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Marya Repko’s brief books bring Old Florida to life

“Grandma of the Glades: A Brief Biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” by Marya Repko. ECity Publishing. 80 pages. $10.00

This flavorful biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a primer on the life, times, works, and significance of a major figure in southern Florida’s modern history. Ms. Repko begins with a thumbnail history of Florida, after which she focuses on early Miami and its attraction for Marjory’s father, printer-publisher Frank Bryant Stoneman. Mr. Stoneman fit right into the Miami scene, which he entered in 1903. He had already published a newspaper in Orlando, and soon after establishing himself in Miami he founded a newspaper in his new home town that became, with Mr. Stoneman as editor, the Miami Herald.

Marjory Stoneman , born in 1890, spent her early years living with her mother’s family (her parents had separated when she was five yours old). In 1915, having graduated from Wellesley College three years earlier, she left an ill-fated marriage behind and joined her father in Miami.

Marya Repko traces Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s stint as society editor for the Herald, her WWI interlude working abroad for the American Red Cross and writing dispatches from various points in Europe, and then her return to the Herald as a columnist in 1920.

Ms. Douglas gradually became a devoted Floridian, active in social and civic affairs. Most notably, she participated in the state and national park efforts. She became an ardent conservationist, directing her considerable talents as a writer and speaker to promoting and celebrating such achievements as the Everglades National Park.

In 1947, Ms. Douglas published her masterpiece, “The Everglades: River of Grass.” Marya Repko traces the genesis and reception of this book, as well as the flood of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that followed. All had Florida themes and manifest the concerns of a cultural and biological environmentalist.

Ms. Repko takes us through the middle and late decades of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s exceptionally long life, underscoring her nonstop, forceful efforts for judicious management of Florida’s resources and for Everglades restoration in particular. Bolstered by a generous assortment of black and white photos, “Grandma of the Glades” is a great way to make the acquaintance of this dynamo of a woman.  A list of recommended readings encourages further study.

The entire article, which includes interview material with Marya Repko, appears in the March 30, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 31 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly. Click here: Florida Weekly – Marya Repko

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Keeping Up with Sandy Lender

by Philip K. Jason

This article appears in the November-December 2010 issue of Fort Myers Magazine. Click here to see it: Ft.Myers magazine – Sandy Lender

The early fall of 2010 found fantasy author Sandy Lender in a whirlwind of projects coming to fruition. As she enjoyed her new home – a canal-view condo on Cape Coral from where she can walk to everything she needs – this refugee from Naples added three new titles to the three she already had in print. It’s been an exciting time for her, with new challenges built upon solid accomplishments.


Lender has worked diligently and effectively to build a fan base in the world of fantasy fiction with her “Choices” novels: Choices Meant for Gods (2007) and Choices Meant for Kings (2009). Complex plot lines, striking characters, and the remarkable, legendary domain of Onweald have captivated readers and won the acclaim of critics. Is Sandy Lender an established star in the literary firmament? Not yet. However, the seeds have been sown. With these two titles from ArcheBooks Publishing plus What Choices We Made (2008 from BookSurge), a supplement of related short stories, Sandy Lender is recognized and respected among her fantasy writer peers, and her work has a growing list of followers.

Writing, of course, comes first. Lender loves the time she can spend spinning out her world of sorcerers and dragons, her saga of duty, loyalty, and betrayal. Far less attractive is the time she allots to networking and marketing. Yet she is committed to these tasks.

Thus, the first few days of October found Lender in St. Louis, attending the 34th annual Archon convention. At such a gathering, she interacts with and amplifies her audience: “When I set foot into a convention like DragonCon in Atlanta, ConQuest in Kansas City, ConText in Ohio or Archon in St. Louis, I’m stepping among a crowd of people who watch the same shows I watch. We read the same books. We use the same corny jokes. If I say ‘Kapla,’ they all understand me. I had a radio personality interview me not long ago, and he asked if I wrote anything out by hand. I told him that I do sometimes because my host enjoys the tactile sensation. He kept right on asking questions, but any Stargate SG-1 fan listening that day was rolling! At one of these conventions, everyone would get that reference and then, of course, proceed to buy one of my books because I’m just that cool.”

She is.

