Monday, December 23, 2013

Our Next Anthology

One of the aspects of Elephant's Bookshelf Press that has emerged -- in large part due to the authors we've met -- is a concern for those in need and helping where we can. With the Seasons Series about to close with Winter's Regret, we're getting ready to launch something new.  

Bullying is a huge concern for parents, students, and school officials. The results of this tragic childhood issue can be seen in the news on a regular basis. Yet we continue to address the issue too late for most children. Studies show that targeting children before the age of ten and teaching them how to positively interact with each other before their behavior patterns are set is the biggest deterrent for future bullying.

Because of this, Elephant's Bookshelf Press is putting together an antibullying anthology for kids between the ages of seven and twelve. Cat Woods will lead this effort and serve as the editor for the anthology. 

Submissions can be told from the point of view of the bully, the victim or the bystander and must be suitable for middle grade (MG) readers. All stories should have a clear resolution that will help readers better understand the impact of bullying and/or help give them appropriate tools to deal with potential bullying situations in their lives. The maximum word count for stories is 2,500.

Submissions can be sent to Cat's email address ( ) with MG Anthology in the subject line.

Submissions are due February 15. We're aiming to publish in early May (May 5 is our target date.)

If you have questions, you can ask Cat or me (Matt Sinclair; I'm serving as copy editor on this one.)

We will not be able to pay for a story, but we will send authors a gratis copy of the final anthology.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whispering Minds Giveaway!

It's amazing what can happen when I'm unable to get online over a weekend. While I was not sleeping, nearly 160 people signed up for the Goodreads Giveaway I haven't even announced. I think that says something about the quality of the book, Whispering Minds!

If you haven't already, please check it out and enter to win one of the five copies I'm giving away! And if you've already gotten your copy and have read it, please help spread the word. Write an Amazon or Goodreads review, or get a copy for friends, loved ones, or even friends' loved ones. The holidays are coming, it's a great time to read!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reminder: Winter Anthology Deadline Is Now 10/31

To make sure it's clear to one and all, we have extended the deadline for submissions on the Winter anthology to October 31, and we're planning to publish in January 2014. The theme is regret.

If you need information about the submission guidelines, click on the link, and you can send stories to

And again, if you have any questions, feel free to send an email to

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cover Reveal!

We are so excited to share the cover of our next book -- our first novel!

Whispering Minds, by Alexandra Tys (A.T.) O'Connor, will be released in November.

You can certainly go to the blog of the wonderful Ms. O'Connor to catch her description, but here it is in a nutshell: After the death of her beloved granny, seventeen-year-old Gemini Baker is left with parents more interested in gambling than paying the bills, a best guy friend who's looking for love at a time when she has none to give, and a dark childhood secret that just might be the key to her sucky life.

Within days, it will be available, but you can go to Goodreads now to enter to win a free copy. We'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Deadline Extended to 10/31/13

I have decided to extend the deadline for our Winter Anthology. We will now accept story submissions through Oct. 31 (Happy Halloween!). We will be publishing in early 2014.

The theme remains regret, and submissions should still be sent to 

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Monday, September 23, 2013

Words With: Robb Grindstaff

One of the joys of starting my own publishing company is working with talented writers and editors. One of my favorites is both. Robb Grindstaff was the copy editor on EBP's first anthology, Spring Fevers. In fact, he came up with its title, which served as the genesis of the Seasonal Anthologies series. One book I wasn't able to publish was his absolutely wonderful debut novel, Hannah's Voice. It's truly one of the most engaging and interesting novels I've read in years and I'm so happy it's found a good home and is helping Robb develop an audience. His next book, Carry Me Away, is due out this any minute now, and I'm looking forward to reading that too. Here's my little Q&A with Robb. Hope you get to enjoy it before you go buy his book!

You have extensive experience both as a writer and an editor of fiction and nonfiction. If you could only choose one, which would you choose?

That’s kind of like asking an artist if he’d rather paint or teach a class at art school. I’d definitely choose writing. Editing is a sideline, and something I use to support my writing habit. I found I was pretty good at it – it combined my lifelong love of fiction and my career in journalism into one area, and I thoroughly enjoy it. I love helping out writers, especially newer writers. But it doesn’t replace writing.

Hannah’s Voice, which I honestly think is one of the best books I’ve read in years, bounced around for a while as you tried to find a publisher. You finally sold it to Evolved Publishing and it was released earlier this year. What do you think held agents and larger publishers back?

Lots of things. Initially, it wasn’t good enough. That drove me to revise and rewrite (several times) and make it better. Then there was the beginning of the whole turmoil that traditional publishing is still going through. With the digital revolution in book publishing and the collapse of the economy in general, publishers and agents were taking on fewer books. As a business, they have to do their best to stick with what they think will sell. Hannah didn’t fit into any of the genres or categories that were selling, and I was an unknown “newbie” writer, which is a huge risk for a major publisher, even though I’d been doing this for thirty-plus years. Hannah isn’t paranormal or romance or YA or any of the genres that were hot in the market. No wizards or vampires or zombies, sorry. Just mainstream contemporary/literary fiction.

