They've Got It Covered

new authors’ group forms to foster literary success

Barbara Arnold

AND WHO SHOULD I MAKE THAT OUT TO? Sandra Stanton, a member of Chippewa Valley Local Authors, autographs a book inside a sales tent the group set up at the Festival in the Pines last month in Eau Claire.
AND WHO SHOULD I MAKE THAT OUT TO? Sandra Stanton, a member of Chippewa Valley Local Authors, autographs a book inside a sales tent the group set up at the Festival in the Pines last month in Eau Claire.

A newly formed group for published authors in the Chippewa Valley is taking on a life of its own.

Within two months of being formed, the Chippewa Valley Local Authors group sponsored a booth at the Festival in the Pines in Carson Park in late August and created two Facebook pages – a public bookstore and a private forum for members. The group also established a regular meeting place at the Volume One Gallery and set up an organizational structure with officers, based on member talents, and $50 dues.

 The CVLA’s next meeting is Oct. 20, and anyone who has already published a book or has written a book and wants to know how to get it published is welcome. The works of its 22 members cover a wide range: baby and children’s literature, Chippewa Valley history, Christian fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, creative non-fiction, faith, family, farming, memoir, parenting, politics, poetry, psychology/body-mind-spirit, religion, romance, spiritual, and women – for starters.

Jim Alf, author of When the Ferries Still Ran: History and Stories from the Chippewa Bottoms, came up with the idea for such a group eight years ago. He was at a farm show in 2007 and traded books with another local author, Howie Sturtz. “I saw all the booths and wondered why some local authors didn’t get together and have a sales booth,” he said.

“What are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus getting an agent? Do I print it or simply offer an e-version or both? If I print, do I do a hard cover or paperback? What typeface do I use and why? How do I price the book?” – Bill Callaghan, president, Chippewa Valley Local Authors, outlining some of the many questions first-time authors face

 The idea was dormant until this summer when Alf mentioned it to his neighbor Dennis R. Miller, author and director of Voices from the Past, a history of Eau Claire’s Uniroyal tire plant, and of Finding Neverland, a guide for parents and adults on visioning your life from a child’s perspective, which sprung out of journals Miller kept after going to the Healing Place to deal with the grief caused by the untimely death of his daughter Kimberly in a traffic accident.

 “Miller had thought about getting a booth by himself for Festival in the Pines, but that was too expensive,” Alf continued. “We combined our ideas, contacted some local authors, and we were off.”

At the group’s second meeting at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, the energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Bill Callaghan, author of Raised with Praise: How My Parents Made Me a Happy Soul, an inspirational work based on his childhood and a guide for current and future parents, agreed to be president. Laurie Norlander, whose debut novel Mirror Images – about “God’s ability to transform lives and change perspectives” – won the 2012 Women of Faith writing contest, became the treasurer. Secretary is CeCelia Zorn, who published her first novel, Angels Don’t Get Tattoos, in 2014 inspired by her nursing work earlier in her career with a teenaged cancer patient. Vice President is Karen J. Olson, author of Children of Light, her story of raising a child with multiple disabilities.

 Those attending that night quickly threw themselves into making the booth for Festival in the Pines a success. It was. The group’s authors were there to sell their books and sign them. They did. The booth fueled the momentum for future collective endeavors yet to be determined.

“Eight-one percent of the population has an idea for a book at one time or another, and yet only about five percent actually do it,” said Callaghan, who weaves statistical data in all stages of publishing a book between engaging anecdotes. “If a publisher is looking at a table of 100 books or manuscripts, only three will be chosen to go to market. … Once your book is on a shelf, consumers spend a total of 15 seconds – eight seconds skimming the front cover, and seven, the back – to decide if they’re going  to buy your book. … A total of 68 percent of the book-buying public are women between the ages of 28 and 80.”

There are several steps in creating a book, according to Callaghan. Each can take a considerable amount of time. First, there’s research. Next, there’s the writing. That’s followed by editing and proofreading. Then, there are the visual elements and the graphic design, such as the book cover, interior photos, or drawings/sketches – not to mention the table of contents and index, if needed. Once all this is done, then there’s the point of publishing.

 And questions abound in this stage. Callaghan related a conversation he had with a writer who recently called him regarding next steps: “What are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus getting an agent? Do I print it or simply offer an e-version or both? If I print, do I do a hard cover or paperback? What typeface do I use and why? How do I price the book? How do I get an ISBN number? What about book tours and book signings? How do I market the book?”

 In the end though what truly matters is the legacy of a story.

“There is no shelf life for a book,” concluded Callaghan. “The book I wrote will be around for my children’s children and future generations. It will still be here on this earth when I no longer am.”

To join the Chippewa Valley Local Authors, come to the next meeting from 4-5:30pm Tuesday, Oct. 20, at The Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire, or contact President Bill Callaghan at bill@raisedwithpraise.com or (715) 828-7822. To learn more, search for “Chippewa Valley Local Authors – CVLA” on Facebook.

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