Local Writers Join The eBook Revolution

One poem’s 5-step path from idea to electronic publication.

After reading this success story about ePublishing, it’s no surprise that eBooks are taking off in popularity – or that .

Last year, Santa Claus delivered a Kindle to my home.

I stared that thing down with sheer disgust for the first few months. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to replace traditional books with a Kindle or a NOOK or an iPad? Anyone else notice that Kindle rhymes with swindle? That NOOK rhymes with crook? This is just a fad…isn’t it?


We all know books can get lost, torn, and accidentally dropped into [insert horrible, wet places like toilets and mud puddles]; while eReaders have their own foibles (note the damaged screen in the photo), they also offer...

1)    writers an alternative to traditional publishing and

2)    readers the immediate gratification our society has come to demand.

I’m so convinced eBooks are here to stay that I (gasp) now have a poem published in one (so forget everything bad I’ve ever said about eReaders).

I’ve also learned you don’t have to have an eReader to access eBooks, either. A source like Smashwords offers eBook formats for home computers, Blackberries and other devices.

Here’s my poem’s journey from its initial inspiration to its eBook debut in HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, FARNSWORTH?:


In 2009, Evanston authors Steve and Sharon Fiffer founded a local writers’ group (of which I am a member) called the Wesley Writers. Prior to the group’s 1st Annual Potluck Holiday Party, the Fiffers encouraged every member to write something using one of four suggested prompts (below) to get started:


“Farnsworth looked at the star.”


or “More eggnog, Farnsworth?”


The word “Snow” sparked a memory for me, so I wrote a poem about it.


Step 2

Writers were asked to read their pieces aloud. One memoirist wrote a humorous limerick; a few fiction writers wrote memoir. Some pieces elicited laughter…others brought out tears and sighs of empathy… but each piece received a round of applause.


Step 3

During the 2nd annual Holiday Party in 2010, the Fiffers thought about an eBook.

According to Steve Fiffer, “Having seen firsthand, thanks to FRED WHO, that it was relatively inexpensive to do an eBook and that Kate [Fiffer, his daughter] could do the formatting well, I asked Sharon if she thought this was the year to do it.  She said yes and off we went.  We divided responsibilities: Sharon wrote the intro.  I communicated with the writers (and did most of the proofreading). Come to think of it, this is how we divided responsibility on our three collections, HOME, FAMILY, and BODY.  As these were responses to prompts, we decided not to edit unless the absence of an edit might put the writer in an unfavorable light. Since all of our writers are already so good, we edited very little!”


Step 4

Seventeen Wesley Writers submitted their pieces to the Fiffers for the eBook, and my “Snow” poem rounded the tally to an even eighteen.


Step 5

Kate Fiffer (who studied under Evanston’s Byrne Piven and blogs about it here) formatted our 18 submissions into a manuscript for Amazon and Smashwords, a process she admits was detailed and even tedious (I checked out multiple, helpful sites like this one, and my advice to other writers is: stick to the writing and let someone qualified like Kate handle the formatting). Once Kate’s work was done, our prompt-inspired pieces were officially “on the market” as an eBook. It launched on Amazon on 11/28/11 for $3.99, then a few days later on Smashwords for the same price.

There you have it.

Eighteen writers from eight North Shore areas shared their work for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, FARNSWORTH?

I’m honored to be part of the group:



Sally deVincentis

Jim Dorr

Judy Iacuzzi

Sara Marberry

Kendra Morrill

Christine Wolf



Nan Doyal

Pat Hitchens-Bonow

Katy Okrent

Pamela Rothbard 



Dyan Taji


Highland Park

Francie Arenson


Lake Forest

Barbara Hetler

Joyce Newcomb


Skevanston (Skokie/Evanston zip code 60203)

