computer, dog-earring my thesaurus, jotting down ideas before I forget, and editing, editing, editing. And now, the publication wheels are in motion. This waiting time brings a mix of excitement and nervousness. And my mind spins with questions: Will I get decent turnouts at my book talks? Can I deliver a compelling talk? (This is something I’m reading up on now.) What will the reviews say?

Whatever the next few months bring, I’m ready. I have to be. And most amazing of all, I’ll soon hold my second book in my hands.

 

§     §     §

SUZANNE ADAM grew up northern California. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she served in the Peace Corps in Colombia before moving to Santiago, Chile in 1972 to marry Santiago. She explores how this experience shaped her life in her 2015 memoir Marrying Santiago, published under the imprint of Peace Corps Writers. Her new book, Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile, will be available on November 6, 2018.

She admits to being a tree-hugger, avid reader, nature writer, friend to stray dogs and cats, gardener, CNN news junkie, bird watcher, lover of storms and laughter, and doting granny. Before turning to writing, she worked as a teacher of learning disabled children. A member of Santiago Writers, she has published essays in The Christian Science Monitor, California Magazine, Marin Independent Journal, Nature Writing, and Persimmon Tree. She blogs at Tarweed Spirit.

Both Notes from the Bottom of the World, A Life in Chile and Marrying Santiago can be purchased from Amazon.com.

 

 

The Soap Box, a Toronto-Based Small Press, Co-Hosts Publishing Fair, November 17, 2018

Guest post by Tali Voron

 

From Pen to Published will take place November 17, 2018, in downtown Toronto. Registration is free till October 17, 2018, $10 at the door, $5 for students with valid ID.

 

Every step of The Soap Box journey has been exciting, but so far 2018 has been a whirlwind. And best of all, it will culminate in a special event, From Pen to Published, taking place in downtown Toronto on November 17, from 12 to 7 p.m. This publishing fair represents a unique collaboration between the press and a dynamic Toronto-based writing group, The 11th Floor Writers.

It all started when I met bestselling novelist Ann Y.K. Choi (Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety) at a series of mentorship events for students in the English Literature program at the University of Toronto. She was a wonderful role model, and our relationship quickly turned into a mentorship, and finally, into the working partnership it is today.

During several meetings over coffee, Ann told me about her writing group, The 11th Floor Writers, which has been together for eleven years and wanted to mark their progress by publishing an anthology. The group comprises twelve writers unified by their enrollment in various courses in the Creative Writing Program at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. The members write poetry and prose in a range of genres, including sci-fi, historical fiction, autobiography, and memoir.

Since The Soap Box’s mission is to showcase emerging writers, I suggested that we be their publisher, and within a matter of weeks, our two teams were working together to create a collection we believe in, Voices From the 11th Floor.

A typical book launch invites the writer’s family, friends, and colleagues, but as our ideas for the group’s launch took shape, it morphed into something bigger. The resulting event, From Pen to Published, will feature industry speakers and craft workshops, and incorporate the kick-off for Voices From the 11th Floor. Registration is open to the public, but in particular we encourage attendance by emerging writers, individuals interested in careers in the publishing industry, and post-secondary students studying writing, editing, or publishing.

Our featured speakers will be Alana Wilcox, editorial director of Coach House Books; author Joe Kertes, founder of Humber School for Writers; and author Ann Y.K. Choi, who has recently been named one of the jurors for the coveted Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. As well, workshop facilitators will offer six workshops focusing on various aspects of writing and publishing.

Tali giving a reading

The idea for The Soap Box came to me in April 2016, a few weeks after my twentieth birthday and at the end of my second year at University of Toronto. A newspaper ad on the dining room table caught my eye: it promoted an opportunity to start a summer business with the support of a grant and a mentor. My partner and I started brainstorming to help his 16-year-old brother get involved in the program. We envisioned a range of possibilities: a sustainable coffee shop, inventive iPhone applications, handmade products. And that got me thinking about my own passion—

Books.

Years ago, in order to mark my high school graduation, my dad had helped me self-publish a collection of short stories. I had always dreamed of writing and publishing a book, although I never imagined it would happen so early in my life. Suddenly, my dream was a reality. To be able to hold my creative work in my hands, and to share it with loved ones was life-changing. Could I help other emerging writers get published as well? I understood first-hand the barriers that existed for new writers trying to break into the industry. I wondered if I could find a way to create a space for new and diverse voices.

I knew that starting an independent press wasn’t within the scope of a summer student program; nor would it be a lucrative endeavour. I contributed the initial funds to get the paper work in order, set up a website, and covered the costs of our first anthology, The Soap Box: Volume I: Change. I decided that the press would run on a self-funding model: we would publish books, and the profits from book sales and launches would be used to fund upcoming publications.

It was a lot to take on, and there were logistics to figure out. For once, though, uncertainty didn’t scare me. My academic background in English literature, combined with years spent writing and editing in various capacities gave me the skills and confidence to assume the role of editor-in-chief. All I needed was a team that shared my vision.

