I Marvel at Mockingbirds

The book proof for Thorncraft’s 7th title arrived in the mail during a late summer rainstorm while the sun was shining. As I opened the book, I suddenly heard bird songs and chatter, and I looked up expecting to see starlings or a similar flock.

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Cover designed by etcetera… Cover image by SaltH2Ophotography

 

I realize that they are mockingbirds. I’ve never seen this many mockingbirds in one yard. I count over 20 of them playing around the dying garden, in the field, flapping from cedar tree to fence to persimmon branches to vitex bushes. Around 30, I give up the count and watch as the birds swoop and the white of their wings flashes against the green of the field. They whistle, chip, tweet, chirpity chirpity chirpity, st-weeet with a little trilling laugh on the end of the call. The calls and songs are so varied that I grasp for ways to describe them. It’s better to listen and enjoy. I marvel at the similarity in this first volume of the BreatheYourOMBalance book, thoughtfully selected and introduced by S. Teague.

As I read through the stories and poems, I am taken aback by the number of voices moving through Thorncraft. I’m always grateful for each book. Each one has represented a different stage in the publishing process for me, new awareness, and growth into another form. Every book has been unique to the author and my relationship with that person, as I care for all of the books that we make throughout the process.

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The Breathe book includes work from 28 women who have enriched my experience as a publisher by sharing their voices, and some of them by opening themselves to working through the editing process. I’m humbled that they trusted me to share their ideas, and I’m proud of their courage and dedication, both of which shine in these stories about the transformative practice of yoga.

This is Thorncraft’s 7th book. Five books of fiction. One book of collaborative nonfiction. One series book about yoga by women. 4 book authors. 28 contributing authors. I marvel that this creative endeavor continues to grow and include women who make me proud to share their work.

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Now, the book proof goes into the trusted hands and under the “red pen” (she actually uses blue or black most of the time) of senior editor, Kitty Madden. In the meantime, we’re excited to share some blurbs about the book from authors as well as fitness and yoga instructors. Book Forthcoming, Fall 2016. Visit http://www.thorncraftpublishing.com for more details about all of our books and authors

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The Trail of Words: Running Words from 5K to Ultra

Words lead to not only more words, if you keep writing, they also create paths and spaces. I didn’t believe the land of words could be so much like trail running when I convinced myself to make words the focus of my career. I had to be careful, to share the trail with my authors, to know when to go it alone, to understand how to step back and “rehydrate” my author’s brain while being a publisher who represents other authors, and most enchanting, to discover new beauties and struggles on the writer’s path just as I discover them on the running trails.

I started a blog way back in 2005 with Yahoo360. It was like a couch-to-5K for my writing life which had soured into a ritual of grading English Comp papers and writing way too much feedback to the students. At first, like trail running, blogging hurt and I was getting about one hit an hour. How could this go anywhere? My forehead rested on the desk. I stumbled through writing about pregnancy and staying on target with one blog post a week. I was passed by professionals, out of my league. Winded and exhausted after those first attempts, I got wise and followed the people in social media to the MySpace blog world, and led a happy blogging life at blogspot, too. After a short time, I was content with these familiar trails, and I knew people on them, and it didn’t hurt so much anymore to expose myself as a writer. I blogged about motherhood and students in my classes. This was not nearly enough, even with thousands of hits. I yearned to write something more. It was time to add distance and a faster pace to my writing life. Through social media, I found Her Circle Ezine, and eventually became the Editor-in-Chief, wrote my own novel in the meantime, & tried to shop it.

The run was going strong and even getting hot, and my writing revealed more, new adventures. I helped with The Institute of Arts and Social Engagement with Misty Ericson, wrote articles about Mexican women for Lake Chapala Review magazine, interviewed bands & musicians for a Nashville music magazine, felt inspired to create books by women, and took odd writing jobs. Sometimes, I felt smothered by the trail. I couldn’t see my way out of it to the next place. There were traditional maps, but they weren’t working for me. I was in an endless loop. So, out of frustration, I started Thorncraft Publishing to publish my own novel, and then people joined me. I read Beverly Fisher’s novel, decided to publish another author, loved Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo’s work, jumped at the chance to publish her work too, and life kept going. The vistas open up sometimes, and allow more space. The trick is to keep going through the stumbles, brambles, heat, and more, until you reach new paths. Now, we’ve trained up for “ultras,” and in the running world this means 30+ miles per run. In our world of words, this means multiple books published every year, a literary magazine, a stage play, and more.

