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Q: What’s the difference between traditional and self-publishing?

Valerie J Lewis Coleman

Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, self-publishing

A: With the advent of technology, writers have numerous options when it comes to publishing. If you’re blessed to get a book deal with a traditional publisher (e.g., Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins), you’ll get an advance, royalties and marketing allowance. Given the volatility of the book industry, explosion of self-publishing and emergence of eBooks, landing a deal with a traditional publisher is a rare feat.

An independent or small publisher usually focuses on a specific genre. These publishers may or may not pay advances and often have fewer than twenty authors on the roster.

Enter book producers. Authors pay these companies to produce their books; often at a premium. Most book producers are piranhas that eat away at your money, confidence and publishing rights one bite at a time. Although reputable book producers are available (e.g., QueenVPublishing.com), most fall into one of three categories of awfulness. I’ll discuss this publishing option at the retreat.

I am a proponent for self-publishing for many reasons:

  1. You control the process. You decide when the book releases, the cover image, the retail price, the marketing strategy and more. If executed correctly, you can save thousands of dollars, mountains of frustration and hours of research by implementing the do-it-yourself method.
  2. You keep 100% of monies earned. As opposed to waiting for royalty checks from your publisher, or fighting with your publisher for compensation, you keep every dime you make. Caution: Just because you earn it, does not mean you should spend it.
  3. If the content is relevant and you are actively marketing, your title has an indefinite shelf life.
  4. Short lead time to market. After writing the manuscript, you can have your book published and on the market in a few weeks. The longest component in this process is professional editing which can take several weeks depending on how well the manuscript is written and the editor’s proficiency.
  5. Affordable. Emerging technologies have made self-publishing more cost effective. With the advent of eBooks, the most expensive aspect of publishing—printing—is eliminated. In addition, since only a front-cover image is required, the cost for cover design is cheaper than that for print books. Note: Editing is required regardless of your book’s format.
  6. Quick changeover. Updates and revisions can be made quickly. And as new technology hits the market, a self-published author is in the perfect position to leverage the opportunity without delays from fighting chain-of-command bureaucracy.

 

Q: How much does self-publishing cost?

A: The answer depends on several factors including book format, word count and printer specs. The least expensive route will cost a few hundred, but I have worked with authors who were tricked out of $15,000, couldn’t earn a profit and then hired me to fix the mess. As I serve clients, we work through the intricacies of publishing, find reputable service providers and assess expected expenses. I’ll explain how I can save you thousands of dollars at the retreat.

 

Q: Do I have to get the bar code and numbers myself?

A: As a true self-pub, yes! Other options are available, but I caution you to avoid them.

 

Q: Do I have to design my own cover?

A: Unless you’re a gifted graphics designer proficient in designing book covers, you better not! As amazing as I am at publishing books, I do not design covers. I hire a professional designer with years of experience and a thorough understanding of colors, fonts, placement and more. Your book cover is a marketing tool. Don’t leave the success of your book to a novice designer. It’s not worth the few dollars saved.

 

Q: Doesn’t self-publishing have a bad reputation?

A: In a nutshell, yes and no. Barriers to entry have been eliminated so anyone with internet access can publish a book. However, with over 10,000,000 books on Amazon, almost 90% of them will sell less than 75 copies. Why? Many self-published authors don’t invest adequate resources to produce a quality book causing readers, libraries and bookstores to shy away from their crap…I mean books.

On the flip side, self-published authors like James Redfield (The Celestine Project), Amanda Hocking (My Blood Series) and E. L James (50 Shades of Grey) produced books that hit the New York Times bestsellers list, the big screen and millions of readers. In addition to having outstanding marketing strategies, these authors created amazing content—well-written and well-edited—which competed with standards held by traditional houses.

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Oct. 26 to 28, 2018 Yellow Springs OH

At Retreat to the Springs! in October 2018, our faculty will be reviewing participants’ writing and providing a one-on-one feedback session. Each review costs an additional $25 for the critique and 15-minute discussion.