This felt right. I could wait for the “perfect time” to follow my dreams and spend every waking moment until then pursuing a path that wasn’t meant for me. Or I could start now.

Today, The Soap Box comprises a core team of ten driven and passionate individuals. It’s been almost two and a half years, and I’m proud to say that the press is thriving. To date we have published three creative writing anthologies and three poetry chapbooks, and have hosted three launches. In November 2018 we’ll release Voices From the 11th Floor, our most ambitious anthology to date, and in December, we’ll publish our third poetry chapbook of the year. (Submissions for the fourth anthology will be accepted in Winter 2019; watch our website for an announcement.)

As the press grows, we will selectively accept prose and poetry manuscripts for publication. Writers are welcome to contact us at www.thesoapboxwrites.com to discuss their projects and publishing goals. We publish works based on artistic merit. To ensure that external biases do not influence our editorial board, we remove from the submission any information identifying the author.

One of our aims is to eliminate as many financial barriers as possible to getting published. For the annual Soap Box anthology, there is no submission fee. For poetry chapbooks — collections of 48 pages of poetry or less — we request a small submission fee to help offset production costs.

At The Soap Box, we pride ourselves on our collaborative creative process. Writers are intimately involved from start to finish: from in-depth feedback and conversations with editors about how their work can be improved, to participating in the selection of a cover, to receiving promotion and marketing, and finally to seeing how a digital text transforms into a bound book.

I’m fortunate to be pursuing my passion and am endlessly grateful to my team, friends, and family who have chosen to embark on this journey with me. Every day, we make it our mission to ensure that we share the stories of as many voices as we can, while also maintaining the high calibre of work we can take pride in. With every publication, we grow stronger as a press, and as a community. We may be small, but we are mighty, and we will continue to make publishing more accessible, diverse, and inclusive, one word at a time.

Our hope is that for many emerging writers, From Pen to Published will be just the beginning.

 

The 11th Floor Writers

 

Visit The Soap Box (www.thesoapboxwrites.com), to check out the books we’ve published, or just to get in touch!

 For details about, and to register for From Pen to Published, click here.

Voices From the 11th Floor will be on sale at the fair (taxes exempted for cash purchases).

§     §     §

TALI VORON is driven by her passion for creative writing, love of people, and the desire to make the publishing industry more accessible. She completed her Bachelor of Arts, Honours at the University of Toronto in English Literature, Education, and Psychology. In September 2018 she will begin her MA in the Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University. In her spare time, Tali pens prose on her blog, drinks copious amounts of coffee, spends time with her favourite people, and enjoys making terrible puns.

Wordless Wednesday: May 30, 2018

 

©2018 Allyson Latta

 

Scroll through more of my photos here.

And drop by to see this week’s contributions from my writer-photographer friends across Canada:

Allison Howard (PhotoAlly)

Barbara Lambert

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)

 

To subscribe to my blog and receive occasional posts, click HERE.

 

Recent posts on writing

NEWThe Things We Keep by Lesley Butler

Writer Sandra Shaw Homer, at Home in Costa Rica, interviewed on VoicePenPurpose

From the Archives: Five Tips for Memoirists by Award-Winning Author Lawrence Hill

Everyone Has a Story: Or, the Five Things I Learned on a Writers’ Retreat in Italy, an essay by Dale Synnett-Caron

Writing from Real Life: Daring to Be Heard, an essay by Ann Y.K. Choi

Wordless Wednesday: May 24, 2018

 

©2018 Allyson Latta

 

Scroll through more of my photos here.

And drop by to see this week’s contributions from my writer-photographer friends across Canada:

Allison Howard (PhotoAlly)

Barbara Lambert

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)

 

To subscribe to my blog and receive occasional posts, click HERE.

 

Recent posts on writing

NEW: The Things We Keep by Lesley Butler

Writer Sandra Shaw Homer, at Home in Costa Rica, interviewed on VoicePenPurpose

From the Archives: Five Tips for Memoirists by Award-Winning Author Lawrence Hill

Everyone Has a Story: Or, the Five Things I Learned on a Writers’ Retreat in Italy, an essay by Dale Synnett-Caron

Writing from Real Life: Daring to Be Heard, an essay by Ann Y.K. Choi

Wordless Wednesday: March 28, 2018

 

©2018 Allyson Latta

 

Scroll through more of my photos here.

And drop by to see this week’s contributions from my writer-photographer friends across Canada:

Allison Howard (PhotoAlly)

Barbara Lambert

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)

 

To subscribe to my blog and receive occasional posts, click HERE.

 

Recent posts on writing

NEW: The Things We Keep by Lesley Butler

Writer Sandra Shaw Homer, at Home in Costa Rica, interviewed on VoicePenPurpose

From the Archives: Five Tips for Memoirists by Award-Winning Author Lawrence Hill

Everyone Has a Story: Or, the Five Things I Learned on a Writers’ Retreat in Italy, an essay by Dale Synnett-Caron

Writing from Real Life: Daring to Be Heard, an essay by Ann Y.K. Choi

The Things We Keep, a guest post by Lesley Butler

 

 

What things do we keep?

