Topeka-Shawnee Library’s “Community Novel Project:” Seven years of working with local authors and only getting started

If you are an author, have you ever wondered if a library could not only buy your book but provide expert help developing your writing and publishing skills? If you are a librarian, have you ever wondered why your library doesn’t go beyond holding events for local authors and actually publish some books? Lissa Staley and Miranda Ericsson, two librarians at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library have sorted all this out and created a program, now in its seventh year, that organizes local authors, beefs up their writing and publishing skills, and the produces print and ebook edition of a collaborative work. And yes, you read that right. Two librarians have done all this while continuing their other library work. Welcome to the TSCPL Community Novel Project.

In 2003, Lissa Staley was at work at her job as a librarian at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library. She noticed that one of her colleagues had put up a new display, so she stopped to look at it. This was her introduction to NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, an event held every November since 1999. She quickly decided to participate and set to work writing a novel of her own. At the same time, the idea that everyone could be a winner, that every participant in NaNoWriMo could win by completing the first draft of a novel inspired her. Everyone could win. No one had to lose.

The next year, 2004, she began programming for local writers around NaNoWriMo. However, many of them requested help getting published, finding an editor, getting an agent, etc. There were no resources, so she could not help them. The local writers groups focused on cracking the big New York publishers. Self-publishing and the tools to support it had not evolved as far as they have, today. Continue reading Topeka-Shawnee Library’s “Community Novel Project:” Seven years of working with local authors and only getting started