FOURTEEN YEARS ago, author Nancy Slavin brought characters to life in the wilds of post-Exxon Valdez Alaska, a landscape of awesome beauty and magnificent devastation.The lives of millions, human, fish, and fowl, were changed forever by an environmental disaster of unqualified proportion. Slavin’s self-published, e-book, Moorings, looks at these altered lives, and asks the question: How do you do you move forward, if you have not mended the wounds afflicted on your self and your environment? “If you don’t deal with the past, it never really goes away, and if you don’t deal with the sediment that settles at the bottom of the ocean (from an oil spill), it poisons things; that’s the overlying metaphor for the book.” Since the book’s origin for a screenwriting class in 1998, and, later, taking shape as an award-winning Master’s thesis, Moorings’ character names, events, point of view, and how the story is told have all changed, but the essential story has not, and now that story is final, and available for purchase on-line at www.smashwords.com.
“I sent my book to one-hundred agents and editors, and met a lot of people through conferences. Everybody was always really nice. I probably have a stack of the nicest rejections you’ve ever seen… Even though the rejection letters were really nice, it’s a lot more fun to have people (be able to) buy the book, and really like it.” When Nancy finished graduate school in 1999, self-publishing was still considered a “vanity thing”, but over time, after numerous re-writes, countless and exhausting efforts trying to sell her book in the traditional publishing industry, and characters that refused to sit in a drawer and be forgotten, she took it upon herself, in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf , to self-publish. “I just decided my book was good enough to be out there in the world.” With the support and encouragement of family and friends, Moorings was published in March 2012 under the fledgling book press, Feather Mountain Press, formed by Slavin and writer friend, Elia Seely. “If I had to do this self-publishing thing, I’d like to do it with someone. I thought it would be more fun.”
Opportunities to self-publish have changed greatly. The founder of Smashwords.com, Marc Stoker, utilizes his skills to globally communicate information about books, on-line, “like a www.youtube.com for authors”. Stoker has created a website that really makes it easy to publish for a minimal royalty fee. His system “meat grinds” books to be downloaded to all technological formats from iPads to laptops with a print-on-demand option. Nancy says, since e-publishing, people have already started asking about a hard bound version, too. Writing and publishing are only the start of what it takes to get a book read; book tours, facebook posts, tweeting,and other promotional tools must be continuously engaged to sell a book. Nancy’s thesis advisor at Portland State University, and award winning author, Diana Abu-Jaber has published her own writing through traditional avenues, but still enjoys the use of social media to connect with friends, family, and fans. She commented, “It’s always been very difficult to get published– especially by a mainstream publisher. I do think that there seem to be new avenues opening up to writers that appear to be much more democratic. But, as you mention, if someone decides to self-publish, they will also have to do their own promotion, which is an enormous amount of work. I really enjoy social media like Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t see them as promotional tools– I just use them because I think it’s fun.”
Working fifteen years in various capacities for Tillamook County Women’s Crisis Center, Nancy was exposed to the stories that humans generate to cope with different behaviors, and, ultimately, drew her to the theme of her book. “What the story was about was that people don’t want to deal with how they behave…and make decisions that then have long term effects, sometimes all the way through an entire next generation. To me, that’s the metaphor of the oil spill, you just spew your shit and leave it there, and it affects things; it affects an entire system.” The main character, Anne Holloway, represents the youthful innocence and naivete that one embodies when the world is their’s to explore and to change. It is only after being dwarfed by the Alaskan landscape and its experiences, that Anne realizes she is the only thing she can change.”Self-awareness needs to develop from within and then grow outward…imposing it on people doesn’t work.” Nancy likened this to trying to get published in the traditional publishing industry. “After spending years trying to tell them(publishers) what my book’s about and to pay attention…the best I can do is say, here’s my book see what you think, and hope for the best.”
The vast, natural grandeur of the Alaskan landscape factors heavily into the stories shared in Moorings. “Alaska, as a setting, is its own character.” As a wide-eyed, young woman from the Midwest, not heeding of the words of John Muir (who thought Alaska should be seen last, because nothing else compares), Slavin took on the “Last Frontier”, first. She worked five summers in Alaska as a nature guide, interpreter, and storyteller, and was left in its awe. “Alaska deserves to have it’s own place as a characterization, because it actively does things to you like the characters(in the book) do to each other.” Writing is an emotional and spiritual process; Nancy laments the end of her work the characters she created in Moorings , and wishes them well. She, now, has other stories to tell, different characters to develop, but Alaska’s “big weight on her psyche” will not change. Her next book, focusing on sustainability and community, will also be set in Alaska. More information and extracts of Nancy Slavin’s writing can be found at www.nancyslavin.com, and find Moorings for your e-reader at www.smashwords.com.