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Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

Colonel Janet Horton (Ret.) our author of Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling, Will Be Inducted this month into the US Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.

One of Hawthorne Publishing’s all-time best sellers has been Colonel Horton’s book on the integration of women chaplains into the armed forces in the 1970s. It has been repeatedly reprinted and still leads the line.

Former and present military personnel have been interested in obtaining it from around the country. Although Janet Horton was in our Indianapolis area Ft. Harrison for a period of years, she was stationed not only in this country but in Korea and Germany and eventually at the Pentagon, where she was present for the attack on 9/11.

Colonel Horton is one of ten early women chaplains to be honored in March at the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame at Fort Lee, Virginia.

She was specifically one of three who followed immediately after the very first chaplain in the mid 1970s. Her book details the difficulties of serving in an army where men only had traditionally constituted the armed forces since the Revolutionary War. The accounts in this memoir tell the story of suspicion, discrimination and outright attempt at suppression of the early women chaplains but also the inspiration, dedication and demonstration of faith of the women.

Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling recounts some of the history of the chaplaincy and includes details of the life of a chaplain in the armed forces.  Chaplains do not represent specific denominations. They minister to general religious groups in four categories: Protestant, Jewish, Catholic and Muslim.

Although Colonel Horton is a Christian Scientist and her book has been a favorite of that denomination, she aided soldiers of many faith traditions. This was demonstrated on September 11 when a jet plane hit the Pentagon, where the chaplain was on duty. The dramatic and touching story of the chaplains entering to help mortuary details recover the fallen, killed in the attack, shows the courage and dedication of the chaplains corps.

The US Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame honors, some posthumously, many women who have served. Recent naming to the Hall of Fame included the “Hello Girls,” the 223 female US Army telephone switchboard operations, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, who deployed to France in World War I and were the sole contact to the soldiers on the front line.

Colonel Horton’s Book Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling: Faith Persistence and Progress in the Army Chaplaincy During the Early Integration of Women in the Military is featured on the Hawthorne Website for purchase.

Posted in Book Awards, Winds of Change |

A literary memoir in a regional marketplace: Distilling and selling an Idea Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

What makes a memoir that enters the marketplace, which will appeal to readers and be sold in bookstores and to libraries a success? We should clarify the definition of a memoir which is intended to be sold. It’s not the duplicated family memoir one does for children and grandchildren. It’s written and edited skillfully.  And, it’s also different from a biography, which is told by a third person writer, or a detailed autobiography, dealing with a full life. A memoir is a section of a life fixing its attention on a certain period or periods, possibly with one theme. It may summarize much of the rest of the person’s life but fixes on the one theme or time that will be important to readers.

So why would we care about this person’s life? There had better be a reason for people to pay anything from about $18 to $40 to read this book. Story! Something with some historical meaning or drama needs to make it readable and distinctive. Importance of the person or, better yet, the issue or time or happening to which the person was connected, will render it viable.

And in Indiana, we as a recognized state/ regional press know that it needs to be connected with the Hoosier state.

Lou Ellen Watts now lives in Franklin, Indiana, but she has recently written and published with us her story about growing up in pre-Civil Rights-era South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana. Its title is Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South.

Lou Ellen told her story of being a popular, young working-class girl whose life with her friends and activities fully occupied her growing-up years. All around her by the time she was in high school, the Civil Rights movement was awakening and coming to fruition. Lou Ellen tells of happenings that made her uncomfortable, still, in the midst of her teenaged life: the balcony at the local theatre where the “colored people” had to sit and sometimes threw down popcorn; a distressing incident with a bus driver who mistreated those in the back of the bus, a drive to see the remains of a burning cross and more. Her uncomfortable lack of focus on the rights of half of the society in which she grew up blew up in her face when she became a counselor in an integrated summer camp. That time changed her heart. She found she wanted to welcome all races in her life. Lou Ellen became a teacher and advocate for integration and equal rights. She believed in her 80s that her story of change in attitude and consciousness needed to be shared with others.