Lender considers the business of marketing her work to the public important: “Signings at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Hastings, etc., are hard to come by because corporate rules dictate which authors are allowed to have stand-alone book signings. If you’re not in Amazon’s Top 100, you have an uphill battle. Knowing the customer service rep at the local store is vital. You want to be able to show that person what kind of crowd you can bring in to elevate his or her sales on your special signing day. You want to show him or her how great you are at participating in local author events. Flexibility is an awesome trait.”

Sandy Lender on social media: “I use social media with balance. An author friend of mine alienates people with constant updates. That’s counterproductive. That’s navel-lint marketing. No one cares what time an author went to bed last night. No one cares about the weather in her neck of the woods unless a hurricane has just lifted your roof or an earthquake has just opened a fissure that’s eaten your car. That’s Tweet-worthy. If I see someone updating their status about rain making them feel like taking a nap, I figure they write boring books. I teach this in the social media workshops I give. Now, audience matters in your marketing efforts, even with social media. I have a lot of followers on Facebook who are into companion parrots, so I’ll post updates about crazy things my pet birds have done. The nice thing about that is most people who don’t own parrots get a chuckle out of these antics, too.”

Here’s what’s new:


Problems on Eldora Prime is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel that adults can enjoy. When collecting reviews and cover blurbs, Lender sent the manuscript to adult reviewers who are connected to teens in some way. These previewers were encouraging. The premise: “a 17-year-old girl crash lands a spaceship on a foreign and hostile planet. She assumes command for the survivors and ends up learning about leadership as she takes her team through a monster-infested land to what they hope will be a safe haven to call for help. I won’t spoil anything, but ‘help’ doesn’t arrive the way it’s supposed to, and her dragon allies aren’t always the good guys you want them to be.”

This book, which is a slightly revised version of Lender’s entry in the 2009 3-Day Novel Contest, will be published by her own company, Night Wolf Publications. Canadian writer Jamieson Wolf is her partner in this venture.

Why go out on your own? Says Lender “We figured out that we both had awesome books that our test readers praised, and we wanted to publish them without the hassle of agents or publishers or production schedules that relied on other people. We knew of other writers going through the same process. There are some incredibly talented people out there who have skill and storytelling ability, but the gatekeepers aren’t letting them in. So we decided we would help.”

An important Night Wolf project is A Yuletide Wish. “This is an anthology of children’s stories, young adult stories, sweet romances, and poems that encompass Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter, and New Year’s. The cover art is a gorgeous illustration by local artist Aluska Bissaro, who has exhibited at the Naples Press Club’s Authors & Books Festival in the past. She’s extraordinary and the winter scene of a Blacktop Chickadee that she provided is lovely. It really sets the tone of a sweet, family book. We wanted something full of positive, happy endings, and the authors really delivered. We plan to have it ready for ordering by early November.” 

The second new Lender book is What Choices We Made, Volume II, Short Stories and Legends from the History of Onweald. Writes Lender, “This chapbook includes more meat than the first one and includes a novella called The Influential Love Story of Ella and Rohne. My fans will wonder about that for a moment because I don’t write love stories. That’s all the warning you get about that. Local artist Megan Kissinger, who’s preparing the lovely illustrations at The Edison House these days, helped with formatting and the front cover and is responsible for the awesome map of Onweald.”

Sandy Lender’s third new book is Desecrated Ring from Keith Publications, scheduled for Halloween as part of a Halloween series. “This is a horror story that takes place in Collier County. Evil faeries and wolf-like beasts terrorize a woman who doesn’t realize how much we’re held accountable for in our lives.”

A busy author and now a publisher, Sandy Lender is chairing the 2011 edition of the Naples Authors and Books Festival, which is scheduled for early April.

Find out more about this nonstop writer at authorsandylender.com. Also, check out nightwolfpublications.com.

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Barringer Publishing Seeks Books That Matter

This article appears in the January 13-19, 2010 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly. It is available at Florida Weekly – Barringer Publishing. It also appears in the February 4-10 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly.

For Jeff Schlesinger, whose advertising and marketing career includes over two decades in Naples, the collapse of home building presented a challenge. Many of his clients are local builders whose misfortunes have been his as well. After researching new ways to apply his talents and experience, Mr. Schlesinger made a surprising choice: book publishing. Most failed publishing endeavors, he believes result from faulty marketing – and marketing savvy is Mr. Schlesinger’s forté.