That’s one of the reasons I love it. Your second novel, Carry Me Away, is coming out soon, also from Evolved. What is that story about and how different, in your eyes, is it from Hannah stylistically?

In Carry Me Away, when a biracial teenage military brat learns her injuries from an accident will prove fatal before she reaches adulthood, she accelerates life to a manic pace to reach her goals. Eventually she learns happiness isn't found in academic achievements or lovers, but in family, friends, and faith.

It’s actually the first novel I ever wrote, several years ago. I also tried the traditional route for a couple of years, revised and rewrote it several times, and eventually shelved it as my first “practice novel.” After Hannah came out, I pulled Carry off the shelf and looked again. I could now see how much work it needed, but I still loved the character, the voice, and the story. So I reworked it again, having learned a lot about crafting a novel in the past ten years, and submitted it to Evolved as a follow-up to Hannah. They paired me up with a total of three different editors who helped me whip it into shape, and I’m finally excited about how it turned out.

There are a couple of similarities with Hannah. It’s in first person with a young female protagonist (Carrie). That’s about where the similarities end. Hannah doesn’t speak, Carrie doesn’t shut up. Hannah curses once; Carrie curses like a Marine by the age of nine. Hannah lives in a small southern town; Carrie grows up living all over the world in a military family. Hannah is a pretty serious young girl; Carrie can be serious, and she also has a morbid sense of humor. The story progresses into Carrie’s early twenties, and there’s more, shall we say, adult situations. As characters, Hannah and Carrie couldn’t be more different, although I bet they’d like each other if they ever met. I think Carrie captures the fear we all share – life may be over before we’re done with it.

You’ve published your own collection of Arizona short stories and been part of EBP’s anthologies from the beginning. To your mind, what are the pros and cons of self- and independent publishing? Do you prefer one over the other?

That’s definitely a question every writer has to answer for him/herself. I tried the self-publishing route with Sonoran Dreams, my short story collection, as a test. I learned that I’m not cut out for pure self-publishing.

With an independent publisher that provides excellent support and work on my behalf, that makes it the right fit for me.

Personally, I’m best suited for the old-school traditional legacy publishing model that doesn’t exist anymore. I could be Salinger or Hemingway – just put me in a nice apartment in Rome or a beach villa in the Caribbean and let me write novels while my agent, editor, publisher, and publicist handle everything else. I could be a great recluse. If there was an anti-social media site, I’d join, and I’d be darn good at it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Author Q&A: Richard Pieters

One of the unexpected joys of establishing Elephant’s Bookshelf Press was becoming the first publisher for a number of wonderful writers. By my count, EBP has been the initial publisher of at least a dozen fiction writers, including some whose work I believe you’ll be seeing much more of in the future. One of the new writers featured in Summer’s Double Edge is Richard Pieters, whose story “Winter’s Birds” told a tale of a committed couple who struggle with the ever-present reality of serious illness. As anyone who’s ever experienced the horror of watching a loved one suffer knows, the phrase “emotional roller coaster” doesn’t do justice to the challenge. Rick shared a little of his personal story on his writing experiences.

Elephant’s Bookshelf: Perhaps this isn’t a fair question to ask a person who’s worked in advertising, but how long have you written fiction?
RP: I wasn't a copywriter, so the question is fair. I studied creative writing in both high school and college and wrote a lot of short stories for school, but I really put my creative needs to work late in college, songwriting and performing. I was a decent, not great, singer and guitarist, but I was a good storyteller. I had some songs published, but I'm not sure that counts as fiction. Several years performing with a very good improv theater troupe put writing in the backseat, although I do believe the experience helped my think-as-you-go creativity and no doubt encouraged the "pantser" in me. When I moved into the advertising industry, I returned to my first love, read stacks of books on writing, journaled, and wrote short stories -- for my own enjoyment and for the practice. Eventually I decided I needed to quit reading about writing (and working in media sales) and just do it. That was about fifteen years ago. Since then I've written many shorts (often NSFW) and a novel. And, of course, I still study the craft, too.

EB: It’s hard to believe your fiction hadn’t been published before Summer’s Double Edge. What’s taken so long?
RP: I guess I was taken in early by the odds against making a living writing, so I wasn't driven to get published. As I said earlier, I had other creative outlets. I didn't think about it much until I had that novel under my belt and thought I'd see how the querying thing went. At that time, the only avenue that seemed legit was the traditional agent/publisher road. Self-pubbing still had the taint of vanity press. I did think about small, independent publishers, but I guess I thought I needed to try the "old" way first. When I queried, out of about ten sent, I got one request for a full, and when I found myself actually hoping for a rejection, I realized I didn't want to go the agent route. I'm no kid, I can't promise a long, lucrative career, and I didn't want someone asking me, "What do you have for me today?" I never really thought about sending out shorts. I'd say getting involved at AgentQuery Connect and getting to "know" so many cool people, then seeing their work in your earlier anthologies, had me think well, what the hell.