But how to sell such a book in the regional market? Such a book had never been exactly published or marketed in Indiana before. Indiana, the former home of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, was believed to have a hidden layer of prejudice beneath its declared tolerance. She hesitated about her own community. We at Hawthorne felt Indiana was ready for the biography of a southern belle who now regretted her family’s intolerance and wanted to talk about incidents which shouldn’t have happened. Our own experience is that Indiana has come a long way (not completely of course) toward outgrowing the intolerance of the Klan era. D. C. Stevenson, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, was preaching hatred of Catholics first and foremost and then Negroes in the 1920s. Thousands joined his Klan, partly because it had a social appeal. His own misconduct, the rape of a young woman on a train and her subsequent death in humiliation, caused a Noblesville jury to send him to prison for life. A jury in that town of southern immigrants found him guilty of murder. The Klan was broken up by Indiana officials themselves. We Hoosiers are not genetically or hopelessly intolerant and Lou Ellen’s book has shown that. How did we succeed in getting the first edition sold out and Lou Ellen on a book tour which saw many people coming up with their own stories about “growing through” cultural beliefs of an earlier time? Extensive publicity in both Indiana and the South?

Our campaigns are based on long experience with our state. We begin with the home community of the author. Sure of the importance of the story and the quality of the book, we have the author seek an opening venue where he/she can tell her story. We believe each story at Hawthorne, motto “The stories of good people told well,” has natural appeal to those who have had similar experiences in the state or region of their lives. Careful newspaper contacting of pertinent media outlets with electronic publicity kits and reviews on Amazon and other places puts the title in the public eye. Most of all, the story needs to sell itself. That’s why careful and long-term planning of the publishing goals and limits of a company like ours is important. We take books we know make valuable contributions, that will sell and will interest our people. Thus they sell themselves, once the news is out.

You can get Lou Ellen Watts’s book Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed by clicking back to the website.

Posted in Writing Memoirs |

Regional Presses: The Strength and Love of America’s Homeland

Hawthorne Publishing is an independent, regional press, as was its direct antecedent Guild Press of Indiana.

There are hundreds of regional presses in America, and they perform a very valuable service different in degree and focus from both university/scholastic presses and large national publishing companies. A regional press publishes books only about the state, or area, in which it exists: the history, culture, art, natural location and local lore.

In Michigan, for instance, Sleeping Bear Press of Ann Arbor publishes stories for children about their Michigan homeland and has now expanded into novels for teens.

It is easy to confuse the long-time and traditional regional presses like Hawthorne Publishing with the many, many new self-publishing or “Indy” publishers now trending in all states.

What is the difference? Traditional publishers like Hawthorne, which has been in business under two names since 1987, do not accept books from would-be authors who wish to fund their own books. They establish their own publishing limits, in our case the history and culture of Indiana, set up publishing guidelines and accept, or seek out, books which fulfill the publishing mission.

They let would-be authors know the submission guidelines if they are actively seeking new manuscripts and reject all author applications that do not fit the publishing guidelines.

Why do we care? What purpose do book publishers like us serve?

In Indiana there is only one other regional press like us: The Indiana Historical Society Press. It actually overlaps with the scholarly market, but their goal is similar to ours: to enhance the understanding of Indiana history and culture by putting out books which enrich the tradition of our state. So, like most regional presses, the two of us are mission-oriented.

Realistically, another characteristic of the regional small press is that it has to innovate to have a positive bottom line. To make any money, or even break even and believe it is fulfilling its larger goal of mission realization, is difficult in this age of Amazon and online Kindles and the disappearance of bookstores in almost all states.

Still, we have “made it” at Guild/Hawthorne for some 30 years now and so I guess we are doing something right.

Strategies are necessary, when the market may support sales of only 1,000 books or less. Actually, the runs can be small today with easy-to-order digital reprints, so regional presses like ours can order only what we believe we can sell. How different that is from our early days, when ordering a couple of thousand books or more books was standard. They were printed on huge offset machines, Hydelberg printing presses, and the process took three months or so from the time the print order was received. So that is one change in American technology that benefits small regional presses like ours. We can order just what we think we can sell, then reorder on short notice, receiving a book in less than a month.

But how do we pay for the expenses up front of putting out a book, even a softcover? All regional presses have their ways of funding the books they choose to put out. The Indiana Historical Society seeks print donation funding and may get a donor devoted to Indiana history to come up with $10,000 to see a specific book published. Author families quite recently are allowed to contribute the print funding if they understand that they have no control over any part of the editing function.

Scholarly presses fund their printing by donor gifts or, as is the case with IU Press, a foundation devoted to covering their worthwhile book publishing efforts.

As for Guild-Hawthorne, since our inception, we have been an author’s cooperative, based on a model from an Austin Texas writers’ group in the earliest days. Authors submitting manuscripts which are accepted to help fulfill the publishing mission put up half the costs of production at Hawthorne, with our publishing company furnishing the other half. When the books are sold, authors receive half of proceeds.