Barringer Publishing, a name that combines his own last name with that of his wife – psychologist-author Dr. Molly Barrow – is a full service publishing house that guides authors through four major steps: publishing, marketing, graphics, and advertising. For Jeff Schlesinger, however, marketing considerations embrace the entire process. Authors who do not want piles of books in their closets need carefully designed plans that target potential readers and turn them into buyers.

With a background in art, Mr. Schlesinger feels that his creative side is responsive to the needs and aspirations of authors. He savors the preliminary conversations that eventually build the author-publisher relationship. Mr. Schlesinger entered advertising from the perspective of graphic design, and he steps into publishing with both that interest and decades of marketing know-how.

“Publishing,” for Jeff Schlesinger, includes editorial assistance, cover design, interior layout and design, and printing. A book’s appearance must attract attention and provide a message. The impact of the cover and the power of the title are essential marketing decisions. So are decisions about manufacturing quality, distribution channels, and pricing. Each book’s price must include a percentage allotted to marketing costs.

 “Marketing” includes public relations, media contacts, review copies, mailings, press releases, networking (electronic and otherwise), and speaking engagements. Branding the author as an expert on topics addressed in the book opens up marketing opportunities.

“Graphics” supplements book design with advertising design, handouts, bookmarks, fliers, web site design, business cards, and posters for book signings and other exhibits. For Mr. Schlesinger, “a distinctive, cohesive graphics campaign is essential.”

“Advertising” goes beyond ad design to include print and electronic media placement. Barringer Publishing works to define the market for a book and reach that market “with the correct message as cost effectively as possible.” Many books have niche markets (“grandparents purchase four out of ten children’s books”), and advertising campaigns must exploit media that truly reach the potential buyers.

Self-published authors have the opportunity to make far more money per book than authors who work with traditional “royalty” publishers. However, this opportunity cannot be realized unless the authors receive appropriate guidance and assistance. Jeff Schlesinger developed Barringer Publications to do just that.

Published authors unhappy with their books are turning to Barringer Publishing for book makeovers. Makeovers typically include reshaping the book’s content, stylistic smoothing, a new title, enhanced graphics, more astute production and pricing decisions, and – of course – an effective marketing plan.

 Barringer Publications established its initial list of titles primarily by word of mouth, and interest has spread far beyond Naples, aided by the promise of a 60-day turnaround time and the showpiece titles by Dr. Molly Barrow.

Jeff Schlesinger has discovered that there are many good writers in the Naples area, accomplished people with fascinating experiences who are ready to share what life has brought them and taught them. He intends to help them refine their voices, share their stories and insights, and do it all effectively.

If a book already in print is in desperate need of a strong marketing campaign, Mr. Schlesinger offers that service as well. For information, write to info@barringerpublishing.com.

Coming soon (along with new Dr. Molly Barrow titles):

 “Six Months to Dr. – How I Completed My Dissertation in Six Months and Saved Thousands of Dollars” by Dr. Judi Cineas, Ph. D. The title says it all. February.

“Seven Soldiers” by Philip Storm.  This substantial makeover of a fact-based Vietnam War novel involves seven military brothers, a golden triangle drug operation, and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  February.

“Why Men Must Lie to Women” by Philip Storm. What types of lies are there? When do men/boys start lying to women, and why are they compelled to become experts in the art of lying? March.

“Why Wait? Be Happy Now,” by Donna Daisy, Ph.D.  A self-help book answering the question, why wait for something to happen to provide your happiness when you can be happy now?  Even people living in dire circumstances can attain happiness by following good advice. March.

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Peg Longstreth: Renaissance Woman

Indiana-born Peg Goldberg Longstreth is a woman with many college degrees and many areas of accomplishment.  Trained as a classical musician, she first built a 15-year career in social work and health care administration, helping sexually abused and battered kids. She performed in a dance band and as a duo piano partner. In 1980, she began a new career as a private art dealer. In 1998, shortly after her marriage to Joseph Longstreth – known as a concert harpist, author of award-winning children’s books, and a force in the publishing world – the Longstreths moved to Naples. By year’s end, she and her husband opened the Longstreth Goldberg Art Gallery, the largest contemporary gallery in the area. First located on 12th Avenue South, the gallery moved to 5640 Taylor Road on the infamous date of September 11, 2001.