Here are the guidelines for what each faculty member will review:

 

Ann Hagedorn (4 manuscripts)

  • What: Nonfiction
  • How much: Three-paragraph synopsis and up to 10 pages of manuscript
  • How: Send an email to Wendy at whbeckman@gmail.com for the address.  Put “MS for Ann” in subject line.
  • When: No later than Sept. 17

Donna MacMeans (10 manuscripts)

  • What: Fiction, particularly romance
  • How much: First chapter and a synopsis
  • How: Email to whbeckman@gmail.com with “MS for Donna” in subject line
  • When: No later than Oct. 12

Jason Sanford

  • What: Short story manuscripts, any genre
  • How much: Up to 6,000 words
  • How: Email to whbeckman@gmail.com with “MS for Jason” in subject line
  • When: Send by Oct. 12

Retreat to the Springs! is a roving writers’ workshop held in various “Springs” cities around the country. The next one is Oct. 26 to 28, 2018, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Join us for a retreat in a fantastic village setting, where you’ll receive expert instruction from fantastic writers: Ann Hagedorn, creative nonfiction; Donna MacMeans, romance; Jason Sanford, scifi/fantasy; and Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, self-publishing. Learn the strategies and tactics of being a successful, published author. Sign up for an optional one-on-one manuscript critique! (One-on-one manuscript critiques cost an additional $25.) Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning are yours for only $195.


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Scifi/fantasy Fiction Presenter Jason Sanford

Another of our faculty members at Retreat to the Springs! (October 26 to 28, 2018) is Jason Sanford. Let’s get to know him a little!

 

What were the first meaningful things you wrote?

I wrote a short story which won my high school’s writing contest. The story was a science fiction tale about two kids with special powers escaping from government control. In hindsight I realized the story had serious echoes of Escape to Witch Mountain, one of my favorite films as a child. But that story still taught me that I could write something which other people would want to read and enjoy. That meant so much to my development as a writer.

Do you read your stories after they’re published?

No, and yes. I reread and edit my stories prior to submission and publication, and I’m always willing to work on editorial suggestions to one of my stories (as should any author — if an editor you trust is willing to help improve your story, listen). But once a story is published I try not to reread it because I can’t make changes at that point. And every time I read my stories I find changes I want to make.

That said, I do occasionally reread published stories when they’re being reprinted. But in these cases I can make new edits and changes.

How do you feel about self-publishing? It has lost a lot of the stigma of “vanity” publishing.

Absolutely. Self-publishing today is nothing like the vanity publishing of decades ago. A number of authors have created viable careers and readerships through self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the traditional publishing route isn’t also a path to possible success. Authors need to weigh the pros and cons of both approaches to publishing and find the one which is best for them.

What is your writing routine? Do you have one?

I write whenever I can. And when I’m not writing I’m thinking about stories to write. For me, the writing process never ends.

If you didn’t write in your genre, what would you be writing?

Interesting question. I’m honestly not sure. I love writing science fiction and fantasy because these genres provide the tools for me to explore fascinating subjects and ideas which I believe are extremely relevant to our world today.

For the last few decades humanity has experienced an unprecedented technological explosion, with data sharing, social media, and information technologies expanding and changing the ways humans interact with both each other and the universe. In such a rapidly changing world, science fiction and fantasy are two of the best literary genres for understanding what this change means for humanity.

Because of the world we live in, I can’t see writing any other types of stories at this point in time.

What was your harshest rejection? What was your best rejection?

One of my first professional publications was in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a storied SF magazine with one of the largest readerships in the world. I’d been trying for years to be published in either Analog or its sister magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction.

After my Analog story came out I wrote a sequel to the story and submitted it. I was certain the story would be accepted, but nope. I was devastated and had no clue what to do with the story. I decided to submit it to Asimov’s and the magazine’s editor, Sheila Williams, accepted it, to my total surprise. That was my first publication in Asimov’s and opened the door to subsequent publications there.

That would be both my harshest and best rejection.

Where do you think your genre is going? What are the changes you’ve seen?

