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Raw Literature: Interview with Casia Schreyer
Today’s post is a profile interview with Casia Schreyer of Schreyer Ink Publishing. Writer, editor, publisher and advocate of writers, she’s preparing to launch a new anthology. Schreyer Ink is an Indie Publishing House in Canada. We welcome Casia to Carrot Ranch and our Raw Literature guest series.
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CR: What is your earliest memory of crafting with words?
Casia: My earliest writing memory is from grade 2 and 3. We had these large yellow three-panel writing folders. When you opened them it turned your desk into a private cubby. Each panel had a pocket so we could keep our drafts organized. We wrote stories about vacations and 1-page essays on whales.
CR: Did that experience influence your desire to write later in life?
Casia: Oh, definitely it did. My mom kept this school memory book and every year she would list my friends and my extra-curricular activities and what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. Writer never left that list. I was hooked.
CR: When you think about your first drafts, what is a significant part of your creative process?
Casia: I consider my outline to be my very first draft of any story. I take that time to figure out where the twists will come in, and how the story arcs will progress. This allows me to build my foreshadowing. This is especially important in a series. My actual first draft I usually write by hand. The thoughts flow better that way and I can write faster than I can type so I can actually keep up with the brainstorm!
CR: How did you decide to work with other creative writers? What was that initial idea?
I have worked with other writers before. My first collaborative project was a free anthology put out cooperatively by a group of authors. The idea was that each of us would contribute a story and help market the book, which was available for free, as a way to reach new audiences. It didn’t “sell” a lot of copies. I also had a story published in a Witty Bard anthology of science fiction stories. The idea for this anthology came from a story that I wanted to write but that I had no market for, so I created the anthology to fit the story I was writing and invited other authors to submit their stories on the same theme. That theme was tolerance.
CR: Why did you create an indie publishing company? What is your vision for its success?
Casia: The indie-publishing company started simply as a name a logo to put on my self-published novels, to make them look more professional. Then I created a blog for Schreyer Ink Publishing and offered publication services for authors such as editing and marketing packages. These were paid services, but I didn’t require that they list me as the publisher and I didn’t ask for any rights to the work. Then Open Minds came up and I decided that I was going to start publishing anthologies through Schreyer Ink Publishing as a next step. Our goals are to expand into graphic novels and graphic shorts, and to get Schreyer Ink Publishing officially incorporated.
CR: Tell us about your upcoming anthology and its themes of tolerance, acceptance, fear and rejection.
Casia: I think Open Minds is a really important book for what’s going on in the world today. Everywhere we look people are grappling with the idea of tolerance and acceptance, weighing it against theology and tradition and their other personal values. People are trying to define what tolerance and acceptance entails, and put up boundaries as to what they personally will tolerate and accept. The authors in this anthology really showcase these themes in amazingly diverse ways. My own story deals with race and what can happen when intolerant people become emboldened by our current political climate. One story deals with transgender in a very intense human setting while another looks at gender fluidity in a sci-fi setting. One of my favourites though asks a very powerful question: when are we doing enough and when are we doing too much? This story questions that line between “standing up” and “picking fights,” between “helping our friends” and “hurting everyone else.” It’s a really powerful near-future story that looks at a lot of issues. There’s a rather short one that looks at the cost of pursuing our dreams, and the inner peace of finding absolute acceptance and security. And last but not least is the story that I almost rejected: a rambling narrative of parallel worlds, divine wars, and gender superiority. The language in this story set me on edge, I’ll admit it, and I almost rejected it, but the other editors at Schreyer Ink loved the story and voted it in. Now I have to admit that it was the sheer controversy of the story that jabbed at me and I think it adds something special to this book.
CR: How do you think these themes impact writers in their early creative stages of writing a story or book? How have they impacted your own writing?
Casia: I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, these are themes that I’ve found reappear over and over again in my other works, in more subtle ways. I’m working on a coming-of-age fantasy series about five princesses. They are strong women but none of them are warriors and none of them are mothers. I have two contemporary lit novels that deal with bullying, suicide, and sexual harassment in different contexts. I’m building a fantasy world and I’m viewing it through the lens of representation and diversity.
CR: When putting together the anthology, what did you notice about the work as a collective?
