University literary programs are filled to the margins with budding writers who likely share a singular dream: to graduate, get an agent to shop their debut manuscript, then get a name publisher to print and distribute their work. But, as many of those grads later admit, you can’t always get what you want, and the reality of the publishing world is often quite different from the fantasy.
Jersey City writer Laryssa Wirstiuk has decided to chuck this fantasy and take matters into her own hands. Turning to two popular trends in publishing – self-publishing and crowd funding – Wirstiuk hopes to get “The Prescribed Burn,” a collection of short stories, into print this year.
In an effort to raise $5,500 for printing costs, Wirstiuk has launched a crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter.com. As of last week, she already had $2,345 in pledges. The campaign will end on June 29 at 1:15 p.m.
‘I just changed my attitude.’ – Laryssa Wirstiuk
But after getting little or no feedback from editors at lit magazines and spending hundreds of dollars on reading fees with little to show for it, Wirstiuk decided to shift her focus.
“I just changed my attitude.”
Goodbye to all that
“The Prescribed Burn” is a collection of 15 short stories that follow the fictitious character Veda from ages 13 to 24 as she struggles to define herself as an artist. Wirstiuk describes the collection as a novel told in non-linear short stories. Each chapter focuses on the 15 pivotal moments in Veda’s life that ultimately shape her work by the time she reaches age 24.
Local readers will be familiar with the stories’ settings, which are based in Jersey City, New York, the Jersey Shore, and other familiar spots. One chapter that’s partially set in Jersey City’s Journal Square-area begins:
I was worried my heart would crack and reveal me, the way Baba’s treasured pysanka [decorated Ukrainian Easter egg] had done. On the hottest day of the summer, I had dropped her favorite painted egg in the dining room of her Jersey City home.
I had only been admiring the crosshatch pattern when the sound of Baba’s beeping blood pressure monitor startled me and caused me to knock over the egg. Years old and never drained of its yolk, the egg smelled rancid, like sulfur, when it cracked. No matter how thoroughly I scrubbed the floor, I couldn’t mask that odor. When the scent reached her nostrils, Baba cried because she knew.
Wirstiuk has been working on the manuscript for about four years and throughout most of that time she tried to interest agents, who might represent her and shop the collection to publishing houses, and literary magazine editors. She described the process as “frustrating.”
“I was frustrated, not by the rejection, or that I wasn’t getting responses,” Wirstiuk reflected. “But the nature of their responses was so vague and not helpful. I felt like I was getting no guidance or direction.”
Kick starting her own success
Last month, Wirstiuk launched a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs of printing “The Prescribed Burn” herself – with a little help from the community.
The crowd funding concept has been successfully used by independent filmmakers, musicians, micro businesses, and writers to raise small amounts of money in a short time for a specific purpose. In Wirstiuk’s case, if she meets her $5,500 goal, she plans to use the money to print 1,000 copies of “The Prescribed Burn.”
“This is solely to cover printing costs, that’s it,” Wirstiuk noted. “It doesn’t cover editing, design, copyright. In my case, the printing costs are a little higher than someone who is just printing text because I’m going to have a small collection of color photographs throughout the book. So, the color printing drives up the costs.”
Through www.Kickstarter.com, people can pledge any amount of money – from $1 or more. As is typical in any crowd funding campaign, if Wirstiuk reaches her $5,500 goal by June 29, then the pledged contributions are released to her for her to use for printing fees. If she does not reach her goal, the money is returned to the people who made the contributions.
Wirstiuk, who teaches creative writing at Rutgers University, is offering special incentives for donors who contribute $5, $15, $25, $50, $100, $250, or $500 to the campaign. As of last week, 75 people had pledged to donate to her project, with most donors pledging $25.
“But I’m so appreciative of people who even just give $5 because, not only are they showing me support with their money, but they’re showing me that they’re on board with this [self-publishing] project,” Wirstiuk said.
To read the chapter “Fireworks” from “The Prescribed Burn,” or to contribute to Wirstiuk’s Kickstarter campaign, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1811592776/the-prescribed-burn-a-collection-of-15-short-stori.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.