I think all literary genres are expanding their scope to reach new diverse audiences and points of views. A few decades ago the only way to succeed as an author was through traditional publishing and this, by the nature of any somewhat closed system, limited the types of stories which were being published. If you wrote a story which didn’t match what publishers and editors at publishing houses thought would sell, you’d have great difficulty finding an audience or even getting published.

But today there are multiple routes to finding an audience, from traditional publishing to self-publishing. Because of this more types of books and stories are being published than ever before, and many of these stories are reaching audiences which were frequently overlooked or ignored in previous years.

Everyone has a story to tell, and these days there are many ways to share those stories and find an audience.

Do you recommend getting an agent?

Again, that depends on the career path a writer wants to take. If you want to go the traditional book-publishing path, then yes, I’d recommending finding an agent. But if you want to self-publish your book, an agent isn’t needed.

If you write short fiction, as I do, an agent probably also won’t be needed because venues which publish short stories are well known for working directly with authors. And most short fiction markets are very open to works by new authors.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The best stories come from a love and passion for stories. To succeed as a writer you must first love reading stories. You must see the stories all around us every day. Then you take that love and write your own stories, and keep writing.

I can tell when an author wrote a story without this all-consuming love and passion. Even if the story is technically competent and well written, it will still be lacking. Life is short, so why would anyone want to waste their time reading a story by an author who lacks a love and passion for the very stories they write?

So reach out to your love and passion for stories, then find a way to write toward those emotions. If you do this there’s a good chance your stories will succeed.

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Oct. 26 to 28, 2018 Yellow Springs OH

 

To register for Retreat to the Springs! workshop in Yellow Springs this fall, go here

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Enter my Goodreads Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The 8 Wonders of Cincinnati by Wendy Hart Beckman

The 8 Wonders of Cincinnati

by Wendy Hart Beckman

Giveaway ends November 18, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

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Full of Myself

Writer Lee Martin recently posted “Looking Back on the Follies of Youth” on his blog. He challenged the reader to do the same, examining something from the past through the eyes of the child at the time and the adults we’ve become. So I turned the microscope on myself.

I have gotten very comfortable, smug even, in my role as a 58-year-old tutor of high school students. I raised three boys and am a grandmother. I was a straight “A” student; my sons were not. I am ashamed to admit that I’m a know-it-all. I’ve seen it all: just ask me.

Every now and then, I sit across the table from a student, working pleasantly with him or her but thinking “Aren’t we full of ourselves?” Such a student has an aura about her that the expensive tutoring her parents have paid for is unnecessary and inconvenient. That I’m bothering her with my expertise gained through three college degrees, eight books, 38 years either attending or teaching at universities, and hundreds of articles published.

My first published piece was a poem, written when I was in third grade. It appeared in a national children’s publication called Golden Magazine. Riding on my early success, I then wrote my autobiography at the age of 12.

My mother said no one would buy it because I hadn’t done anything important yet.

Harsh words? Yes. Typical of my mother? Don’t get me started. But she taught me early about rejection, about criticism. However, my mother’s denigrating remarks were because she had high (and in all humility, not unrealistic) expectations of me. She was trying to challenge me to achieve my best. I understand that now; I didn’t understand that when I was a pre-teen, teenager, or 20-something. All I understood was that I was never good enough.

Then I became a mother. I had watched my siblings and in-laws with their kids and realized there are many ways to convey your expectations to your children. One way is my mother’s. I tried to avoid that. A sister-in-law told me about something she’d read in which some expert said to focus on how the child feels about something, then go from there. Other parents heap praise on their children for every accomplishment, every action, every “participation” trophy.

I think it is this last situation that creates children who end up with over-inflated ideas of their self-worth and their contributions to society. Many of my students take advanced placement and honors courses, but can’t take a given punctuation example and then apply that to another similar question.