When you move, what do you choose to take with you? What do you want close at hand?

And what have you left behind in the various places you’ve called home? Are these physical things, or are they memories, feelings, ideas?

These were the questions at the heart of our event The Things We Keep, hosted by The Blue Castle: Conversations on Women, Culture, and the Spaces of the Imagination and the Saltwater Stories research group. Inspired by themes of migration, memory, and identity, and with a particular interest in the multifaceted manifestations of our journeys, we invited anyone interested to bring the things they keep, and the stories that made them meaningful. A show-and-tell for adults, if you will.

While the premise of our event was quite simple (we wanted to hear your stories!), the conversation generated was anything but. It was insightful, moving, engaging, often humorous, and wonderfully complex.

On March 8, 2018, we eagerly gathered at the MMaP Gallery, Arts and Culture in St. John’s, Newfoundland, stories ready to share. After taking our seats in a cozy, circular seating arrangement — all the better for seeing and hearing each other — we introduced ourselves and embarked on our storytelling journey. Our guests ranged from individuals who had spent the majority of their lives in St. John’s, to people who had made a “home” in many places around the world. The generational diversity of our group, too, led to some lively repartee about our respective stories.

While there was a wide array of things, including journals, seashells, cooking materials, books, poems, christening outfits, and even a 1946 car manual, notable threads connected each and every one.

 

Stories of place

The connection between things and place was central to many of our guests’ stories. One guest, for example, shared a poignant story of her time in New Orleans. With brightly coloured Mardi Gras beads jangling and sparkling around her neck, she recalled the undeniable sense of place cultivated through food, conversation, and comradery with her neighbours. While the beads were things she had kept, it was the stories of generosity and the memories of place that she would always carry.

 

Stories of the past

The significance of the past was an underlying theme to each story. The things we keep necessarily have a history — of our own personal journeys, or our family histories, or collective histories of culture, religion, and literature. For example, one guest brought a small Catholic cross given to her by her mother — an heirloom to keep her late grandfather’s spirit close during times of conflict and uncertainty. Despite being somewhat skeptical of religion, she developed a curious attachment to this cross. By keeping it close through her journeys around the world, she came to realize that its significance was not so much in the thing itself as in the histories, feelings, and memories that it embodied.

Unwrapping objects in a box from green tissue paper, another guest revealed two small artifacts — a fractured piece of a pipe, and a clear, slightly cracked inkpot. On the paper was a hand-drawn map, showing where she had dug these mysterious, delicate objects from the ground many moons ago (which interestingly, was only about a 10-minute walk from where our event was held). She speculated where they might have come from, who might have owned them, why they had ended up buried in the earth. In fact, it is through speculation that these things came to have a story, and an imagined history. She also pondered what we would find if we kept digging, what other things could we unearth, what other (hi)stories could we conjure? Surely, she suggested, you could write a book about it all.

 

Stories of our selves

Another major theme was the stories of our selves, past and present. One guest brought a journal from her teenage years that brought back humorous memories of romantic optimism, but also made her (and via discussion, the whole room) wonder about the nature of our selves over time. Do we recognize the self that exists within a journal’s bounds? When we move/change/grow, do we ever remain the same? What of our public and private selves? For whom do we write and represent the self? Is it for ourselves or others? For whom do we change? What happens when our journeys create multiple, fragmented selves? And what would it take to piece them back together?

Another guest recalled her days as a youth in a military family, where multiple moves across borders meant things in the physical sense were not easily transported. Aside from her mother’s all-important dishes, there were few belongings they kept on their journeys. And yet, years later, looking at the designs on these dishes, she realized that one of the things she “kept” was colour. Some of her favourite colours — bright lime greens, purples, oranges — reminded her of the mod styles with which she grew up, and which painted the borders of her mother’s prized dishes. Some things we keep might not be tangible in the traditional sense but can nevertheless seep into our sensorial experiences; they create a residual, bodily affect upon our moving, changing, multifaceted selves.

 

Each of the stories shared that evening illuminated the role of things within our journeys through place, through time, and through selves. These keepsakes act as reminders of the past, of family, of home, of feelings, of who we have been and who we could be. As we move across borders, between houses, beneath land, over waters, perhaps what we keep represents a glimmer of continuity in the sometimes-unpredictable journeys of our ever-changing, ever-complex lives.

If you kept digging, what could you find? What would you discover?

If you kept digging, you could write a book with the countless stories of the things you keep.

♦     ♦     ♦

Lesley Butler

LESLEY BUTLER is a Master of Gender Studies candidate at Memorial University. She has research interests in life writing, memory, postcolonial theory, feminist geography, and women in film. Her current research examines the films of Julie Dash through an auto/biographical lens, focusing particularly on how the self is (re)written alongside representations of race, identity, place, and history.