Some do it for love, some for money. These five U.P. authors write for the love of telling a story and try to make a buck from it in the process.
In recent years there has been an uptick in the number of folks publishing books in the Upper Peninsula. The subject matter of these books runs the gamut but mostly focuses on the people and places that make the Upper Peninsula so unique, like working on the freighters, living in a haunted lighthouse, life along the shores of Lake Superior, or self-discovery in the wilderness.
Some of these authors work together to not only improve their writing skills but to promote their work. Here, five authors who are telling the tales of life in the U.P. talk about what they have gone through to get their work in print and sell their books.
Julie Brooks Barbour
is telling her story in poetry while helping other writers achieve their writing goals. Barbour is assistant professor in the English department at Lake Superior State University, poetry editor for LSSU's Border Crossing and associate editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.
Barbour loves Midwest themes and life in the U.P. Her poetry speaks to women's issues. She says conversations about women are really important. Her three poetry books include Small Chimes (2014), and two chapbooks: Earth Lust (coming out in 2014) and Come To Me and Drink (2012). Her sister illustrates her books; apparently creativity runs in the family.
Barbour says the road to publishing isn't easy. "It's daunting, scary, especially for poets," she says. It took her three years to get her first work published. She says a good way for poets to get their foot in the door is to publish a chapbook first, which is a book of about 28 pages. Chapbooks are usually inexpensive, she says, making it a good way for a reader to decide if they like a poet's work enough to buy one of their books.
It's no secret that you won't get rich writing poetry, in fact, you might not even break even. So Barbour encourages her students to find a day job they like. She says she's not in it for the money, although you can make a few bucks at it. She's in it for the love of the written word and to help other writers find their voice.
had to leave the area to find out she wanted to write about it. She says after she moved to Florida, someone from the U.P. shared their experiences living in the land she so loved. She took pen to paper, or rather fingers to the keyboard, and tapped that often elusive muse to come up with a freighter full of stories.
Her stories speak to native American values and sacrifice, overcoming adversity, and personal responsibility without being preachy. So far she has penned two books (One Foot in Two Canoes, Up the Creek Without a Paddle) with a series in the making.
McBride believes in the value of a writer's support group and is a member of Creative Endeavors, a group of enthusiastic writers and other creative types that meet regularly at Bayliss Library in Sault Ste. Marie.
"Every writer finds they need a support group," says McBride. She says online writer's support groups are fine, but there is nothing like human interaction.
The path to publishing has been like walking barefoot on a rocky shoreline on Lake Superior for McBride. She says she sent out query letters and finally decided to self-publish, choosing Peppertree, a small publisher in Sarasota, Florida.
Authors who decide to self-publish pay for the associated costs of publishing a book, like cover art, barcodes, editing, and of course the printing of the book. They're also responsible for most of the promotion involved in the finished work, which assumes additional costs.
"You can have done everything you want to pay for," says McBride of self-publishing, including having someone write the darn thing. As for promotion, she says it's necessary for writers to get out there and hawk their work if they don't want to end up simply writing for themselves.
There are many more authors making waves here in the U.P., over 100 in fact, according to Tyler R. Tichelaar, a local author and the owner of Superior Book Productions
, a professional book review, editing, and proofreading service in Marquette. Here is a look at three more authors and how they're getting and staying in print.
is well known to folks who appreciate good literature and also around the campus of Northern Michigan University. He has been teaching in the English Department at NMU since 1996. He garnered attention in the literary world when Crown publishers accepted and published Cold, "...a finely crafted, wild yarn set in the great north," as described by literary great Jim Harrison.
Smolens has published nine novels thus far, with one more, Quarantine, soon to be released.
wrote her first novel a few years ago, but it still regularly tops the lists of most popular recent U.P. books. Anyone who has experienced the tough winters living along the shores of Lake Superior and cares about the relationships that are forged through hardship should be able to relate to Airgood's debut novel, South of Superior, published by Riverhead Trade.
South of Superior is a tale of a woman, Madeline Stone, who walks away from bustling Chicago to live 500 miles away in the frozen north. Sound familiar? Stone finds life on the shores of Lake Superior a place, "where debts run deep, but where community, and compassion run deeper."
Airgood lives the life she writes about. Her and her husband, Rick own and operate a popular diner in Grand Marais, where they meet folks from all over the place and forge relationships with the locals.
Donna Winters has been writing for decades in what some might call a niche of the publishing industry. If you'd rather read about romance than get caught up in the real life drama of it, check out Winters's romance series. Winters has published 19 Christian romance novels as well as some out-of-print books she felt deserved to be recirculated.
Winters didn't have much choice but to self-publish after Christian publishers folded in the 1980's after deciding it wasn't a profitable genre. She formed her own publishing company, Great Lakes Romance
, writing and publishing out of Garden, in the Garden Peninsula.
Winters appreciates the control she has over the content of her books and says she respects and adheres to all of the professionalism that goes into producing good work as seen from the major publishing houses. To this end she hires a professional editor to edit her work as well as talented folks to do cover artwork.
As for promotion, she and most other writers grapple with using social media and the Internet to their advantage. Winters has been experimenting with social media but acknowledges not all authors can use the Internet in the same way to promote their work.
When not being creative, authors have to step out of their comfort zones to sell their work, that is, if they don't want their books to gather dust on the shelf of obscurity.
Neil Moran is a freelance writer/copywriter and owner of Haylake Business Communications
. You can find him on Twitter at @moranwrite.