So, as I have watched the students who think they know it all, I have thought how haughty people can seem. As if they’re all powerful. Then I am reminded of an incident in high school when my best friend had a difference of opinion with our chemistry teacher, who was the advisor of the school newspaper, Maroon Reflections. I’ve long forgotten what the disagreement was about. What I do remember, with some embarrassment, is how my friend, two other girls who were on staff of the paper, and I marched into the Chemistry Department office and confronted the teacher. The teacher looked at the four of us and said calmly, “Is this discussion between you and me, or do we need a whole army?” My friend said it was just the two of them, really, and glanced at the other three of us. Here’s my shining moment: as we filed out, I turned and said to my friend, “We’ll be right outside. Let us know if you need us.”

What did I think was going to happen? A fist fight? By the time this teacher could have gotten out of her chair, my friend could have run to the next county. But the bigger thing is that this was a teacher we all liked. I don’t think I ever heard her raise her voice. In retrospect, I think I just wanted to act important, “too big for my britches,” as my grandmother used to say. Maybe I wanted fodder for my autobiography.

So I sit with my students now and remind myself that the mission of most teenagers is to find purpose, to find worth. My job is to help them develop that sense of genuine worth. As a mother and a teacher, my responsibility is to give them roots and wings. Their responsibility is to flex those wings and soar.

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Well, the reviews are in and they’re great!

OK, I’ve actually had them for weeks, but I just remembered that I have to send them to Communiversity at UC. In April, I taught a one-day workshop called “Writing to Publish.” We had a great class, with lots of good questions about writing, formatting, and publishing your work.

Here are some of the highlights from the evaluations:

“You learn from a person who actually practices. Thank you. Loved it!”

“I learned exercises to help me unlock my writing blocks.”

“Fantastic! I truly learned so much about the writing market. [Would recommend this class to others] absolutely — so informative and so constructive. Very thorough, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Your next opportunity to hear my instruction on writing and publishing will be at my Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat. Even if fiction’s your thing, you’ll benefit from the beautiful surroundings and the instruction from Ann Hagedorn and me.

Registration deadline is August 15. Make your $50 deposit through PayPal to reserve your place.

Ready to go? Make your deposit with PayPal:
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Looking for a Holiday Gift?

Looking for a present for someone who loves Cincinnati? How about someone who used to live here but moved away? Or someone who’s new to town? Look no more! I bet you can’t guess what my answer is! Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati!

A holiday gift idea for lovers of Cincinnati!

A holiday gift idea for lovers of Cincinnati!

I accept cash, checks, money orders, PayPal, and Intuit payments. Just tell me the name of your recipient, his or her address, and include payment. Deadline for Hanukkah is December 12; for Christmas it’s December 20. (Please specify Hanukkah, Christmas, or “other” wrapping paper.) The cost of $30 covers one book, personalization, wrapping and shipping. (Local orders cost less.)

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The arrival of Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is being heralded by talks at the annual “Books and Brunch” May 7 and a book launch at the Cincinnati Museum Center May 28.

After two years of research and writing, I am extremely pleased to announce that Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, Powells.com, or a local bookstore near you (like Joseph-Beth, here in Cincinnati).

And if you’re here in Cincinnati, you have two opportunities to hear me speak on topics from the book coming up in May.

First, I will be one of four featured speakers on May 7 at the “Books & Brunch” for the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati. They’re a nonprofit that helps children and adults with educational and health “gap” needs and helps them succeed in removing themselves from abusive environments. So, given the focus of what they do, I am talking about DeHart Hubbard and his being the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal, then winning an Enquirer contest that gave him a full-ride scholarship to the University of Michigan and what a successful, meaningful life he had afterward. Hubbard was the great-uncle of former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Second, the official book launch takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, at the Cincinnati Museum Center. I will talk about Nicholas Longworth in a presentation called “A Glass of Wine, a Loaf of Bread and Wow!” The talk will be followed by Q&A and a book signing.

I did a lot of my research for the book at the Museum Center (and of course at the fantastic Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library) and the Museum Center is a wonderful, valuable resource in our community, so I am donating 5 percent of my profits to the Museum Center.

