Category: On reading


A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

Q: What is Earth Joy Writing?

A: It is a way of interacting with the natural world that brings about empowerment, healing, and personal change. Nature has always been a source of comfort, inspiration, and wisdom for me. I wanted to be able to share that—teach that—to others.

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Q: How the book come into being?

A: I started writing Earth Joy Writing in 2008 while teaching classes in ecopoetry and ecofeminism at the University of South Carolina’s Green Quad for Sustainable Futures. I continued working on it over the next few years and presenting workshops with exercises from the book to various groups, including more than a year’s worth of monthly workshops at Saluda Shoals Park in South Carolina. The book is very much a balance of theory and practice, tested in university and community settings, and accessible to a wide audience.

One of the best experiences I had while writing the book was being in Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and a saleswoman asked me how I liked living in South Carolina. I responded, “I like it a lot. We have nature there.” She looked around, thinking, and then said, “Oh, yes, we used to have that store here, but it closed.”

I think we are feeling an increasing anxiety about the natural world, and we’re not sure what to do about it. We listen to news reports, and we can feel helpless. I wrote this book to help with our fears. I truly believe that when we begin to see nature not as a “thing” that can be bought and sold but as a living being in relationship with us, we begin to heal not only the Earth, but ourselves.

Q: How would you describe the book to readers and aspiring writers? 

A: Earth Joy Writing is a new version of The Artist’s Way for the green generation. In the years since the hugely successful Artist’s Way hit the market, three important changes have occurred. First, our lives are much more interconnected on a daily basis through the Internet and social marketing networks. Second, we are highly aware of the grave dangers our environment faces. Third, we can sense a surge in a collective desire for community. This book addresses all these needs for readers—to live a harmonious and balanced life despite the vast changes happening around them, and to connect with others and the earth in meaningfully creative ways.

It is a hopeful book. It is practical. It has been tested. It leads to healing. It is not just for writers or naturalists. It is for the person who wants to live life more meaningfully.

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Tips for Authors: Reaching out to book bloggers

By Midge Raymond,

With traditional media cutting book editors and reviewers, “book bloggers” are becoming a popular and often very successful way for books to get noticed. While not all book bloggers are professional critics, they are all passionate readers, and if they have a good following on their blog (as well as social media), a good review could lead to great word of mouth for your book.

Because not all book bloggers read every type of book, be sure to look at their review policies before contacting them. And there are dozens and dozens of other book review bloggers out there, so while this list offers a start, it is far from comprehensive.

Also note that while most publishers reserve the majority of ARCs for major media, they do occasionally send out ARCs to book bloggers – so check with your publisher before contacting book bloggers to ensure that there’s no overlap.

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A few tips for contacting book bloggers:

  • Always check out their reviews to make sure your book is a good fit
  • Make sure the blogger has an audience—look for a large number of followers (in the hundreds, at least); look for comments that show that the blog has an active community of readers; check its Facebook page and Twitter feed to make sure it has a good number of followers
  • If the blogger does giveaways, this is a good way to get more potential readers interested; you may be able to ask the blogger to donate his/her review copy, or you may need to send two books (consider giving away e-books as well)
  • If the blog features author articles or interviews, offer to do a guest post or a Q&A; this will give you excellent additional exposure
  • Always remember to offer a bio, an author photo, and a book cover image
  • Try to coordinate posts/reviews with events you’ll be doing, for additional exposure
  • Go beyond book-review blogs to blogs on topics that relate to your book (for example, if your book involves travel, find a travel blog and pitch a guest post; the blogger may also be happy to review the book if it’s a place he/she has visited)
  • When the review/article/interview appears, share it far and wide, in emails to friends and family as well as social media—word of mouth is the single best way to find new readers!

And check out this mini Q&A with book blogger Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit, which is included in Everyday Book Marketing, for a book blogger’s point of view.

Announcing the 2014 Siskiyou Prize winner and finalists!

By Midge Raymond,

We are delighted to announce that New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler has chosen Mary Heather Noble’s memoir PLUMES: ON CONTAMINATION OF HOME AND HABITAT as the winner of the 2014 Siskiyou Prize.

We are also delighted to announce the prize finalists: Amy Hassinger for her novel AFTER THE DAM and Julie Christine Johnson for her novel THE CROWS OF BEARA.

