New Year, New Venture

It’s February. How did that happen? For weeks, I’ve been meaning to share some thoughts here about the new year, writing goals, personal goals, etc., but I haven’t been able to find time. I’ve been busy making plans and preparations for a new venture I’d like to share today.

I am launching my own independent, for-profit, micro-press called Raised Voice Press that will exclusively publish creative nonfiction books by authors who have found it difficult to be heard.

Yes, I’ve been very busy. Starting a business is a big deal. It’s taken a lot of contemplation and soul-searching and planning for me to get to this moment. I assessed my skills and my interests, my weaknesses and my aversions. I wrote an honest-to-god business plan, complete with a three-year cash flow estimate, to prove to myself that this idea I have is viable. Writer friends, I know you can imagine how grueling that was. I figured, if I still want to do it after going through that, I must be ready.

You see, last year I came to the conclusion that, for the sake of both my family’s and my own well-being, I needed to either get a job or start a business. Owning my own business has been on my mind since I was in my twenties. I’ve worked in a corporate environment, and I hated it. I don’t have a strong desire to teach. I scrolled through job ads for over a year, feeling ill at the thought of applying for any of them. Having been a stay-at-home mom for sixteen years, I’m used to being in control of my own time. I’m not willing to give that up unless forced.

For a number of reasons, I need to work at something other than writing. Not that I’m giving up writing. Over this past year, I’ve come to terms with the reality of the writing life, how long it takes to develop as a writer, how much I still need to learn and practice, which requires time and patience. I realized that writing being my only thing led to my putting undo pressure on myself to achieve in ways that are detrimental to the kind of work I’d ultimately like to be able to create.

And the fact of the matter is, I’m no longer a young person. I don’t want to squander any of my time.

So I’m giving myself a job that suits my passions and abilities. Being that I’m a writer who would like to have my own work valued, I take the responsibility for other’s words seriously. This is one of the reasons I decided my press would be for-profit. I want to be able to help other writers get their books in the hands of readers and be paid for their work.

I decided to focus on creative nonfiction because, though there is valuable work being done in every genre of literature, there are far fewer publishers who specialize in literary nonfiction books than either fiction or poetry. And, most of all, because I love creative nonfiction. It’s the genre I both read and write most often. It’s the genre that feels most comfortable to me and the genre in which I’m most interested in developing an expertise.

I’ve noticed, too, that there’s a lack of local literary activties for lovers of creative nonfiction outside of Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. (Shout out to cold places where I never thought I’d wish I lived!) I can find plenty of events around my home for poetry and fiction–and the occasional narrative nonfiction story, so long as it sounds an awful lot like fiction, or lyric essay, so long as we call it a prose poem–but I’ve been able find exactly zero events dedicated to nonfiction. I hope for Raised Voice Press to be able begin hosting CNF events once we get our feet on the ground.

When I say “we,” understand that the press is about 99% me, with support from my husband John on the business end. He’s my cheerleader, and that itself is more valuable than I can express, but he also has decades of experience in keeping businesses solvent. I’m fortunate to be able to rely on a little of his free labor to get this business up and running. I don’t want to rely on the free labor of others, however, so the press will utilize freelance assistance as needed until we’re able to afford hiring any permanent staff.

I’ve made a commitment not only to this new venture, but also to a new way of living my life. I’m determined to maintain high standards, yes, but also to let go of the need for perfection and embrace the idea of being good enough. As I begin, I am not an expert on publishing per se, but I am commited to doing the best job I can do and enjoying the time I’ll need to spend learning new skills.

In order to get the press off the ground, I will be publishing a book of my own. I did not ever envision publishing my own book, however I also don’t think it’s fair to work out the kinks in our publishing process on someone else’s book. I would rather be my own guinea pig. The book’s not ready yet for its big reveal, but I will say it’s not a memoir and it is about adoption. Watch this space.

I hope you’ll take a minute to look at the website and see what Raised Voice Press is all about. And if you’re so inclined, please follow on Facebook and/or Twitter.