What’s happening now:
We have a new author at Thorncraft, Salty Teague. She and I wrote a book together earlier this year and launched it at Parnassus Books in Nashville. Seasons of Balance: On Creativity & Mindfulness is a self-help creativity journal, with poetry and stories thrown in the mix with affirmations and meditations. The book was chosen as a regional Wounded Warrior Project book, and Salty and I spent a beautiful afternoon at an event at The Yoga Mat that honored caregivers of Wounded Warriors.

The literary yoga journal, BreatheYourOMBalance Volume One will be finished later this year. Our open reading period was a success. Salty chose 28 contributors for the first volume of BreatheYourOMBalance: Writings about Yoga by Women (Forthcoming, Fall 2016). The contributors range from homeschooling moms to nurses, from yoga teachers to yoga beginners, from university professors to students. We are featuring the contributors on the Thorncraft website, so that you can read about them individually.

Salty and I continued working with everyone at The Yoga Mat by having writing workshops. Our next one will be Sunday, October 9. We are excited to partner with The Yoga Mat for Volume Two of BreatheYourOMBalance, which will focus on yoga and healing. Volume two will not be published until 2018.

Salty and I were promptly inspired to get going on a children’s book together. We’ve been planning it since last fall. You’re going to love the adventures of Luna the dog and Salty the raccoon. Forthcoming, 2017.

In 2015, Grace Among the Leavings by Beverly Fisher was adapted for the stage by Kari Catton and Dennis Darling, and performed at New Salem’s Theatre in the Park in Illinois. It was further adapted into a one act play by John McDonald, and performed in June 2016 at the Roxy Regional Theatre. We have more plans for “Grace” on stage in the future.

imageMelissa Corliss DeLorenzo is working on a new novel, but no word yet on what it’s about. She’s back on the blog, usually writing every week. She has several events this fall in Massachusetts, including the New Bedford Book Festival.

Check our Events page at thorncraftpublishing.com to stay up to date. The publishing website is updated weekly with the newest announcement and events.

The Literary Midwife

When a manuscript has been created and moves into the final trimester before delivery, our books go to my literary midwife, Kitty Madden. She is the final Editor for all books at Thorncraft. Because we work with words on paper, the editor can go in and change and adapt as she likes, but only as the author agrees. This is how we work together for every book.

Kitty Madden, Editor for Thorncraft Publishing. Photo by Beverly Fisher

Kitty Madden, Editor for Thorncraft Publishing. Photo by Beverly Fisher

When my journey began, I spent most of my time daydreaming and talking about ideas. I moved on to research and tangible words on paper with instructions. Kitty was one of the few people I trusted with my manuscript, with my growth as an author, and with the crazy idea in my head of publishing books. She marked up every page of my first book, not only with her corrections and questions, but also with positive praise about what I was doing to satisfy a reader and to communicate as I intended for the story to talk. Kitty makes corrections as an editor should, but she does not express the brutal cynicism that some people in books think is an automatic part of the literary landscape (for that, I am grateful…the world has enough cynics). I had no idea that she would encourage the publishing company to materialize, and she believed so truly and thoughtfully that I began to see a reality instead of a dream. She was also vocal about all of the obstacles and how she couldn’t imagine what they might be and wouldn’t want to try to confront them, but she would deliver these books alongside me.

As with any two (or three or four) creative individuals, we don’t always think of the same solution to a problem in our books, but our ability to collaborate offers peace in our work. Generally, one of us concedes at the other’s explanation for “why.”
This is always a fun discussion of, “oh, but I like your way and think maybe it is best.”
“Well, thank you, but I’ve been thinking about the way you changed it and I think it does work.” Etc etc. until we conclude, “Both ways work, and let’s do this.” Usually, we compromise. We trust one another and enjoy the creative process, which makes our work pleasant.