Of PLUMES, judge Karen Joy Fowler writes: “I was impressed from the first page with both the beautiful writing and careful intelligence of PLUMES. This book takes on one of our most troubling issues, the increasing toxicity of our polluted world, to create a narrative that is both personal and universal. PLUMES neither minimizes the complexities of these issues nor overstates its conclusions, but leaves the reader with much to think about. An exceptional book.”

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About the winner: Mary Heather Noble is an environmental scientist and writer whose work is inspired by environmental health issues, the natural world, family, and place. Her essays have been honored with first prize in Creative Nonfiction’s The Human Face of Sustainability Contest, and second prize in the 2012 Literal Latté Essay Awards. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in About Place Journal, Fourth Genre, High Desert Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Minerva Rising, Pithead Chapel, and Utne Reader.

Noble is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program with the University of Southern Maine. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from The Ohio State University, and a master’s degree in environmental science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She spent six years working in the technical environmental sector before leaving the field to pursue creative writing. Noble currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.

We hope you join us in celebrating the environmentally themed work of these fine writers!

We’d also like to extend a very special thanks to all of the writers who entered the contest … your support makes this prize possible.

Please stay tuned for updates on next year’s Siskiyou Prize, which is open to unpublished, full-length prose manuscripts, including novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essay collections. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,000, a residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication by Ashland Creek Press. For more information, visit the Siskiyou Prize website.

The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing

By Midge Raymond,

For those readers not familiar (yet) with EcoLit Books, check it out here. It’s a great resource, thanks to our wonderful contributors, for both readers and writers: Subscribe to get book reviews, calls for submissions, and other news in the world of environmental literature.

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And don’t miss this essay, The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing by John Yunker, which does a great job of summarizing what we’re all about here at Ashland Creek Press:

I believe that we—readers and writers alike—must redefine environmental writing to give it a wider scope in focus and in form, and a more pressing mandate. In other words, we need environmental writing that is less concerned with how one describes the landscape than with how one protects that landscape.

This essay takes a look at environmental writing past and present and how it needs to keep evolving…and we hope to be a part of this journey.

The State of Publishing

By Midge Raymond,

I’m catching up on our issues of Publishers Weekly, and I thought I’d share some info from its September 22 issue, in which PW writes the results of its 2013 Salary Survey (you can find more info here).

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Among the statistics…

  • 89% of publishers’ staffs are white/Caucasian, with 3% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 3% mixed race, 1% Black/African-American, and 1% other
  • the pay gap continued, though 74% of the workforce is female: men’s salaries averaged $85K in 2013, and women’s averaged about $60K, up from $56K in 2012
  • the overall pay increase was 2.8%
  • 58% of respondents complained of increased workload, 54% of low salary, and 43% of instability within their company and/or the industry
  • only 21% of respondents reported feeling “very secure” about their jobs (slightly less than in 2006), with 53% feeling “somewhat secure” and 5% feeling “very insecure”
  • while 15% surveyed are “extremely satisfied” with their jobs, 12% are “not too satisfied,” with most in the middle
  • more than half of publishers reported acquiring self-published books in 2013.

PW sent the survey to 7,500 subscribers, and 800 responded.

As the article notes, the lack of diversity and the pay gap is nothing new (though it’s very disheartening to see this in numbers). The increased workloads and low salaries aren’t a huge surprise to us, either; after all, we’ve been there.

At least 70% of publishing professionals are either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their work, and the article noted that there’s less fear in the industry than there used to be. Interestingly, sales and marketing were among the most optimistic groups, with editorial being less confident about the future.

Visit Publishers Weekly for the full article and more details.

You may also want to check out this article, which covers the diversity problem being addressed further in a PW panel at the offices of Penguin Random House. According to the article: “The panel drew a small but lively audience that, while more diverse than most industry gatherings, inadvertently highlighted one concern among many attendees: the people with the power to address the issue of diversity in the industry are not making it a priority.”

Lee & Low publisher Jason Low noted that “36% of the U.S. population identifies itself as a person of color, while his data showed that about 10% of U.S. children’s books have content targeting minority readers.”

“We all have to get involved in changing this situation,” said PW editorial director Jim Milliot, who moderated the panel. Read more here.