The Gypsy Life

November 5, 2006

I’ve presented The Fisherman’s Quilt, and now, the first volume of Port Gamble Publishing Newlsletter, (you can order it by email to at a variety of shows this fall: the La Conner Quilt Festival, the Seattle Singles Yacht Club NW Harvest benefit dinner, and the Pacific NW Booksellers’ Association. Maybe my mom was speaking the truth when she said she got me from the Gypsies, for I do love the traveler’s way of life. Living on an island, as I do, presents a distinct lifestyle, especially in terms of commuting. Where I once spent four hours a day commuting to my day job, now I can walk into “town,” the village of Eastsound, in ten minutes. But the logistics of getting off the island can be daunting and unavoidable, as I experienced in attending the fall tradeshow of the Pacific NW Booksellers Association in Portland on October 14. I arrived at the ferry landing an hour early, so I’d be sure to get on the boat to Anacortes. Earlier in the week, one of the ferry’s engines started acting up, so my ferry was going at nearly half speed, and running an hour late. Then the fog, which had just burned off around noon, started rolling back in. I boarded the ferry over two hours past the sailing time. Then the interminable voyage began as we drifted through the haunting fog. When in doubt, sleep. I spread out on one of the padded benches on the ferry, and dozed off for about twenty minutes. I woke up and we were still surrounded by the thick mist, gliding slowly through the water, sounding a horn occasionally to locate ourselves in the fog. Finally a ferry worker announced, “Now arriving Anacortes,” but it was another long spell as we eased into the slip. Five hours after first arriving at the island ferry terminal, we found land again, on what was usually an hour and a half trip. I could have driven the length or the width of the state in that time! And I was still a five-hour drive away from Portland. While living on the island has presented me with the gift of slowing down, sometimes ….

The PNBA show in Portland was in its third day, after a day of seminars on Thursday and the first show day on Friday. It was slower and less-populated than the four PNBA shows I’ve attended previously. Staffing the Book Publishers’ NW corner of the Publishers’ Marketing Association (PMA) table, I found an abundance of volunteers. So we spelled each other at the booth and I was able to tour the show. My first stop was at Ingram Distribution’s table where I could hardly believe that a display book was printed with the cover upside-down! (Note to self: check that cover and inner pages are aligned.) I stopped at Arnica Publishing, where Tears in the Holy Land: Voices from Palestine and Israel, kept company with McCormick and Schmick cookbooks and What Would Marilyn Say and What Would Micky Say, advice quotes from Marilyn Monroe and Micky Mantle. I asked the publishers how they made their publishing decisions, how they decided which books to print, and learned that choices were made rather Topsy-like (“I just grew!”) according to the publisher’s interests. In the years since I’ve formed Port Gamble Publishing, I’ve considered many works to publish, and have sought out authors of an outstanding commencement speech, and of a collection of narratives from current war veterans. I’ve also found narratives by former Peace Corps volunteers to be work that I’d like to publish and market. I’m learning that the books I want to make public to a wide readership (publish) involve stories of “everyday” people who inspire others and present a larger view of the world. I’ve always found publishing a complex and mysterious enterprise. Little by little, I put the pieces together, surprised by how much you can do by yourself, or with your own circle of colleagues. In the process, I’ve found Paul Dry’s treatise on publishing enlightening. The October issue of PMA’s Independent included Jan Nathan’s concise article on what publishing actually is, and whether you are a publisher or not. This should be required reading for anyone considering self-publishing, or independent publishing. I was able to talk to Katherine of Poetry Magnets, out of Minneapolis, MN. Poetry magnets are those snippets of magnetized words, packaged according to theme (foreign language, haiku, wine lover, etc.) that you can post on your fridge and move around to create verse, or prose, or theories, or …..This successful business started when the owners suffered both writer’s block and a sneezing fit that sent his scraps of paper flying. In about ten years, it’s grown to about 14 employees, of whom about half are aspiring writers, I was told. Further on, I talked with Kent Sturgis of Epicenter Press, which focuses on Alaska books. Kent is always generous about sharing his experiences and offering advice, from agent suggestions to distributors and fulfillment houses. Kent uses a not-for-profit social services agency in Seattle with a great track record, Pioneer Distribution Services. He talked about acquiring two new titles from another publisher, and when I told him I was in the process of writing a memoir, he offered to send me a copy of Velma Wallis’ book, Growing Ourselves. This tradeshow was well-monitored to prevent people taking unauthorized “free” copies of books which later show up for sale on Amazon and other websites. The first book tradeshow I attended, I was impressed with publisher freebies, but I soon learned that lugging around a packful of books is a real burden: a catalog or small promotional materials work better for me. Of course there are the exceptions. Stopping to talk to Marty Essen, author/publisher of Cool Creatures, Hot Planet; Exploring the Seven Continents, with its disturbing “spider on your eye” cover, I learned that his book is not just an adventure book a la Jeff Irwin, but his explanation of the interdependence of the wildest of wildlife with the most civilized of civilizations. For example, he mentioned “Draculin,” an anticoagulant derived from vampire bat saliva. Throughout Essen’s book, he cites many examples of creatures some people consider undesirable, and why those animals need to be protected such as a snake called a Bothrops jararaca, whose venom is now being used to develop drugs that help people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. I eagerly accepted his offer of a signed copy of his book. Tom Quinn Kumpf, author, photographer, storyteller of Devenish Press, manned his booth of evocative photographs of the people and places of Ireland. Tom and I talked about the rise of the “Celtic Tiger” Ireland’s economic boon and about the continuing sectarian strife. I attributed it mostly to economic factors; Doug felt it’s an identity issue. Marty, Tom, and others like them! The passion, inspiration, and maze-like journeys that come from a writer following his or her muse make a five hour ferry trip and a five hour car commute more than worthwhile. And for those of us facing discouragement as we try to get our books, our stories, our songs out to the public, I found the following opinion from Claire Zulkey of Media Bistro a real message to buck up and get on with it:

Overcoming the Horrible, Horrible Discouragement of Your Life Personally, I think if it weren’t for the crushing discouragement, the joy of publishing your work wouldn’t be so amazing. So, call me cruel, but I think it’s good to have a little bit of failure in every writer’s life. Just a tiny bit, though, to keep you humble. If you’ve been sending out those clips and working on those drafts and applying for those jobs and god knows what for god knows how long, though, and you’re feeling like the man is just keeping you down, well, that’s just stinkin’ thinkin’. I’ll be signing The Fisherman’s Quilt at the Pacific Marine Expo at Qwest Field in Seattle on November 17 from 1-3. If you’d like a copy of first volume of Port Gamble Publishing Newsletter September 2005-September 2006, which has all the first year’s newsletters together in one spiral-bound book, please order by email or send $18. which includes tax and shipping, to Port Gamble Publishing, PO Box 582, Eastsound WA 98245.

I hope to meet you in person, or hear from you. May you enjoy good fortune in all your ventures.

I would love to hear your comments and responses. Please feel free to reply, and let me know if it’s okay to quote you in future newsletters. If you don’t want to receive this periodic newsletter, please just reply and type “Unsubscribe” in the subject line.

Margaret Doyle

Port Gamble Publishing PO Box 582 Eastsound WA 98245 360-317-7518 The Fisherman’s Quilt ISBN 0976 109 905