Casia: What I really noticed was that they had more in common than just the initial theme of tolerance and diversity. There were threads of fear, rejection, sacrifice, strength, and courage. Even with the stories being so very different in genre and style they just fit together and it was a beautiful thing to experience.
CR: Did you and the other writers discover anything powerful in the process of bringing writing together around a focused set of themes?
Casia: I worked closely with Angil Grafton, another of the authors, because she is also a member of the Schreyer Ink Publishing team. She mentioned that this was an emotionally moving book to work on. Our third editor, Andy Ganz, was impressed with the scope of the stories and their brutal honesty. I was also impressed with the honesty of these stories. I think the authors really took the theme to heart and offered us unique snapshots of their own experiences and questions.
CR: Reflecting back from the completed project of your anthology, what do you think your rawest efforts had to teach you?
Casia: Well I certainly learned a lot about how to publish an anthology. But I think my deepest discovery was as a writer. I struggled with the ending of my story because I didn’t want my bad guys to be these super evil villain types. I wanted them to be average people, misled by an inappropriate social dialogue but that meant finding some way to reign in their actions before they got out of hand, before they crossed that line into evil. And I saw that in many of these stories – the bad guys weren’t evil, they were misguided and acted out of fear or jealousy. I appreciated that subtly and nuance in the characters because I think it’s more reflective of the world we know. And the best fiction always has a strong tie to a deeper truth.
Open Minds is available for pre-order and anyone who pre-orders and sends a screen shot of their receipt to Schreyer Ink (even just a comment on the blog of Facebook page) will receive a free copy of another ebook put out by Schreyer Ink.
The Launch Party is a free Facebook event being held online on June 1st from 8am-10pm CST. There will be guest authors, some of the anthology authors, and some free giveaways. There are already some sneak peeks from Open Minds posted on the event.
Open Minds Amazon
Open Minds Smashwords
Schreyer Ink on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/schreyerinkpublishing
Schreyer Ink on Twitter: @SchreyerInk
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raw Lit Profile: Rough Writer for Congress
Carrot Ranch is a community of literary writers from around the world. Those who began as regulars to the weekly flash fiction challenges are among the current Congress of Rough Writers. The group name is a nod to Wild Bill Cody’s Wild West Show that was also made up of global participants who amazed audiences with daring feats of riding. Our writers amaze readers with literary writing feats. The group name reflects the theme of a western-style ranch, which personifies the roots and western writing of Carrot Ranch’s Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills. The collective writing, however, is as diverse as the individuals who encompass the Congress.
One Rough Writer took a break from writing raw literature to run for Congress. Sarah Unsicker, one of the earliest members of the Rough Writers, ran a successful campaign as a Democrat for her state’s legislature. On November 8, constituents elected Unsicker as State Representative of Missouri’s 91st District. While all of us at Carrot Ranch wish her the best in her new role, we are also curious as to what she’ll be doing.
Already, Unsicker, is preparing for the life changes election will bring to her. As a lawyer and mother, Unsicker has already practiced walking between the different worlds of career and parent. In fact, she wrote a flash fiction in August of 2014 that responded to “a multiverse situation,” which could be based on her experience as a lawyer-now-parent moment.
The Crosswalk by Sarah Unsicker
We wait together for the walk signal. She is dressed smartly for court; I push a twin stroller in marker-stained jeans. I ask what kind of hearing she has.
“Pretrial,” she says, “a bail hearing.” I recognize the client from her description. He was homeless and couldn’t afford health care. She looks as nervous as I remember feeling.
“You’ll do fine,” I say, confidently. This case will start her short but successful career.
My gaze rests on the pearls my husband gave me, on the suit that hangs in my closet. I again contemplate the cost of child care.
Off the literary page, Unsicker is preparing for the transition to elected life. As a State Representative, she will work in Jefferson City, Missouri four days a week between January and May. Because the state capital is two hours from her home, Unsicker will set up a temporary second residence. Her work commute will begin on Mondays after she drops off her kids at the school bus stop. She’ll return to her family on Thursdays.