But that decision to get costing upfront is only the beginning of a success strategy for a small regional press. Promotion to get the books out to the interested audience takes front and center stage once the book boxes arrive. Unlike self-publishers, regional publishers take responsibility along with the book authors for getting the books into the hands of readers who care about their state or region. It’s the central part of the mission.

Next: Selling regional press books in the marketplace.

Click back to see the offerings at Hawthorne and ask yourself how they fulfill the mission of enhancing the state’s historical and cultural background.

Posted in Book Publishing |

Memoir: The polished and published kind depends on measured honesty

We at Hawthorne have put out many memoirs of well-known Hoosiers.

We’ve helped these people put together their memories and achievements and get them published: Lorene Burkhart, Lawrence (Bo) Connor of the Indianapolis Star; World’s Tallest Woman Sandy Allen; Congressman Andy Jacobs;  Scott Walker of Hughes Aircraft; and more.

Then there were relatives or others who wrote the memoirs of people usually no longer here: Senator William Jenner’s son writing his father’s life story; the daughter of Herb and Dee Sweet who began the first day camp in America, Acorn Camp; Kurt Vonnegut’s good friend Majie Failey who told the story of Kurt as a boy and teenager in Indianapolis. We let legendary philanthropist Gene Glick tell his own story and buffed it up for him. No editor could improve much on the Glickstory, told in rich and colorful style, of rags to riches in Indianapolis real estate and the subsequent giving to his city of Indianapolis.

These books are all available either as e-books from this website or on Amazon.

There would have been twenty or thirty other Hoosier memoirs done in our earlier incarnation as a company: Guild Press of Indiana. These personal stories have seemed worthy to us both as interesting reading of the lives of good and contributive people and also fulfilling our mission to help preserve the history of our state. There are no better ways of doing that than having leading citizens, and everyday people for that matter, describe in detail their own lives and set the personal stories against a background of the times.

That’s what makes a good memoir: detailed, vivid recollections of life set against a carefully reconstructed background of the times themselves.

The very best memoirs are the most honest. And yet, that can be a problem. Most people plunging into autobiography face inner challenges about the way they will tell the story: (1) how honest should I get? Will I offend those from my family? (2) Do I have their permission to talk about my experiences involving them? (3) Should I leave out unpleasant sides of what happened, show myself as an ungrateful child or spouse or parent by telling the real truth?

There are several answers to these questions and most of the details depend on the individual situation. Honesty is here, as always, the best policy. Most of us don’t have the courage to tell the truth bluntly and fully about our family, business or personal relationships. And yet, if they play upon the story in a vital way, that is just what needs honest storytelling.

The best memoir we ever published among the many is obviously a judgment call and I’ll take the opportunity to make that call. The story Marilyn Glick wrote of her own dramatically interesting life was a story told with remarkable candor and detailed examination of behavior both of herself and those of her circle.

The name of the book is Once Upon a Lifetime: Marilyn’s Story. It the tale of a child whose mother had died in childbirth and whose father had fled, abandoning baby Marilyn to a New York orphanage. When adopted, little Marilyn lived with a doting father and a distant, often troubled mother. The story continues after the father’s death as Marilyn and her widowed mother decided to settle in the home of the mother’s family, Indianapolis. Without bragging, Marilyn conveys how with an appealing personality she found friends and stability at Shortridge High School while yet dealing with her often carping and overly protective mother.

She found her “Prince Charming” in the young Eugene Glick, recently returned from World War II where he served in the army immediately following the Normandy invasion. Together they built the contracting business which he later grew with shrewdness and excellent management into one of the leading apartment building companies in the United States.

All of the history is treated with respect and detailed description when needed: background of Detroit in the 1930s, Jewish community life and custom in a different time from today, motherhood of four girls with an especially honest look at their interactions and personalities and the clashes those family squabbles sometimes engendered. The gathering of her outstanding glass art collection, now in the Indianapolis Museum of Art is interesting because it takes Marilyn into the larger world of the arts in America.

The result is an endearing and enlightening story which is truly the Cinderella tale she deeply believed her life story was. Of course, the point must be made that this is her version of the events and others connected to it would have their own versions. That’s the story of autobiography anyway.

No doubt a good deal of her story—what would be too much honesty—was left out, but her own selection of anecdotes and a skilled writing style, telling her own story, made the book outstanding.

Probably this book exemplifies the two most fundamental rules of doing a good memoir: measured and carefully selected honesty and skilled telling of stories with vivid details. Your book can achieve this also. Go for it!


Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor at Hawthorne Publishing. Nancy’s own books can be ordered by clicking back to the website.

Posted in Marilyn Glick |