The May 28 event is free (except for $4 for parking; handicapped accessible parking is available). Wood, Herron & Evans is sponsoring a coffee reception during the book signing.

I’m supposed to be doing a book signing in June at Joseph-Beth, but the details of that haven’t been firmed up yet. Check back for more info!

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From the publisher’s website:

When gazing at the city’s impressive skyline, we too often forget the notable individuals who built these grand and glittering buildings, as well as the nearby museums, parks and neighborhoods we also treasure. Reflected in the character, reputation and even design of our city, the legacy of the early settlers continues on today. Through their efforts, almost always imbued with a civic entrepreneurial spirit, they stamped their mark on our burgeoning regional reputation, while also allowing current leaders to bolster and broaden our national reputation.

 

Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati brings to life the founding families’ histories, sharing these intertwined and fascinating tales with readers near and far. A charming history of lives lived large — truly the Who’s Who (as well as the When and Where) of Cincinnati — that when considered together, made the Queen City the great place to live and work that it is today.

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Testimonials:

Mary Thomas Watts, writer for the “Gary Burbank Show” on WLW:

“Wendy Hart Beckman’s Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is an enchantingly fresh, generation by generation narrative of the men and women whose dreams, hard work, governance and philanthropy built the Queen City.

Beckman’s meticulous historical research, her affection for the city she calls home, and her luminous good humor reward the reader from first page to last. Informative, inspiring, entertaining, and a whole lot of fun to boot, Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati is a must read for Cincinnati aficionados, those who live here and those who would if they only could.”

 

Ann Hagedorn, author of Wild Ride, Beyond the River, and more:

“Have you been to Losantiville? No? Think again. You may live there, for this was Cincinnati’s first name. And it is just one of many fascinating details unveiled in Wendy Beckman’s new book Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati. The names may be familiar but the facts are often fresh in this depiction of the Queen City’s past. Beckman not only shows us Cincinnati’s significance to the nation from the start, both culturally and economically, but she deepens our understanding of the individuals who shaped the city’s uniqueness and spurred its success. The struggles, the risks, the sacrifices, the wealth, the crises, the excitement. It’s all there. Did you know that Cincinnati’s 1813 volunteer fire department was the first in the nation, that 8,000 Cincinnatians perished in the 1849 cholera epidemic, and that 150 furniture factories once thrived in the town? It’s a good read for all of us who love Cincinnati and always want to know more.”

 

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Looking for a gift for a loved one this holiday season? I’d like to make a few recommendations. You might notice a theme here. OK, I’ll make a full disclosure: the following are books I edited.

Want your mind to be entertained with some food for thought while your stomach is digesting its own food? Then take a look at Benjamin Gorman’s The Sum of Our Gods.

Here’s the description from the author: Joe has been cursed. He musSum of Our Godst meet with Yahweh, the Creator, once a week for coffee and listen to God complain. Yahweh is a crotchety old deity with a pantheon of family problems. His wife, Frigga, has basically stopped talking to Him, except to nag Him about retiring. His son, Jesus, suffers from crippling depression. Oh, and Jesus’ estranged wife is planning a terrorist attack to start a holy war. God is fed up with all the drama. He’s perfectly tired and infinitely irritable. Though God doesn’t seem to care about human problems, Joe’s little, mortal life isn’t perfect, either. In fact, it’s a comedy as black as God’s coffee.

My two cents: The Sum of Our Gods, Ben Gorman’s first published novel, just blew my socks off in a quirky way. Ben’s paternal grandparents are Catholic and Jewish; their son — Ben’s father, is a Presbyterian minister — as is Ben’s mother. Ben, himself, holds a degree in philosophy, is married to a Quaker, teaches creative writing and calls himself agnostic. How could he not help but write a brilliant novel full of the gods wrestling with their demons and each other? Yes, godS. His working title for the book was “And Lo, God Took His Coffee Black” (in case you wondered.) This is a fantastic debut novel, and I can’t wait for Ben’s second!

