Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Note from Meadowlark: September 2016

Finally! Here's a little update on Meadowlark.

A Note From Meadowlark
September 2016
Dear Friend,

What an exciting time for Meadowlark. A spot on the Kansas Notable Book list was certainly something I dreamed of accomplishing, I just never imagined it would come so soon. I was absolutely thrilled when I got the news that one of Meadowlark’s own—To Leave a Shadow, by Michael D. Graves—made the list!
If you have not had a chance to read the book, it is available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon, or you can order a signed paperback copy directly from the author at the Meadowlark online bookstore.

You may be wondering what else has happened since you last heard from me in December 2015. Mostly, I’ve been distracted by a myriad of non-book related tasks, but the plan for publishing great books by Midwest authors has never been far from my mind.

In April, Meadowlark released Songs for My Father, a collection of poetry and short stories by Kevin Rabas. Songs is a beautiful book, inside and out. The cover was designed by the very talented, Eric Sonnakolb, with photography byDave Leiker. I was honored to work as editor on this project, and the interior design is one of my favorite works of book-as-art so far. As well as the beautiful paperback, Songs is available on Kindle at Amazon.

You should check out the review of Songs, as well as one of MoonStain, by Ronda Miller, in the current issue of The Flint Hills Review. The issue also contains a poem by Michael D. Graves and a short story by yours truly.

You may recall that I was collecting submissions for Meadowlark’s first anthology, the Kansas Roots collection. The spring deadline resulted in many entries and I was very pleased with the quality of most every submission. In the end, however, there were not enough submissions for the type of book I was hoping to create. Therefore, Meadowlark continues to seek submissions for this project. More details follow below in this newsletter.

Finally, I was very happy to work with two interns from Emporia State University this past summer. The original plan was for this newsy note to provide an introduction, but since I have allowed so much time to pass, I’m going to let this serve as a note of thanks for their contributions. Brittany Rees worked directly with Meadowlark, helping to build a marketing strategy and spread the word about our books and projects. Sarah Aubey has focused her energy on a project that I have dedicated myself to for several years now. The Kansas Authors Club holds an annual writing contest for youth, ages 6-18. Sarah, as a representative of Meadowlark, reviewed the entries and coordinated the judges for that contest. The youth book of winning entries is at the printer right now! I look forward to sharing that project with Kansas Authors Club and our writing youth at the annual convention in Lawrence in October. (There is still time to register for the convention, by the way. I would love to meet you there!)

My mind is busy and full with project ideas and plans for Meadowlark. As I contemplate the direction this little publishing entity will go, I welcome your input, ideas, and feedback. The remainder of this note is filled with details about Meadowlark pursuits, as well as other writerly-related passions. I can be reached at

Show your support for local authors by reading a local book! If you love it – share a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or simply tell all your friends!

Tracy Million Simmons
Upcoming Engagements:

There will be a reception and book signing for Michael D. Graves from 5:30-7pm on Wednesday, September 21, at Twin Rivers Winery, 627 Commercial, in Emporia.

Ronda Miller, author of MoonStain, will be reading at Poetry on the Porch on Sunday, September 25th, at The William Allen White State Historical Site in Emporia, 927 Exchange St. This is the 11th of the Poetry on the Porch series hosted by Kevin Rabas and The William Allen White House. Miller's reading begins at 2 p.m., and will follow with an open mic for additional poet readings. Meadowlark Books will be present to sell copies of Miller's bookMoonStain.