We are well into the final trimester of Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo’s next novel, Talking Underwater.
When we formatted the book, Melissa asked, “Will Kitty begin editing now?”
I said, yes, and Melissa expressed her relief. This is always affirmation that Kitty’s words coax the highest expression of the book into the world while comforting, reassuring, and coaching the author.

Writing Words in Paint & Finding the Muse

Image from Customs House Museum The Words of Women exhibition

Last week, I carried a plate of paints up a 10-foot ladder (that felt higher) and chose words from a short piece of fiction that I created for an art exhibition, The Words of Women. The exhibition features writings by women who were mailed a “muse” and challenged to write from the inspiration discovered in the object. I had opened a small box in the mail and found an antique. I didn’t know what it would be, only that it was for a collaborative exhibition to celebrate Women’s History Month. The art curator Terri Jordan at the Custom’s House Museum mailed out ten muses to ten writers from Tennessee. And, I received a silver, engraved, double-headed eagle ring that slipped perfectly onto my ring finger.

I didn’t know what the others writers had received, nor did I know what style they would write. The possibilities were endless as long as it fit within the 1200 word-limit parameters. I didn’t find out what all of the other writers had received until the week before the exhibition when we began to paint on the walls—a pair of silk stockings, a small brown purse, a porcelain thimble, a snake brooch with emerald eyes, and an unmarked black and white photograph of a woman in her twenties living in the ‘20s, to name a few of the objects. There were more. We only knew what we could see, and we created from that.

But what? How could I write from an unknown object? That was the first dilemma, which was soon resolved when a character began to take shape around the ring.  But the toughest questions were to follow—how could I paint the walls? With text? With visuals? We had one week to paint whatever we wanted on our section. Enormously high, white walls. It was uncomfortable at times—the process, but I was caught up in a new creative space, and that became more and more evident.

What I discovered is that it’s crucial to take chances, to risk paint on the walls, and climbing to new heights in order to look from a different perspective. On the night of the opening, terrible storms raged all around us and prevented some friends from attending, but the comments we received were surprising and encouraging. “This is a brave show.” “It’s good to try something different. To start something new.” And, it wasn’t uniform. Writers merging with visual arts? It confuses the mind. There was the question, “why not have visual artists interpret the work of the writers, instead of having the writers paint on the walls?” And, I finally understood why some artists don’t particularly want to write their biographies, don’t want to write artist’s statements, or discuss their process using narrative.

Yet what was remarkable for me was that my process was affected. I edited. I rewrote. I wrote more that didn’t make it into the final print, but that didn’t matter. And, I wrote differently. I think the other writers were challenged as well.

The writings varied—poems, narratives, personal reflections about the receipt of the muse. The words on the wall also reflected our different approaches and styles. Mitzi Cross swirled a giant, diamond-backed rattlesnake onto the wall. Amy Wright stopped in like the Buddha, grabbing up the paint and brushing HOPE onto the wall, then shaping the remainder of her poetic line around it; she finished in a couple of hours one afternoon. Cindy Marsh used the letters from the Goldsmith Press and stamped a few hours here and there for days. Rebecca Beach said that she had two things she could draw, and a tree grew on the morning of the opening as the end result. Melanie Meadow’s Threads of Grace narrative twined through recognizable places in the town. Story after poem, after inspiration, moving around the gallery walls to read them all, to stand in front of the muses.

When I read Traci Brimhall’s piece about Kalamazoo’s Artifactory, I noticed the similarities and was reminded of the importance of exhibitions that celebrate community history, as well as visual and literary history. Layering gives more to the viewer, the reader, and the community.

The Words of Women exhibition is open at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, TN, through the end of April. There’s a full schedule of events for the next two months, so check the Museum website for details.

This Thursday, March 8, I’ll be reading with friends and writers from the community at the Museum for a Writer’s Night, beginning at 6:30.