If you don’t want to think that hard, or if nonfiction is more what you’re looking for, try Paige Adams Strickland’s Akin to the Truth. Her memoir would be of interest to people in the adoption triad or anyone who grew up in the Cincinnati area in the 1960s and 70s. Akin to the Truth

From the author: In 1961 Paige was put up for adoption, a more taboo and secretive topic than it is today. Paige’s adoptive family chose not to focus on the adoption, but instead function as a regular family with natural children. However, being adopted made her feel vulnerable and unreal. She longed to know more about her true self. In Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, Paige tells stories from the perspective of a child and adolescent, growing up with a closely guarded secret. Through vignettes, Paige relates feelings about her adoption to forming and maintaining relationships, caring for pets, moving to new houses and neighborhoods, losing loved ones and entering young adulthood.  Her need for acceptance is juxtaposed with her adoptive father’s increasingly erratic behavior. This is a tale of family joys and hardships, friendships, falling in love and the need to belong. It is set in the era of free love, social unrest and unexpected change during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

From me: Throughout Paige’s childhood, she struggled with feelings of loss, establishing her identity, and tiptoeing through an awkward relationship with her father. Knowing that she was adopted heightened these challenges and added another: finding her birth family. In this entertaining memoir, Paige recounts how she faced her “demons,” and how she learned that she was not alone.

Spreading our interest geographically and chronologically brings us to another memoir, Over My Shoulder: 1931–1945, by the distinguished Ewin Gaby. Over My Shoulder

About the book: History books generally avoid the details of human life. They tell of what happened at a time, but not how it affected those living through that time. The depression of the 1930’s and the war of the early 1940’s changed the world, and history books provide great detail as to the causes and of the changes brought about. Still, how families handled these challenges cannot be told in a book of history, because each family had its own manner of living through these significant historical periods. This book is the story of how a young boy and his family live through the depression of the 30’s and the Second World War. Unlike many others, his father is employed, but that employment causes them to live in 145 towns in his first ten years. When the Second World War begins, they move to New Orleans for the next four years. What a way to grow up!

A few notes from me: Ewin’s book is available in paperback, Kindle or CD version. I recommend the CD highly. With his combination Texas–Louisiana accent, Ewin reads his memoir wonderfully. You can sit back and just listen to a time when kids played outside until it got dark, when mothers and kids pulled together to make the family run while fathers were away during the war, when school kids ran paper drives to support the war effort. Shoot, if your father or grandfather is no longer with you, get the CD and it’s as if you’re together again, hearing stories about the old days, when life was simple.

And a little shameless self-promotion:

My first book, Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Enslow, 2002) has gone into a  second printing. Now titled Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers,  it is available in library binding, paperback and e versions.Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers

In this book I profile ten African Americans who had key contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, an explosion of creativity that started in New York City in the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance lasted for about 20 years and had even international repercussions.

Here’s one review of the original book:

Children’s Literature

Harlem, New York, was the setting for a cultural upsurge in the 1920’s and 1930’s. During those decades a series of Black writers, artists, vocalists, and poets sprang forth and gave voice to the conditions of African-Americans. At a time when racial prejudice was even more overt than in our own age, it took great courage for Black artists to stand up and honestly portray their lot in America. Artists such as Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Josephine Baker all provided a unique expression to what it meant to be a Black person either living in America or with American roots. This artistic movement came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance and that is the subject covered in this collection of short biographies. In this illustrated selection author Wendy Hart Beckman provides encapsulated biographies of ten artists who participated in the Harlem Renaissance. In each instance Ms. Beckman provides a careful outline of the artist’s background, development, contributions, and later life. This is a good reference tool for readers with an interest in African-American history or specifically Black artists of this era. The Harlem Renaissance was a significant movement in American culture and Ms. Beckman does well to offer readers a summary of some of the leading lights of that period.

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In the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to three friends about where they go for feedback on their writing. Their answers were different, just as they are different. One is enrolled in an online class, and the other two are in several writing relationships. One way to get feedback, of course, is through the Writing Workshop Workshop at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 21, at Olive’s on Ludlow. (more…)

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