Pursuing a dream to write a book can be as easy as blogging for some people and a long, thoughtful process for others, but whether or not it was easy or difficult, once you start looking at publication, you can find yourself in a jungle of hidden agents and painful rejection letters. Two authors from Blandon found themselves stuck in that jungle, but they found a way out. They decided to take full control as self-published authors.
Pearl of Richmond School by Dori Hoch
Dori Hoch’s workspace consisted of a dining room table situated so that she could look out her window at the pastoral view of a neighboring farm and rolling hills. Classical music drifted in the background as Hoch sat down with a mug of coffee and reflected on stories told by her mother-in-law, Lillian Hoch, Lillian’s sister-in-law and her sister, Ethel and Elaine, and their friend, Pearl Noll, and what they did in a one-room school.
“As a present day teacher, I just knew that my students would not know what it was like to be a student in the one-room school and I realize that these people would be gone in 10, 15 years and there would be nobody to hear first hand stories of people who were in a one-room school,” said Hoch.
Inspired by these stories, Hoch thought that she had a really tremendous idea, but once she wrote her book, Pearl of Richmond School, she was frustrated.
“I think part of the frustration was getting it out there looking for an agent and sending it to publishing houses,” said Hoch.
Two different writers groups critiqued Hoch’s story. She made adjustments and followed recommended guidelines from a large, thick book for submitting documents for publication.
“I made the improvements, but when it was time to send out, when you get the no’s, you know that kind of thing, it was like where do you go with it?” asked Hoch. “Even to try to find an agent was very difficult.”
Hoch knew she needed an illustrator and thought the watercolors her niece, B. Jo Hirneisen, did would be perfect for the book. Once the illustrations were finished, she found an on-line publisher and got her first copy printed. After this, Hoch went to George Hill to self-publish her book.
“I think when you have a dream, to me especially now that I have it published, just seeing it in print was rewarding,” said Hoch.
Hoch wanted to write historical fiction for middle-school students. She said by putting a little bit of historical fiction into her story, students who are actually going to go visit a one-room school museum would be able to see that the children did go to school there much like themselves.
“There were 13 one-room schools in the Richmond Township and they have a map, I saw it on the wall, of 1877. It was broken up into 13 one-room schools and they’re [Fleetwood Historical Society] trying to get a slideshow together with the pictures of those,” said Hoch.
The Fleetwood Historical Society meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The meeting for March will give Hoch the opportunity to talk about the inspiring stories for her book, how she went about it, and how she got it published as well as give a reading. Hoch will be signing copies of her book too. She is already getting calls from people who experienced life in one-room schools. The people who attended these schools will be able to add to a discussion at the meeting.
“It’s an audience that I wasn’t expecting with my book. Kids aren’t terribly interested in history, but people who were students in a one-room school that’s their history,” said Hoch. “I’m excited because I wasn’t expecting this audience, but it’s turning out really neat because it may take me in a different direction. Maybe I’ll write a non-fiction book on the 13 one-room schools in Richmond Township.”
Reflecting back on her experience, Hoch said that seeing her story unfold each page, seeing her niece give vision to the characters with illustrations, was to see her dream come to life.
Although Hoch is already working on an Easter story for her next book, she plans to write a collection of humorous family stories not unlike those written by Erma Bombeck.
Hoch currently belongs to St. Paul’s UCC Church’s Writers Group, The Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project in West Chester, and Fellows of National Writing Project Institute.
For more information, go to www.dorihoch.com.
Dachshunds in Moccasins by Nadine Poper
With latte’s in hand, we sat at a little table in the children’s book section of Barnes & Noble where Nadine Poper referenced some of her favorite authors as sources of style and inspiration.
Dachshunds in Moccasins was a rhyming title that popped into Poper’s head 10 years ago after reading the book, Llamas in Pajamas, to her children and niece. Poper didn’t have much time to think about writing the story. Her life was full taking care of her kids and working as a librarian.
“Just the title—I never really knew what the story was going to be,” said Poper. “It was about two years ago, in the fall, when it’s just almost like I got hit in the head and just said now is the time. I just felt like now is the time for the character to be born and the whole story to unfold.”
The up for Poper was that the story was easy to write and she got it finished, but getting it formatted in the on-line self-publisher, Create Space, proved to be a bit challenging.
“I’ve never ever done anything like that before and I don’t consider myself tech savvy,” said Poper. “There were technical terms I never even knew. I panicked a couple of times so I would say the biggest challenge was the formatting of the actual book. Every time you would have to make a change, you have to go back and re-upload the whole book and wait like an hour for it to say okay it’s good or not good.”
Poper said by going through Create Space, she wasn’t charged anything to do the work, but if she wanted to, she could have paid for a hands-off self-publishing service.
“I didn’t want that. I wanted complete control. It’s a great product; I like them,” said Poper.
Before Poper turned to self-publishing, she tried the traditional way of sending off her manuscript to publishing houses in New York and even to California only to receive the traditional rejection letters.
“I thought, what’s wrong with it? I didn’t know why they were rejecting it. And I thought, I don’t want to wait for the manuscript to come across the right person’s desk the right morning when they had just enough coffee,” Poper said with some humor. “I didn’t want to wait for that perfect moment.”
Poper felt confident she had a story to tell that others would like and made up her mind to self-publish. Since the fall, she has sold over a 100 copies. Because create space is owned by Amazon, Poper had the additional benefit of selling her book through Amazon.com, but she also had the task of self-marketing. Create Space or Amazon was not going to market the book for her.
“I created a book trailer; I created a web-site; I know who my audience is. There are dachshund lovers world-wide,” said Poper who is also passionate about the breed.
She cited sources such as Facebook, Google Plus, You Tube, and even going to pet events for book signings. At book signings, Poper uses a stamp with a picture of a dachshund and includes a special sheet of how to draw a wiener dog. She will even include a bookmark in with the package. Her illustrator, Michele Wallace, will add a drawing of a paw print at the signings.
Poper laughed as she talked about her second book, which is also about dachshunds. Although the writing part is done, the book is now in the illustration phase. She and the artist meet regularly to collaborate on the images. Poper is working with a different illustrator for this book.
Being a children’s librarian, Poper wrote Dachshunds in Moccasins for families with dachshunds and children up to third grade level.
“There are a couple of children’s authors that inspired me and when I read their works to my students, they’re just mesmerized and I like that age group,” said Poper.
Poper found inspiration from authors such as Mo Willems. Her smile and expression were story enough as she described his Elephant and Piggy, series and how much the kids love his work. She said his pictures are simple, the text is simple, and the kids are just engaged.
Although Poper intends to continue to self-publishing because of the quick turn-around and having full control, she is planning on writing an early-reader chapter book, which she will try getting published the traditional way. Poper plans to keep the book simple and easy to read based on her experiences of how kids react to books and what other librarians have noticed. Even the layout can have an effect on kids and turning her book over to a publisher concerns Poper. She still may end up wanting that total control and stay with self-publishing.
Poper is a member of the Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards Committee for PSLA (Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association Program), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, The Pagoda Writer’s Group, and Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue.
For more information, go to http://nadinepoper.weebly.com/.