Welcome to the Creative Writing Blog for Seattle University!

Hi, Everybody! I'm Sharon Cumberland, the Director of Seattle U's Creative Writing Program. I'm starting this blog so that our English majors--both CW and Lit--will know what's going on in the program--our readings, our trips to the opera, our free "Writer's Chronicles"--as well as getting information about our successful grads and their publications. This will be the place for faculty, students, alums and friends of the program to talk to each other, find out what's up,and talk about craft. Come join us!

Monday, March 7, 2011

CW Grad Jill Charles Published "Marlene's Piano"!

One of our first CW grads, Jill Charles, has made good by publishing her first novel, Marlene's Piano, as a POD--Print-on-Demand ebook. Jill is from Spokane and lives in Chicago now, and has worked as a journalist and a school administrator. Check out her book page at Amazon Authors or this link to the publisher: http://www.booklocker.com/books/4109.html.

I think it's great to use POD as a way to get your work out to the public and to develop a following. I'm sure that Jill will be glad to tell us about her experience, and the Booklocker website has a really interesting discussion about the relationship between traditional print books sold in bookstores and print-on-demand books sold online. A lot of you may be wondering about the process of getting your work out online and still making money (as opposed to just publishing your work for free on a website). Let's get Jill to talk to us about the process and her success using this method to attract readers to her work.

I'd also like to get a thread going about Jill's process of writing and completing her novel--whether she wrote short stories first, what her writing day is like, whether she studied CW after she left SU. Talk to us, Jill! And congrats on your fist novel-may it be the first of many!


  1. Dear Sharon,

    It's always good to hear from you and I'd be happy to answer any questions the other writers have.

  2. Here are some of my thoughts on the process of writing and self-publishing my book.

    Marlene’s Piano took a total of nine years from idea to publication. I wrote it all out by hand and typed, edited and rewrote extensively for five years, then spent three years sending query letters and emails to agents. I also had two friends proofread the book for writing critique and historical accuracy. I tend to write first and then research to see if what I wrote was actually plausible for the 1920s and 30s.

    Early on, I decided that I would query 300 agents and if none agreed to represent the book, I would self-publish. Booklocker.com was a very good publisher for me, charging less than others such as Xlibris and Amazon and always giving me full control of the copyright and right to publish the book or any part of anywhere else. Not all print-on-demand publishers allow the writer that freedom and some charge extra for a copyright and ISBN. If you want to self-publish, do your research. Booklocker.com is an independent family business and its books are listed on Amazon.com and available to bookstores through the book retailer Ingraham.

    Since self-publishing, I have sold Marlene’s Piano online, through bookstores, and live at open mics. Live readings of a scene from the book actually generated the most sales. Audiences that heard about Marlene auditioning to play in a hidden, underground speakeasy felt curious and wanted to read more. In the first year I sold 70% of the paperback books from my first print run and earned back most of the money I had invested.

    I had the option of publishing a paperback or an e-book. In 2009, I thought, “Who reads ebooks?” I might reconsider that if I were about to publish now. Ebook sales do not generate as much money per sale for the author but may make the book available to a wider audience.

    Other publications I have had include articles and reviews for Tablet: Magazine of Art and Culture (2002-2005) and chicagoplanjam.com. Both the magazine and website went out of business, but I kept copies of all my published pieces. Dozens of my poems and a few short stories have been published in The Inlander, Poetry Motel, Wild Violet, The Journal of Ordinary Thought and other literary magzines and websites. For every 100 poems I send out for publication, only 1-5% get chosen. I learned not to take this personally or to feel discouraged and to seek out local publications and magazines in other parts of the country that featured writing styles and subjects similar to mine.

    My writing process: I have to admit that I do not now and never have written every single day. I make time to write poems and stories a few times a week and participate in open mic events, which gives me a weekly deadline to produce new poems and immediate live audience feedback. Since graduating from Seattle University, I actually have more time to write. Homework took more of my time and mental energy than a full-time job does!

    When I had a great idea for a story or poem, but no time to complete it, I always wrote the idea down. Sometimes I’d return to these ideas weeks or months later and finish them.