Along the way, Peg Longstreth developed a career as the classics and pops music reviewer for Naples’s daily paper, and more recently as a features columnist for Florida Weekly. She is also involved in charities and animal rescue programs.

And now Peg Longstreth is a book author and publisher.

Peg Longstreth always wanted to write, and she kept journals for years. Because her father managed the Farm Bureau Printing Corporation in Southern Indiana, the smell of ink and the noise of presses was part of her childhood, as was hand-setting type, reading upside down and backwards. Even today, she “gets high on the smell of paper and books.”

These paragraphs preview an article that appears in the November-December 2009 issue of Fort Myers Magazine. The full article is available at: Ft.Myers magazine – Peg Longstreth


Peg with hero of "A Bear Called Charlie"

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Publish Locally, Think Globally

Cape Coral Publisher Serves New Voices

by Philip K. Jason

FOUNDED IN 2003 as a project of Gelinas and Wolf, Inc., a Las Vegas marketing services company, ArcheBooks Publishing was spun off as a separate company a year later. While its corporate headquarters remains in Nevada, the editorial office – Bob Gelinas’s prime responsibility – moved with Gelinas to Cape Coral. In its relatively short life, this innovative trade publishing house has had steady productivity in a difficult marketplace. From seven titles in 2003 to twenty-three in 2004 to twenty in 2005 to eighteen in 2006 to thirteen in 2007 to about the same number published or forthcoming in 2008. That early pace was probably unsustainable, but it helped to get ArcheBooks the early recognition that a start-up company must have. It won’t be long until ArcheBooks reaches its 100th title.

To see this article in its entirety, as published in the November-December 2008 issue of Ft. Myers Magazine, click here:  Ft.Myers magazine – ArcheBooks

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BOOK BEAT 44 – Whitehall Printing

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   May 23-29, 2007

 by Philip K. Jason

The name is Whitehall Printing Company, but when you ask its president, Jeff Hirsch, what his company does he says that it manufactures books. This fine distinction cuts in two directions. On the one hand, Whitehall is not in the brochure, flyer, and postcard business. On the other, it has bookbinding equipment and can provide any publisher, organization, or individual with a finished product. With a very high national reputation, Whitehall counts among its satisfied customers many who choose to self-publish. Its large facility on Corporate Square off Radio Road is a busy, state-of-the art place where page and cover stock arrives at one end and boxes of finished books get shipped out at the other.

Jeff’s father, Mike, began the business in Chicago in the late 1950s. Several relocations brought them to nearby Wheeling, Illinois where by the early 1980s the business found itself (once again) running out of room. It needed space to house a new press for book covers. After carefully researching possible new locations, Whitehall rented space in the J & C industrial area and installed the press there, later acquiring a lot in Corporate Square and relocating once again. This partial move to Naples occurred in 1983-4.

Hirsch says that the economics of shipping covers back to Illinois made Naples as good a place as any from a business standpoint. Shippers gave Whitehall special incentives since many brought full trucks or air cargo capacity to Naples and left nearly empty. Before long, Whitehall had same-day air freight service for less than the cost of three-day truck service.

Enjoying the Florida weather and lifestyle, company leaders decided to move the entire business to Naples, and by 1990 they acquired additional adjacent space in Corporate Square. The planning, building, and full transition of operations was completed in 1992. By starting with a clean slate, Hirsch and his partners were able to plan for an efficient work flow, for future growth, and even for future technologies.

After long experience with self-published authors and with all kinds of organizations publishing books for the first time, this agile enterprise has learned how to consider the needs of novices. Whitehall benefits from being customer-friendly as it guides customers through the steps in the printing process.

For many customers, the first point of contact is Sandra Yeyati, Whitehall’s Marketing Director. Yeyati helps customers in several ways. She prepares book printing quotations, sends out samples and information kits, and determines what specifications best serve the customer’s purpose. Once she understands the nature of the book and how the author plans to market it, Yeyati can recommend the most appropriate features.

