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Shoulders and Attitude:  The Story of Why Silence in the Library is Different

“Writing is a Solitary Endeavor.” – Lots of Anonymous People

This is a blog post about why Silence in the Library Publishing and the people associated with it are just a bit different.  Take that as you will.  But in order to explain it well, I first have to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart.  Me.

I’d like to write a blog post that draws upon my wealth of wisdom as a brilliant and wealthy writer of numerous bestsellers.  But I’m not that guy.  I’ve met that guy.  He’s cool.  So is she.  But I am just a lucky guy who is blessed with good friends.  Friends that have taught me the best early lesson an aspiring writer needs to know; It’s all about the people.

It is true that writing is a solitary endeavor when you are alone with ideas in the middle of the night or your laptop amidst a sea of strangers at Starbucks.  But that is writing.  And while I love being a writer (almost as much as I enjoy being a reader) I also have long dreamt of being an author.  And that is where I am happy to say that people have been my greatest resource, inspiration, and mentors.  In other words, what little success I have enjoyed in publishing my stories thus far is entirely the result of my creativity, initiative and labor meeting up with wonderful people at the correct point in time and space.

Heck, there’s probably even an algorithm for that, but the closest I ever got to science was a degree in Political Science.  And for the uninitiated, that means I can make numbers mean anything I want them to, I just can’t explain where they came from.

Now, allow me to explain.

About a year ago, I was coming home from a writing workshop with a big-name author and too many cans of Monster still working in my system.  And it was then that my wife informed me that she had just seen a friend of ours and he was looking for stories for an anthology he was putting together.

Thus, full of ideas and the confidence that comes with spending lots of money so someone else can tell you how to write, I wrote, re-wrote, and (thanks to my wife) edited a 4000 word story that I submitted three days later.  It was accepted with minimal editing.  But more important, the gentleman editor and publisher took the time to tell me what he liked and how I could make my story better as he has done countless times in his own career when he has given writers their first check and their first story in print.

But he also gave me a new playing field.  No longer was I an unpublished writer.  Every penny he paid me was one cent of invaluable affirmation.  And if you believe in Karma, you’ll like this little gem.  This publisher that regularly took chances on aspiring writers just announced that he signed his first major deal with Tor.  And I couldn’t be happier for him.

Now, for those keeping score at home, I already received a hand from my wife and my first publisher.

And somehow, all of this brings us to today. Almost exactly a year after my first story was accepted and published (work and an adoption intervened for a while) Silence in the Library (SitL) launched the Time Traveled Tales Anthology project on Kickstarter.  I loved it.  I wanted to support it.  Hell, it had Jean-freaking-Rabe editing it and stories from Star Wars rock-stars that make getting on the NYT best-seller list look as easy as getting on a Chinese menu for General Tsao.

So I emailed Ron about a story I had in mind and asked him to keep me in mind if they did another similar project.  But he didn’t hesitate; he just asked if I’d like to take part as a stretch goal.

Um…hell yes I did.

As the days went by I worked on my story.  My wife worked on making my story better.  And people kept backing this ‘little’ project we all had going.  I was stoked.  And then I sent my story to Ron.

A few days later, Ron emailed me back.  He said he loved my story.  He liked the characters and the premise.  And he said he’d like me to let Aaron Allston take a look at it to help me tighten it up.

Now, for anyone left with any doubt, that meant my story probably was good, it probably was fun, but it was capable of going to a higher level and I had missed that on my first try.

Fortunately, on my wall at work I have a poster that says “Try.  Fail.  Repeat.”  And that helped me view the situation in the proper light.

I may have fallen short.  But I was being given the opportunity to work one-on-one with one of the best writers in speculative fiction, all in an effort to make my story better.  And if I was smart, I would pay attention to whatever suggestions Aaron had and make every story I write better for it.  To make them and myself more professional and to offer a better product to readers that spare their own precious time and money on my stories.  Hopefully, I’d pull it off and make his investment worthwhile.

Now, stay with me.  We are now up to 4 people that helped make this one little short story happen.  The first two we already mentioned, but now Ron gave me an opportunity to succeed and connected me of his own initiative with Aaron, who invested in me and my story out of respect for Ron and Aaron’s own generosity.

So I took it.  I waded through the red-ink that made my story look like a literary abattoir.  And then I revised it again just to be sure.  And finally, my story was finished and I was able to relax and enjoy the ride.  For about a minute.

You see, our little Kickstarter not only hit my stretch goal, it hit more than we had ever imagined having.  And clearly this is not a group that lacks for imagination.

In the end, we hit over 370% of our goal thanks to the wonderful belief and support of over 700 people:  great people; people of immense taste and character; people that deserved something more.

So we offered up a second volume.  And that suddenly meant I’d gone from ‘maybe one story’ to writing two stories for a guaranteed audience of 700 people.  I was blown away.  I was awed.  I was ecstatic.

I had to stop counting. I was going to go from a writer with one story to a writer with three in two separate anthologies.  And it all happened because of the belief of 742 fans (mostly of the other authors), the generosity of storied writers (pardon the pun), and the enveloping warmth provided by their well-earned reputations.

That was then.  This is now; A whopping few weeks later.  But now I can envision two stories of exceeding quality in my mind’s eye where they sit in my new library next to the first anthology I was a part of.

I want more.

I want to bring people joy and excitement the way Jean, Jennifer, Aaron, Bryan, and Mike all have.

I want to fill novels with my best ideas and stories and make the art of creation my life’s passion.  But I also want to embody the spirit of Silence in the Library no matter where I write, and the reason for that is Matt Slay.

I don’t mean to imply that Matt was more critical to my epiphany than anyone or anything else I mentioned above.  But he and his incredible art embody what is different about SitL.  They bring back some of the magic we all experienced as kids by combining stunning imagery with great storytelling.  They bring artists together to make a better product for all the senses.  And they all share in the success.

Shaw

I will not belabor the point, but these things don’t come without leadership, vision and a moral compass.  Each is something the world could use more of, and each is something I and the 700+ backers of the Kickstarter project owe to Ron Garner and the team that is bringing the SitL vision to life on the pages and off.

So, may we wish them and their experiment immense success, oodles of joy, and finally the vision to hold onto the little things that are making them and every story they give us a true piece of art.

Best,

Brian E. Shaw