Sunday, October 14, 2018

EBP Launches New Anthology


At long last, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is launching a new anthology effort!

So, what is the genre? Science fiction.

In a sense, it’s a way for me to go back to my beginnings, because when I started writing, my primary focus was on science fiction.

The best EBP anthologies to date have all had an overarching theme, and I think we have something unique and interesting to shoot for in this anthology.

The unifying theme of these short stories will be Flight.

One of the reasons I like this theme is because it’s a term that has multiple meanings and therefore multiple interpretations. Of course, flight can involve human or alien spaceships, heroes with super-human abilities, winged creatures, but it just as easily could include flight from danger. Heck, I bet there’s a clever person out there who can make a flight of stairs into a vital element of a science fiction story.

I don’t want to be too restrictive in this description. The story should incorporate flight; I leave the details to you.

For our anthology, the stories can be up to 5,000 words long. No erotica.

The submission deadline is January 15. There is no payment, though the published authors will receive both a paperback and electronic edition of the completed anthology.

(This will likely be the first EBP paperback since the demise of CreateSpace, but I’ve been told that this process will be as straight forward as what we had grown accustomed to.)

An early spring publication is my target.

Our team will review the stories as they come in.

Feel free to ask any questions. Send them to matt@elephantsbookshelfpress.com, and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

Friday, June 01, 2018

So, what do you do?


How often has this happened to you? You’re talking to someone and either you or the other person asks what you do for a living.

It happens all the time. I’d say it happens to me at least once a week, and I’m probably being too conservative.

But how do you answer?

For me, I usually say I’m a writer. Sometimes I say I’m an editor. Other times I say I’m a journalist.

They’re all true.

When I tell people that I write or that I work with words, they make assumptions about me. They assume I’m creative, for example. Some assume something about my level of education. Some others try to stump me on a random subject, as though writers know everything about everything.

You know who else we tend to think those same things about? Teachers.

I know I do.

It makes sense, because at a certain level, most writers are also teachers.

Even though I minored in education and did my student teaching, I never served professionally as a formal teacher. I served as an instructor for various short-term classes, but it wasn’t my full-time job.

I spent a few years conducting classes at YMCAs where I was a full-time employee, but I was running programs. I thought of it as different.

I was wrong. I was a teacher and an instructor and a coach. I’ve realized lately that I still am.

I suspect this old saying (meant as a joke) is still told: Those who can’t do, teach (and the corollary: Those who can’t teach, teach gym.)

I never really liked those jokes, though I probably told them more than once, too.

But within those sayings is something that is certainly true, even if it feels like it shouldn’t be: You don’t have to be an expert to teach.

As writers, we should have lots of skills that non-writers envy. Our ability to imagine out-of-the-ordinary scenarios is one of my favorites. A way with words is another.

I was talking with my sister recently about another trait that she and my brothers share: We’re good at grammar. I suspect it had a lot to do with our parents, but we always valued quality writing. We read it often. It’s true that reading quality writing helps writers recognize bad writing.

Sometimes our preconceived notions of what something should look like distract us from what something is.

Maybe we think of teachers as people at the front of a classroom lecturing on how to do a task. My best teachers also taught why things are the way they are. They taught about perspectives.

Sharing perspectives is absolutely a part of writing.

From my perspective, I’m still a writer. I’m still an editor. I’m still a journalist. And when people ask what I do, those are the answers I’ll still give them.

But perhaps it’s time to change my perspective and see how my vocation and avocation can change how I answer those questions.

How about you? What do you do?


Fix the grammar glitch:

In the comment section, please indicate which sentence below is correct.

a) Please contact Amy or me if you have any questions.
b) Please contact Amy or I if you have any questions.
c) Please contact me or Amy if you have any questions.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Genesis of the Elephant

In the six years since I created Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, I’ve seen my personal writing time winnow down to a dribble.

I’m not making excuses. I chose to focus my creative time on publishing.

This year, however, that has changed. I’ve been working on two different writing projects and one major edit/revamp effort, too. In a sense, I have spawned a similar problem. Once again, I have taken large bites and tried to chew too quickly.

So, with the second quarter of the year a little past midway, I’m slowing things down a little. On the bright side, you’ll probably see more of me on the blog this way.

I want to talk about our genesis. Think of it as a “why we exist” post.

In the beginning was the word... and the word was “elephant.”

When I was a small child, I fell in love with elephants. When I learned to talk, and people asked my name, I would say, “Elephant.” I didn’t have a big nose. I was possibly small for my age, but the name wasn’t intentionally ironic.

I simply loved elephants.

As the son of a scientist who worked at perhaps the premier research laboratory of its day, I grew up among books and learning and smart-ass older brothers. Eventually a smart-ass sister would enter the mix, too. I enjoyed educational experiences that I only learned to fully appreciate years later.

And there were lots of elephants. Stuffed. On the pages of books. (I had a wonderful collection of Babar books, and many of the volumes are in my attic.)

