Today is a momentous occasion here at Word Wanderings: it’s our 100th Post! I’ve been blogging here for a little more than two years, and I want to thank each and every reader for sticking with me.
I have a special treat in store for you. For the third time, Chila (Maggie) Woychik has been gracious enough to join Word Wanderings. Today, she discussed her small press, Port Yonder Press (PYP) as well as the publishing industry in general. And, in celebration of #100, she’s graciously agreed to participate in a giveaway! Details are at the end of the post.
Bio: Chila Woychik is a multi-published author, and the publisher/managing editor at Port Yonder Press, a small, multi-genre, traditional press. She lives with her husband in the lovely state of Iowa.
Chila Woychik: A love of reading & writing, and a too quiet house. My son had left for college and I was in need of purpose—the result: a hobby that has since fluctuated between hobby and business. Right now it’s more of a business, but it’s a job I love, so I don’t really complain too frequently.
CW: Four imprints: one general market (speculative fiction), two Christian (one youth, one adult), and one catch-all for everything else. I think we have quite enough at this time, with nary another in mind.
CW: The sheer number of hours and hands involved in the process. Publishing is laborious, especially if a publisher has more than one book in the works at one time. A smaller press doesn’t equal a smaller outlay of time. It still takes us as much or more time than that a larger press to cover all the bases.
CW: I’m continually surprised at the almost daily commitment I have to have to keep this barge afloat. I’m surprised at the learning curve: I never quite catch up with all there is to learn and do. And I’m shocked at the difficulty small presses have in marketing their books.
CW: 1) I’d like to see the phrase “Christian fiction” dematerialize—undergo an implosion, a falling in on itself, due to its inherent lack of heart, soul, mind, and strength.
2) I’d like to see people with a Christian worldview dedicate themselves to becoming the best writers on the planet, writing across genres and for all audiences.
3) I’d like to see followers of Christ begin to work together to develop their skills and marketing tools, and help one another in new and never-before-experienced ways to truly integrate into the entire world of writing, not just the “Christian” writing world.
CW: I had actually planned to give an example or two on a blog post about that at one point, but have delayed it due to other projects at hand.
I define preachiness as that which would make an unchurched reader uncomfortable in the same way a sex scene might make a churched person uncomfortable. I see the only real purpose of “Christian Fiction” as being Christians wanting to write for other Christians, and I balk at that. Sure, we have the right to do so, but the questions I must ask myself are, “Why? Why should I want to do that? Why not write for the larger world in general and have a potentially greater audience and impact?” But then that would mean I would have to actually know what it’s like “out there,” actually get “out there” and mix with real people, and actually risk getting a little “dirty” as I listen to “their” jokes and swearing and hard luck tales of broken relationships and their resultant despair. My God. Why would anyone want to do that? Maybe so we can love “them”? What an amazing and utterly foreign concept to most Christians.
What would I prefer to see? Real fiction with real characters acting out real scenes in believable ways (and yes, all that can be handled with grace; it shouldn’t have to red flag us with “smut”). And in that, I’d like to see occasional glimpses of how or why someone would choose Christianity while on a natural search for meaning—a genuine quest for truth that leads here and there before one character comes full circle and realizes Christianity is by far the most peaceful and productive and apologetically viable of all religions. But there’s the rub: few Christians nowadays can actually do that. It’s so much easier to have their character pray a prayer or indulge in a “salvation scene,” neither of which are honest biographies of who Christ really was—they don’t go far enough.
But most books can and should be written, I think, without a noticeable Christian element at all, while at the same time, most Christian lives should be lived with a strong Christian element. The difference is in the living of it vs the reading about it. The most powerful witness of all is Christians who love unconditionally, lived out in their daily lives. Quit writing about it and DO IT.
With the faux-genre of “Christian Fiction” out of the way, writers would be writing for everyone—a marvelous opportunity to let a non-preachy faith integrate into the very essence of one or more characters on the page.
CW: Great question. No, I think it’s a flagrant misuse of their energies. Just as you’d love to read a fantastic book without the intrusions of a preachy Islam or atheism or Eastern mysticism, or graphic sex scenes, so would others love to read great works by Christian authors without feeling they’re being “evangelized.” It happened in the past with a number of books which have since become “classics,” and it can be done today: strong stories with strong characters, and no preaching, no salvation scenes, no spiritual “thread” secretly woven throughout, though our society was strongly Christian at that time. So why didn’t we see more of the “preachiness” back then, though our society was so blatantly Christian? Why, indeed.
Throw in a few random “Christian” this and that’s and you might as well include a gospel tract free with each book—those sort of things are little more than cheap Hollywood sales efforts; true Christianity delves much deeper than that, into the very essence of a person’s character, lived out more than spoken. Writers of the past knew that inherently; they didn’t have to “preach.” What’s available today as “Christian Fiction” would have shocked and sickened them, I think.
My suggestion: get out in the real world among real people and notice how well preachiness flies. It doesn’t. Instead, learn what does, then emulate that in your writing. People hate being preached at; so do I. I despise it when writers think they can try to sneak “gospel tactics” into their books and then slap the label “Christian Fiction” on it, ostensibly to garner the Imprimatur of American Christian society—viola! Now the book is spiritual, and now both the author and readers are spiritual … God is pleased! Umm. I highly doubt that, though God is much more gracious than I am. I still believe, however, he’d like to see us rise above cheap Christianity cloaked in mediocre writing, and instead strive for the highest quality books available, books that will be read across audiences, and books that are written by, yes, Christians. Books of depth and beauty.
CW: How do I justify it, or how do I assure the same quality I demand of other writers? I justify it by not needing justification. I work hard at what I do, and am only taking advantage of some of the fruit of my labors. Other writer / press owners have done the same and if I strive to write as good or better than my own published authors, I feel I’m setting a positive example for all writers.
I subject my own personal work to at least 2 qualified editors. With “On Being a Rat,” I used 3 editors (2 not from PYP) and about a dozen readers. I laid that manuscript out to more scrutiny than anything PYP has done thus far. If it can be seen in the finished product, I owe much to my tremendous helpers. Where it has failed, I take full responsibility.
CW: Just about everything coming up really: The elven anthology, the Christmas western collection, Mary Stewart’s vampire story and Cindy Smith’s King Arthur story, as well as Janalyn’s fantasy. Then there’s CathiLyn Dyck’s piece of nonfiction which has me more than a little psyched, and our writing groups starting in July. I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but not intentionally. I’m thrilled too about the great authors and manuscripts I hope to work with in the next few years. It’s a fascinating time to be a part of Port Yonder Press and publishing. And thank you, Liberty, for the good questions; I really do appreciate it! I’d love to return sometime.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the giveaway! Chila and I put our heads together and we’re both offering a prize each for one grand prize. From me, you’ll receive a $10 gift card (via e-mail) to Amazon.com. And from Chila, you can choose any of the books currently offered on the PYP site, or any that will be released through December 31, 2011 (if you really want to wait, of course.)
Entry is pretty easy. You have one of two options: become a new follower to Word Wanderings, or leave a comment to this post. If you’re a new follower *and* leave a comment, you get two chances! The winner will be selected at random Sunday, June 26th, 2011 after 8 PM Central, and announced Monday, June 27 first thing in the morning. I wish you luck!
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you to my readers for 2+ years of putting up with me, and the support you’ve shown as well. I wish I could hug each and every one of you personally.
I am hearing from several readers through the Port Yonder Press Facebook page that many people are having difficulty posting comments. If you are experiencing difficulty, please message me using the function with specifics so I can attempt to get this corrected. Thanks!
Until next time,