Announcement!

Publisher’s Weekly Shelf Awareness (Dec 1, 2022)

(https://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=4370#m58402)

Four women with extensive book world experience have launched Sibylline Press, which will focus on publishing “the brilliant works of women authors over the age of 50,” including memoirs, narrative nonfiction and fiction. Sibylline Press will release six books in fall 2023 and six in spring 2024 and will be distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West. The company also has an unusual publishing model, which involves Sibylline authors being deeply involved in the promotion of their books and other Sibylline titles.

Sibylline Press takes its name from the ancient Sibyls, older women whose oracular utterances contained wisdom captured in scrolls that Roman leaders often consulted. The press is, it said, “founded on the concept of collaboration illustrated by our Sibylline math, in which 1 x 1 = 100. Not one Sibyl, but many, are formidable. We have carried that metaphor into every aspect of the business, engaging our authors in daily, weekly, and monthly communications, in setting up our promotional strategy, and in developing a collaborative approach to promotion.”

Vicki DeArmon

The Sibylline founders are:

Publisher Vicki DeArmon, who has a publishing, bookselling and entrepreneurial background that includes founding Foghorn Press at age 25. (Foghorn was distributed by PGW.) After 13 years, she sold Foghorn to Avalon Books, now part of Hachette Book Group. She was also marketing and events director of Copperfield’s Books in Northern California for eight years, and has consulted to California independent bookstores, creating the “Everyone Gets a Book” holiday program that is still used by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance (CALIBA).

Julia Park Tracey

Executive editor Julia Park Tracey, a journalist who has headed city magazines and music, literary, and regional alt-news tabloids as well as the book publishing imprint of Stellar Media Group. She’s also a social media maven, conducting training and audits for groups such as the former Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Women’s National Book Association.

Rights and special sales director Anna Termine, who has worked in both trade and academic publishing for more than 30 years, specializing in rights and licensing. Termine and DeArmon established the Independent Travel Publishers Association together 35 years ago.

Design director Alicia Feltman, who is a web designer for the American Booksellers Association’s IndieCommerce platform and CALIBA as well as for Copperfield’s, where she worked with DeArmon on various projects.

Under the Sibylline publishing model, authors of all of a season’s titles will participate in shared tours, advertising and a promotional strategy that “celebrates the brilliance of women over 50.” Authors will contribute to the marketing budget and receive a generous royalty until their contribution is paid back at which time the royalty returns to a traditional one.

DeArmon commented: “We are a traditional publisher. But even as a traditional publisher, we’re pushing against some long-held lines, giving our authors unheard of support and access. We believe that the better an author understands the industry, the better she can work within it and with us to achieve success for her book.”

Sibylline Press’s Fall list includes three memoirs and two works of historical fiction and one mystery series:

These Broken Roads: Scammed and Vindicated: One Woman’s Story by Donna Hayes, the memoir of a Jamaican immigrant who gets scammed and robbed of her life’s savings by the “love of her life” met on an online dating site, but overcomes hardships to find success.

Becoming Maeve: Coming Out in Corporate America by Maeve DuVally, the memoir of coming out transgender in one of the most high-profile financial institutions in the U.S.

Reading Jane by Susannah Kennedy. After the suicide of her domineering mother, the author discovers diaries spanning 45 years that challenge and upend long-held truths in this memoir.

The Bereaved by Julia Park Tracey. In 1859, after her husband’s death, a grieving mother tries to support her children in New York City, losing them to the Home of the Friendless and the Orphan Train, then sets out to reclaim them. Based on the author’s family experience.

The Pocket Book by Patricia Reis. In this work of historical fiction, upon the death of her cold father, a suppressed 50-year-old woman begins an ancestral quest in Ohio in the 1800s, awakening secrets and herself.

The Rotting Whale: A Hugo Sandoval Eco Mystery, the first in a new mystery series by Jann Eyrich. Steeped in the noir of The City, the old-school inspector with his trademark Borsalino fedora, is a media darling, reluctant bachelor, and people’s hero fighting the good fight in a modern era that attempts to eclipse the old San Francisco Sandoval loves. In his first case in the series, he must find his sea legs before he can solve the mystery of how a 90-ton blue whale became stranded twice in a remote inlet off the North Coast.

Forthcoming from Sibylline Press Fall 2023

Excited to announce that I have signed a contract and my historical novel, The Bereaved, will be in bookstores in fall 2023. Prepare yourself for nattering and humblebrags with a side of shameless self promotion.

I hope you will love the story of Martha and her Orphan Train children, based on the true story of my fourth great grandmother and her four scattered children. Writing this story was one way I grieved the loss of our son. Martha and her lost boy are so much a part of me. Literally in my DNA.💔❤️‍🩹❤️

#fallbooks #bookstagram #booksofinstagram #historicalfiction #civilwar #suicidelosssurvivor

Behind Closed Doors

2015-05-18 10.13.18October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pit Bull Awareness Month, National Pharmacy Month, Pastor Appreciation Month, and Halloween, among other national observances. You can see how easy it is to forget or to overlook something that is, in fact, an epidemic right under our noses.