Yeyati can also assist in the layout and design of the book’s interior pages and its cover. Sometimes authors can do much of this work themselves; sometimes she will suggest that a particular objective requires the services of a graphic designer.

Yeyati can answer questions about how many copies to print, about shipping and distribution, and about copyright issues. She can help authors obtain ISBN and Library of Congress numbers for their books.

Once a project comes to Whitehall, two other people join the team – a customer service representative and a technical specialist. They stay in touch with the customer while preparing the book for printing, preflighting the customer’s digital files, and creating proofs. Every customer receives text and cover proofs for review and approval.

Most authors prepare their manuscripts as text files in Microsoft Word. Though book pages can be formatted in Word, it is best for these files to be converted into professional software that is meant for book design and that readily communicates with high-end printing technology. Whitehall, through its website, makes available special software that allows conversion from Word and then permits customers to refine their files. Yeyati can test these digital files to make sure that they will run properly at the printing stage.

Hirsch and Yeyati are proud of Whitehall Printing’s customer service. Sandra Yeyati claims that you never get voice mail at Whitehall: “We are very accessible and eager to find solutions for our customers.”

Herself a writer, Yeyati loves to hear about people’s book projects. She is impressed by the contributions Whitehall’s authors and publishers make with diet books and exercise manuals, addiction recovery books, investment how-to’s, and more. She enjoys the poetry books and cookbooks, too. It excites her to see a self-published author fulfill the life-long dream of writing (and publishing) a book.

While effective at working with self-publishing authors, Whitehall serves all kinds of customers and projects: directories, industrial catalogs, training manuals, university journals, religious books, and so forth.

Find out more by visiting whitehallprinting.com.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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BOOK BEAT 39 – Nancy Poffenberger

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   April 11-17, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Back in 1974, Nancy Poffenberger’s son wanted to play the piano, but he did not wish to take formal lessons. Nancy devised a simple method, involving putting stickers with colors and letters onto the piano keys and preparing an accompanying instruction book. Soon, the neighborhood children were coming over and playing – and enjoying themselves. So Nancy, herself a 4th grade teacher, made up about thirty books and field-tested the system she had devised in various schools in and around Cincinnati. The teachers loved it, and before long Nancy Poffenberger was the author of Piano Fun Book One – which has now been in print for over thirty years.

The book was originally brought out by a small commercial publisher, but that firm soon folded. The copyright reverted to Nancy, and she reissued the title through her own company, Fun Publishing. Over the years, the original book was supplemented by several other “Piano Fun” books and by several “Recorder Fun” and “Xylo-Fun” titles. These titles, which have been featured in major publications regionally and nationally, all remain available. Nancy enjoys the extra measure of control over her work that comes with being her own publisher.

Simplicity is the key to the success of this series. Not only does it work for the youngest students, it works for older people who want an easy, tested method. It has also been a success in special education programs, in nursing homes, and elsewhere.

Fun Publishing became something of a family enterprise, as Nancy was aided by the expertise of her husband, John, who is a patent and copyright attorney. She even got John interested in authorship, and his How to Coach Winning Soccer, a basic guide for novice coaches, is one of their Fun Publishing titles.  

Nancy switched gears from being the “music lady” to some new concerns soon after the disaster of 9/11 struck. A grandmother (now of nine grandchildren), she felt that young children were not being addressed in any useful way about such momentous world events. Television was filled with images and endless reporting and analysis, but there were no materials directed at children – who could only be shocked and confused by what the media presented. Inspired by a talk at a regional book fair in Indianapolis to try something “out of the box,” Nancy decided to fill this vacuum. In an epiphanic moment while driving home, she planned the book that she subtitles “a simple account for children.” Published in 2002, September 11th, 2001 is a straightforward, accessible narrative interspersed with illustrations by schoolchildren. The book was praised by educators and did very well on a national scale.

More recently, Nancy brought out a related children’s book – Iraq, 2003. This one aims at an overlapping but somewhat older audience. Illustrated by Val Gottesman, the Iraq book places Iraq geographically and relates regional events from 1980 up to President Bush’s declaration of an end to the major conflict in May of 2003. Teachers value it because it enables them to fulfill state education requirements in geography, history, and current events in an interesting way.

