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A Bookish Chat with John Sibley Williams, author of ‘Disinheritance’

JOhn Sibley WilliamsJohn Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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About the Book:

A lyrical, philosophical, and tender exploration of the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead, Disinheritance acknowledges loss while celebrating the uncertainty of Disinheritancea world in constant revision. From the concrete consequences of each human gesture to soulful interrogations into “this amalgam of real / and fabled light,” these poems inhabit an unsteady betweenness, where ghosts can be more real than the flesh and blood of one’s own hands.

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  • Disinheritance is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, John.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

It’s great to be here, and thank you for the invitation.

This is actually my second full-length poetry collection, and I’ve had seven chapbooks published through various small presses. Each book has its own tone, its own unique themes, so, in a way, each published book feels a lot like ‘the first time’ again.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of mainstream poetry publishers, so small presses are really the best first step for poets who are not seeking self-publishing. My previous chapbooks and my debut full length collection were all published by small presses staffed by passionate editors. I feel very lucky to have worked with them. For this new collection, Disinheritance, I sought a slightly more prominent press, and I was honored to be accepted by Apprentice House, a great press run by Loyola University students.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I signed the contract in November 2015, and both editing and design began a few months later. Though the book could have been published earlier this year, the press and I decided on September 2016 to allow for an extensive Advanced Reader Copy phase.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

My first book publication back in 2011 was a huge first step and one I will always remember. Though I had previously published a few hundred poems in literary journals, knowing that a team of editors believed in my work enough to put their time, passion, and money into its publication was humbling. I honestly don’t recall how I celebrated that first book publication, but I’m sure it involved a few unabated screams of joy.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

With my first book, as I was still a newbie to the book publishing world, I didn’t have the solid marketing plan I use now.  Also, it was a chapbook from a small press, which limited the opportunities available to me. I did use social media, of course, and I booked perhaps a half-dozen readings in my area. I was also able to acquire a few reviews from literary magazines and bloggers. If I recall, it sold a few hundred copies, which was fantastic.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

We’re all maturing as writers with each new word we write, each new book we publish, and each new author we’re exposed to. And with each new personal experience we have, our eyes open a bit more to the world and new ways of expressing our feelings about the world. Growing as a writer is a lifelong process.

I’m not sure if book publication itself has helped my writing, but it has definitely helped other creative areas. For example, creating a poetry, short story, or essay collection can be a tricky thing. How to know which pieces to keep, which to cut, and how to order them? Each collection I have published has given me a bit more confidence in how to weed out the unnecessary poems and how to structure things so a consistent tone and momentum is fostered.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It’s amazing to think around 800 books per day are published now. Digital and self-publishing have democratized the process, so pretty much anyone can publish a book now. On the one hand, the sheer abundance of books out there makes finding your readers all the more difficult. What once was a hill is now a mountain. On the other hand, thousands of fantastic authors whose work might never have found publication are finally able to be heard.

In general, I suppose what surprises me most is finding work of incredible quality coming out of presses most people haven’t heard of. These smaller presses are often staffed by volunteers or students who are so very passionate about publishing strong stories and beautiful poems. Though it’s wholly understandable, mainstream publishers are mainly interested in sales potential. There is a bottom line, and that bottom line is money. One cannot blame them for it. But because of this money-oriented approach, I tend to find the most surprising, risk-taking, and satisfying books coming out of small and university presses these days.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Definitely reader reaction. We have all read poems or novels that truly moved us, that made us reconsider ourselves, that illuminated the beauty and power of language. It has been indescribably rewarding to know my work has touched others in that way. When a total stranger who perhaps stumbled across your book or had it recommended to her contacts you out of the blue to say how much it inspired her, that is a potent feeling. When you’re giving a reading and you can see that glow in the audience’s eyes, that is unforgettable. Even after around 50 or so readings across the country, I am touched every single time someone goes out of their way to express their thoughts on my work. That’s what it’s all about. Trying to use language that lifts up off the page and resonates with people.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

There’s a reason “keep writing, keep reading” has become clichéd advice for emerging writers; it’s absolutely true. You need to study as many books as possible from authors of various genres and from various countries. Listen to their voices. Watch how they manipulate and celebrate language. Delve deep into their themes and characters and take notes on the stylistic, structural, and linguistic tools they employ. And never, ever stop writing. Write every free moment you have. Bring a notebook and pen everywhere you go (and I mean everywhere). It’s okay if you’re only taking notes. Notes are critical. It’s okay if that first book doesn’t find a publisher. There will be more books to come. And it’s okay if those first poems aren’t all that great. You have a lifetime to grow as a writer.