But before your eyes roll back in your head or slip away to another blog post, let me take it from the general, the theoretical, to the personal. Domestic violence – when someone in the household hurts or harms another – ranges from a parent hurting a child, an adult abusing an elderly family member, a sibling bullying another; the means could be belts or fists, words or secrets, threats or punishment. It’s so repellent that we instinctively turn away. And our turning away, pretending not to see or hear, allows the abuse to continue.

When I was a new editor back in 2001, the newspaper where I worked published the police reports every week (as it still does). One week we ran a report about domestic violence – the incident and general location, as we did with all incidents. There had been an arrest, and we included it in our weekly summation of crime on the island. Unfortunately, the abuser saw the event in the newspaper and when he got out of jail, he went right back and abused his family member again for “telling.” That was the last time domestic violence reports appeared in general listings of police reports in that paper.

A child I knew once showed up at our house with marks on his arm, and when I asked him, he said it was from roughhousing at school, that his friend had given him a wrist-twist and caused the marks. About a year later, after CPS had become involved, I found out those were cigarette burns that the child’s own mother had inflicted on her child.

An acquaintance of mine, a mother I knew from Girl Scouts, came to a meeting with a bruise on her cheekbone and told me she had opened the cabinet and all the pots and pans fell out and hit her face. Later, she had a burn on her arm and said one of her children had pushed her into the stove by accident. After the divorce, she told me her ex-husband had inflicted those and other wounds on her, and she had lied to cover up.2014-01-18 09.09.41

When I was a teenager, the 12-year-old boy living next door came over early in the morning to ask for help. His father had shot his mother and then himself, and the boy didn’t know what to do. His little sister was still asleep and he didn’t know how to get her out without her seeing the bloody living room. An argument had gone terribly wrong, and suddenly two children were orphans.

When I was separating from my ex-husband, who had never laid a hand on me, there was a very bad week when we were both angry and said things that were vicious, and he slammed me in the front door, leaving a huge bruise from shoulder to collarbone; he followed up by calling the police and claiming I was threatening him. It was a he said-she said situation and, without making it worse in front of the kids, all I could do was leave. The bruises did not show up for a few hours, and I was too scared and weary to make a fuss by then.

So there’s a litany for you of events that have occurred right here in the East Bay, in this town, or another local city, where domestic violence had devastating or traumatic, if not deadly, consequences. People wonder why victims stay in the situation, why they don’t just walk away – but physical abuse is more than skin deep. It breaks the spirit, too. The little boy who had cigarette burns never stopped bragging about his mother’s excellent cooking. It always sounded strange to me – but abusers are often very charming, and the honeymoon phase between incidents often brings out the best in an abuser – until it happens again.

Keep your eyes open for the child who walks on eggshells, who defends or brags vigorously about a parent who gives you a funny feeling. Pay attention to elders with bruises or who seem nervous, or penniless when they should be more financially secure. Listen to raised voices or thumps against the walls of your apartment or condo. And be there with your divorcing friends, who are in the most dangerous period as they try to escape. Don’t assume all is well if the divorce gets ugly. It could be your male friends as well as your female friends, straight or gay. Abuse knows no gender, color, religion.

If you need help, call 911. Visit this website (National Network to End Domestic Violence). Be safe and be smart. Make a plan and tell a friend. Don’t be too afraid to reach out. People care and will help you.

And for the rest of us? Be aware that domestic violence is all around us. It’s the least we can do.

*This commentary appears in the Oct. 29, 2015, issue of the Alameda Sun newspaper. Copyright Julia Park Tracey 2015

A Wish and a Prayer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy non-fiction proposal is with an acquisitions editor right now. A new publisher who deals with nonfiction, with the kind of story I tell in the Doris Diaries. I would gnaw my fingernails, if I was a nail-gnawing kind of gal. I’m not. I’m a harp-on-it-in-my-mind kind of gal. Harp on it until I have a meltdown. Which I just did. (Sorry, honey.)

Mind you, I did not “submit” this manuscript, and I’m not awaiting “acceptance” or “rejection.” I eschew those labels. No one owns my reaction. I know my work is good. Either they like it or they don’t. Nothing personal. And I’ll move on if this manuscript is not a fit. On to the next publisher on my checklist. Easy peasy.

But it gets a little grueling. My talented friend Mike Copperman submitted his collection of essays about teaching in rural Mississippi to some 125 agents and kept getting nos. He finally got a yes, and his book is forthcoming now (see his story here).

My gifted friend Jordan Rosenfeld wrote a whole book on persistence (called, amazingly, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, out NOW from Writer’s Digest Books). She, too, has been plugging along in search of the right book with the right publisher, the right reader wanting what we have written.