EB: “Winter’s Birds” caught our attention right away. What inspired it?
RP: The truncated version of the newspaper article that starts the story was the actual inspiration. When I read that, one cold January morning in our local paper here in Dayton, Ohio, I grabbed scissors and cut it out. I knew there was a story there. How did it happen? What got them to that point? So many possibilities. So I carried it in my computer case to the office and home for a long time. It begged for the story of who they might have been and how and why they ended up there. (I'm avoiding the spoiler.)

EB: Off the bat, the characters came across as a well-established couple who’ve been through a lot together. Did you know what the ending to this story would be when you first starting writing about them or did it evolve over several revisions?
RP: Since it was based on a news article, I did know how it would end. It was, in fact, the ending that needed the story to get there. With the many directions it could have gone—I didn't want it to be too sentimental, it couldn't be too comedic with that ending, maybe it was a horror thing—I just kept turning it over. Then one day my partner and I were having one of those half-serious-but-let's-joke-to-keep-it-light conversations about which of us would go first. Can't be you, has to be me. Another time, I'd joked that I don't believe, ideally, in suicide, but I could just stop taking all the meds. Voila. There was the story. Once I had that, the only real evolution in the writing of it was deciding, halfway through, that Stanley and Phyllis, for me, needed to be Stanley and Phil.

EB: With your background in advertising, what is your sense on how promoting one’s work is different in this era of social media versus the long-established traditional media approaches?
RP: Well, since my advertising background consisted mostly of media placement and sales, I can say that some of the old tried-and-true aspects of promotion remain the same: Reach and frequency, and cutting through the clutter. The differences, though, are huge. Back in the day, the media were almost exclusively newspaper and magazines. Press releases were usually put together by ad agencies and public relations people. (Television was my business, but books were rarely, if ever, promoted on TV.) So the idea was the larger the "reach" of a venue -- meaning the number of target persons any given medium offered -- the less "frequency" was needed, and the smaller the reach (a community paper or specialty magazine, for example), the more frequency required. One balanced the reach/frequency of various outlets to achieve a desired "number of impressions." Figuring all that out, writing the releases, and getting it out was done primarily for the author by the PR folks. The author mostly just had to show up and be intelligent and charming.

EB: And now we have extremely fractured audiences sharing the same huge media outlets.
RP: My point exactly. And this means cutting through the clutter is infinitely more difficult. Individuals are far more, if not completely, responsible for their own promotion, and that involves not just knowing who represents your target audience, but how to get them to pay attention to you. The individual has much more control but also much more responsibility. The "reach" of most social media is beyond what any of the "traditional" media could offer, but, unlike, say, the New York Times, where its entire readership would see your promotional piece, now only those who choose to, by friending or following, will see those pieces. It's an open world now. Little promotion is done or arranged for you. It's pretty much up to you how effectively and well you present yourself.

EB: Would you say it’s better or worse than it used to be?
RP: I'd say that today's wide open market offers so much more opportunity, with traditional publishing, self-publishing, and indie publishing houses all having validity, and the consumer having greater word-of-mouth influence. And for just that reason, it's a much greater challenge for the individual author to break through the clutter. There are simply so many more players on the field.

RP: What are you working on now?
(Laughs). Not sounding stupid or pedantic while I answer these questions.
I'm working on a new short, and my brain is working on where it wants to settle for another novel. It's suffering a little ADD when it comes to that. Look, a squirrel!

EB: Thanks so much for your time and your insight, Rick. I’ll let you get that squirrel. Oh wow, there’s a bright shiny thing!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Request for Submissions: Winter Anthology

