The first (and only) teaching job I took for secondary education ended abruptly for a variety of reasons, but mainly, I knew that teaching junior high and high school wasn’t for me. I knew it before I ever stepped foot in the classroom when I was discouraged from choosing female-based narratives that were in the curriculum. I was told quite bluntly by the chair of the department, “No one relates to stories told by a woman or a girl. Not even the girls relate.” She (yes, that’s right, the chair was a woman) went on to say that the students just sit there–no one talks–so I should pick from the male authors.
I now stand in the middle of this publishing endeavor I’ve begun and try to steady my feet. Most of the time, I’m literally running and setting ideas in motion, all of which relate to female-based narratives. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my orbits more than usual, watching how quickly they manifest into more orbits, and analyzing how my patterns affect the creativity of other authors and artists, editors and graphic artists… and now, a sound engineer.
On the eve of the Southern Festival of Books, I took a long look back at the women who inspired the courage and tenacity, the fighting spirit to create outside of the industry’s model. And, this work definitely requires tough skin. I don’t have it, really…I just won’t be stopped. I keep going no matter what because I believe in the mission to make the work of women authors available, to give those authors fair royalties, and to create a partnership with them that gives voice to their work in the way that they envision.
My voice was damaged during junior high by a humiliating experience of religious and social bullying that spilled into my education–completely shamed and denigrated, I promised myself that I would never do that to someone else, that I would strive to empower my friends and family members, and that I would support them in their dreams whenever possible. Of course, this promise I made wasn’t always reciprocated or even appreciated, but I wasn’t going to stop trying. I seek out opportunities that allow me to fulfill my promise to my previously wounded self.
Luckily, I found unbelievable partners and teammates in Terry Morris (my husband and now, business manager), Beverly Fisher (the first author to publish under Thorncraft’s imprint), and Kitty Madden (Thorncraft’s editor). These three people put their trust in my talents and vision, as I sought to show the world our work.
Moments of complete exasperation and desperation have plagued my emotions during the tasks that felt particularly sweaty and even bloody (metaphorical paper cuts will getcha & can turn into all-out paperwork warfare). Yet, I have persevered until we are taking new steps–recording audio books for our titles, getting Lightning Source distribution in motion, and signing another author.
All of this causes a wash of gratitude for the women in my past who read & appreciated books and shared that with me. The influences of these women motivate me even today–my Mom who tried to purchase enough books to satisfy me from the time I was a child through college; my aunt Nancy & her love of biographies; my aunt Julie and her joy for Emily Dickinson (yes, joy for Dickinson–I know, right? joy is a tough sell for Emily, but that is exactly what my aunt has always expressed); my high school friends who skipped some kind of senior class meeting with me to read “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” and talk about poetry for English class; Ms. Mallernee and her love of English literature, her contagious penmanship, and her demand for recitation; Jill Eichhorn & her knowledge of literature by and about women; Dr. Christian who became my teaching mentor & allowed me to enjoy teaching adults, & she taught me to savor the short story; Christy O’Brien and her penchant for both creepy books and self-help titles; Diane McLain & her encouragement to be a rebel all while reading science fiction; and last, but certainly not least, Rita Yerrington, who reads more library books than anyone I know, and her unwavering faith in the power of pure determination. (<–I adore that long, stringy sentence dedicated to women) These women are intelligent and unique. I'm so grateful for the inspiration they provided to me, for it continues to manifest in the lives of so many other women.
I'm eager to continue creating new work and look forward to telling you about our new author and new title in the coming days.
Don’t miss it:
We’ll be at the Southern Festival of Books this weekend, October 11-13, in Downtown Nashville at the War Memorial Plaza. Free event.
Friday: noon-6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: noon-5 p.m.
Visit us at the Thorncraft Publishing booth. Both Beverly and I will be signing books.