Ronda Miller is the September guest editor for Caryn Mirriam Goldberg's time + space online anthology.  Miller will have her poetic picks released each Monday in September. The poets she chose, in the order of their poetic releases, are as follows: Eve Ott, James Benger, Lindsey Martin-Bowen and David Romtvedt. These poems, and others, may be found at the following link -

Michael D. Graves will discuss how he used the scattered memories of his grandfather, a man he barely knew, to create the life of a character from his grandfather's place and era, a character who might have been his grandfather, a character who left a shadow. This presentation will be at the Kansas Authors Club convention in Lawrence on Saturday, October 1. More information about registering for the convention can be found at

Kevin Rabas will be the November 7 presenter for the ESU Creative Writing Program "Visiting Writers Series" for Fall 2016. The talk takes place in the Preston Family Room, Memorial Union, Emporia State University, form 7-8pm. The rest of the series is as follows:
--Robert Stewart - creative non-fiction & poetry: Monday, Sept. 19
--Dennis Etzel Jr. - poetry: Thursday, Oct. 6
--Lisa Greenwood - play writing: Wednesday, Oct. 12
--Short Play Festival: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2-4 pm, Plumb Hall, rooms 407-408

A calendar of these events and others (Kansas Authors Club related) can be found on the Meadowlark website

Seeking True Stories

Click the image above to review the guidelines on the website.

What are we looking for? I want to read the stories that make you say, "Aha,that is what I love about Kansas." I want to read about people, past or present. I want to read about Kansas events and communities where people are making a difference, helping their neighbors, inspiring others to follow suit. I want to hear about your favorite place to view the big Kansas sky. Maybe you've already written such a piece. Maybe you have a subject in mind and this is the muse knocking at your door. Write it! Submit it!

Visit the Meadowlark website
Buy Meadowlark Books
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2016 Kansas Notable Book Awards

Meadowlark Author, Michael D. Graves, accepted the Kansas Notable Book Award from Mary Brownback at the Kansas Book Festival on Saturday, September 10.

Mike's book was one of 15 selected. The entire list can be found on the state library website.
Writing Friends and Friendly Writers... 

A few highlights from my personal calendar.
Cheryl Unruh's recent entry, In the Company of My Tribe, was especially meaningful to me. Cheryl has been an important touchstone in my writing life for more than ten years now. In this piece she talks about our recent trip to Topeka for the Kansas Notable Book Awards, but more importantly, the value of spending time with other writers and the value of sharing in other's creative energy.
Speaking of Tribes, I will be a speaker at the Kansas Authors Club convention in Lawrence this year. There is still time to register for the convention. Details can be found at
Emporia has a new bookstore! Ellen Plumb opened Emporia's first bookstore in 1870. Just 146 years later, our town's best indie bookstore is back. Locally owned. Fiercely independent. Visit Ellen Plumb's in person at 1101 Commercial in Emporia. 
Kansas Books on My To-Read List:

Words in Rows Poetry and Prose, by Cathy Callen
Words in Rows, Poetry and Prose is an autobiography in "short takes," a collection of poems and short prose written over the course of the author's lifetime, and presented chronologically from the earliest to the latest. Poetry written as a VISTA volunteer in Alaska, an accounting of her presence during the University of Texas tower massacre, reflections written about early morning walks with her dog and raising a challenging child, and thoughts about the passage of time are included, among others. Many of the pieces are humorous; several are accompanied by delightful illustrations provided by five artists.

Gimme Your Lunch Money: Heartland Poets Speak Out Against Bullies, by Heartland Poets
More than 30 Heartland poets—including two former Kansas Poet Laureates—speak out against bullying, a pervasive evil. These poems range from illustrating bullying, not only during childhood and adolescence, but illustrate bullying in the workplace, in culture, in politics, in facing the -isms (sexism, racism, ageism, able-ism, etc.), religion, marital status, military service status, animals, and, even in scientific labs for humanity’s “greater good.” And bullies can be diseases (such as cancer). And voices inside our heads may bully us, too. Some poems also reveal a bully's point-of-view.