Submissions are now open for the 2013/14 Winter Anthology.
Regrets, I’ve had a few…
To be human is to have regrets, to question decisions, even to doubt our own abilities and capacities. Whether it’s because of a path not taken or a decision made for selfish or –  perhaps worse – unselfish reasons, we all have had moments we regret. We might regret not recognizing an opportunity. Or we regret being too quick to clutch a seemingly easy victory that left us unable to grab the better opportunity behind it. I’ve known folks who have later regretted making the right decision. Of course, like most things in life, the difference between a right decision and a wrong one can be a matter of perspective.
That’s where you writers come in. The theme for the winter anthology is “regret.” We’re looking for stories that, in some sense, convey regret. As always, we’re looking for quality short stories, but this time the theme is a little different. As in the past, stories can be in almost any genre: no erotica.
I suspect we’ll see a few romance stories, and certainly some young adult and maybe some new adult pieces. I could also imagine some middle grade stories. Children can learn about regret in such poignant ways, after all. And of course, I’m a sucker for traditional contemporary and literary fiction as well as science fiction.
With the flood of submissions we received for what became the two summer anthologies, we’ve decided to change things around a little. First, the word limit is now 5,500 words. (I almost trimmed it to 5,000, but sometimes a story is well-served with a couple more pages.) Second, given that we’re launching our first novel, Whispering Minds in October, we’re that much more time-pressed than we’ve been before, so don’t be shocked if it takes several weeks before you get a decision about whether your story has been accepted. I think it may easily be 4-6 weeks before we send you a yes or no. We’ll try to let you know earlier.
We’re looking for one submission per author. And we're unable to pay for stories, though published authors will receive a copy of the anthology. No previously published stories. If it’s appeared on your blog already, let me know, but that is not an automatic kill in my book. Send submissions to anthologies@elephantsbookshelfpress.comThe deadline is October 15.
For ease of formatting and time-saving on the copyediting and final proofing, please adhere to the following format styles:
§  Use Times Roman;
§  12 pt. type;
§  1" margin all around;
§  Double-spaced lines;
§  Do not add extra line between every paragraph;
§  When you want to denote a scene break, please use a single “#”;
§  Paragraphs indented 0.5". Please use the autoformat settings on Microsoft Word for paragraph indentations rather than manually inserting a tab or individual spaces. This feature is found under the ‘Paragraph’ format window;
§  Use a SINGLE SPACE following a period at the end of a sentence, NOT two spaces;
§  Use STRAIGHT QUOTES rather than SMART QUOTES. This is an autoformat/autocorrect feature in Word that, if checked, turns straight quote marks and apostrophes into ‘curly’ quote marks and apostrophes. This can cause formatting issues when the text is converted to a final font and style for publication. Under WORD OPTIONS, click on PROOFING, then on AUTOCORRECT OPTIONS, then make sure the line that says ‘Replace straight quotes with smart quotes’ is UNCHECKED.

Should you choose not to adhere to these guidelines, your story will still be considered. It’s a potential annoyance and challenge for some of the e-publishing formats, but it’s not a deal breaker. We’ll work with the copy. But the more you can do in advance, the faster the editing process will go and the cleaner and more consistent the final published book presentation will be.
Because that’s part of what we’re always looking to create – a clean, consistent book that readers enjoy by authors whose work they want to read again and again. Ideally, you’ll discover that Elephant’s Bookshelf Press produces books and anthologies that entertain the reader and keep them thinking – and when appropriate, laughing too.
And if you're on the fence about whether your story is good enough, do your best not to regret your decision, whatever it may be.
Thanks in advance to everyone!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Meet Pachelbel. Our elephant also answers to Paco or Pachy.

The name was suggested by Leigh Teale, who will receive either the summer anthology or a copy of Whispering Minds when it’s released later this year. It's up to her. My thanks to her, my thanks to those who voted (some of whom will also receive copies), and my thanks especially to Heather Smith, who created the logo for us.

We’re still discovering how and where Pachelbel will appear, but no matter what the saying is about elephants in a room, we intend to make ours a regular topic of discussion. 

Personally, I think Pachy needs a newsletter. If you’d like to receive it, please sign up at our Website in the space on the right-hand side. You see it? The one under the elephant. Yeah, that’s it. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Now They Can Be Revealed!

I don't know about you, but for Elephant's Bookshelf Press and me, June flashed by faster than a four-year-old. I had so much to do and I still do, but at least I have a pair of covers to share with you all!

Introducing, for the first time as companion anthologies, for your viewing pleasure, the covers of Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge!

They are due to be released by our happy elephant mascot, Pachelbel (more on that name to come...) on July 15th.

There's still much to do in the days ahead, but I hope you like what you see on the cover and we all at Elephant's Bookshelf Press look forward to presenting you with the stories within.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Q&A With Writer, Editor Jean Oram

Anyone who has spent more than a couple minutes on the online community for writers, AgentQuery Connect, quickly learns who Jean Oram is. Her title there says it all: Super Moderator. But in addition to her responsibilities herding hundreds if not thousands of cat lovers, keeping tabs on a wide variety of discussions that take place, and handling questions from worried queriers, she’s also a writer and editor. She graciously took a few minutes to answer some questions for us that we can share with you.

Elephant’s Bookshelf: You recently published your first novel, Champagne and Lemon Drops. Is self-publishing what you expected it to be?

Jean Oram: Honestly, I think it is even better than I expected. There is a certain expediency with self-publishing and an ability to make a direct impact on your book and see results. For example, I changed my book’s keywords on Amazon last week and its free rank immediately went from in the 1200s to the 600s. I love having the ability to tinker with things like that and experiment whereas traditionally published authors don’t have the access or control to tweak their book in the same way, and I think that lack of control—while freeing as it gives you more time to write—must also be frustrating at times. I like the feeling that any success is directly linked back to me and my efforts. (Same goes for any failures!!)
Plus, I am not afraid of a lot of hard work or learning and trying odd and unusual things, so self-publishing really suits me.