Do we write to be cool, to be popular, to make money? We write because we have to, because we love crafting stories and poems, because stringing words together into meaning is one of life’s true joys. So rejections are par for the course. Writing poems or stories that just aren’t as strong as they could be is par for the course. But we must all retain that burning passion for language and storytelling. That flame is what keeps us maturing as writers.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Leonard H. Roller, author of ‘Darklight’

Leonard H. Roller was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He holds a BA degree in journalism from New YorkUniversity, an MA in comparative literature from ColumbiaUniversity. He has worked as an actor and public relations executive whose clients included such stars as Audrey Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Joan Crawford, Paul Newman, and others. He’s been a communications consultant for Lockheed, Mattel, and Hilton Hotels and Resorts. He has served as a French translator for the U. S. Army in France, where he spent leave time climbing in the Alps. The author of a communications training text The Profits of Persuasion (International Resources, 1986), his poems have been published in The Lyric, Pearl, The Storyteller, Deronda Review, Ancient Paths, Snowy Egret, Space and Time Magazine, Thema, California Quarterly, and many others.

His latest book is a book of poetry, Darklight.

Visit his website at www.leonardhroller.com.

Dark Light 7Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Leonard.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time are you multi-published?

Multi-published.In addition to “Darklight,” my current collection of poems, “The Profits of Persuasion,” International Resources, 1986,

(A 223-page training text on spoken and media communications.)

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Small press. I chose it because International Resources was the first publisher who accepted my book proposal. (The Random House editorial board liked the book, but turned it down because “…there are too many books out there on similar subjects.”)

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

If memory serves (it was some time ago!), about nine months.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Very self-important. I celebrated by having a champagne dinner with my beautiful wife at an expensive Beverly Hills restaurant.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I sent copies of the book to all of my (then) clients (I was in the communications consulting business at the time), inviting them to order multiple copies for distribution to their staffs. Also sold copies to participants at my numerous communications training seminars over a period of several years for various corporations and organizations (including Lockheed, Mattel and Hilton Hotels).

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I retired from the communications consulting business and have devoted myself more to reading, writing poetry (and a few short stories, alas! to date unpublished) and experiencing the non-business world more attentively. The more I observe the world the more material for writing; the more I write the more I experience the world. (The worlds of business and politics seem to me, at times, to be curiously divorced from the real world!)

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

Nothing, really – except perhaps that some good stuff does get published! I recognize the publishing industry as just that, an enterprise that occasionally produces quality product (like Hollywood!). I suppose what amazes me further is that, given the sorry state of our culture, there is not more junk out there! (Call me an elitist, but I’m no snob!)

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Being published – and hopefully read!

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Forget about making money. Recognize that many people have two professions – what they do for a living and writing! (I don’t know how the editors are able to wade through all the submissions!) Poetry, in particular, is neither for the faint of heart – or the wallet-oriented. If you’re fortunate enough to “hit it big” publish as much stuff as you can while you’re hot. Don’t fall in love with your own insights! The universe is not only more bizarre than we imagine – it’s more bizarre than we can imagine!

While There is Still Time – author interview – Terrell Dunnum

 

BIO:

 

Terrell Dunnum is a school teacher and ordained non-denominational minister. He holds a master’s degree in Christian counseling from American Bible College and Seminary. He is the founder of Total Freedom Ministries, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides mentoring, biblical counseling, and basic life skills to troubled youths and families.  While There Is Still Time, A Book of Prophecy Revealed Through Poetry

 

www.WhileThereisStillTime.com

 

 

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Terrell.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

 

A:While There Is Still Time A Book of Prophecy Revealed Through Poetry is the first book that I have ever published. I guess you can say that I am a new kid on the block.

 

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

 

A: This is actually the first book I’ve written. I’ve had the privilege of writing a few plays and skits for high school students. The very first skit that I wrote was entitled Unconditional Love. It dealt with the racial prejudices that interracial couples face within their community. It also addressed the paralyzing effects our actions and words may have on individuals throughout their lifetime.

 

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

 

A: I had submitted my manuscript to one well known publisher online with the understanding that I would receive feedback within a couple of months. After a few months of not hearing anything, I began to ask pastors and church leaders for publisher recommendations. Amazingly, all recommendations pointed to this one subsidiary publisher. Three months later my contract was signed.

 

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

 

A: A person may use rejection to hold you down or catapult you forward. When life deals you lemons, make lemonade. I do have to say, I was disappointed. A rejection letter would have been appreciated but we must all learn to move on and let go of the past. To all inspiring authors I would say, allow the wind of rejection to move you forward into your purpose and destination.

 

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

 

A:Tate Publishing accepted my manuscript for publishing. Several authors and community leaders recommended Tate Publishing. They have a reputation of working closely with authors during the production of the book. Tate Publishing is also located 20 miles from where I live. It would behoove me to have a publishing company within driving distance.