If you read between the lines in Unsicker’s flash fiction, you’ll catch glimpses of a character’s longing to be a part of social justice. Unsicker says she’s always been interested in politics, and felt frustrated in recent years by her state’s legislature. She ran on a platform that supports children and families; one that tackles ethics reform in government. A job she is capable of accomplishing. Her beliefs and experience as both a mother and lawyer shaped her political platform:
“Sarah believes every person deserves dignity and respect. That the mom receiving welfare should have as much power to be heard as the CEO. Sarah believes that everyone plays the best game they are able with the hand they are dealt, and we have a responsibility to make the playing field more equitable.” From Sarah Unsicker for State Representative, 2016.
When Unsicker gets to work at Missouri’s state capital, she’ll review correspondence from her constituents and prepare for committee work. Committees are how government bodies function to address a myriad of issues. She will work on the rules (administrative oversight) committee, fiscal review committee, and the special committee on innovation and technology. Unsicker will await news of her appointment to which committees on which she’ll serve and do the bulk of her legislative work.
President John F. Kennedy made a famous statement during his 1961 inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Any citizen who steps up to serve the nation at the sacrifice of his or her known way of life is leading by example. It’s not easy for a wife and mother to put aside her own activities, including gardening and writing fiction, and leave the comfort of home. Unsicker once addressed the unsettling thought of possible life disruption in a flash fiction prompted by “a crack.”
Crack of Thunder by Sarah Unsicker
I lay in bed, refusing to wake up. I enjoy this quiet morning, even with the toddler kicking me in the back. Eyes closed, I see a quick flash of light.
Am I hallucinating? The world bright for a moment, then suddenly dark. The flash does not happen again. Is this the beginnings of a brain tumor? After that quarter-second, the world is back to normal. Quiet, dark, toddler in the back, nothing has changed. Or has it? Am I cracking up?
I hear a distant crack, a rumble of thunder. Everything is, once again, right with the world.
Unsicker knows the work ahead of her will be daunting; she’s an elected Democrat facing a newly elected Republican President and Federal Congress. Yet, it’s heartening to know that among our local, state and federal representation we have a process by which we, as concerned citizens, can still be heard. Unsicker witnessed the negativity of the last few weeks, as candidates slung mud at one another in their bids to get elected. While negative campaigns might work, the elected officials have to work through that negativity to find real solutions facing their residences, states and nation.
The elections might be over, but now is not the time for any citizen to sit back. Acceptance doesn’t mean inaction. Just as Unsicker is rolling up her sleeves to do the work for her state, she advises other citizens to participate. Anyone can correspond with their state representatives (and federal elects, too). She encourages people to write letters, make phone calls and try to form relationship with their representatives. “Keep telling them what’s important. Show up for committee hearings,” she says.
And those of us who write can continue to voice alternative perspectives through literature. Unsicker understands how the process of writing allows individuals to access feelings and ideas. One premise at Carrot Ranch is that a weekly prompt by which writers respond can offer readers a way to explore the collective responses that vary in perspective. Literature has the power to offer new ways of seeing an old problem or experiencing a different culture or lifestyle. Unisicker says, “Literature helps people consider different situations in life with more empathy and understanding.”
Thus begins a new Congress for this Rough Writer. On behalf of Carrot Ranch, we are all whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Sarah Unsicker’s successful candidacy. We know her to be a thoughtful and compassionate writer and expect her to lead with intelligence and integrity, standing up for all people in her state. We leave you with a final flash fiction from writer-turned-representative. This particular flash is based on a character Unsicker developed in a longer work in progress. We hope she one day returns to her creative writing, but in the meantime, she has constituents to nourish.
Filling the Heart With Calories by Sarah Unsicker
Baking filled in the hole in Cecilia’s life where family was missing. It comforted her when she was lonely; it was the warm hug she fed herself every morning; it reached out to embrace friends when words would not suffice. The smell of the bread she baked every full moon filled her empty house and chased away memories. Kneading sweet buns, she fought those forces that had left only ghosts to share the house. The crescendo of smell of the chocolate chip cookies that she baked for the neighbors muted her need for grandchildren. Yes, baking nourished Cecilia’s soul.
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Occasionally, the Lead Buckaroo, will profile those who create raw literature. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay or profile idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at email@example.com.