Finally, Author! Author! is back on track and I’m pleased to introduce Barbara Florio Graham, the managing editor of a dynamite book titled Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List. The book contains 34 first-person stories from 18 contributors in 14 locations across Canada, from the NWT to PEI. The contributors are all professional writers; many have won awards. The interesting thing is that they all belong to an email list of writers that Barbara created five years ago. (There are 23 in the group; 18 submitted stories and the rest acted as cheerleaders.) It’s also interesting that none of the contributors paid anything to get the book published.
Before we jump into the interview, here’s a thumbnail sketch of Barbara’s professional life: she’s worked both as a writer and a broadcaster, taught English, handled public relations for various clients, served as a contributing editor to several publications and taught workshops in writing and media relations in both the public and private sector. An awards-winning author of three books, Barbara also has extensive experience as a mentor and publishing consultant.
You said that none of you paid anything to get this book published. How so?
I meant that literally. We invested only our time and effort. Bridgeross is a mid-size publisher with more than a dozen titles published to date. The owner is Marvin Ross, a colleague and good friend, which is why I approached him. I told the group I wasn’t willing to consider an anthology until we had a publisher lined up.
Marvin offered us his standard contract, which I modified slightly (one of the services I offer to authors is contract review, so I know what is needed to protect authors). We’re receiving the standard royalty of 10% of retail sales (not net, as some publishing contracts state!). We worked out a formula for dividing the royalties among the editors, designers and contributors.
We asked for up to three submissions of first-person stories between 500 and 1000 words. We rejected a few, asked for significant editing of a few others, and didn’t slot the pieces into the five categories until close to the end (Misadventures, Rear-View Mirror, What In The World, Love And Loss, Exit Laughing). That was actually the most difficult part of the editing process!
We were amazed at how few challenges we faced. The three editors (Irene Davis, Fred Desjardins and I) worked together beautifully, and became really close in the course of communicating with each other almost every day for four months. Some days there were many messages flying back and forth! Humor helped.
Since the list is mine, I set some of the parameters, including that there would be no communication behind anyone’s back. Everything was transparent, with all three editors copied on everything. And if we disagreed (which only happened a couple of times) we were strict about majority rules. That was why I insisted there be three editors.
How did you dole out the tasks?
Irene is the best editor and grammarian I know, so I asked her to be primary editor, with the last word on grammar, punctuation, etc. Fred was our Acquisitions Editor, coaxing list members to submit stories, and he was also our second proofreader, as that’s something I know I’m not good at.
All three of us read every submission, sent comments back and forth, and sent several pieces back and forth several times.
I handled the format and design of the book, liaison with Marvin (although I copied Irene and Fred on everything), came up with the cover design concept and asked Steve Pitt if he could provide a photo. He also added to my concept. Then Julie Watson’s son, John, a brilliant photographer who does her book covers, executed the actual cover. I designed and wrote the copy for the back cover.
The 18 contributors were all thoroughly professional, with no one objecting to having a piece rejected or to editing suggestions. I think this is because we all know each other very well and have become close friends. All list-members had a say in the title and sub-title. Many ideas were submitted, I eliminated some by checking to see if they were already in use, and then we voted on the finalists.
What’s the response been from authors and readers?
Contributors and other list members love the book, and feedback has been extremely positive from everyone. We’ve had great reviews, including many five-star reviews on Amazon, libraries have purchased copies and there have been launches, book-signings and readings in most of the contributors’ locations.
The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and on Kindle and other e-book formats, as well as at independent bookstores in the U.S. and Canada.
What an amazing project. I’m sure that Barbara (and the rest of the authors) will be happy to field questions and respond to comments. Below, I’ve posted the blurb that appears on the back cover which includes the authors’ names and gives a sense of what to expect. You can see that it promises to be a delicious read!
Tales from a Private List
DRIVE through the Northwest Territories with Helena Katz as she brings a herd of alpacas to their new home in her back yard.
JOIN Trudy Kelly Forsythe at the Rolling Stones’ Big Bang Tour, and Barbara Florio Graham in her encounter with actor Peter Falk (aka Columbo).
WATCH award-winning humorist Steve Pitt deal with cherry-stealing kids, and award-winning cookbook author Julie Watson wrestle with a lobster on TV.
CLIMB inside a Santa suit with broadcaster/humorist Gordon Gibb, and see a Christmas tree from Helen Lammers-Helps’ vantage point.
EXPERIENCE birth from an infant’s point of view, in a mesmerizing piece by Elle Andra-Warner.
SHARE household hilarity with Lanny Boutin and Joanne Carnegie, while Debbie Gamble deals with body issues and Lorri Benedik with unwanted compliments.
CRY with Barbara Bunce Desmeules Massobrio as she describes My Life Now, and with Hilda Young as she comes to terms with her son’s suicide.
DISCOVER Canadian trivia book author Mark Kearney’s secret to winning prizes at fall fairs, while Irene Davis deals with a vanished voice and Fred Desjardins with growing older.
Welcome! This is where I occasionally pluck and post recent Stories or put notices of upcoming Workshops, such as memoir or travel writing. Author! Author! is a by-weekly series of interviews with authors about the writing life, and getting published. Anything else lands in Odds & Sods. Enjoy your visit and come back often. Better yet, subscribe!