Recently Read and Recommended:
For Want of a Father (Pierce Family Saga) volume 2, by Hazel Hart
Fathers, Daughters, and Expectations In 1859, half-sisters Lucy and Cordelia travel by stagecoach from Westport, Missouri to Kansas Territory. Since their mother’s death four years ago, both have lived with their aunt. Now Lucy’s father wants her home. For Lucy, 13, it is a dream come true. Cordelia, 17, chaperones Lucy on the trip home, then continues on the stage to Denver to search for the father she has never met. Her expectations are low, but she can’t stop the occasional dream. Will either father live up to his daughter’s expectations, or will each break his daughter’s heart?
Copyright © 2016 Meadowlark Books, All rights reserved.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Kansas Book Festival News

Meadowlark author, Michael D. Graves, will be presenting at the Kansas Book Festival on Saturday, September 10, at 10:00am. The Kansas Notable Book Awards will be presented at 9:00am.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Meadowlark Book on the 2016 Kansas Notable List

The State Library of Kansas Announces the 2016 Kansas Notable Books 
15 books celebrating Kansas cultural heritage 

Topeka, KS — The State Library of Kansas is pleased to announce the 11th annual selection of Kansas Notable Books.  The fifteen books feature quality titles with wide public appeal, either written by Kansans or about a Kansas-related topic. The Kansas Notable Book List highlights our lively contemporary writing community and encourages readers to enjoy some of the best writing of the authors among us.

“The Kansas Notable Books Committee considered the eligible books published in 2015. I was delighted to receive the recommended list and make the final decision,” said State Librarian Jo Budler. “Our list is intended to showcase Kansas’ unique talent and history while encouraging residents to visit their library and check out the celebrated titles.”

An awards ceremony will be held at the Kansas Book Festival, on September 10, 2016 at the State Capitol, to recognize the talented Notable Book authors.

Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program of the State Library. Throughout the award year, the State Library promotes and encourages promotion of all the titles on that year's list at literary events, and among librarians and booksellers.

For more information about Kansas Notable Books, call 785-296-3296, visit or email

2016 Kansas Notable Books 

Alphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson (Lawrence)
Published by Simon & Schuster
Explore the ins and outs of letters A to Z in a school setting with this innovative picture book. The letter G is what’s left of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the letter F is a Kansas flag pole, and two library bookends become the letter M. Children will enjoy finding letters on every page. Preschool – Grade 2.

A Bitter Magic by Roderick Townley (Leawood)
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Cisley’s mother vanished – on stage, during a magic act in front of a packed theater. An astonishing illusion, but also perhaps the last as Maria Thummel never reappears. It’s up to Cisley to hunt for clues to her mother’s disappearance, puzzling over broken mirrors, ever-shifting labyrinths, a closet full of whispering dresses, and the scent of a pure black rose. Cisley must discover her own powers to learn what’s real and what is simply an illusion. Grades 4 – 8.

Bottled: A Mom's Guide to Early Recovery by Dana Bowman (Lindsborg)
Published by Central Recovery Press
An unflinching and hilarious memoir about recovery as a mother of young children, Bowman explains the perils moms face with drinking and chronicles the author’s path to recovery, from hitting bottom to the months of early sobriety – to her now (in)frequent moments of peace. Bottled offers practical suggestions on how to be a sober, present-in-the-moment mom, one day at a time, while providing much needed levity. Each chapter ends with a top ten, such as Top Ten Annoying Recovery Slogans That Actually Work.

The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren (Prairie Village) Published by Two Lions
The greatest showman of his era, Buffalo Bill was the legendary star of the famous Wild West show. But long before stardom, Buffalo Bill – born Billy Cody – had to grow up fast as his family was caught up in the violence of Bleeding Kansas. At age eleven, Billy worked on wagon trains and rode for the Pony Express. By age seventeen, he became a soldier, a scout, and a spy. Learn how Billy’s youth made him into an American legend. Grades 4 – 8.

Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer (Albuquerque NM) Published by Calkins Creek
When gutsy Kitty Evans answers an ad to work for Fred Harvey’s restaurants located along western railroad lines, she never expected to have the adventure of a lifetime. Kitty’s journal captures interactions with everyone from railroaders to hobos, along with the funny and often painful experiences she and her fellow waitresses endure. Primary source photographs illustrate the Harvey buildings and local people. Grades 5 - 9.