My grandfather bought me a Dumbo that I played with so much his felt wore off, and he eventually wore a baseball-playing elephant shirt that I’d outgrown. My mother even created an elephant pillow that my daughter now sleeps on or cuddles depending on where her dreams take her in the night.

I grew up among loving parents and loving extended family members. We played together (lots of Wiffleball), prayed together, and stayed together. When sad or bad things happened, we got closer. Still do.

As genesis stories go, it’s not much. Just another happy kid from a privileged upbringing with lots of books in an unfair world.

My biggest challenges growing up, I realize now, were related to ambitions. All I wanted to do was write or play baseball.

As hard as I tried, I simply didn’t have the skills to reach the major leagues as a ballplayer. The writing came more naturally.

I’m fortunate that in my adulthood, my ambitions of making a living as a writer never left me, and I should feel proud that I’ve been living my dream of being paid to write. I do. But…

But like most dreams, they’re not quite what you expect. The nightmares are rarely as harrowing as they seem at the time. And the “normal” dreams carry more portent and potential than we might recognize.

Back to Elephant’s Bookshelf Press...

Assuming some of the readers here are friends I’ve made at AgentQuery Connect, you’ve probably heard this before, but I’ll share it anyway.

EBP arose out of e-conversations between several of my fellow moderators at AQC. We decided in 2011 that we wanted to find out what the whole e-publishing revolution was about. And while some of us had gained agents, many of us were finding the reception to our queries not so encouraging.

I couldn’t tell you when I last sent a query to an agent. Struggling with perfectionism, I was still plugging in the electrodes on my moribund manuscript waiting for lightning to strike so I could cry out, “It’s alive! Alive!”

So, I was happy to volunteer to lead the effort that became Spring Fevers, the first anthology from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press.

Initially, it was to be an e-book only, but we decided a few weeks after initially publishing that it would be fun to have a paperback.

I can’t remember which came first, the decision to publish a paperback or the decision to publish a second title, The Fall. Either way, I’d bought myself several ISBNs because I had already decided that mine would not be a one-book adventure.

Unbeknownst to me, I was developing new ambitions.

You see, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press was borne from a desire to help other writers. We wanted a way to share our stories, literally and figuratively. I built a platform, and initially I wasn’t fully aware of what that would mean.

Starting in 2015, but especially last year, I’ve spent a lot more time developing systems for EBP and determining what new products we can create. I’ve looked to develop new services for writers, not just to help them as writers, but also because it’s abundantly clear to me that being a writer in the twenty-first century is not simply about writing.

It’s about creating.

Creating books, sure. Creating websites. Creating blogs. Creating courses, perhaps. Creating partnerships. Creating relationships with readers.

Creating an audience.

Sharing and amplifying a voice.

It has been slow going. Mostly because I haven’t always understood what EBP is really about.

I know what we do: we publish books.

But why?

At Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, we love stories. We love telling them. We love hearing them. We love sharing them.

Stories are as old as humanity.

In the beginning, God snapped a finger and blessed a walking ape with an extra sense of self and a new level of curiosity. That ape started thinking in stories.

Language evolved.

Soon, that imaginative ape attracted a similarly gifted mate, and so sparked humanity.

We’re attracted to authors who tell interesting stories and tell them in an engaging manner.

Like elephants, we tend to travel in herds; at EBP, we call them anthologies. We haven’t published an anthology in a couple years now, but we will in time.

Because Elephant’s Bookshelf Press isn’t just about selling books; it’s about helping authors meet and mingle with their audiences.

Not the end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Perceptions Matter

The other day, I was included in the photo shoot for the annual report at the nonprofit organization where I work. From my perspective, the key contribution I made was when the photographer was setting up the first shot. He was going to have me at white board, looking like I was leading a meeting.

“I don’t think you want to have the middle-aged white guy leading the meeting,” I said.

Almost immediately there was agreement around the table. A moment later, a woman whose family is from India was at the white board.

The characters experience the story. And perceptions matter.

As an author, you need to know your characters, but I think it’s at least as important to know how your readers will see your story.

I’m not arguing for being politically correct (whatever that means these days). But I’m saying we’ve seen a lot of the same stories. There's room for diversity.

We don’t need the story to be about the middle-aged white guy all the time. As a reader, I’d like to know more about the 20-something Indian girl; or better yet, the Native American woman in urban America.

There’s lots of stories about teens who feel like fish out of water. I mean, that’s what being a teenager is all about, right?

But what about the third grader from Egypt, or the second grader who moved to mainland U.S. from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. There are so many stories that can be told.

What are their stories?

Usually, when I talk about these things with other writers, the chief argument is that they need to write what they know.

I get it. But it’s also true that to learn, we need to explore the unknown.

What are you writing? Could it be made better by changing the race, gender, or orientation of the protagonist?

Give it a try, even if it’s just a writing exercise. You might surprise yourself.