I have been wgirls-riding-donkeyorking with my Great Aunt Doris’s diaries since summer of 2011, when I first opened the box of mysterious papers after her death, and realized what a treasure I held in my hands. I have published two collections of her diaries from the teen years in the Roaring Twenties. The things I know about the Prohibition era astound me. The lengths to which I’ve gone already in pursuit of sharing the Doris Diaries with the world – well, 5,000 miles by train, four states, three years, countless hours, and many speaking engagements, period costumes and hairdos later – well, now it’s time to move into World War II and Doris’s San Francisco years.

Will this be the right publisher? Is this the right time and place? I don’t know. I was promised a weekend read, so I have fingers crossed for a speedy answer this time. Trust me, you’ll know if there’s good news.

It never gets old, the thrill of the chase – the elusive unicorn in the woods. It gets very old, however, hearing no. So one day at a time. One page at a time. If you’re on this same journey, hang in there. We’ll go together.

Blow a dandelion with me and let’s see what happens.

“WRITE FROM HOME” Ads Lie

IMG_4902Work from home! Write from the beach! Be your own boss! I’ve been seeing these ads lately on Facebook and around the internet because I guess the Google gods have figured out that I’m a writer (it’s nice to be recognized). And look how relaxed and happy those people in the ads are!

I wish it were true that I have days to frolic on the beach, but that rarely happens. And I live in sunny California on a city that is an actual island. I can walk on the beach any day I want. But do I have the time? (Do I make the time? Different issue…)

I’m afraid that the reality of freelancing is a bit different. I am a full-time writer. I have a journalism degree (for the news-chasing) and a master’s in English (for the editing); I also have a spectrum of experience from teaching in the classroom to editing for the glossy magazines to grinding out the calendar every week, over to the literary side of writing (writing poetry in a swing). I know deadlines intimately. I love-hate them and live by them.

The newspaper industry has changed dramatically since I got into it – from blue pencils and typewriters to computers and social media. I started journalism school with a T-square and an X-Acto knife in my ditty bag. The digital revolution changed how various tasks were done, and it changed the nature of business itself. Skyrocketing health care costs and human resources rules have made most of the smoking, drinking, man’s world of the newsroom obsolete. In fact, I know so many people who have been laid off by newspapers, only to take them back on as freelancers, that by now, the number of full-time reporters is very small.

So freelancing it is. I freely admit that I would be scraping by now if not for my husband’s salary (although I would be single and not raising a teenager now, without him!). So his work allows me not to worry as much about rent, food and health insurance. But I do have a nut I need to crack every month – what I am expected to bring into the family, and freelancing is part of that. So is part-time proofreading, occasional teaching, book editing gigs, and the random oddball gig like making a peacock costume for a bet someone lost. I also thrift and resell items online and pursue rebates for extra cash. And I’m the coupon queen.

Freelancing itself – getting an idea, writing it and polishing it, sending it out, waiting for an editor to respond, then accept it (or not, in which case, start over), then waiting for the thing to print/post, and then…waiting forever to get paid. That’s more realistic. We don’t get paid til the thing sees print or airtime. And then we have to jump through many hoops to get paid. A story I wrote in May 2014 just made it to print in the March 2015 issue. I won’t see the money for that til next month at least. So $300 I made last year takes a year to show up in my hands. You can see that one has to have a lot of gigs going to make it as a freelancer.

I notice the “Write from home!” ads don’t talk about that. They don’t talk about rates going down, quality going down, editors with little experience looking for clickbait instead of actual reportage. So much is left out of the conversation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are other kinds of stories, true – travel, or extended research, or corporate – I don’t do those. Either I don’t have the resources (Sorry, honey, I’m going to Fiji. See you next month!) or I can’t bear the soul-sucking it takes to smile and write content for corporate web sites (everything said with a lip-tight smile and a cheerful, chatty demeanor). They pay reasonably well – if you don’t mind travel, or soul-sucking. It’s a toss-up, isn’t it?

In my opinion, “Write from home” comes down to two things — can you write well enough to be accepted, and can you pitch to the right markets? And then market like a mofo. And then chase down the money. Since January 1, I’ve written for several high-visibility sites. I’ve invoiced them twice. Big guys with an accounts payable department. Do they pay quickly? Nope. I’m two months in arrears with a certain magazine publishing company — haven’t been paid for January stuff yet. I know it’s hand to mouth for them, too. And I’m sorry for that, but, hey, I need to get paid, too.

This isn’t meant to be a “poor me, freelancing is hard” post – just a reality check from those “Write from home!” goofballs. Take off the rose-colored sunglasses and put away the sunscreen. You’ll be busy chasing stories and payments far more than you’re working on your tan, if my experience holds true. Spinning plates? Yes. Get busy.

I’d write more, but I’ve got deadlines.