Nancy Poffenberger is a Northwestern University graduate and winner of the university’s outstanding student-teacher award. She taught Elementary school in Palo Alto, California, and attended graduate school at Boston University before settling in Cincinnati. She and her husband began visiting Naples for winter vacations about ten years ago. Recently, their Naples time has increased – and now they have become Florida residents and spend about half of the year here. And Florida must be getting into Nancy’s blood. She hinted that she is working on a new book with a Florida focus.

Nancy presents hands-on workshops around the country using her keyboards, recorders and xylophones, along with the music books she has written. These programs are perfect for children, teachers, or retirement centers. She has also branched out as a motivational speaker, with such topics as “Music for Life: Making Music on Your Own” (suitable for all ages), “Stirring Your Creative Juices After 50” (age group obvious), and “Bringing Your Book to Life: From Idea to Print.”

Nancy Poffenberger’s books are available from major book retailers and from her own website, funpublishing.com. To engage her for a demonstration or as a motivational speaker, send email to funpublish@aol.com.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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BOOK BEAT 38 – Wade Keller

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   April 4-10, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

When Wade Keller moved to Marco Island in 1995, he immediately became active in the Naples Rotary Club and began writing a “Spotlight” column for the club’s bulletin. These were 500-word profiles of the Rotary Club’s members. Wade wrote about eighty of these over a two-year period. One of those members, Edward Elliott, thought Keller had done such a good job on his profile that he asked him for help in writing his memoir. This ghostwriting stint was the first step in Keller’s progress from retired CPA to owner of a busy vanity press with satisfied customers.

Keller was born in Greenville, Georgia where he worked in the family grocery store. Later, he served in Vietnam, earned degrees in accounting, and taught college. While building his CPA firm, he began writing a financial column in a local weekly. This experience infected Keller with the writing bug, so agreeing to do the Rotary Club’s “Spotlight” column was just a natural continuation of the pleasure he had received from his newspaper column. 

When I asked Keller about his transition from CPA to memoir editor-ghostwriter, he said that for him it was no big deal. His right brain and left brain activities nourished one another. As a CPA, he had gathered data (cancelled checks, invoices), organized it, and reshaped it into financial statements. In helping his memoir-writing clients, he taped interviews, reviewed their notes, false starts, life documents and photographs, and organized these materials in a way that made for effective story-telling.

The original idea was simply to offer ghostwriting services, but soon the need to bring these projects into print led Keller to develop Keller Publishing. His business has grown by word of mouth, as one satisfied customer leads to another. After Edward Elliott’s Taking the Thread Back came out late in 1998, Keller was approached to work with Joseph Callahan on Shoot for the Pin, which came out the following year.  Things went slowly through the first years of the new century – only four books in five years. But then, in 2005, the press took off and Keller Publishing now has eighteen books in print and six more in the pipeline.

In becoming a publisher, Keller defined his particular contribution as what it had been from the beginning – organizing, shaping, and ghostwriting. He has engaged an individual in New Hampshire to take care of book and cover design. He has contracted with Ingram to handle the distribution of Keller Publishing titles. These are not unusual outsourcing steps, but rather how most publishing firms work – large or small. Keller takes bids from various printers and decides which one will give him the quality he requires at the best price. A recent project, Charles Strasser’s From Refugee to OBE, led Keller to contract with a printer in Shanghai. The next step will be to find the right public relations firm.

Other Keller Publishing titles include Gail G. Thomson’s The Making of a Surgeon, William R. Rose’s Tell Me a Story, Grandpa, Lynn Bonasia’s poetry volume A Family Journey, and Edward G. Storie’s At the Helm. Memoirs by Joe Manoni and Glenn Williams include sections on wartime service. Maury Atkin’s Life’s Voyage tells, among other things, of Atkin’s work in helping to found the modern state of Israel and to gather support for its survival during its early years. There is, indeed, a great variety in the life experiences revealed in books that Wade Keller has nourished to and through publication.

Keller Publishing has brought out two titles by the Polish-born neurosurgeon Janusz Subczynski, detailing different periods in his life. The first, In the Shadow of Satan, tells of the author’s experiences living under Nazi and Communist regimes. The Colors of Life focuses mainly on his life after immigrating to the United States.