EB: What has been the biggest surprise?

JO: I think just how much going indie suits me—it really does!
I believe I expected the stigma of self-publishing to bother me more – the stigma that is not involving literary agents and publishing house editors and marketers and that somehow your work is ‘less’ because of that—even though many traditionally published authors are moving to the do-it-yourself form of publishing. The stigma is on the decline and it’s becoming clear that readers just want a book that makes them feel something.

That is the other thing that has surprised me—the number of downloads Champagne and Lemon Drops has had and its free ranking on—it has been better than I anticipated (and had secretly hoped for). It has also been better received in the UK. As well, the reader response has been incredible. I feel like a real author all of a sudden with readers either hating or loving my book and characters. (But luckily more connect with it than don’t. Whew!)

Oh, and apparently “spaz” is a bad word. (It isn’t where I reside nor where my editors or beta readers reside either, but two reviewers have been offended by the word—which is on the first page. Eeep!) That surprised me. A lot!

EB: Most writers find marketing a challenge. What have you done to market your novel?

JO: I think for me the marketing challenge started before my book was even released. I rewrote Champagne and Lemon Drops extensively due to the feedback I was getting from critique partners and editors. In its first drafts it wasn’t what romance readers expected (it still isn’t in a couple of ways). I was aiming at too broad of an audience which left it homeless in some ways—it wasn’t going to appeal to anyone. It had heavy women’s fiction content, a contemporary romance love triangle and a chick lit voice. That wasn’t working from a marketing perspective or even a happy reader perspective. In its new rendition it is a women’s fiction story of a small town woman trying to find her way, discover who she is, and figure out whether true love is something you can set aside in order to pursue your personal goals. So now it is a women’s fiction contemporary romance that would appeal to readers of Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, and the like.

The next challenge was making sure the title and cover were something that would send the right message to readers. Cali MacKay designed the cover and I love it! I attribute a lot of the book’s interest in that cover as it is unique, appealing, and fitting. It also stands out and catches the eye of potential readers. It also matches what the story is about. It has a bride looking up like things aren’t quite going her way—that very much fits the opening scene. Tied to the cover and the title (which was also tweaked in the rewriting process) was creating a tight book description that would tell readers what to expect and let them know whether it would appeal to them or not. I think a lot of authors don’t think about these three things as marketing items but they very much are. Very, very much!

EB: I very much agree. How about after you published?

JO: After the release I made the ebook go free on a permanent basis. This is the first in the Blueberry Springs series. (The full title, by the way is Champagne and Lemon Drops: A Blueberry Springs Chick Lit Contemporary Romance—notice the keywords in the title—marketing!) The second book, Whiskey and Gumdrops (which will be $2.99), is due out late September 2013. So Champagne and Lemon Drops has a big job—get the series and my author name (Jean Oram) visible and gain recognition with readers.
Inside my book there is some marketing going on as well. There is a sneak peek for Whiskey and Gumdrops. As well, there is a link to sign up for my newsletter so I can contact readers when the second book is released as well as offer exclusive giveaways, sneak peeks, and other goodies for subscribers. (Anyone can subscribe, just go to: I have also started a Giveaway Board for giveaways on my website.)

Also within the book is some cross-promotional content. I have a sneak peek of the first (free) book in Cali MacKay’s Highlander’s series, The Highlander’s Hope. In return, she has the first scene of my book, Champagne and Lemon Drops , in the back of her book.

In order to keep my book visible I have been submitting it to websites that list free ebooks. I have also been working with other authors with giveaways and other cross-promotional efforts. When I have a paid book then I may engage in more ‘traditional’ means of marketing as well as some paid marketing efforts.

EB: You were the copy editor of The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse and had a story published in the 2012 anthology also. How challenging is it to be on the editing side of the page?

JO: It was so much fun working with the other authors of The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse. Their stories were all so unique and fun! I really enjoyed working as the copy editor and enjoyed that opportunity tremendously.

The biggest challenge, for me, was not knowing several of the writers. In other words, coming in as an editor, you don’t know how writers are going to react to your feedback. Are they sensitive and new? Are they insecure? Are they overly confident? Are they going to take your comments to heart or blow them off? Which approach should you take for the best results and best editorial relationship?

The last thing I would ever want to do would be make another writer feel bad about their work or that they had to take my suggestions. I’ve been on the receiving end of that and it is awful! Plus a simple ‘change this’ without explanation neither opens the path of communication nor helps the author understand where the other person is coming from—it doesn’t lead to growth or the best possible collaborative effort.

Communication is key, and written communication can be taken the wrong way—there is so much room for misinterpretation. Therefore, I tried to convey that my suggestions were simply ideas on how I thought a piece could be tightened and improved—but that it might not fit with what the author was going for and they were welcome to do a bit of back-and-forth with me. So, for me the challenge was making sure authors knew I was more of a teammate than a dictator and despite time crunches, being sure that I took extra time to explain myself and let the authors know where I was coming from. In the end, I think the editorial experience was healthy and productive for the authors in The Fall and I’ve become Twitter friends with almost all of them!

