No publisher? No problem.
A Calaveras County writing group has banded together to form a nonprofit publishing agency to empower local artists to get their work from concept to final product.
The Manzanita Writers Press, formed in late 2009, is comprised of almost 13 writers, layout editors, managers and other staff. All of the staff are volunteers, and the project is funded through community support.
The press works is affiliated with the Calaveras County Arts Council, a countywide effort to promote arts of all kinds in Calaveras.
According to editor Monika Rose, of San Andreas, the press aims to continue in the tradition of Mark Twain and Bret Harte, renowned authors who wrote in and about Calaveras County.
“It’s a small literary press,” Rose said. “We’d like to sponsor fledgling writers and get them launched. We’ll work with them throughout the process.”
Details of financing and any possible writer fees are still being worked out, she said.
The press evolved out of the group Writers Unlimited, a prose and poetry workshop that puts out the publication “Manzanita: Poetry and Prose of the Mother Lode and Sierra.”
“A few of us got together and said, you know, we ought to form a cooperative press,” Rose said.
But the group didn’t want to limit itself to publishing and promoting the work of people just from Writers Unlimited. Instead, they wanted to create a press that could work with authors and artists to move their work forward.
Being from the area and writing isn’t qualification enough for publication, Rose said. Though a process hasn’t been set in stone, publication may require going through an editing process with Writers Unlimited, which still meets twice a month.
“We have to approve the book on criteria of excellence,” Rose said. “The author has to go through the gauntlet. We want to work with the writer to (make the book) the best it can possibly be.”
Although Writers Unlimited puts out the “Manzanita” compilations, books that reach almost 200 pages full of poetry and writings of people who work with the group, this is the first time it has tried to expand its efforts to novels and other forms of publication.
It’s a rough time to be learning the business.
“Right now, in the publishing business, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rose said.
Rose hopes that the collective experience of the staff will push the Manzanita Writers Press past its incubation stage.
“It’s a big mystery. We’re going into uncharted territory,” Rose said. “On the other hand, we’re so new and green, it’s like we’re getting in on the ground floor.”
The Manzanita Writers Press plans to put out two books in 2010 and two or three in 2011.