If you have a manuscript you’re ready to publish, I’d love to hear about it. You can find our submission guidelines here.



So She Wouldn’t Forget

At no one’s urging, my daughter sat at our piano and sounded out the simple tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” practicing it over and over until she could play it quick and smooth. I joined her to add a couple of complimentary chords, so that she would understand the potential of a song.

She wanted more. I dug out my son’s first lesson book. He’d taken piano and voice at a private music school, then picked up cello and guitar in his public middle schools, but no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve yet to convince my daughter to take lessons to learn to play an instrument. She doesn’t want to set a timer for thirty minutes of daily practice or be required to perform in a recital. She flipped through the first few pages of my son’s old book and began asking questions. Where do my fingers go? What are the keys called?

I showed her how to identify the notes A through G, how patterns repeat over and over on the keyboard, how to move her fingers through a scale. I walked away as she began randomly striking keys to hear how their notes combined. She called me back when she discovered a pleasing riff she wanted to share.

I explained that the notes she’d chosen were a portion of a chord, then demonstrated how she could create some easy chords herself. She added two she particularly liked to the end of her riff and decided this was a song. She asked me for paper to record where her fingers had gone so she wouldn’t forget. I printed off a few sheets with keyboard diagrams she could color. She kept at composing for the better part of an hour, asking me to listen each time she added a new progression to her song. She had no purpose besides pleasing herself, no motivation to continue besides the sheer joy of creating.

When I was my daughter’s age, I spent hours alone in my bedroom spinning records over and over, memorizing lyrics and melodies, learning to sing by imitating what I heard. I wrote song lyrics out on paper, studied the forms they took, tried to mold my own words into similar shapes. Those days continue to resonate.

We grow up and we require better reasons for spending our time. We seek measurable results, quantifiable benefits, proof that the outcome of our lives will be worth the cost of our days. My daughter doesn’t want the applause of an audience or an award of excellence or royalties from publishing her song. She is content hearing the harmony she has made. She has not yet learned to need anything extra for her effort.

I sit here shaping these words against an imperative to defend every minute I spend. I fight to remain faithful to the pure impetus of creation, to serve as a reliable witness, my daughter’s student in this lesson.



I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #17 of 52.


Small but Mighty Fine

I’m a bit late in sharing this here due to Hurricane Irma, but I’m still smiling about having a short essay of mine called “Does It Matter If I Never Publish My Memoir?” published on the Brevity blog. Thank you, Allison Williams!

For those unfamiliar, Brevity is an online journal featuring flash creative nonfiction. Check out their recently published 20th anniversary issue.



I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #15 of 52.


Those who have been following me here this year know that I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challengewhich means I’ve been *trying* to write one essay, no matter how small, every week during 2017. Alas, I have fallen behind, but I’m going to continue this practice regardless. The act of attempting to produce something worth sharing every week is helping me to get into a writing groove that I think is sustainable long term, even though there will be occasional breaks. That’s just life.

This practice is also inspiring me to share essays in places besides here on my personal blog. Today I’ve posted my essay #12, a distinctly adoptee observation, at Lost Daughters. I hope you’ll visit there to read.

Middle Place

The closer I get to turning fifty, the more age obsessed I find myself, including with my own writing progress. I’m noticing how often I read stuff written by much younger people. Twenty- and thirty-somethings are publishing all over the place, in confident voices that make them sound worldly, wise, and fearless. How did they acquire so much swagger, so much knowledge, while I feel perpetually timid and inadequate?

It’s probably not true that everyone publishing anything is younger than me, but sometimes it seems that way, just as it seems that every writer worth a damn is flitting off to residencies or conferences. Either they’re young enough to not yet have many commitments other than to themselves and their work, or they’re old enough that their downsized empty nests and ample retirement income allow them great freedom. I try to push away the nagging worry that they’re more invested in their writing than I am in mine. Continue reading “Middle Place”