EB: And you have another story coming up in Summer’s Double Edge. Which comes easier for you: writing short stories or writing novel-length works?

JO: “Gown For Sale” (the story appearing in Summer’s Double Edge) is the shortest short story I’ve written, weighing in at about 460 words. It’s almost like poetry in some ways! This particular short story came to me while I was trying to sleep. It was just there in my brain needing to be written down. The challenge in editing it before submission was making sure that the story ‘went somewhere’ and showed some change that occurred in the main character. However, it was a lot faster and easier than writing a novel-length book. It took me about five months to rewrite Champagne and Lemon Drops twice. “Gown For Sale” took me about an hour from start to completely finalized. There is a certain gratification in being able to finish a project that quickly!

The interesting thing for me is the whole short story thing. I had myself convinced that there was no way I could possibly write a short story. How can you put all that character growth and development and plot and climax and resolution into a few pages? It usually takes me around 85,000 words to accomplish that. But in reading J Lea Lopez’s story, “The Adventures of Sasquatch” (a women’s fiction story about a woman with large feet), in Spring Fevers I became inspired. I was wowed at how her short story felt like something so much bigger. 

When submissions for The Fall came along and you, Matt, asked me to edit and possibly submit a story it was the impetus I needed to give it a whirl. To my surprise it was easier than I thought and I loved being able to wrap up a mini-idea in a couple of pages instead of figuring out the long-winded arc you see in a novel. But while I enjoy writing short stories, I still love the challenge of writing a full-length novel.

EB: Aw, thanks. And I know I’m looking forward to reading more of your works in both short and long form! 

And for our readers, if you haven’t discovered her already, you can find Jean Oram online at and at as well as on Twitter as @jeanoram and on Facebook. You can also find her short stories in The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse and the upcoming anthology Summer’s Double Edge, both of which are from Elephant’s BookshelfPress, as well as download her book Champagne and Lemon Drops for free on all major ebook online retailers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Quick Story Before More Serious Musings

There will be much new to share over the next few days, including a Q & A that's almost ready, a cover reveal (actually two!) for the upcoming summer anthologies, and much, much more.

But first, I feel like sharing a little something that I wrote this morning in response to a thread started on AgentQuery Connect. Consider it a short story, even if there's way too much truth to it.

I heard feet, and they were getting closer. Soon a four-year-old was jumping in place beside me. Daughter number 2.

Time? Really, was it only 1:05? Felt later than that.

"Milk?" she asked.

"Oh, honey, it's beddy-by time. Sleepy time. Daddy needs to sleep."

She climbed into the bed, stuffed animal in tow. Maybe a little milk will help her sleep, I thought. I climbed out while she snuggled into my warm sheets.

By the time I'd returned with a little milk, my wife and daughter had snuggled closer. I wouldn't fit on the bed.

I handed my little one the bottle. "nk oo," she said.

I walked to the living room, where Riley the cat was snoring atop the couch. A little while later I heard my wife cry out, "Ow! Dammit!" She stomped out of the bedroom and into the living room, where I had been resting.

"You ok?" I asked.

"She just punched me in the eye. I was asleep. Nothing like being woken up to a punch in the eye."

She took the small couch.

From our bedroom, I heard the sound of our daughter jumping up and down again. "I'll keep tabs on her," I told my wife. "You should take the big couch."

"Mrrmrmfhgn" she mumbled.

I slid into my wife's side of the bed. At least three additional stuffed animals, including the four-foot-tall Elmo, were now in the bed.

I looked at the clock: 2:40. "Sleepy time, honey," I said.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened...

on the way to naming our elephant. The poll totally pooped out. We had votes, then POOF, they evaporated. I even reset the poll.

So I'll try it this way: Anyone interested can vote for the potential names of our elephant.
  • Ella
  • Pinkie
  • William Shakestrunk
  • Ear-nest Hineyway
  • Pachelbel
Please send your vote to; don't try to vote on the poll on the side.

A subject line of Elephant Name would be handy, but I'll see all the emails. We'll start today, May 29, and go through June 5, which is a week away.

To keep things interesting, in addition to the choice of prizes for the name droppers (i.e., the people who suggested names, a competition that is closed)
Your choice of…
Summer's Edge or Summer's Double Edge anthologies  (to be released in July 2013)
Whispering Minds by A.T. O’Connor (YA, Fall 2013)
or, for our youngest contestants,
A personalized postcard signed by our elephant mascot
and a copy of one of the books for your parent/teacher

three voters here will receive an electronic or print version of their book of choice (sorry: U.S. or Canada-based only for those).

