ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: The Realistic Optimist – A Collection of Essays by Ellie Bushweller

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OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This book was written by a person who has a full and active life as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, counselor and freelance writer. She has been a keen observer of many aspects of human interest.

It is a collection of essays that are concerned with a wide variety of topics. The essays are insightful, informative, humorous and hopeful.

This book should appeal to all those who are intrigued by all the joys and concerns that impact people’s daily lives.

REVIEW:

There are many essays out there in the world, and books like The Realistic Optimist are the best possible kind of persuasion I need to read more of them. Like many readers, my main exposure to the form came in college–first, as an undergraduate learning the basic definitions and structure, and then as a graduate student experimenting with genre expectations and strengthening my sentences. There were essays on supersonic planes, on oranges, on eclipses, on eating unprocessed foods, on shopping every store in the Mall of America, on sports, on hunting, and the list goes on. What there wasn’t, for the most part, was a collection of essays from a single author that captured my interest and felt like something more than a couple of really good works surrounded by filler.

Until now.

For most of a decade, Ellie Bushweller essayed for her local South Burlington’s The Other Paper. Her columns chronicled the daily lives of not just the people she met and the scenes she witnessed, but also the comings and goings of squirrels. Of seasons. Of one’s fellow bench-mates in the park. Of the tools and technologies that pass through our lives. Of time itself. Each of the roughly one hundred essays in this collection were written with conviction and heart, and while the occasional line indicates an essay’s origin in a newspaper column, the collection does not suffer from the change in delivery method.

It is fitting, I think, that The Other Paper would cover this collection of essays which it helped bring into the world with warmth and affection. There’s simply no reading of this book … and no encountering of Bushweller herself … without feeling touched by sunshine. One can easily see why and how she developed a loyal following among the newspaper subscribers of South Burlington.

Which isn’t to say that Bushweller hasn’t walked through some valleys and shadows and maybe even done dark alleys. After a childhood in Brooklyn, she grew into an adulthood as a nurse working to care for children and adults in a dilapidated city housing project. Still, despite life’s hardships witnessed and experienced daily, she clearly never closed her heart to the possibility of doing some good simply by being … a realistic optimist.

IN SUMMARY:

Come for the squirrel stories but stay for the bittersweet authenticity of a life lived with gusto and conviction, gentleness and generosity. The Realistic Optimist is rich with spirit and a balm in tough times. It is also a love letter to a decade of life in a specific time and place–South Burlington–that deserves witness.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Realistic Optimist wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Ellie Bushweller’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’ll be going back to one of my wheelhouses, which is to say novel-length works of memoir and nonfiction. (Although frankly, I can fall in love with any genre if the writing is strong.) I’m working on a memoir of combat in Vietnam: God, Me and the Blackhorse by Barry Beaven. I tend to be deeply affected by stories of war, so I’m taking it slow and checking in and out of some other, lighter works … but I think Beaven’s will be the next book to make it into my reviews. You can catch those thoughts on Beaven’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 3.17.2020

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And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We have a couple of really exciting success stories to share with you, our readers, this morning. First is this article from the digital megapowerhouse news-and-all-other-things website Mashable.  Contributor Sam Haysom opens his article by debunking the persistence of “self-publishing stigma,” an expression all of us here on the blog are familiar with from ages past. And “While questions over writers’ and publishers’ attitudes to this type of fiction may be up for discussion,” writes Haysom, “one thing seems pretty clear: A whole lot of people read self-published books. And a whole lot of writers are making money from selling them.” Three of those writers–LJ Ross, Rachel Abbott, and Adam Nevill–feature heavily in Haysom’s article, each contributing wisdom from lived experience following a unique path into self-publishing. We highly recommend you read Haysom’s whole piece in its entirety.

