Being Brave on the Page

As my longtime readers know (hello, friends), my life has taken an unexpected turn since I started writing about writing here in this welcoming WordPress space.

In 2012, I grouped some of my Seven Questions interviews together and published a book, featuring fifteen of them and twenty-seven micro-essays on the craft of writing.

Brave on the Page was named a Powell's Staff Top Five Pick for 2012.

Brave on the Page was named a Powell’s Staff Top Five Pick for 2012.

That collection, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, was an experiment. I used the Espresso Book Machine at Powell’s to print and distribute copies. We had a launch party around the machine and the staff cranked out copy after copy, which readers and authors could hold, warm in their hands. It was truly a local experiment: Oregon authors, an Oregon press, printed while you wait at one of the best-known bookstores in the country.

The book was named a Powell’s Staff Top 5s pick, it stayed on the Powell’s Small Press Bestseller List every day for four straight months, and we did an official launch reading that attracted more than 140 people to Powell’s on a cold winter night. An unbelievable run for a little hey-why-not project.

Publishing Brave on the Page made me brave.

It took a while, but I stopped talking about being a founder of a company, or the editor of one particular anthology. I started using the word publisher. As in, I am a publisher. I am a gatekeeper. It started feeling like my identity, instead of a role I was trying on.

Hello, I’m Laura, and I’m a publisher.

By the time our first fiction title came out in September 2013, Stevan Allred’s A Simplified Map of the Real World, I became sure of one this: publishing is what I want to do with my life, and everything I’ve done personally and professionally has led up to finding this career. Publishing is a way to grow literary community, it’s a way to celebrate indie bookstores by organizing author events, and–most of all–it’s a way to put beautiful books into the world. Books that might not otherwise have had a chance.

One of my tell-tale tests is whether I want to run out into the street, after finishing a manuscript, and tell all my neighbors to read it. If I don’t want to run into the street, if I don’t want to talk myself hoarse about the adventure a manuscript has taken me on, then I won’t publish it.

I still love writing fiction, and am wrestling with a new draft of my nineteenth century novel, but I’m also focused on my five-year business plan. Growing Forest Avenue Press. To that end, we have some very exciting news that I’m not quite ready to share, but I will soon.

And because of this exciting news, there’s a little bit of farewell, too. I have to pull Brave on the Page out of print. It doesn’t fit the mission of the press any more; we publish fiction exclusively now. It’s our very first title, but we’ve outgrown it as a business. We’re not planning more creative writing collections, and we’re moving beyond our Pacific Northwest roots and opening nationally for submissions on January 1, 2015.

This is who we are now:

Forest Avenue Press, winner of a 2014 Oregon Literary Fellowship, publishes page-turning literary fiction. Its titles are infused with a fresh, complex, sometimes nutty, and often-wondrous approach to storytelling.

Brave on the Page made me into a publisher, this sweet 200-page collection fueled by the words of so many Oregon writers who put their brains to work in sharing advice on the craft. I’m so grateful to everyone who participated in that project. It’s still available through local bookstores in Oregon, including Powell’s and Another Read Through, at any Espresso Book Machine until Nov. 15, or online through Amazon, probably also until Nov. 15.

We won’t be reprinting.

It feels sad, and kind of brave, to say goodbye to the project that launched my press.

But it’s time.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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17 Responses to Being Brave on the Page

  1. Wow! Laura, you’ve come so far and your dedication has been obvious through the whole adventure. Congrats on your well-deserved success and I look forward to seeing where you take things next.

    • Thanks so much for your support, Phillip! I’ve had so much fun so far–from this random hmm, why not idea to actually running a real press–and am excited to share more news in the next few weeks! (National submissions open on Jan. 1, for one thing!)

  2. Holey Moley! Wowsers!

    I can see your point (like many writers (or musicians or directors — ask Alanis Morissette about her early teen-pop albums, or Y Kant Tori Read for Tori Amos). Sometimes we outgrow the early stuff.

    But still.

    Here’s a couple of ideas.

    Make an ebook out of it and give it away.

    Or.

    Take the essays and post them here.

    There’s never a shortage or writers who need to learn about being brave. 🙂

    • Anthony, your facility with culture references astounds me. Outgrowing the early stuff. Yes. There’s a solid business decision behind this that I’ll unpack in the coming weeks, but I really like the idea of the ebook or sharing essays here! We started an ebook but the person I hired did a poor job; now that I have a good ebook designer, something like that would be a possibility.

  3. I am so, so proud of you and your company and all that you’ve accomplished! And I’m so excited for you and all the changes ahead – always onward!

  4. I’d say you’re BRAVE beyond any page – what you’ve done and are doing, takes courage. Bravo!

  5. Thanks for the inspiration today, Laura, and good luck in whatever you do.

  6. writereads says:

    Huge congratulations on growing the business! It’s always a little weird, but awesome, to realize where your life and passion is really taking you. While I’m sorry to hear that it’s time to say goodbye to your first book, I’m looking forward to reading more of Forest Avenue Press’ books! I’m in Portland once a year for dance workshops and I spend the whole time when I’m not dancing in Powells, so I’ll make sure to look for your titles! -Tania

    • So true, Tania! I just went to my twentieth high school reunion and got to chat with a former English teacher about how I landed in publishing. I found the perfect path for me. And Powell’s is fantastic! I loved them as a reader, from the moment I moved to Portland, and now I get to love them as a publisher.

  7. Caron Reeder says:

    You are an inspiration Laura!

  8. jmmcdowell says:

    Congratulations on the growing success of Forest Avenue! It’s hard sometimes when moving forward means leaving something cherished behind. But that’s the nature of life, isn’t it? I look forward to seeing many more wonderful stories coming through your press!

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