Quiet Novels

Yesterday author Suzy Vitello very kindly highlighted my Late Night Library interview and, in particular, my definition of a quiet novel on her blog, Let’s Talk about Writing. And she used those things as a springboard to ask her blog readers what kind of books they would publish if they decided to start a press.

Read her piece here and consider commenting on it with your own thoughts. (And for sure you’ll hear more from me about Suzy in January, when her debut YA novel, The Moment Before, comes out from Diversion.)

What’s especially interesting to me is this idea of picking a mission. That never really happened to me. I sort of fell into wanting to publish quiet novels, having ten ISBNs to spend and only one book. I was talking to a writer-friend of mine at a party a year ago this past September about how we had quiet novels in our drawers, and then I quipped, hey, that’s what I should publish with my other nine ISBNs. It seemed like a good idea as any. The stronger directive I felt was to publish Oregon writers, so I could meet with them in person, work together as a team, and become part of the local literary community in a new way. And I’ve followed through with that, though I do someday hope to expand to Pacific Northwest and then possibly even nationally.

Novels without plot are often called “quiet,” and I think as someone whose previous novels have been branded quiet, or even too quiet, I wanted to settle that score. I wanted to show that quiet novels can be plot driven. That not all novels about relationships are navel-gazing. That literary language doesn’t necessarily have to overshadow character development and scene; they can work together.

Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances, slated for a March release by my press, is a good example of a quiet novel that’s also a page-turner; two of our advance copy recipients have already reported reading it within 24 hours, staying home from prior obligations and ignoring their spouses. (YES! That’s a good sign.)

Fundamentally, though, it’s a quiet novel. About the relationship between a widower and his granddaughter and how it changes when his estranged daughter comes home from prison. It’s about relationships, about the family unit, not about changing the world. Despite its pace, and being more of a commercial selection than some of our other titles, its language and emphasis on family fit my definition of quiet. 

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Speaking of publishing and doing it yourself, I’ve agreed to do a thirty-minute speech on the power of self-publishing at the University of Oregon’s Portland campus in January. I am starting to jot down ideas about what to cover. I feel a little uncomfortable about talking about self-publishing, since after my anthology (which is about many writers, not just me) was quickly followed by turning into a real press. I never set out to publish my own novels through Forest Ave, for instance. So if you have a publishing or self-publishing question, please (please!) let me know in the comments, and I’ll a) address it in a future blog post and b) I’ll weave it into the speech I need to start working on. And by speech, I mean a loose collection of notes that I can use to talk about publishing.

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And speaking of public speaking, which always makes me a little nervous, I’m going to record a podcast with the lovely folks over at Late Night Library this Thursday. I’m not sure when it’ll air, but I expect to talk about some of these things and giggle occasionally. Wish me luck. I’m hoping my passion for writing and publishing will carry me through, but I’m a little intimidated. This will be my first podcast appearance!

Finally, for those of you in the Portland area, I’m reading my story, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” at the VoiceCatcher winter celebration next Tuesday. Hope to see some familiar faces in the audience!

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, small press, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Quiet Novels

  1. Laura, Congratulations on all these opportunities coming your way. You’re a natural public speaker. If you find yourself doing more of it, and would appreciate supportive and helpful tips to gain even more skill and confidence in speaking, consider going to some Toastmasters meetings. Portland has lots of groups. You know, in your spare time…

    • Ha ha, spare time! That’s a great idea, though, Marcia. Speaking to an audience is still fairly new to me, although I keep getting more practice!

      • I’ve been getting invitations to speak and lead workshops, too, now that “Word Up!” is finding an audience. That role takes some getting used to! I’ve met some professional speakers (lots of them in Portland–they have their own organization, the National Speakers Association), who’ve given me invaluable tips. Let me know if you ever want to tap into their activities. Alternatively, you may enjoy this book: “Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design & Delivery”—perhaps easier to slip into your life a few pages at a time.

        Of course, you’ll do fine winging it, too.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I think your audience will be greatly entertained by that good fellow and his organ. 😉 And I also think you’ve accomplished an amazing amount on the publishing front in just over a year. May 2014 bring you continued success!

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