Any questions? Post a comment here.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Name Our Elephant

On the left-hand side, we've placed the five names I've selected from among the several offered on our Website to become the name of our mascot. Please vote for your favorite. The poll will be up until May 15

Also, I want to once again thank Hoboken artist Heather Smith, who created the image. She's a wonderful artist, and I look forward to seeing more of her work -- possibly on covers of EBP books!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Q&A: Poet, Sally Ball

It's a bit of a thrill for me to provide this interview, and I hope readers will forgive me for not doing a simple Q&A. Sally and I were high school classmates and friends. She has gone on to academic and literary brilliance, while I languish as a journalist and dreamer. (Ok, perhaps I do better than "languish," and I'm not ashamed of being a dreamer.) She is an assistant professor of English at Arizona State University and her poetry, essays, and reviews have been widely published in a variety of journals, anthologies, and now two of her own poetry collections. She also is the assistant director of Four Way Books, an independent press in the TriBeCa area of New York City. Her latest, Wreck Me, is available from Barrow Street Press. Through the surprises of social media, she and I have reconnected after too many years, and I now have an opportunity to offer readers a glimpse of some wonderful poems and images.

Elephant’s Bookshelf (Matt Sinclair): It’s funny to me, but when we reconnected via Facebook, I could hear your physical voice in your words. Voice, of course, is vital to strong, compelling writing of any form. Do you still hear echoes of the girl from New Jersey in your writing, or does your work have a Western accent to its voice?

Sally Ball: Matt, you can take the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t…

And really, I still spend a chunk of every summer in New Jersey, mostly at the shore, and I’m in Summit every May for a few days, other times too. I always think of myself as an Easterner. Also, I was surprised to see how strong the presence of the West turns out to be in this new book. I live in a town, Scottsdale, that supports two predominant stereotypes: cowboys-and-injuns vs. golf-and-botox. My poems tend to be a little bewildered by the West, and I think the way I’ve found to most fully register the strangeness and beauty of the desert, the appreciable difference between Here (AZ) and There (NJ), is immersion in the “landscape”: slowing down enough to really see the spindles of the baked-out cacti, as well as the Styrofoam insulation in the under-water houses…

MS: How would you characterize the nature and subject matter of your work?

SB: I’m always most interested in poems as a way to follow a mind in motion on the page. Often in my own poems this yields a kind of thinky narrative: there’s a story, but the real interest lies in figuring out the why and the how of that story, and then also its implications. My first book, Annus Mirabilis, alternates between two main threads: poems about Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Isaac Newton -- rival inventors of the Calculus -- and poems about a contemporary speaker and her own will toward knowledge (knowledge about marriage, art, sanity). I was initially interested in the nature of ambition in the scientist and in the artist: how these might be similar, how they diverge.

The new book, Wreck Me, began when my dad was waiting for a lung transplant. I got interested in the body, in resilience, because a transplant really is a violent surgery, hard to recover from, and you have to choose it. It struck me that the paradox of the operation recurs in regular life all the time: we have to choose to endure something profoundly difficult to get through to a new place, to stay alive at all—if we want to be alive in the most resonant, important ways. The world wants us to be numb, to just go along, and if you want to, say, go deeper into a marriage, or into your work, or into anything valuable: well, sometimes that requires a type of (emotionally) violent intervention.

MS: Your new collection, Wreck Me, has just come out. Your first collection, Annus Mirabilis, was published in 2005 and was well received. You have always written. I remember bumping into you and walking to school together and we’d sometimes talk about writing. Why did it take until the twenty-first century for a book to come out with your name on the spine?

SB: Ouch!

MS: Sorry. Of course, the same could be said of me.

SB: Yes… I’m …slow. And I have some other major commitments: three kids, a teaching job, my work with Four Way Books. Also, I’m just slow: I wait for things, which doesn’t mean I don’t pursue them, too.

MS: With your busy family life and academic career, do you write every day, do you squeeze writing in when time allows? How do you maintain the artistic element of your life in the midst of the demands of “real life”?

SB: It really helps me to go away. In December I spent just over two glorious weeks at the Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut. When I have time like that—uninterrupted, no obligations—I have the best chance of starting new things, the best chance to get really lost in what I’m writing. In Connecticut, I worked for seven, eight, nine hours at a stretch most days. Summers, when school’s out and Four Way is quieter, I get a lot of that same kind of work done. During the semester, I don’t start much, though I do return to whatever’s in progress. And—is this age?—I’m waking up so early. I am hopeful that these new, alert 5 AMs are going to provide that same sense of solitude. When the house is quiet and the world is calm. (That’s a line from Stevens: the same poem says, “The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind.”)

MS: Do you write mostly poetry now, or do you still write reviews and essays on topics that interest you?

SB: Mostly poetry, also reviews and essays. A recent essay on contemporary poetry—in relation to William Carlos Williams’ “no ideas but in things”—is here, in The Volta.

MS: You deal with loss and doubt in Wreck Me. What is it about these subjects that calls to you and compels you to share?