For the Sake of Art: The Story of a Kansas Renaissance by Cynthia Mines (Wichita)
McPherson County's art heritage tells the story of the friendship between Lindsborg artist Birger Sandzen and McPherson seed merchant-turned-art dealer Carl Smalley and the annual art exhibitions they helped organize. School children sold tickets to exhibits from 1911 to 1937 and purchased an impressive art collection. This revised edition includes 125 illustrations and recently discovered correspondence between Smalley and Sandzen.

Harvey Houses of Kansas: Historic Hospitality from Topeka to Syracuse by Rosa Walston Latimer (Post TX) Published by The History Press
Starting in Kansas, Fred Harvey’s iconic Harvey House was the first to set the standard for fine dining and hospitality across the rugged Southwest. In 1876, the first of Harvey’s depot restaurants opened in Topeka, followed just a few years later by the first combination hotel and restaurant in Florence. Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls introduced good food and manners to the land of the Wild West.

Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State by Jonathan Conard (Sterling) and Kristin Conard (Santa Clara CA)
Published by University Press of Kansas
Whether you’re an avid hiker or desultory explorer, a bicyclist or horseback rider, this book makes a most congenial guide. An invaluable companion for exploring new trails or learning about accustomed routes, this comprehensive guide will tell you all you need to know about the trails that crisscross Kansas—history and geography, wildlife and scenery, park locations and cultural possibilities, and, even a bit of geology and botany.

Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds by Michael John Haddock (Manhattan), Craig C. Freeman (Lawrence), and Janet
E. Bare (Littleton CO)
Published by University Press of Kansas
A reference and a guidebook for a new generation of plant enthusiasts, this volume includes up-to-date nomenclature, keys, and descriptions, as well as habitat, distribution, and ecological information. Designed for the professional botanist and passionate amateur alike, it expands upon Bare's earlier book's 831 entries with descriptions of 1,163 species—representing about 56 percent of the native and naturalized species currently known in Kansas—as well as 742 color photographs.

The Madman and the Assassin: The Strange Life of Boston Corbett, the Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth by Scott Martelle (Irvine CA)
Published by Chicago Review Press
Union cavalryman Boston Corbett became a national celebrity after killing John Wilkes Booth, but as details of his odd personality became known, he also became the object of derision. Over time, he was largely forgotten to history, a minor character in the final act of Booth’s tumultuous life. And yet Corbett led a fascinating life of his own, a tragic saga that weaved through the monumental events of nineteenth-century America. Ultimately Corbett ended up in Kansas where his shaky mental health led to his undoing.

Notorious Kansas Bank Heists: Gunslingers to Gangsters by Rod Beemer (Minneapolis)
Published by The History Press
Bank robbers wreaked havoc in the Sunflower State. Belle Starr's nephew claimed to have robbed twenty-one banks. The Dalton gang failed in their attempt to rob two banks simultaneously, but another gang did this in Waterville in 1911. Some 4,000 vigilantes were organized and armed by the Kansas Bankers’ Association. Woven throughout the narrative are excerpts taken from newspaper articles and witness accounts of the times.

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey (Lawrence)
Published by Simply Read Books
Sun and Moon have always held their own places in the sky, but after a lifetime of darkness Moon wants to trade. Before agreeing to grant his wish, however, Sun asks Moon to take a careful look at his night. Follow Moon as he travels through the dark discovering children dreaming, foxes hunting, fireflies glowing, and scenes unique to the nighttime. Will Moon still wish to change places in the sky? Luminous, intricate illustrations light up this picture book. K – Grade 2.

To Leave a Shadow by Michael D. Graves (Emporia)
Published by Meadowlark Books
Pete Stone hadn’t always been a private eye. He’d lost his dairy business when the depression hit, his children grew up, and his wife left him for a chinchilla farmer. When Mrs. Lucille Hamilton walked through his door searching for her missing husband, Pete was the only one who believed her husband’s death hadn’t been a suicide. Told in the style of hard-boiled crime fiction and set in 1930’s Wichita, Graves’s depiction of the city during the jazz age makes this a compelling mystery.
Purchase on Amazon            Purchase from Meadowlark

Twenty-Five Years among the Indians and Buffalo: A Frontier Memoir by William D. Street, edited by Warren R. Street (Ellensburg WA)
Published by University Press of Kansas
Nearing 60, William D. Street (1851–1911) sat down to write his memoir of early years on the plains of western Kansas. His tales of life as a teamster, cavalryman, town developer, trapper, buffalo hunter, military scout, and cowboy put us squarely in the middle of such storied events as Sheridan's 1868–1869 winter campaign and the Cheyenne Exodus of 1878. They take us trapping beaver and driving cattle on the Great Western Cattle Trail. Handed down through the family, these memoirs were edited by Street’s great-grandson.

