11.18.2004

Pug Sheridan
Sandra Cline
Autumn Leaves Publishing
isbn 0-9754554-4-3

This is an example of a very professionally self-published first novel. I assume the first book by this publisher and first book by this author are connected. Advance copies were circulated for review well in advance of release. They were produced and packaged in precisely the manner in which bound galleys are generally produced by regular houses, along with three! press releases which contained a load of information about the book. If I were to fault this effort at all, it would be to note that too many selling points -- environmentalism, a "feminist sub-text", spirituality -- are mentioned.

I heartily recommend Atlas Books over American Publishing Company for all your vanity publishing needs. Which -- did you know my accountant considers my publication to be vanity publishing? Yup, because financially, that's what it is. That sure hurt when it was mentioned. Ron said something soothing. I heartily recommend Salt Publishing and Tupelo Press for all your... alright, whatever.

The novel is voice-based and issue-driven, which is the reason for all the "selling points" -- there's a helpful female Indian, the Ku Klux Klan (rape! golden showers! -- but more seriously, also an afterword which explains some of the sourcing in and mention of other texts -- BIRTH OF A NATION for one), and lots of spirituality.

I have a very nuanced uh, situation with spirituality and how it is treated in writing -- it is clunky here. The spirituality came first, and it is getting passed through the prose as a "main idea" like it would in a paper. Here's the beginning of Chapter Fourteen:

"When I told my mother about the shared dream mystery, she cocked her head and said, "I once heard a word that's never made sense to me until now. It was in a book of Celtic verses. SOULTWIN....'"

The southern dialect comes and goes thank heaven.

There's a "League of Seven Sisters" which recalls the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

This, too, is like my students -- what do you do when you or your student has written a perfectly competent novel which will never win a contest? I assume that Ms. Cline -- who has some literary and professional accomplishment -- submitted the novel to various presses. Presumably without the author's note and preface which would've sent the otherwise fine writing into slush immediately. But then, I have a complex relationship with presses which charge entry fees for prizes rather than having reading periods, and I've gotten lucky I've been asked for two books. So, you see, all the money I spent on book contests really has been for nought (I still enter though). And then, there is always the thought -- I will bring it out myself. Because press x is asking for sales upfront, although they don't seem dishonest, and press y says maybe in 2010 -- and I am tired of waiting -- because press z did take it but then couldn't bring it out --

I assume the writing in it is heartfelt, although it seems to me to be a little less motivated than I would like -- that instinctive distrust of the movie tie-in and the easy marketing points -- but I must say that I initially had the same distrust of things like Nicole Cooley's Salem poems, before I read them very carefully, and I'm afriad I won't be reading Peg's story very carefully.

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