A Moment in Time

Published in BookWoman, April-May, 2011\

 

“Put motivated writers with unique talents into a room and watch the cascade of creative ideas flow!”………..unknown author

bookWriting conferences can really get the juices flowing and give all writers precious time to clear the mind, ignite the soul and enliven the creative ideas often pushed aside in the rush of daily life.

I’d attended Write by The Lake Writing Conference in Madison, Wisconsin several times and always came away inspired. Only to slid back into old habits and end up with little to show for my efforts. Not so this time. I was about to become part of a collage of writing creatively that would have a beginning, a middle and an end!

In June 2010, Amy Lou Jenkins, the instructor for a non-fiction, writing for anthologies and memoir class, began the first day with introductions. It was clear that I was surrounded by multi-talented women with diverse life experiences.

One woman and her husband had produced an off Broadway musical. Another had worked for UW at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. She’d taken this class to write about something besides cheese, she laughed. Another, a special education teacher, wanted readers to see the poignant and sometimes humorous side of teaching the developmentally challenged student. We had one PhD in biochemistry, two educational psychologists, several teachers and various business women involved and successful in all levels of professional work. We came together to write about our lives, the parts that were personal and private. The supposedly small stuff.

In Room 112 of the Pyle Center on the Madison campus, thirteen women settled in for five days of work, sharing, self-discovery. Each morning, the class included instruction, discussion and in-class writing, then an assignment for the next day. As we took turns, reading and giving feedback, we began to sort out who we were and what we wanted to accomplish in our writing life.

Amy Lou had spent the last morning talking about how publishing was changing and giving us an overview of the latest print-on-demand technology choices. For self-publishing, the old days of being the second-class step child of the book world was finished. It had now become a viable choice and a credible way of getting yourself into print.

Even today, I can visualize the last hour of that last day, close my eyes, see and feel it all over again. All it took was Amy Lou saying, “You know, with all the wonderful stories you’ve created this week, you could publish your own anthology.” A hush fell over the room. How cliché is that? But a hush did fall over the room! I think we were dumbstruck and just sat there for a moment. Thinking. Then there was a voice. Followed by other voices.

“I could do the copy editing,” someone said.

“I could do the layout,” another said.

“I could do the graphics.”

“I can check out the self-publishing programs that are out there.”

“I could set up a Yahoo Group so we can stay in touch as we’re doing this.”

The energy in the room was inescapable. By the time we left that day, we had a timeline and a business plan. We’d be each other’s editors. Each of us would submit two short pieces, the ones done in the class, or others, to two other class members for final critique. They’d edit and return the pieces to the writer. When each writer was satisfied with their stories, they’d send them to the book editor. The completed stories should be submitted by the end of July. Then the copy editor would be finished by Labor Day.

Meanwhile, the book editor would research all the self-publishing options. She recommended CreateSpace because it was so accessible and part of Amazon.com. OMG. Our book will be for sale on Amazon.com!

Once that decision was made, the graphic artist and the layout person worked their magic. A flurry of Yahoo e-mails announced each step of the process as it was completed. It looked like the finished product would be submitted and available by mid-October. Class member Annette, quipped: “Well, that takes care of Christmas gifts for this year!”

When the final announcement came that the book was available, I got on Amazon.com right away. My hand shook a little as I entered the title: A Moment in Time: Room 112. And like magic, there it was! I ordered several copies which appeared in my mailbox within a week. How could our modest little project be a real book, complete with ISBN number, blurb on the back, glossy cover complete with lovely picture, table of contents and biographies of each writer.

CreateSpace has staff to help out whenever needed and prints books as they are ordered. That way, authors can order all the books they want, when they want. They can then give them as gifts or sell them at book events. It’s a more streamlined and less expensive way for authors to get their book out there, no longer having to buy the large quantities usually demanded by vanity press publishers.

I included news of the book in my holiday letter and was tickled when old friends reported they’d purchased and enjoyed it. When I gave copies to my family, they insisted I autograph it for them. My book group and writing group gave accolades as well.  Then, organizers of Write by the Lake Writing Conference expressed an interest in having us do a short presentation at next year’s conference.

So now I’m back down to reality and wondering where does this take me and my writing. Perhaps this means that I no longer have a legitimate excuse for not getting my many years of writing into an organized and presentable format. When I describe this experience, I say I was lucky enough to be in a room with several very talented people because all I did was submit my short pieces and then glory in the results. And it was glorious!

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