While the Kettle’s On by Melissa Fite Johnson (Pittsburg)
Published by Little Balkans Press
These poems are an invitation into the poet’s home and family, sharing the good times, losses, and smallest moments of daily life. Whether writing about washing dishes with lavender suds or tracing the raised letters B-al-l on a Mason jar, each poem draws the reader into her world. She reminds us of the simple joys of an evening walk “sometimes padded and zipped up; others, short sleeved, my skirt hoping for a breeze …” and through a kitchen’s open window the “… soundtrack of indiscernible songs from car radios below.”

The State Library of Kansas—To learn more, visit 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guest Post: Put a Little Library in Your Life: Poet on Board

by Wendy Devilbiss
Emporia Public Library

Dear Reader,

Think of your personal board of directors, those influencers assembled from friends, teachers, Facebook, and Twitter feeds, family, and yes, beloved books. As readers, we mark when a story affected a decision we made, when a book helped determine who we would become, and because authors have authority, as well as access to our thoughts and feelings, they often retain a place of influence in our lives.

Reading can acquaint us with the personal boards of others. Respected venture capitalist Paul Graham referred to poet Donald Hall in one of his essays on work, while Donald Hall's essays on his life work drew heavily from his studies with sculptor Henry Moore. So much so, that Mr. Hall wrote a book about Henry Moore's work. Similarly, poet Marilyn Nelson honored the inventor and scientist George Washington Carver, with an award-winning collection of poems about his life.

This month, consider adding a poet to your personal board of directors. This will force the other voices to adjust, no doubt, and some discord may result; but sometimes you need to upend the status quo. This is something poets enjoy, to be honest. Not only because poets play well with words, meanings, and relationships, but also because a poet on the board is like a prophet in the court of a king: a truth-teller who speaks to the inner life, more than to the image others respect.

This April, shake up your personal board: read a book from our National Poetry Month display. Just look under the haiku sign on the second floor of the Emporia Public Library. Keep reading; keep experiencing poetry!


Wendy Devilbiss writes "Put a Little Library in your Life" for the Flint Hills Shopper and Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kansas. Wendy is a member of the Kansas Authors Club, and the Poetry Contest Chair for the 2016 KAC Literary Contests.


Meadowlark addendum: We have poets on our bookshelves who would make an excellent addition to your personal board of directors, as well. Consider MoonStain, by Ronda Miller, and the forthcoming book of poems and short stories, Songs of My Father, by Kevin Rabas, coming soon!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Note From Meadowlark: December 2016

December 2015

Dear Friend of Meadowlark,

Thank you for your signing up for Meadowlark's next open reading period, and thank you for your patience. Since our inception in the fall of 2014, I am proud to have added four fine books to the Meadowlark collection. I hope you have had a chance to check out a few of our titles.

The primary purpose of this email, however is to invite you to submit to Meadowlark's first collection of essays. We will begin looking for submissions starting January 1, 2016. The details follow in this email.

We've only just begun! Please continue to follow Meadowlark on Facebook, and bookmark our website.

Write Away!
Seeking True Stories ~ Kansas Roots
Open January 1 - March 31, 2016  (deadline extended) April 30, 2016

Whether you were born in Kansas, or transplanted, Meadowlark is seeking true stories about what ties you to this state. We are not looking for the political or the religious, but perhaps open and honest stories about how you navigate these waters with an open heart and mind. Tell us about the people you love and the places that make you feel at home here. A variety of formats will be considered, but all stories must be true. Pieces of any length will be considered; make each word count. Accepted entries for this collection will be offered payment in cash and/or copies of the completed books. Original, unpublished works preferred. Reprints will be considered if author retains right to publish.