As more manuscripts come his way, Keller sees increasing quality, along with enhanced marketing prospects, for his new and future titles. New contracts, in some cases, have royalty arrangements. Yet he does not intend to become a trade publisher. Just as he is content to focus on ghostwriting and leave design and publicity to others, Keller is content to fill the need for what he calls a “boutique, for-a-fee” publisher. And he is content to specialize in memoirs. Keller’s credo is to focus on what he knows he can do well. Check up on this interesting enterprise by visiting kellerpublishing.com.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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BOOK BEAT 29 – Erin Rabon

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 31-February 6, 2007 

by Philip K. Jason      

By the age of three, Rockford, Illinois native Erin Rabon was entertaining her parents by making up silly tales. Older and wiser now, Erin still allows a streak of silliness in the tales she writes for children. More than that, there is educational value and excitement. The Great Monkey Adventure, illustrated by Jeff Kriberscheck, is the first of her books for children to appear, launching a venture that she hopes will bring joy, especially the joy of reading, to many youngsters.

The writing bug infected Erin when she took her first journalism course. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1996, she worked as what she calls “odds and ends” jobs before moving down to Southwest Florida. Here, she worked in advertising with Mike Romano & Associates and then as editor for what was then a start-up lifestyle publication, Bonita Life, in 2003. Several years into her successful career in magazine publishing, Erin decided that she would pursue her long-held goal of creating a children’s classic. The Great Monkey Adventure is the result, and Blue Monkey Publishing is the vehicle. 

The mission of Blue Monkey Publishing, says Erin, is “feeding imaginations and instilling a life-long love of books.” She and Jeff Kriberscheck “want to get kids excited about books and reading—not just for their childhood, but for their entire lives.” To help fulfill this mission, Erin visits elementary schools, reads The Great Monkey Adventure to the students, and entices them to make reading time a part of every day.

Jeff Kriberscheck moved here with his family over twenty years ago as a middle-schooler. This Lely High School graduate honed his artistic talent at the Ringling School of Art and Designed and learned commercial (read “income-producing”) skills in graphic design at the Tampa Technical Institute. Jeff served for a while as Advertising Art Director at Gulfshore Life and also was involved in Mike Romano’s enterprises, where he and Erin met.

Both business partners have enjoyed the process of discovery as they put their company and their first publication together. For Jeff, illustrating a children’s book is the fulfillment of a dream. For both, especially Erin who is a self-confessed control freak, the independence of doing it all themselves is more valuable than the compromises necessary in working with an established publisher. Furthermore, they did not want to go through the submit-and-wait routine. Erin’s experience in marketing and publishing combined with Jeff’s raw talent and design ability give them the combination of ingredients that they hope will make for success.

And the Blue Monkey? Well, he is a mischievous fellow who is always searching for his beloved bananas and encountering many slips along the way. And each slip brings him from the branches above to an obstacle below: a lion, a crocodile, a hippopotamus, a snake, and a tiger all stand in the way of Blue getting his banana – but he is able to escape each confrontation. The book’s simple diction and artful repetition of phrase teaches language, the names of animals, and also colors. But whimsy is the hallmark of the book – a wonderful adventure realized in words and in the bold, cheerful watercolor and ink artwork by Jeff.

Erin has already dreamed up future titles, but she and Jeff are hoping that Blue Monkey Publishing becomes an outlet for the work of other creative writers and artists who share their vision about what creates a commitment to reading. At bottom, the goal is to bring joy to young readers. Part of that joy is to engage pre-readers in the repeated rhythmic patterns so that they can contribute by having memorized some of the text. In this way, a positive relationship with books begins and reading is encouraged.

Visitors to the Naples Writers Conference and Authors & Books Festival are likely to see Erin and Jeff on February 25. If you miss them there, catch up with the Blue Monkey team on March 17 at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival in Fort Myers.

The Great Monkey Adventure is available through amazon.com and bluemonkeypublishing.com. You can also find it at Arabesque, Attic Toys, Cottontails, and Learning Express. The press also exhibits at the Open Air Market in Sugden Regional Park the first and third Saturdays of every month (through April 7).

