Creative Coworking is proud to be the host of a wide variety of events right here in our office space. On June 29th at 7PM, She Writes Press will be stopping by Creative Coworking as part of their first national book tour. We spoke to one of our members, Deborah Siegel, about the history of She Writes Press and the details of their upcoming event.
What is She Writes? And what is She Writes Press?
She Writes, which Kamy Wicoff and I co-founded six years ago this month, is an online resource and community for women who write. I recently uncovered the first blog post I wrote for it—and what a journey it’s taken since. I’m proud to say that She Writes is now powered by the collaborative efforts of 26,000+ active members from across the U.S. and more than 30 countries, along with a team of editors and advisors, and has become a top destination for published and aspiring writers from all walks of life to grow, learn, educate, inspire, and encourage success.
She Writes Press was founded by Kamy and Brooke Warner in 2012 as a response to the barriers to traditional publishing getting higher and higher for authors. Brooke, who I’ve long admired, had been the Executive Editor at Seal Press for eight years, and was witnessing firsthand the contracting publishing environment, where she was personally having to reject beautifully written books on a regular basis because the submitting author didn’t have a strong enough author platform.
Kamy and Brooke envisioned a company where authors would be invited to publish based on the merit of their writing alone. They wanted to found a press for women writers that would be a platform—that could launch their writing careers, and where they could legitimately compete with their traditional counterparts. It was the logical outgrowth, in a way, of She Writes.
What makes SWP unique in the publishing world?
In 2013, She Writes Press secured traditional distribution through Ingram Publisher Services and established itself as a real player in the hybrid-publishing world. This relationship secured the right for SWP authors to submit their books for review through traditional channels, creating a more level playing field. SWP authors have been featured in O! magazine, People, and USA Today, and have been reviewed in all of the trade magazines: Publishers Weekly; Kirkus; Booklist; Library Journal; and featured on Shelf Awareness.
In 2014, She Writes Press became part of the SparkPoint Studio, LLC, family. She Writes Press now has a powerful combination that no other hybrid publisher brings to the table: 1) a curated list with a strong editorial vision; 2) traditional distribution; and 3) an in-house marketing and publicity team (through SparkPoint Studio CEO Crystal Patriarche’s publicity company, BookSparks) that SWP authors can choose to utilize.
As of 2015, She Writes Press has reached another milestone, having signed its 100th author. It’s a mission-driven, female-run company with a strong vision, passion, and work ethic. Its roster of impressive, accomplished authors speaks for itself.
How did you get involved? What about SW and SWP excite you personally?
“Friends don’t let friends write alone” has always been my motto. I would never have finished my dissertation, never have started my first book, and never have finished my second without the support of writer friends sitting across from me in coffee shops, keeping me company mind, body, and soul.
So when Kamy tapped me in March 2009 to help her launch a new venture to connect women readers and writers, and women writers with each other, it took me all of three seconds to say count me in.
It was a changing moment in the publishing industry—and those shifts have only intensified in the years since we launched. To be a writer now requires a new set of platform-building skills, which authors are expected to learn.
What excites me now, and what excited me six years ago, are the founding principles that became our She Writes Credo: We believed in the power of community to nurture and sustain creativity—and it has. I’ve learned so much by just watching members of my extended writing community build audience and impact. We knew that in this era of turmoil in the publishing industry, we as authors had everything to gain by sharing what we knew, and everything to lose if we withheld our wisdom from one another. We sensed that technology, employed thoughtfully, would empower and amplify the voices of women and girls who otherwise would not have been heard. And we believed it was possible to build a platform upon which all of us could stand.
Tell me about some of the authors involved in the event? How did you come to discover them?
As Brooke explains, Paolina Milana (The S-Word) was going to publish her book as a novel, but Brooke encouraged her to publish it as a memoir instead. In this debut memoir, which just won a National Indie Excellence Award, Milana shares a tragic yet tenacious story of growing up in a Sicilian Catholic family surrounded by mental illness, trauma, and secrets. You can read more about it in a recent interview published at Jennie Nash’s blog.