Roberta Bard Ruby



Bill Anthony

Marcia Pradzinski



Sue Gelber

Christine Wolf December 16, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Q&A with author Sally deVincentis: Q: Have you ever been published before? If so, where? A: A few magazine articles pertaining to my business...e.g. Children and Family, Photo Marketing Association Magazine... also a few "How to" books for teachers Q: How long have you been writing? A: I have had to write for my jobs...e.g. proposal writing, marketing stuff...for 30 years Q: What's your favorite genre to write? A: Letters Q: How does it feel to have an ebook published? A: Fun Q: How have you announced the news? A: I really haven't....bad time of year Q: Any advice to aspiring writers? A: Tell yourself you're a writer...and never give up
Christine Wolf December 16, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Q&A with author Bill Anthony: Q: Have you ever been published before? If so, where? A: I’m a publishing virgin-unless one counts the Deadline Café on the Evanston Patch. Q: How long have you been writing? A: All my life, but seriously since working my way through Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way and surviving three other writing groups before the Wesley Writers started. Q: What's your favorite genre to write? A: Fiction: short and long. Q: How does it feel to have an ebook published? A: It's really great—I read our book one evening a couple weeks ago in a hotel in Munich and was just proud as punch (lousy metaphor) of everyone's work. Q: How have you announced the news? A: Family, Friends, and several very tolerant colleagues at Northwestern.
Christine Wolf December 16, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Q&A with author Pat Hitchens-Bonow: Q: Have you ever been published before? If so, where? A: I have been published in television and media trade magazines in NYC and in NorthShore Magazine. For 2 years I wrote and edited FlexNews, a trade newspaper in Washington, DC. The year before last I had a piece included in an Iowa Summer Writers' Festival Anthology. Last year I had an essay featured on WBEZ. I'm writing a story for the Winnetka/Glencoe Patch which will run in a week or two. Q: How long have you been writing? A: I have been writing for 30 years, give or take, 15 years in print and video for medical education, another 10 years in corporate communications and PR; five years writing freelance features and essays. Q: What's your favorite genre to write? A: Essays and memoir. Q: How does it feel to have an ebook published? A: It feels -- new. Q: How have you announced the news? A: Word of mouth and e-newsletters; but I'm just getting started for the Christmas rush. Q: Any advice to aspiring writers? A: To steal a phrase from Sharon Fiffer: "Keep writing."
Christine Wolf December 16, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Q&A with author Sara Marberry: Q: Have you ever been published before? If so, where? A: I've edited/authored four business books, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold, John Wiley & Sons, and American Hospital Publishing. Q: How long have you been writing? A: As long as I can remember! Seriously, I've been a business writer for more than 30 years, but just started writing memoir about 12 years ago. Q: What's your favorite genre to write? A: I've only dabbled a little in fiction. Most of my writing is memoir or observational anecdotes that I post on my blog. Q: How does it feel to have an ebook published? A: I feel so cool and hip! E-books are the in thing. Love the fact that anyone can publish one and sell it online. Through Amazon no less! Q: How have you announced the news? A: Absolutely — to all of my friends and family, posted to Facebook, and tweeted about it. Q: Any advice to aspiring writers? A: When writing memoir, first and foremost be true to your own feelings. Don't write what you think others will want to hear. Write honestly and openly. Also, don't get obsessed with getting published, unless that's your primary goal. There are plenty of ways to share your work with others besides in a book or magazine.
Christine Wolf December 16, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Q&A with author Bill Anthony (continued): Q: Any advice to aspiring writers? A: Write. Then keep writing. (This is the same advice that Sharon and Steve Fiffer give all of us. Interestingly, it's the same advice Steven King gives in his great book on writing—and Anne Lamotte in her book Bird by Bird on writing…) and the second piece of advice is not to listen to anyone else—or those little internal voices—who might be saying "What, why write?" or "Come on, you're not a writer…" Bullshit. If you don't write your story, who the hell will? Find a medium—pen, pencil, old typewriter, laptop—and a location, a cozy corner or a café or a library—and let it rip. No edits, no restraints, let the words flow. Every one of us is chock full of stories and every one of us tells stories every day, we're just not aware of them. We are, as far as we know, the only life form on this little planet that narrates in the past tense.


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