We have sung the praises of LibraryBub here on the blog before, but this month’s news is a serious highlight. The website, founded in 2015 to “mak[e] vibrant connections between indie and small-press authors and an extensive network of libraries,” is designed specifically to help libraries (and therefore their communities of readers) “identify acclaimed books from the independent publishing sector.” That’s you, folks. And while this particular press release mostly focuses on recent March releases that have gotten exactly that kind of acclaim, it’s worth noting that it provides links for both librarians and independent publishers (including self-published authors) to participate.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

In Your Corner: Finding a Home at Your Local Public Library

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Let’s face it, if there’s one place we go to find out information about books, it’s our local public library. Bookstores just feel like such a commitment sometimes, you know? But at a library, the art of browsing is elevated to an art form, and you can feel free to study the shelving arrangement, the genres, the popular nooks and crannies, the competition, and the various ways and means librarians use to “sell” their books to the public–all without feeling guilty for not buying something! In fact, if you’re “caught” browsing in a library and the librarians find our you’re a local author, you’re far more likely to get hooked into giving a book reading than you are to get shushed or to get side-eye from booksellers who really need to sell a certain number of books a day.

Libraries mean unlimited books and unlimited resources for free. And one of the best resources is the librarians themselves. Your local librarian can provide help with, yes, possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, as well as finding answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in that library and much more. Librarians are an amazing source of help and information!

What are some other ways you can promote your book by using the library?

  • Donate a copy (or several copies) of your book to the library. Be sure to go through the proper donation channels.
  • If your book is geared towards children, give a school library presentation on your book’s subject. School libraries are always looking for new books! Just make sure to reach out through the proper channels (i.e. through the principal and administration, as well as the librarian).
  • Connect with librarians via social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are powerful ways to network!
  • Stock promotional materials such as flyers and letters at local libraries. Be sure to include of the essential information about your book such as subject, genre, audience and purchasing information. It’s best to ask if they’d be willing to stock these supplies on their “freebies” counter or in their brochure pocket wall first, just in case they need to check their policies.
  • Ask a librarian to review your book in a local publication. This will bring positive attention to your book and encourage other locals to buy it! You might even be able to get a librarian to review it in your library’s state or regional newsletter, which would encourage other librarians to buy it.

Libraries are a powerful part of your book promotion strategy. Creative marketing tactics can increase your chances of a library stocking your book. They can also lead to great relationships with librarians and readers. The best way to find out what your local library wants is to talk to the librarians. Work on building an honest relationship, and you may just find one your book’s best promoters.

Not sure where to find your local library? Hop on www.publiclibraries.com and search by city, state, or zip code–or you can visit the American Library Association (ALA) at www.ala.org, where you’ll find loads of information on the current state of libraries and how you can get involved, both as a self-publishing author and a lover of books!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 3.10.2020

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And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Self-publishing is HUGE in the United States, and very accessible. But what about in other countries? This article from the Regina Leader-Post out of Saskatchewan, Canada, offers some interesting insights into just what the industry has done to instill change beyond our national borders. Lynn Giesbrecht chronicles the journey of one author whose work was published traditionally, only for the publishing house that released it to go bankrupt shortly after, taking her book down with it. The grim summary is that “the cost of producing a book in Canada has jumped by 40 per cent since the 1990s while retail book prices have remained virtually the same. This has caused profit margins for the publisher to drop from between 10 and 12 per cent per book to single digits.” But not all is looking so grim, writes Giesbrecht: one respected author of science fiction has recently gone indie, reporting that “Over the last few years, Willett has seen a steady rise in the number of Saskatchewan authors turning to self-publishing or using local publishers instead of submitting their manuscripts to the major companies.” While the loss of any small or indie publishing company is a hard blow to the province of Saskatchewan, the general attitude seems to remain one of upbeat ambition.

On the one hand, this review in the form of a forward is just that: a review of a book about academics who have successfully carved out a niche beyond traditional academia, making use of new platforms and new opportunities courtesy of this digital, connected, global age. But on the other hand, this review/forward by Joshua Kim to the website Inside Higher Ed gives us a critical insight into the ways in which self-publishing has become foundational to even general conversations about the state of supposedly “unrelated” fields. As we’ve noted in previous news summaries and other pieces here on the Self-Publishing Advisor blog, many professors are moving away from traditional textbooks and towards open resources that their students can access for free. In an age where the average textbook seems to cost more than a bout of gambling in a Vegas casino, it’s hard to justify paying for–or asking one’s students to pay for–a book that they’ll likely never look at again, save to perhaps (if they’re lucky) pass it off to another student at a fraction of the price. But Kim’s summary, while it is specifically referring to just the one book, also hints at whole new aspects of connection between academia and self-publishing. It builds a case for the 1974 self-published The Moosewood Cookbook helping launch a generation of “vegetarian academics,” academics who were more likely to question the status quo, and more likely to pursue “alt-academic” careers, and more likely to turn to open resource and self-published materials as resources–or create them themselves. Are we reading a little too much into this? We leave it to you to decide.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir” by Jeff Lucas

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OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

All he wanted was another 1920s Hollywood Utopia!