Carol Merchasin (This Is Mexico) met Brooke in San Miguel de Allende. She’d attended Brooke’s panels that year on publishing and on women writers. Her book is a collection of essays that describe the magical and mysterious workings of everyday life in Mexico.
Barbara Stark-Nemon will be reading from Even In Darkness, a saga of family, love, and war, based on a true story of an unconventional life lived in post-war Germany.
And Kamy Wicoff will be reading from her debut novel Wishful Thinking, an enchanting and insightful modern-day fairy tale in which one woman learns to overcome the challenges and appreciate the joys—of living life in real time. Kamy and I published a conversation about some of the larger issues her novel raises at my blog Girl w/Pen (see: Is Time Travel Easier than Passing Affordable Childcare?)
What is your personal relationship to literature/self-publishing?
I’m a devotee of the writing process, having struggled with it most of my life. I believe (and I’m hardly the first to say this) that successful writers are not the ones who naturally write the most beautiful sentences but the ones who stick with the process, in spite of the obstacles. The obstacles are so many, as we know.
I come to writing as a PhD in English and American Literature (minor in Feminist Cultural Studies) and have always been intrigued by narrative, representation, and way ideas about women and gender spread through culture. My first book (Sisterhood, Interrupted) was about the fights and frenzies around “feminism” in America over the past 40 years, and my second was an anthology of essays (with my co-editor and dear friend Daphne Uviller) titled Only Child. My third will be a book about the gendering of childhood in the first five years of life—my husband and I are raising boy/girl twins.
My previous books were traditionally published, one with Random House and the other with Palgrave Macmillan. With my third, I’m open to anything. But I have to finish writing it first.
What have you yourself been up since the founding of She Writes?
Well, I relocated my family from NYC to Evanston, to be closer to extended family—and the lake. I’ve been working slowly on my next book, gave my first TEDx talk, and have helped expand The OpEd Project’s presence here in the Midwest. I also started a business, Girl Meets Voice, Inc., through which I coach and showcase others with expertise and help them forge a bridge to a more public voice.
It’s been a natural evolution for me from collaborating at She Writes to collaborating one-on-one with leaders who lead through writing and ideas. My clients call me their “thought partner.” The same impulses that launched She Writes launched my coaching—creativity is fostered in community, and we have everything to gain by sharing what we know. The idea of the artist, genius, entrepreneur, or CEO toiling solo in the garret doesn’t work for everyone. I know this firsthand.
How do you envision the future of publishing/how do you think SWP fits into that vision?
I’ve asked Kamy for her take on this one. Here’s what she says:
“Publishing, like photography, music and movies before it, will become more democratized and accessible as the tools required to publish are no longer exclusively in the hands of big publishers with the capacity to distribute. It’s a thrilling time, when lots of terrific, important books can find ways to market that don’t require them to wow the marketing department at a Big Five house. At the same time, however, the flood to market of so many new books and authors presents a curation problem—if anyone can publish, how will readers know what’s good? She Writes Press, by upholding the editorial standards of traditional publishers while leveraging the freedom and control self-publishing offers writers, creates a much-needed “third way.” We are free to accept manuscripts based purely on their literary merits, because our business model relies on authors paying us to publish them, rather than evaluating them on whether we think they will be bestsellers. It’s not the right model for everyone, but the industry is exploding with new choices for authors, and SWP is proud to be a leading innovator in that. -Kamy Wicoff”
In the literary spirit, what is your current must-read recommendation?
For fiction of course, Kamy’s novel, Wishful Thinking, and I’m eager to get my hands on the books by the three other authors who are reading on June 29!
For nonfiction, Sara Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater. Good for writers who also happen to be parents of young kids. The title says it all.
And my favorite kid’s book, which is actually a grown up book too, is What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamata. I love giving that one as a gift.