Please Read Complete Guidelines before Submitting

Green Bike, a group novelby Kevin Rabas, Michael D. Graves, and Tracy Million Simmons

Green Bike began as a writing exercise of the Emporia Writers, an independent meeting group of the Kansas Authors Club. The project started as shared files on the group’s Facebook page. All members of the group were invited to participate using a McGuffin—the green bike—as the symbol that would unite the stories. Entries were posted as they were completed, in the same order as they appear in this book. The project started in September, with the final chapters being completed around March of the following year. “It was a challenge that tested me on many levels,” said Tracy Million Simmons. “To write something and immediately share it with multiple readers, without the usual levels of internal processing—read, rewrite, read, rewrite—that my work usually undergoes, was a big step for me as a writer.” Read more about Green Bike here.

MoonStain, poetry by Ronda Miller

​A review from James Benger on Goodreads: "Ronda Miller’s "Moonstain" is intense. There is no way to unread this book. It leaves its mark on you. The book is about love and loss, depression and hope. It’s hard to pin down an overarching tone for the entire collection other than to say powerful. In the titular opening poem, the poet says, “I am an open wound.” The claim is reinforced throughout the book as a soul or souls are bared and examined over and again, perhaps helping the reader gain a greater understanding of themselves. There is a cohesiveness to the poems in this book that many collections lack. Every poem is necessary and is placed perfectly for the narrative to remain potent from the first line to the last. For me, "Meeting Noah" was the most powerful poem in the collection. It tells of visiting an infant’s grave with the father of the deceased. What’s unique is that the story is not told in an overly-emotional or sentimental way (which very easily could have happened). Instead, the poem is extremely grounded and ultimately real. Perhaps even painfully so. In summation, Ronda Miller’s "Moonstain" is a triumph of verse. Poetry lovers of all kinds will find enjoyment and insight in this book. Be warned though, you will not be able to put this book down, and even after the final line is read, the poet’s words will remain with you."


Marcia's book was recently reviewed by Stuart Rosenbrook in True West Magazine: "Kansas-historian Lawrence is the perfect author to write the first comprehensive chronicle of the origins and production of the inaugural world-famous pageant. She was born and raised in Barber County, Kansas, not to far from the county seat of Medicine Lodge. Founded in 1873, the town is just north of the confluence of Medicine Lodge River and Elk Creek and close to location of the famous U.S.-Indian peace treaties that were negotiated and signed in October 1867. Lawrence expertly weaves oral interviews, local, regional and Native history into her narrative of the small-town event with national importance that debuted in 1927 after ten years of planning. Her chronicle of the celebration should be considered a model for public historians across the country who recognize the importance of local events to our shared understanding of our nation’s history, both real and imagined."

To Leave a Shadow, by Michael D. Graves

Meadowlark's newest book, To Leave a Shadow, is now available in print and on Kindle.

"I keep searching for new and different mystery books, and I have found an author that fits the bill!" ~ reviewer on Amazon

Pete Stone hadn’t always been a private eye. He’d lost his dairy business at the toss of a coin when the depression hit. His children grew up, as children do, and his wife left him for a chinchilla farmer. He had learned to like his solitude. When Mrs. Lucille Hamilton walked through his door searching for her missing husband, Pete was the only one who believed her husband’s death hadn’t been a suicide.

Coming to the Meadowlark Bookshelf in 2016:
Songs for My Fatherby Kevin Rabas
"There is something of the kernel of reminiscence in Kevin Rabas's work, a sense that for all its artfulness, the poems are the purest distillation of memory and feeling. At its heart, this collection pays homage not just to a particular feisty father, but to all fathers that we move in their peculiarities and imperfections. The writing is deft and observant, with an understated humor and warmth. At the same time, it is a celebration of 'the lick and needle of fire, song,' that is, to the making of music. Through Rabas's words, we are welcomed to an insider's view of a drummer's realm, where we learn of the timekeeper's measured ticks and splintered drumsticks." ~Donald Levering, author of Coltrane's God.
About Meadowlark
We live in exciting times for authors and all artists, an era of democratization of the arts. No longer will books/music/artwork be something selected by the few and passed down to the masses. The people--our readers--will choose for themselves.