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BOOK BEAT 24 – Charles Sobczak

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 27, 2006-January 2, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

When Sanibel realtor Charles Sobczak founded Indigo Press to publish his first novel, Six Mornings on Sanibel (1999), he was issued ten ISBN numbers. Sobczak has managed the risks and rewards of self-publishing so well that he will soon have to apply for more. As 2006 comes to a close, he has now five books in print plus two special editions. And this inventive author is a long way from running out of ideas, whether for the books themselves or for marketing them effectively.

Six Mornings, which has sold an astounding 21,000 copies, tells of the therapeutic interaction between Carl, a long-time Sanibel resident now in his twilight years, and Richard, a burnt-out alcoholic Midwesterner reluctantly on vacation. The recently-widowed older man needs someone to listen to his tales; the vacationer needs to redirect his life and recommit to the values he once held as a young man. The interchange presents fishing lessons and life lessons that, along with the Sanibel setting, move both men toward spiritual restoration.

Sobczak’s second novel, Way Under Contract, has much more of a satirical bite. It has been labeled a black comedy about the real estate business, particularly as it exists down here in Southwest Florida. Sobczak crafts into a compelling narrative the many quirks of the business while ultimately encouraging a more respectful attitude toward the world we live in. In 2001, this book won the Patrick D. Smith Literary Award, which is given by the Florida Historical Association for a book that depicts some aspect of Florida life in a most effective way. It, too, has sold quite well over the years, aided in 2004 by the coincidence of a phenomenon named Hurricane Charley, which brought special interest to the regional real estate market and to the fragility of this man-made Paradise.

Rhythm of the Tides is a compilation of Sobczak’s newspaper columns, along with selected short stories, essays, and poetry. It is a kind of Charles Sobczak sampler, and thus a good way to become familiar with the concerns and techniques of this versatile writer as they have developed over the years. Sobczak has packaged his first three books together in a bound collection called Island Writings. This collection is published in a general edition and a special Sanibel Island edition.

In 2003 came A Choice of Angels. This novel grows, in part, out of a visit Sobczak and his wife made to Istanbul in 2001. It centers on a romance that invited a clash of cultures, as a young Muslim woman who is an international exchange student meets the son of a Baptist minister at a small Georgia college. The damage caused by religious intolerance is treated with subtlety and precision in this exploration of contemporary political and religious issues. Though the manuscript was completed before 9/11, it seems as if the book speaks to that event and its aftermath. The author weaves background and foreground together skillfully, always making sure that the authenticity of his characters is not sacrificed to the need for exposition. 

Alligators, Sharks, & Panthers is Charles Sobczak’s most recent effort. Published last month, its theme is in its subtitle: “Deadly Encounters with Florida’s Top Predator – Man.” This, Sobczak’s first book-length piece of nonfiction, is a compendium of information on the confrontations between humans and other predators in our state. The book unfolds in brief sections, alternating fact-laden chunks with chunks of narration that illustrate these confrontations, most often revealing how they either were man-provoked or provoked by human ignorance.

Each of the major predators named in the title gets a separate chapter, and each chapter follows the same pattern. First comes an exposition on the animal itself: its nature, its evolution, its situation in Florida in the 21st century. This information is followed by a miscellany of stories – often news items – and warnings that underscore Sobczaks’ theme. The fourth chapter is on man, figured as the planet’s unwitting destroyer. In chapter five, the ecological problems that human activities bring to our home state are outlined in detail. As the book progresses, Sobczak presents more and more information about what we can do to alleviate these problems.

Finally, the book is an impassioned plea for understanding and action. Amazingly, it sold 1,200 copies in its first thirty days in print! Environmentalists and conservationists are, of course, buying the book. But so are tourists and teenage boys.

One thing that distinguishes Charles Sobczak from most self-published authors is his marketing savvy. His books do not stay in storage, and they do not remain secrets. He knows how to promote them, and he is not lazy about putting in the necessary effort to get them to and through the distributors and stores and into the hands of readers. But these efforts would not succeed if the books themselves were not worthy of attention. So far, with 34,000 Indigo Press books sold, he is batting 100%.

You can find and order Sobczak’s books in most area bookstores and online. They are usually well-stocked in Mina Hemingway’s Florida Bookstore at the Pavilion Shopping Center. Also, see indigopress.net.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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