The One-Title Year

This has been a wild year, and also a quiet one.

I finished my eight-years-in-progress novel, The Serinette, after reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and seeing how her short chapters worked so successfully. With a big-voiced, many POV novel, and my own sort of nineteenth century language, I decided my big chapters were slowing my novel down. I reworked it, and found a lot of connective tissue that could be cut back. I worked with freelance editor Suzy Vitello on this final draft. Suzy is a fabulous YA novelist and keeps her eye on plot and pacing, which helped me fortify my final short-chapter structure and feel confident in the results.

What’s next? Another novel, of course. I know the who, the when, the where, and the why, and the voice opened inside me the first day I sat down to write. I have a long way to go, but I’m feeling exhilarated to be in a new world, not the France of my imaginings as in The Serinette. 

Landfall cover smallMy business, Forest Avenue Press, had all its eggs in one basket this year: Landfall by Ellen Urbani, endorsed by Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, and Garth Stein, among others. Ellen went on a twenty-city national book tour, which I facilitated from the ground here in Oregon, and promoted with the help of our publicist.

Do book tours sell books? That’s the question a lot of people ask, but as Ellen and I talked about over and over again when she reiterated her intention, and I went ahead with the booking, a tour is more than just the event itself, the sales at that moment. Ellen leveraged her personal crowds, including sorority connections and Peace Corps folks, to fill many rooms along the way, and lots of books sold–and they keep selling, perhaps in part because those bookstore employees and those attendees spread the word to others, and so on. Ellen went above and beyond on so many levels, sending batches of postcards tied with Landfall ribbon and dragonfly charms to booksellers, bringing host gifts of books by some of her favorite authors to community members who housed her and rallied their friend to attend, and so on.

Landfall was named a 2015 Great Group Reads by the Women’s National Book Association. We created a “50 in 15 Challenge” for this book too–sign up here by Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m. to read Landfall in your book club, and you’ll get fun extras!

Next year Forest Ave will publish three titles–The Remnants by Robert Hill (March), Froelich’s Ladder by Jamie Duclos-Yourdon (August), and City of Weird: 30 Otherworldly Portland Stories (October). It was great fun to spend the year on one title, and adjusting to having distribution through the amazing Legato Publishers Group (a division of Perseus), but I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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14 Responses to The One-Title Year

  1. janbaross says:

    Laura, What a wonderful year this has been for you. Congratulations on your book and I look froward to reading it and celebrating your success. How excellent for all the writers associated with you as well. I look forward to their books too. As always, I love to hear about what you are doing. I am living in Mexico until March and having a wonderful time working on my book about Cuba where I spent October. It’s full of sketches and insights into a very different way of life. See you in Portland, xo, JAN PS-Check out the San Miguel Writers Conference here in Feb. If you want to speak about publishing or want to give a seminar etc. next year you can apply by March. Our keynote speaker this year is Joyce Carol Oates. A TOAST TO YOUR SUCCESS FROM MY LITTLE VILLAGE IN MEXICO.

    On Dec 11, 2015, at 7:12 AM, Laura Stanfill wrote:

    > >

    • Jan, thanks so much! I’ve been loving seeing your posts from Mexico, and your photos from Cuba were amazing too. I’d love to come to the San Miguel conference some year. Enjoy the holiday season, and the rich literary life you have made for yourself!

  2. Congratulations on all levels–both for your own novel and for your business. Good for you to be pursuing your dreams! It was good to see you Sunday at Holiday Cheer!

  3. Laura, you inspire! I am so happy you finished The Serinette (which is a lovely, mysterious title, by the way), and I wish it all the best in its journey towards publication. 2016 looks like a very busy year–I hope I can be there for at least one of your great Forest Avenue Press events! All the best for the year ahead, Michael.

    • Michael, thanks so much for your ongoing support. Tea in 2016 sooner than later? Our next big launch is March 15 at the downtown Powell’s for Portlander Robert Hill, with more dates to be announced for the other books.

  4. Big congratulations on finishing the book. I remember at some of its various different stages as the years have slipped by. And now it’s done? Great news.

    Chapter length can make such a difference. We were having a very interesting discussion of that recently on another blog. If I remember where, I’ll post a link here.

    • Thanks! I’d love to see that link, Anthony, if you find it. It felt like a huge revelation at the time of the epiphany, and turned out to be exactly what the novel needed.

      • Ah, here it is, down in the comments on this post:

        It’s always easier to find things when I’m not on my phone. 🙂

        I’ve found that different stories need different rhythms. We should be glad we have the control to make that kind of change when it has to be made. I have real respect for TV writers, where the pacing is entirely out of your control. Commercials are going to come when they come, no matter what you think your story needs.

        • Thanks for tracking this down for me! Good point about certain writers being in control as a whole vs. others not having that option. I was in a writing group that had a ten-page max for a few years, and we all got good at writing ten-page segments that landed somewhere brilliant. A whole novel of ten pages with their own arc might not be a successful novel, but it sure taught us we could adapt to a particular form, even unconsciously!

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I wish I could have made one of those “Landfall” appearances, but life was just too hectic. But the book is wonderful, and well deserves the acclaim it’s generating. Next year’s titles sound just as amazing, and I wish you and their authors all success with them.

    And a great big “Yes!” for hearing that you’ve finished up your own novel as well! I hope we’ll have the chance to read it in the not-too-distant future, too!

  6. Emma says:

    Congrats on finishing your novel, Laura.
    Merry Christmas.

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