Author Highlight: Educator & Genre-Bender Hillary Leftwich
For those who live here, it’s no secret that Denver is home to a booming literary scene. Programs like the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop, Denver’s only MFA program through Regis University, and endless DIY and community-based writing workshops give Denver writers from all walks of life a welcome place at the writing table.
Lucky for us at Steuben Press, this means you can hardly swing a book bag in a coffee shop without hitting an accomplished local writer who you’ve been closely following since you last saw them read. We mean following their writing career of course, not literally following them. Except for that one time, which hardly counts.
And when we’re really lucky, one of these incredibly talented writers is willing to share their struggles, inspirations, and advice about their path to authorship with our readers.
Enter: local writer, educator, editor, and ghost-hunter Hillary Leftwich.
Hillary Leftwich is the author of the forthcoming collection Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock, a haunting and tender multi-genre collection that examines grief, violence, heartbreak, and vulnerability.
She’s also the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review, and a guest instructor for Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Workshop. As if that isn’t enough, Leftwich organizes and hosts At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series.
Read our interview with Leftwich below, and be sure to pick up a copy of her upcoming collection released by Civil Coping Mechanisms (CCM) Press in October!
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
I don’t know if this was ever an actual realization for me other than the need to write. I think as writers we are always writing, in some capacity or another.
Imagining stories as a child was something everyone I hung out with did, yet, I was the only one who would sit in an empty bathtub with a spiral notebook and a pen and write those stories down.
Maybe it’s the act of preservation of words itself that made me want to be a writer. All I knew and continue to understand are words are extremely important and necessary. They are tools for understanding our world as well as our society, so we must choose our words carefully.
How did you find your publisher?
I was very lucky to be solicited by my current press who is publishing my first book, Civil Coping Mechanisms/The Accomplices. I can’t speak to the big presses, but there are so many incredible independent presses who support writers and their work.
Also, many writers will give advice and share experiences about presses as well, which is a great way to narrow down your homework when it comes to researching presses and which one will be the best fit for your writing.
What are some challenges you encountered during the self-publishing or publishing process?
I am still in the process of pre-release and only a few months away from the actual publication date, so the marketing aspect has proven to be a little challenging.
Contacting book stores, planning book release readings, as well as updating my author website are all important aspects when it comes to ways you can help promote your book that a new writer may not know how to do. Having a network of experienced writers to ask advice has been amazing.
How did you choose the cover design for your book?
The cover design was designed by Michael Seidlinger from CCM, the book publisher. It was a collaboration between myself and Michael in figuring out what concept works as far as theme and colors, as well as incorporating one of local photographer Jay Halsey’s photos as the main theme of the cover.
Do you have any advice for self-published authors looking to find a publisher?
I would say keep trying. I’m a bad example to ask for advice on this, but it doesn’t matter if you have only self-published in the past. What matters is your persistence and belief in your work to solicit and send out to agents until you find what feels right for your work.
Tenacity is the most important aspect to remember when trying to get any book or piece of writing published.
What book should everyone read right now?
How about books?
Erika T. Wurth’s You Who Enter Here
Brandon Hobson’s Where the Dead Sit Talking
Steven Dunn’s Water & Power
Gabino Iglesias’s Coyote Songs
Brandi Homan’s Burn Fortune
Julia Madsen’s The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial
To read more of Leftwich’s work (which we highly recommend), her writing can be found or is forthcoming in print and online in such journals as Entropy, The Rumpus, The Missouri Review, The Review Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Matter Press, and others. You can also find her at hillaryleftwich.com.
You Can Go Your Own Way
As all budding and experienced writers understand, there is no linear path to authorhood. Whether you’re working with an indie press or are a self-published author managing everything from marketing your website to finding an editor, there’s more than one way to get your words on the page and into the hands and hearts of eager readers.
And the path to authorship is a lot less bumpy when we take the time to listen to the experts who have traveled the route before us (and maybe done a little bushwhacking on the way).
From editing to book printing to marketing to PR, check out these tips from 7 successful self-published authors on how to avoid the most common self-publishing mistakes »