The Winds of Malibu is the true story of a boy whose father (a computer engineer with a grudge against Hollywood) has held on to a house in the movie colony of Malibu, California, after a bitter divorce. At the age of eleven, Lucas is fiercely bitten by the Acting Bug and does anything to act. What ensues is a war between him and his controlling father as to his Hollywood aspirations, amid crippling anxiety attacks. The story of an outrageous upbringing, where friends are preferable to parents and Lucas relies on his diary to guide him. Lucas’s peers at school will become Hollywood’s top actors in the coming decade. The ultra-quirky, stormy, funny account of an extraordinary boy’s struggle to hang onto his dream.

REVIEW:

It is perhaps unavoidably funny that I must now, as a reviewer, attempt to explain The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir to you, but this is precisely the kind of humor that author Jeff Lucas would find amusing himself. After all, what is a memoir but a sustained attempt to translate personal experience into a form that is understandable by others? In the book’s subtitle lives its first hints of dark and sideways humor, the kind of humor that may take you into the trash heaps of Malibu and shadowy memories of childhood fears but which also sees the virtue in getting bit in the buttocks by a neighbor’s dog.

I must admit I didn’t grow up in Malibu during the 1970s, but Lucas does a great job in summoning the place for me, especially its ragtag bands of roving, under-supervised and extremely hormonal children who found that their best entertainment came from shoplifting the candy aisle at Trances Market and one-upmanship in sowing their earliest wild oats. This is not the Malibu of today, or at least not quite, with horseback riding the unwashed hills still a normal family outing. Upon returning to this Malibu after several years away, Lucas must figure out exactly who he wants to be.

“What kind of juvenile delinquent are you?

“A different kind, I suppose.”

Meanwhile, the conflict with his father is built up from the barest hints of foreshadowing (“My dad never had a true, trusted friend in his life. I hiked along and swigged water out of a shared thermos and thought about that.”) until the tension in their relationship reaches a fever pitch (“It was beautiful not to see my father’s face.”). All the while, Lucas lays out his days at school in Malibu, growing up and performing on the school stage alongside Emilio Esteves and others. (Ironically I had just watched Esteves’s movie The Public shortly before picking up this book. Sometimes the universe just lines things up like that.) Lucas manages to sketch the many joys and impossibilities and trials of youth through the inclusion of selections from his diaries and other ephemera, and the alternation between these sections and more traditional prose forces the reader to slow down and engage with each moment as it takes place on the page.

Although I grew up worlds away from Jeff Lucas, The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir did a fantastic job of acquainting me with the time and place. There’s an artfulness to the simplicity of his sentences and to the dialogue that reflects, in many ways, how young people see the world: deceptively simple on the surface, but roiling with emotion and nuance underneath. But far and away the most compelling part of the book to me was the through-line of Lucas’ struggles with anxiety. His world was full of constant change despite his story repeatedly returning to his father’s house in Malibu, and his mental health struggles make perfect sense in that context—although not the kind of sense that makes anxiety any easier to live through. His struggles feel very real and also very much a part of the larger architecture of this memoir, which chronicles not just a time and place and the boy who grew up within it, but also the sense of something lost that can never quite be found.

A quick reader’s advisory note: This book does deal with a good amount of “adult content,” which makes sense given the time and place (1970s Malibu and Hollywood), so be aware of that.

IN SUMMARY:

A deeply personal and yet humorous account of one boy’s coming of age in Malibu, The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir is rich with juicy tidbits about Hollywood’s new elite, and gathers further interest as it explores the conflict between father and son as the author battles to join his schoolmates’ names on the big screen.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir wherever good books are sold. including Amazon, Barnes and Nobleand on Audible as an audiobook. You can also find out more about Jeff Lucas’ work on the book’s Goodreads page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m really excited to dig into the next book on my list, a collection of essays by Ellie Bushweller titled The Realistic Optimist. I love essays but haven’t read a great many of them since my years in graduate school, so this will be a lovely chance to weasel my way back into the genre. And it has the best cover! You can catch my thoughts on Bushweller’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 3.3.2020