 

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

 

A: I felt like it was all a delusion. I couldn’t quite grasp the truth of the reality of having a dream come true. I celebrated by going to McDonalds, ordering two apple pies and a caramel sundae.

 

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

 

A: Enrolled in a workshop entitled Marketing Your Book And You by Tony Eldridge and Kat Smith. To properly promote your book or product, you have to understand the tools that are available and have access to online and offline resources. I also frequently visited the public library. There I found numerous books, videos, and audios on marketing. Of course I cannot leave out YouTube. I believe YouTube has become one of man’s best friends. There you may find videos on promoting any product you may offer. Promoting is such a vital part of any book’s success.

 

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

 

A: While There Is Still Time, A Book of Prophecy Revealed Through Poetry has the potential to change millions of lives. Having a publisher that was willing to work with me to create a book cover that would capture the essence of the message within is such a blessing. Having a chance to be involved in every part of the process such as editing, layout, and book design is so rewarding. If I had it to do all over again, I would choose the same route.

 

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

 

A:While There Is Still Time was released this year in April. I have come to the understanding that the author must get into the grass roots of any book or project and continue to support and nurture that project as it grows and gains momentum. It’s kind of like a new born baby, you realize this infant must continue to receive support and nourishment to develop properly through life’s stages.

 

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

 

A: Every author should have a plan. Parents talk to their children early in life about what they want to be when they grow up. Teachers encourage students to make a 4 year plan in high school. Businesses write plans that will help the company grow and adjust those plans as needed. Looking back since the earlier days, I would have mapped out a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly plan to accommodate any bumps in the road.

 

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

 

A: Taking advantage of everyday opportunity. There are so many opportunities that come our way that is simply overlooked. I had business cards created with the book cover, While There Is Still Time, the website, and other important information. I learned to keep a minimum of ten cards a day in my wallet and another 20 in my car’s clove compartment. There would be times in the grocery store, in line at the bank, or even at the gas station that would lend itself the availability to share and inform. I have learned to seize the moment.

 

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

 

A: The profession of educating and counseling is very rewarding. When we give someone sound advice, or share pitfalls and shortcomings we have learned from, we help make our world a better place.

 

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

 

A:I feel we all take part in educating the people we love. As a motivational speaker, encouraging and helping individuals capture the potential God has placed within every human being goes beyond more than words can say.

As mothers are able to function as a parent, wife and holding, in most cases, a full time job, so must authors multitask in this high demanding world.

 

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

 

A:I pray While There Is Still Time will be a book that has transformed many lives. I hope this little book of prophecy revealed through poetry will move light wildfire on a dry hot day, and ignite all those that have given up hope.

In ten years I would like young men and women all over the world to say, Terrell Dunnum, yes I know that author, he wrote a book that changed my life and helped me connect to a heavenly father that loves me unconditionally.

 

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

 

A: Never give up; when one door closes expect another one to open. Do your homework and don’t forget to write your business plan.

 

Interview with Marilyn Randall on My Heart and Soul

Marilyn Randall has always had an artistic ability, which she has used both professionally and personally over her lifetime. She was an art major in high school receiving a Penny Arts Scholarship award for her first oil painting and a Hallmark Honorable Mention award for her second oil painting which was exhibited in an art show in Portland, Oregon. She began her professional career as a graphic artist in 1976 when she was hired by Gandee Printing, a printing company in Medford, Oregon. She learned her craft quickly and thoroughly and within two years she became the Graphic Art Director and then the Graphic Production director for Moore Publications in Belleview, Washington after spending a year as a graphic artist for Seattle Menu Specialists in Seattle, Washington. During her time as graphic production Director, she was assigned major accounts and spent time traveling to different parts of the country to co-ordinate large art projects for wholesale clients. Later she moved to North Idaho where she again became the Art Director for a printing company in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Upon moving back to the Seattle area in 1985, she continued to work for printing companies as both art director and graphic production director until in 1990 when she opened her own graphic design business called Personal Touch Designs by Marilyn. Her business consisted of designing silkscreen art for ladies sweatshirts and other garments and free lance business logo design. She designed the “I’m Proud To Be An American” shirt that was purchased by NAS Whidbey, the Navel Air Station on Whidbey Island, during Operation Desert Storm. In 1993 she retired from her business and her professional career and started writing and illustrating for her own pleasure. Her first published book was titled “Feelings” and it was published in the early 1990’s, but it was a limited edition printing and because it was well received, it inspired her to pursue her dream of writing and illustrating her children’s books. Four of the children’s books were written and illustrated in 1995, yet they are being published for the first time today. Her newest books, My Heart and Soul and Elmer The Christmas Elf are a continuation of her earlier endeavors.

