by Guest Blogger Kate Flora
In one of my favorite children's books, Sir Kevin of Devon, a young boy takes up a sword and goes off to rid the kingdom of a dragon that is terrorizing the people. Some of the observers tut tut and shake their heads at the folly of a child imagining he might be effective, but in the end, it is the boy, and not some powerful knight, who destroys the dragon and saves the kingdom. The book is written in rhyme, and at the end, when the King rewards Kevin for stopping the dragon by making him a knight, this is part of his speech:
Brave men, said the King,
are like gifts and surprises,
they come in all shapes
and they come in all sizes.
I thought of Sir Kevin last week when the Mystery Writers of America announced the annual Edgar Award nominations. One of the stories published by our small publishing cooperative, Level Best Books, Mark Ammon's "The Catch" was among the five finalists for best short story of 2007 and won the Robert L. Fish Award for best short story of 2007 by a new writer. In our case, it is brave women, not brave men, but this nomination is definitely a triumph for the little guy.
Six years ago, Susan Oleksiw had a dream. A lover of that often neglected area of crime writing, the short crime story, Susan wanted to explore the uniqueness of the New England writer's vision—how our geography, our history, our regional culture, and our climate affect what our writers are writing. She recruited me and another mystery writer, Skye Alexander, to join her as editors. We solicited stories from the region's writers, and put together a collection of eleven stories, Undertow: Crime Stories by New England Writers.
We got a wealth of wonderful stories and found we really enjoyed the challenge of creating a collection with diversity of voice and style and length. We were thrilled to be entrusted with stories by some of the region's well-known writers, from the distinctive, humorous voice of Toni Kelner to the incredibly dark and chilling voice of Janice Law. We have teamed up with New England's own regional mystery conference, The New England Crime Bake, to offer publication to the winner of the annual Al Blanchard Short Fiction contest. In an era when opportunities for authors to publish short stories is shrinking, we have put 99 stories in print.
I learned a lot about the craft of the short story from editing and publishing accomplished writers; but, perhaps because I spent my own ten years in the unpublished writer's corner, I found my greatest joy came from discovering new writers, or writers new to the short story genre, and introducing their voices to readers. Our readers now look forward to the latest story from New Hampshire's Sharon Daynard or Maine's Judy Green. We were the first publisher for the immensely talented Kevin Carey and Maine librarian John Clark. We have introduced readers to the flexible voice of Somerville's Barb Ross and the subtle urban dramas of Mo Walsh.
The anthology was supposed to be a one-time venture, but all three of us enjoyed the process so much we decided to do another. And another. Five years later, one of our editors, Skye Alexander, has left New England for Texas. Ruth McCarty, a writer, editor, and businesswoman, and one of the original voices we discovered, has stepped into her editorial shoes. We still make no money, have no office or staff. We distribute through mailings, word-of-mouth, twisting bookseller's arms, the charm, connections and charisma of our writers, and reach much of our reading public through our events at, and our presence in, the many libraries throughout New England. Our warehouse is my garage.
Despite our small size, we've had Derringer winners and Agatha nominees. We produce a quality book each year that authors can be proud to have their work appear in. We try to schedule library and bookstore events so that our authors can have the pleasure of book signings. It's a lot of work for three women who have day jobs, are in graduate school, and have their own books to write. We always feel that we're not doing enough, wonder where we'll find the time and energy to do the next book, and worry that we're not doing enough to promote the authors who have trusted us with their work.
It is a labor of love, and for this week, at least, our love has been requited.
Still Waters: Crime Stories by New England Writers
edited by Kate Flora, Ruth McCarty, and Susan Oleksiw
Published by Level Best Books
Trade Paperback $15.00
Order forms at http://www.levelbestbooks.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org