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.



A Year of No

I committed to myself in 2016 that I would make more of an effort to get my writing out into the world. I submitted my work to publications more often last year than ever before. For the writers among my readers, here’s a breakdown of how that went:

I submitted individual pieces (poems, essays, and stories) 70 times, to 25 different outlets. Twice I submitted directly to an editor; the other times, I submitted via whatever means the publication specified on their website—Submittable, some other system, or email. I drafted multiple versions of cover letters as well as my biography, tailoring them for specific markets. I reported most of my submissions on Duotrope, which I’ve been using for several years. I also began keeping track of my intentions and outcomes for specific pieces and markets on a spreadsheet.

In some cases, I responded to calls for themed submissions; other times, I fervently searched for the best home for a piece; occasionally, I entered contests. I spent $12 on sample issues and $15 on contest fees. Continue reading “A Year of No”

Time To Get Organized

I’ve dedicated this semester to working on my thesis, which I intend to be a collection of poems and short stories about the experience of being adopted. I don’t have any classes to attend this fall. This is good in that I won’t be distracted by homework assignments, and I’ll be able to put my kids to bed every night. However, it’s also challenging, because I have to impose some kind of structure on myself to get the work done.

To that end, this past week I decided to create an Excel spreadsheet to log all of the poems I have written over the past several years. I documented the status of each poem and also categorized the poems by the major themes I tend to write about. I also linked each poem in my spreadsheet to it’s folder on my hard drive so I can easily get to my drafts directly from my log.

Simplified sample of my spreadsheet (click to see larger).

I had a few different goals in mind for doing this. I’d been having trouble keeping track of which poems I’d finished and which I’d left in the draft stage, as well as which I’d published, submitted to journals, etc. So I wanted an easy way to produce a list I could work from of poems that are either finished or in process. To help with submissions, I also wanted a way to easily get a list of poems with a certain theme or poems written in a particular style. Creating columns on my spreadsheet for each of these criteria and utilizing Excel’s filter feature seems to be just what I needed.

Now that I’m able to quickly see all of my poems in one place, I’ve discovered that I’ve left a hefty number of them unfinished. The last academic year pulled me in so many different directions, I’d start a piece then abandon it temporarily to finish other things I needed to get done. Then when I’d sit down to work on poems, I’d forget which ones I needed to go back to. In the few days I’ve been working from the spreadsheet, I’ve already completed some poems that had been waiting for attention for quite a while–and that feels great!

I also see now how I can group my poems in different ways for submission to journals, because I’m able to quickly isolate pieces that deal with similar subject matter, or play with form in a similar way, etc. I think this is going to help me get my poems out there for others to read on more of a regular basis.

Today I created a similar spreadsheet to log my short stories. If I stay organized, I think I have a good shot of keeping to the schedule I proposed for completing my thesis, assuming, of course, that the writing itself goes well. I had a little trouble getting back into fiction mode this morning. But, that’s another post.