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And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Medium has become a welcome home for many excellent long-form articles unaffiliated with major news companies in recent years, and this article from Sumbo Bello of EDGY Labs–a “trend forecaster and SEO incubator providing guidance and end-to-end Enterprise level SEO solutions for Fortune 500 brands” according to its ‘about’ page–is representative of the kind of exciting material you can now find on Medium and other long-form-friendly web platforms. Where better to find a quality article describing some of the best content-creation tools out there for writers than a web platform that is itself a content-creation tool? Meta. “The best writing apps are those that help content creators attain a crucial goal, and that’s efficient writing,” Bello writes in the opening line of this piece, citing deadlines both internal and external as one of the main drivers behind the decision of which tool to use. Bello also notes that “Arguably, some of the most efficient writing tools are those that help optimize language mechanics and still cover SEO components like keyword density and relevancy.” (emphasis his) We were delighted to find this summary description list of platforms including the usual heavyweights of Google Docs, Apple Pages, and Microsoft Word–as well as several we are less familiar with, including FocusWriter, Scriviner, Final Draft, and Vellum (but his list goes on). We should note that we do not advocate for any one specific tool among these, especially given that many are paid services, but the information Bello includes is detailed and rich enough to hopefully help you make a decision if you are yourself on the hunt for a new tool, paid or free.

Once again we return to one of our all-time favorite topics in the news section of Self Publishing Advisor: the Zine! This early but time-honored form of self-publishing was absolutely critical to the development of interest in as well as tools to produce later self-publishing options such as on-demand print capabilities and responsive, timely turnaround from writing to publication. Zines were mostly locally distributed (but with some key exceptions) and were mostly individual projects (ditto) and focused around some niche or highly specific area of interest (ditto) … but they have proved an enduring form of what can only be described as a hybrid of art and print publication. Which is why we are so excited to see this article by Jeff Oloizia in Encore celebrating a recent zine exhibition at UNCW. “The best zines,” writes Oloizia, “are transgressive in their activism, born of any number of underground subcultures, and fly in the face of mainstream art and publishing norms.” They’re also, as the exhibition demands audiences to consider, a form of public artistry and worth enjoying and respecting as such. The exhibit described here by Oloiza will remain on display until April 3rd, but zines, as always, will live on indefinitely.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

Self-Publishing News: 2.25.2020

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And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We love these monthly lists from Publishers Weekly! Not only do they serve as a critical discovery tool for those of us who read self-published books regularly, but they also help authors and the industry, too, by raising awareness of new titles and subjects of interest percolating through the wider cultural consciousness. Those behind the monthly lists make a real effort to represent the fantastic work being done across genres from romance to thriller to nonfiction and poetry, and this same even-handedness is shown in representing titles from big-name self-publishing companies to those offering full-service options like Outskirts Press (this month it’s Asking the Moon to Leave by Johnny Randolph Hunt) to those books which are published under only their authors’ names. As Publishers Weekly puts it,

Booksellers, publishers, librarians, and agents are encouraged to look at the 54 self-published titles below. Each appears with a list of retailers that are selling the book and a description provided by its author. Some of these writers are waiting to be discovered; others have track records and followings and are doing it on their own. If you are a self-published author interested in listing titles in this section, please visit publishersweekly.com/pw-select for more information.

This list comes out each month in both print and digital versions of the magazine, and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

We couldn’t resist talking about this article by Erin Grace of the Omaha World-Herald chronicling the further adventures of the inimitable Robin Reed-Poindexter, an Omaha native whose years fighting fire in California in part fuel her work as a writer. Reed-Poindexter has published two semi-autobiographical children’s books based on her experiences, as well as a lengthy 660 page (!) memoir titled Now I See Clearly. Having made history as the first black woman hired onto the Richmond Fire Department in 1987, Reed-Poindexter “scrapped her way” (Grace’s good word choice there) through some tough times and retired in 2019. Writes Grace, “Robin said she wants the stories to remind students who get in trouble that they should never write themselves off. While grateful for the support she said her North Omaha network of friends, family and educators gave her, ultimately she had to prove her worth on her own.” Her children’s books set out to render this ethos accessible to kids. In a year that has already seen much conversation about fire and the power of civic engagement, we can’t think of a better self-publishing story to feature here on our blog today.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.