Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Evolution of a Small Press: A Guest Post by Midge Raymond

Last month, I won the book The Tourist Trail on Serena's blog, Savvy Verse & Wit.  After Midge Raymond, a co-founder and editor of Ashland Creek Press, a vegan-owned boutique publisher in Ashland, Oregon, mailed the book to me, I invited her to write a guest post about Ashland Creek Press (ACP).  One of my daughters is vegan, and I wanted to learn more about ACP in a general sense, too.  I think my readers will truly enjoy this exclusive guest post! 

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This spring, Ashland Creek Press will celebrate its 8th birthday.  John Yunker and I founded ACP in the spring of 2011 when, in the years following the financial crisis, we were seeing many good books go out of print--and some books not finding homes at all.  One of those books was John’s novel The Tourist Trail, which was represented by a literary agent who was told by publishers time and again that they didn’t know where the book would “fit in the marketplace".  This was because there wasn’t--and in fact still isn’t--a designated place for environmental and animal-themed literature in the world of Big Five publishers.

There are, of course, environmental books published by the Big Five houses--many of Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful books, for example, and my own novel, My Last Continent, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  But in early 2011, there weren’t any publishers we could find that focused on environmental works.  So, we decided to start one.

We began by publishing John’s novel, and then put out a call for submissions for environmental and multicultural manuscripts. Within two years, we published a young adult trilogy (The Lithia Trilogy), an eco-mystery, a short story collection, and three literary novels focused on other cultures, the environment, and endangered species.  Ashland Creek Press books have received rave media reviews as well as national and international prizes--and these are books that may not have been published if ACP didn’t exist. We are thrilled to have had the privilege of bringing them into the world.

In the years since then, we continue to publish one to three books a year, and we’ve also moved beyond books to offer other resources for both readers and writers in this genre.  In 2013, we created EcoLit Books, an online forum featuring book reviews on any books with environmental themes, as well as listing opportunities for environmental writers, from classes to literary magazines. In 2014, we decided there should be a prize for environmental writing, and the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature was born. We also publish several anthologies--the Among Animals series is short fiction focused on animals; Writing for Animals is a collection of articles aimed to help authors write about animals thoughtfully and compassionately.  And we also decided to create something else we wanted but couldn’t find in the world: vintage typewriter notecards and T-shirts for writers.

Theo (1999-2017): ACP General Manager

As animal lovers, of course, we do not discriminate when hiring, which is why our first--and last--General Manager was feline. As you can see in these photos, Theo was passionate about books and helping run the press; he was always in the middle of things. When he passed away at the age of 18, we found him impossible to replace, and the position of General Manager remains open in his memory. We did, however, hire (i.e., adopt) three new rescue cats: Teddy, Harlan, and Gideon. Their roles are as yet undefined; so far they prefer playing and hanging out, and they are often seen napping on the job.

Theo in the office

Theo helping with editing

The Boys! Teddy, Harlan, and Gideon
 
As we continue on into our 9th year, our mission remains the same: to publish good stories--whether a novel about a zookeeper’s love for an endangered Komodo dragon, or a nonfiction narrative about the rarest bears on earth, who live just outside of Rome.  While we are glad that ACP’s titles resonate with environmentally aware readers, as well as professors of literature and animal studies, our books are for any and every reader.

And we’d love for you to learn more by sampling our books!  Or, perhaps you’d like to check out our notecards or a T-shirt instead.  Whatever you prefer, we’re offering Suko’s Notebook readers 20% off your next purchase.  Simply enter the coupon code SUKO20 when you visit our EcoLit Books online store (coupon code good until the end of 2018).

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Thank you for this delightful guest post, Midge, and for offering my readers a special discount code!  It was interesting to learn about how Ashland Creek Press came to be, and about how it has developed over the years.  It looks as if Theo relished his position as general manager.  I haven't read The Tourist Trail yet, but I hope to soon.

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why I Listen to Audiobooks

Many of my readers are also listeners, who greatly enjoy audiobooks.  Although I do like to listen to audiobooks as well, I don't listen to as many as some of my readers and fellow book bloggers.  When I do listen to them, I mostly listen to brief segments in my car during my short commutes around town.  My guest today, Melissa Chan, owner of  Literary Book Gifts, is an avid listener, and she eloquently describes why she listens to audiobooks in this exclusive guest post. 

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Why I Listen to Audiobooks: A Guest Post by Melissa Chan

It is no secret. I love listening to audiobooks. If you see me with headphones on, I'm probably not listening to music, but in some faraway land listening to a story.  From a very young age I discovered a love for audiobooks and have not stopped since.  From Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar,  I've experienced some of my favorite novels not by reading or watching them on the screen, but through sound, streaming through my headphones directly into my ears.

There are many benefits to listening, over reading paperbacks, hardcovers, or eBooks.  For one I sometimes do chores such as cooking or gardening.  And I've often fallen asleep to the calming tones of my favorite narrator.  I'll have to rewind a few chapters sometimes, but there really is no other way to read in the dark.  On summer days, I bike through parks, safely of course, all the while in the middle of a story.  I even have fond memories of listening to books during family road trips.  While driving through windy canyon roads in and out of national parks, we were also on adventures with Bilbo Baggins, as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit came through the dashboard speakers of the minivan.

Audio recordings of books have come a long way since then.  From difficult to manage cassettes, to unfortunately scratched CDs, the preferred listening method of books is now as digital files directly on one's smartphone.  I finally decided to to upgrade my beloved click and spin wheel iPod to a smartphone for the library apps that let you use your library card to check out and stream audiobooks.  Technology has come a long way.

I love audiobooks for not only the story, but often the narrator. A bad narrator can make an amazing novel unreadable, but an amazing narrator can't make a bad novel any better.  Not every narrator is fit for every story.  And I appreciate and value the work of all voice narrators.  I believe, like many mediums, that voice narration is an art.  One of my favorite narrators is Christopher Hurt, who has read to me so many of my favorite books including Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.

Is audio book listening the same as reading?  I certainly have had my fair share of criticisms on the subject.  I don't believe one is superior to the other.  However, I would like to make a note that the sharing of stories, whether over the campfire or the dinner table existed long before the written word. I think it really all comes down to the quality of what you are listening to.

But the main reason I listen to audiobooks is because I love doing so.  

Since I love audiobooks so much, I did not want audiobook readers to be without a unique design for themselves. The headphone design (shown below) is vintage but also retro in style.  It is perfect for anyone who enjoys audiobooks, and it is for that reason that it is one of my favorite designs in the collection.

Tote bag
Women's and Men's T-shirts

Do you listen to audiobooks? Share your favorites below!

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Melissa, thank you for your wonderful guest post, which has inspired me to choose a new audiobook for my car rides.  I love the tote bag. It would be an adorable way to carry around audiobooks and related equipment--or really anything else!  The T-shirt is cute, and is available in several colors, for women and men.  Melissa is offering my readers a generous 20% discount on all items from Literary Book Gifts with the promo code: SUKOSNOTEBOOK20.  On a different note, I think that it would be fun to narrate audiobooks.  I'm sure audiobook narration is a lot of work (right, Mr. Hurt?), but it also seems like it would be enjoyable to act out a book for others to listen to (thinks the dormant voice actor in me). 


Many thanks for reading! Please leave a comment and share your thoughts about audiobooks.

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