By Meagan Bowdy
“This is pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Patricia Ann McNair beamed at a crowd tucked into every nook and cranny of the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square on January 19, 2013. Summing up the evening succinctly and eloquently, McNair acknowledged her personal supporters and fellow award winners at the Chicago Writer’s Association Book of the Year Awards held nearly two months ago.
In January, the CWA awarded Patricia Ann McNair, Renee James, Kelly Farley, and Richard Lindberg their Book of the Year awards in a comfortable ceremony at Lincoln Square’s local bookstore, The Book Cellar. Each of the winning authors were awarded a glass trophy celebrating their authorial accomplishment and then given time to read excerpts from their winning books to an audience paying rapt attention. The large gathering to support Chicago’s own creative talent was a proud moment for the 2nd annual Book of the Year Awards, and for the Chicago Writer’s Association. Randy Richardson, president of CWA, presented the awards and served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. In case you missed it, here are some snapshots from the evening.
In continuing with the CWA’s goal to further the artistic pursuit of Chicagoland writers and allow aspiring writers insight into the professional community, the CWA is sponsoring The Road to Published: Authors Tell Their Stories, a free panel discussion on Saturday, April 20, 2-4:30 p.m., at the Beverly Library, 1962 W. 95th St., Chicago. The panel will bring back some authors from this year’s Book of the Year Awards and add some fresh faces to shed some light on their personal roads to publication and experiences along the way. Renee James, the winner of the CWA Book of the Year for Nontraditionally Published Fiction, will speak about the hybrid publishing method she used to put her creative work in the field after many years of traditionally publishing in journalism and trade magazine fields. Fellow Book of the Year winners Farley and McNair will also speak about their traditional and nontraditional experiences.
The panel, to be moderated by Richardson, will also feature Samantha Hoffman, A.D. Moore, James Finn Garner, Libby Fischer Hellman, and Gracie Hill, whose paths to publication diverge in fashion but unite in a common goal of making their creative endeavors available to the masses.
To give a small taste of some of the exciting stories that will be shared on the panel, the CWA caught up with Samantha Hoffman to ask a little about their publishing experience.
Samantha Hoffman’s novel, What More Could You Wish For, was initially self-published. Hoffman worked on her novel for eight years, all the while querying agents, attempting to drum up interest in her story. “I got lots of form letter rejections,” Hoffman recounts, “But I also got a few personal notes with positive comments and suggestions…I took the positive comments to heart and continued the revising process until, finally, I knew I had to be finished once and for all.” Having already attempted contact with several agents to no avail, and wanting to publish while the novel was still hot in hand and mind, Hoffman elected to self publish. “I promoted it all over social media, had some book signings, sent copies to everyone who might have a connection.” For Hoffman, one of those connections turned out to be fruitful. “One of my friends works for St. Martin’s Press and it turned out she loved my book. She sent it to the president/publisher of the company who also loved it. So, I soon got a call and a book deal from an editor at St. Martin’s Press. It was unbelievable.”
“My advice to all writers is to keep writing. Don’t let rejections get in your way. Everyone gets rejected. If you decide to self-publish, make sure your book is the very best it can be, and then, after you’re sure that it is, hire a professional editor.”
Hoffman’s pick-up by a major publishing house is unexpected for many who pursue self-publishing, but her perseverance and passion is far from foreign to any writer, and her advice to aspiring artists rings true. “My advice to all writers is to keep writing. Don’t let rejections get in your way. Everyone gets rejected. If you decide to self-publish, make sure your book is the very best it can be, and then, after you’re sure that it is, hire a professional editor.” Hoffman’s insistence on a professional editor comes from the knowledge that authors are often too close to their own work to properly edit it, and relying on a professional is the best way to ensure a publishable product. “Finally,” she mentors, “don’t give up. If you believe in your work, you’ll get there.” Hoffman’s book, What More Could You Wish For, is available through St. Martin’s Press.
Look forward to some author snapshots of our other panelists in the weeks leading up to the event, and make sure to support your local bookseller with trips to the Book Cellar, and our fellow authors by remembering our Book of the Year winners, The Temple of Air, Whiskey Breakfast, Grieving Dads, and Coming Out Can Be Murder.