Her writings reflect her life story as she uses her craft to express her thoughts and feelings about not only her life events, but also about social issues in today’s world. She is a recovering alcoholic with 19+ years of sobriety, which she attributes completely to the success and many achievements she has accomplished. Her life struggles range from sexual abuse issues beginning in her childhood to the devastating loss of family members and eventually the loss of her spouse who succumbed to cancer after a long, seven year battle with that dreaded disease, which took it’s toll on her life and health as well. Remaining steadfastly faithful and God inspired has been the key to carry her through some very difficult life experiences. She maintains a positive attitude today with an open and loving heart and when life becomes difficult as it sometimes does, she continues to stay upbeat and positive, always expressing her message of hope and steadfastness and never giving up.

Her children’s books especially reflect a strong morale attitude with positive answers to today’s life situations, which are faced daily by today’s youth. Teaching children about faith and learning to cope with troubles in a positive and healthy way are inspirations she hopes to help instill in our families struggling with today’s issues. Her stories are about coping with fear, greed, vanity and patience, always with a positive outcome to the story and in ways that children can understand and put to use with their own situations. The poetry format of all her children’s stories retains the charm and rhythms which children love to both read for themselves or hear read to them. These delightful stories have been well received by those who have read them, while they and others anxiously await the publication of her newest story, written and illustrated this year. All are charming in their own right and will delight any child as well as some adults.

Marilyn’s latest book is My Heart and Soul, a poetry and prose collection.  You can visit her website at www.marilynrandall.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Marilyn.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This book, My Heart And Soul is my first published book, but since it came out last summer, I have published six children’s books and my first fiction novel, which will be released this spring.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My very first book was called Feelings. It was a self-published book that I did in the early nineties, before my husband became sick. I wrote it and published it myself mostly for my family and friends, never dreaming that one day I would write and publish many more books.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I decided early on to vanity press publish as I wanted to learn the business from the bottom up and felt that this was a way for me to learn all aspects of publishing and marketing.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

I am very fortunate as I have never felt the rejection you are asking about. I have a strong faith and believe that things happen for a reason and that we choose the path we walk for a reason as well. I accept whatever happens in this life as being the way it is supposed to be and will continue to practice that in every facet of my life.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

I first published My Heart And Soul with Lulu publishing, but later I have changed to Xlibris because they offer me wonderful service and better prices and that is an important factor in today’s economy.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

When I first saw my book and held it in my hands it was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. I actually didn’t celebrate as I was working on my other children’s books and I didn’t want to give up the precious time I needed to complete them on schedule.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I took the book to several people whom I knew might be interested in buying it and as soon as I finished that I hired an agency and began to write press releases for the Internet.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No, I am very happy with the route I’ve chosen. I have learned so much and continue to learn every day, which is very important to me.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

Xlibris is in the process of publishing my first fiction novel, Quicksand,  which will be released early this coming spring. I have written and illustrated six children’s books and I am working on the seventh one today. Since My Heart And Soul I have become more focused on what it takes to keep up with all the different phases of publishing and I have found that I truly love what I am doing with this stage of my life.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I could have researched publishers more carefully and perhaps avoided having to change publishers in the middle of the process. This would have helped me a great deal in producing the children’s books and it would actually have allowed me more time to pursue my writing. Finding the perfect fit with anyone you hire is sometimes a tedious process, but I feel like I’ve found that with my present publisher.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I have learned how to put myself “out there”, emotionally and physically. One becomes very vulnerable when doing that, without being afraid. It was a great source of empowerment when I realized that I could do this and enjoy it as well.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I would have been an airline pilot. I have been blessed to be able to do nearly everything I have ever wanted to do in this life, including pilot small aircraft for a while during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. My artistic talent gave me a great career in the graphic arts industry for most of my adult life and now I get to write and illustrate books and all I can say is I am very grateful and truly blessed.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I have combined the best of several worlds and I am grateful that I have had so many opportunities throughout my life to pursue careers and ambitions that have meant a great deal to me.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

I hope I’ll still be healthy and active and enjoy some success as an author and illustrator. Starting this career so late in life has it’s drawbacks as I have to be realistic and know that my time to be productive is limited and I must make the most of whatever time I am blessed with to be creative.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I would strongly suggest that if anyone has the dream of being a writer, they begin as soon as possible. I hear so many people who say, “I wish I would have written my story” or “I should have written a book” and I say why put it off? You can’t cross the finish line unless you first cross the starting line. I can’t imagine getting to the end of my life one day, looking back and having regrets that I didn’t do something I really wanted to do. If I hadn’t started the process, My Heart And Soul would still be inside a pen and a blank piece of paper. I hope everyone who reads these words will be inspired to begin to follow their dream and start their own book or story. I did and I am so grateful that I did.

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