For all the debate about the state of publishing today, we remain optimistic. Readers will continue to seek out quality stories and writers will have more opportunities than ever before.

Meadowlark is an independent publisher, born of a desire to produce high-quality books for print and electronic delivery. Our goal is to create a network and system of support for today's independent authors. Our service will be professional book design services, assuring that the stories we love and believe in will be presented in a manner that enhances rather than detracts from an author's work.

We look forward to developing a collection of books that focus on a Midwest regional appeal, via author and/or topic. We are open to working with authors of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and mixed media.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

About Green Bike

Green Bike began as a writing exercise of the Emporia Writers, an independent meeting group of the Kansas Authors Club. The project started as shared files on the group’s Facebook page. All members of the group were invited to participate using a McGuffin—the green bike—as the symbol that would unite the stories.

Entries were posted as they were completed, in the same order as they appear in this book. The project started in September, with the final chapters being completed around March of the following year.

“It was a challenge that tested me on many levels,” said Tracy Million Simmons. “To write something and immediately share it with multiple readers, without the usual levels of internal processing—read, rewrite, read, rewrite—that my work usually undergoes, was a big step for me as a writer.”

Rabas a former jazz musician and continuing jazz and Beat literature aficionado said he felt at home with this novel’s improvisatory structure. “Although improvisatory,” Rabas said, “the story hangs together. It’s a cohesive narrative, not just an exercise. A good deal of thought went into the story’s characters, and, although the plot was not predetermined, we knew the strengths and limitations of the characters—what they would do and would not do—and fittingly character drove and determined plot, as did the sensibilities of the three writers. We know each other, and we know what kinds of tales we might be capable of. Beyond that, we pushed ourselves—and our characters. When it felt like something (a scene, an arc in the plot) was going slack, one’s coauthors would turn up the heat and test us all.”

In early guidelines for the project participants, Mike Graves wrote, “We’re using the green bike as a common element, and we’re writing individual stories… This is tentatively titled, “Love Stories.” I think it’s the author’s choice as far as building on the same story/characters, but each author is welcome to do so. I liken this to hitting a baseball. We don’t know if the next pitch is going to be a fastball or a slider. Just grab a bat and take a swing.”

Kevin Rabas and Graves almost immediately began intertwining stories, borrowing each other’s characters and affecting the momentum of each other’s stories. Simmons’s contribution evolved more independently, and became, in her mind, almost a prequel to the story of her co-authors. “At some point I decided I was writing about the origin of the green bike. Where did this classic Schwinn come from, anyway? I was writing the story of the first rider, perhaps, the woman who loved the bike first.”

As for the publishing aspect, Rabas said, “We wrote Green Bike on a shared, private Facebook page. So only a group of about 20 could see it—and cheer us on. It was not open to the public. Later, we scraped the text from Facebook and formatted the novel ourselves using Adobe InDesign. However, scraping from Facebook sometimes introduced daunting formatting errors, which we took days or weeks cleaning up. Later, I shopped the novel, and got a hit. A publisher with arms in KC and Arizona wanted it, edited it, and sent a contract, but, in the end, we fell on aesthetic differences, and decided to pull the novel, reedit it, and publish it ourselves, following our own unique vision. So, the novel’s been around the block. I think we can all say we’re satisfied with it now. Hope you are, too. We love how it turned out.”

Rabas called the novel “a wild campus romp.” He said, “It’s at once a love story, a love triangle, a kunstlerroman (artist’s way novel), coming of age tale, wild college days tale, and tale about losing an aging loved one. How can it be all of these things? Because it’s a novel of parallel tales. We’re not just in one narrative. We’re in three.”