SB: Robert Hass has this famous line, “All the new thinking is about loss./ In this, it resembles all the old thinking.”

Secondarily, here’s a story from our New Jersey days: between junior high and senior high, I went away for the summer, and when I came back, I didn’t have any friends. Or, the group of friends I’d assumed I would return to had closed the door, and I started that year very much alone. Mostly now I remember the kindness of Elizabeth Andersen, who solved this problem by becoming my lifelong friend. But I knew pretty quickly even back then that part of what made me thoughtful about the way the world does whatever the world does was having been hurt by the ongoing tramp of everything. We don’t question what makes us happy; what we interrogate, what we crave to solve, to understand (in order to purge ourselves of it? and prevent its recurrence!—) is pain.

If I wrote an autobiography of my mind, I’d say the formative event, for which now I have to be grateful, was the surprise of that loss--the obsessive, yes, but also multifaceted and productive attention I paid to what had happened and why: self-examination, compassion for others, wariness, gratitude, the panicky hopeful circling Why—

MS: There was a time in Celtic and other cultures when the poet or bard was one of the most important, most powerful people in society. Today, many folks are amazed when a person reads a book much less a poem. What has society lost by our disconnection to the poetic of life?

SB: Well, I think this question is larger: we’re disconnected from nature also, right? And we regularly lament the ways our text messages and our “connectedness” dampen—or permit us to avoid—real intimacy. (Not much is more intimate than poetry can be.)

In general, we all eat in the same restaurants, buy our clothes in the same stores; everything’s a chain, a copy. Disconnection from particulars makes the mass economy chug along. But we have to turn off certain parts of ourselves to endure this; capitalism works best when everyone (or everyone downstream) is a little numbed out. When I’m teaching poetry workshops, I return and return to two charges: you have to write what only you can write, and poetry is, in Heather McHugh’s phrase, a discipline of attention. The cultivation of our attention, learning how to engage it and then to record its findings—that’s where creative force comes from. You can’t be numb; you have to be on. (The poet Anne Carson said recently in a New York Times interview, “Every accuracy must be invented.” Zoom.)

Poetry—for those who seek it out and have figured out where to find it—is actually a great force for good in the world, in terms of enlivening our attention, reminding us what it’s like to look and to really see. I’m not that worried about poetry being marginalized (it’s not going anywhere). Here’s a little list of books to try, for someone who’s thinking, Hmmm… if that’s what poetry has to offer, I’m in: Underdog by Katrina Roberts, National Anthem or In a Beautiful Country by Kevin Prufer, Space, In Chains by Laura Kasischke, The Beds by Martha Rhodes, Granted by Mary Szybist, Hemming the Water by Yona Harvey….

MS: How do you respond to people who say they don’t “get” poetry or who say it is irrelevant to them?

SB: Well, when I’m feeling a little ornery, I ask what poetry they’ve read and wonder aloud if any of it was written recently. A fair number of students start out by saying, “There’s no good poetry after X” (“The Raven” or Shakespeare). Then it turns out they haven’t read much after “The Raven” or Shakespeare…. Maybe they’ve had a bad poetry class where the teacher presumes that students can’t (maybe even shouldn’t) understand until the teacher decodes everything for them. They have no idea where to look for whatever sort of poem they would actually enjoy.

—And that’s the rub. I think there are so many kinds of poetry you can’t put one umbrella up to protect them all, and you can’t yank one rug out from under them all. I can probably surprise any (reasonable) skeptic either by finding them a poem they turn out to like, or by talking about why I like a poem in a way that makes them at least interested in what a poem can do, and how.

John Berryman is a poet I love, and the first poem in his best-known book The Dream Songs is a favorite of mine. The ending tells us something we all already know: you can paraphrase it like this: “Life is difficult and everybody dies.”

But when I say that to you: who cares? The language has no power to cause anything but a shrug, or maybe a little disdain for such a dour outlook.

Here’s how Berryman says it:

Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

I can talk about those two lines for a pretty long time: the way the poem ends not with “empty,” which is how we’d usually assemble that sentence (“every bed grows empty,” subject-verb-adverb) but with “bed”: the thing we all go home to, where we expect to be safe and cozy and fine.

That little bit of disorder leaves us in a singular and frightening sad place.

Is poetry relevant to you? Well, are you alive? Are you sometimes lonesome? Just as “every accuracy must be invented” reveals a paradox about creativity, poetry’s ability to describe even the most alienating circumstances lets us feel connected, alert, alive to our hopes for the world, and for ourselves.

MS: Thanks so much, Sally!

SB: And hey: if you or your readers want to come out in support of Four Way Books, the independent press in TriBeCa of which I’m associate director (publishing poetry AND fiction)—it’s our 20th anniversary! And there’s a benefit party and I’ll be in New York for it, Tuesday, May 7 (from 7-9 on Lafayette between Houston and Prince).
MS: Readers, if you're interested, we can share the details! You can leave a comment here, or email me at