The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

Welcome to the first installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to jumpstart this new author-centric series with the uber-talented Virginia Brackett, author of the Korean War memoir In the Company of Patriots.


"The Story of a Memoir"

by Virginia Brackett

_The Story of a Memoir_

I didn’t exactly decide to write a memoir. As with most book-length works, this one grew as part of a process. It was born in an article about my parents titled "Uncommon Heroes" that won a contest and was published in the 1990s in a periodical now defunct.

I thought about doing more with that story from time to time, but life’s more practical demands interfered. I experienced a divorce, two career pivots, remarriage, and loss of a younger sister and my mother to cancer. Still, the desire to know my father, who was killed in military service in Korea when I was eight months old, stayed with me. You might expect this emotion to be blunted by the passage of time, especially since I was blessed by a wonderful stepfather, but circumstances did not allow that.

In my final professional transformation, I entered graduate school to earn a degree in English, ostensibly to support my constant (albeit feeble) writing attempts. I learned a great deal about writing in grad school, and it eventually drove me toward finally moving forward on a project that would focus on my father, almost 20 years after that original article.

But by then, my mother, aunt, and uncle—all of the people who best knew him—had died. Had I waited too late to begin this journey?

By the time I started, I had published many books and articles, most research-based that gave me confidence, but being an academic, I spent far too much time in anguish before I even started.

Would this book be a war history account? Maybe, but only in part; WWII and the Korean conflict could only frame the narrative. Would this book be for my family or for a broader readership? I did not know. Would I write it using history and journalistic resources, or my mother’s many artifacts, letters, and photos? I could use everything.

While I could begin by asking such questions, I knew I had to do as I admonished my students for years—just put some words on the page.

I organized my mother’s resources and compared articles she saved from the 1940s and 1950s to historical accounts, perused my father’s military records, mined his personal war correspondence, and had long conversations with siblings. I had what appeared to be interesting information, but I lacked that organizational “hook,” that nugget of appeal that all writers know any project requires.

And somehow, I found it sooner rather than later, or, instead, it found me.

When I got involved in helping veterans to write and tell their own stories, I found the truth that veterans’ voices would supply the true bedrock for this account.

I found men who had served with my father on the internet. Not only did they respond, but they invited me into their ranks through reunions and interactions that I’d never have imagined. Their energy became my energy. I realized that we would best remember such men through personal stories—that my account would best be served by my telling it as my own.

I adopted first-person point of view and decided to move back and forth in time, connecting moments from my parents’ lives to my own, weaving in voices from literature that I heard, layering in comments from the veterans I spoke with.

The intense research and writing during breaks from teaching stretched over ten years, then eleven, then twelve. My writing experience was neither predictable nor systematic. Stunning events served to change the course of my structure or add to its dimension.

This is a photograph of the actual letter that fell out of one of my father's books during my research

For example, in a moment that I describe as worthy of a B-grade movie, a letter fell from a book I had pulled from our records. I eventually discerned it had been written to my father by the author of that same book, Dark December, an account of the Battle of the Bulge from WWII.  I could tell that the author wrote the letter to respond to my father’s protests regarding the representation of his Company during the Battle of the Bulge in Dark December.

Soon after, I discovered the book’s author had been a war correspondent, a Chicago alderman, and eventually an undersecretary to President Eisenhower. That discovery led to me to tracking down my father’s original letter and being able to hold it in my hands during a visit to the University of Chicago’s special collections. I even managed to locate the lieutenant who had been among the last people to speak to my father before his death by sniper in Korea.

In the process, I also discovered something about myself as a memoir writer. With such a personal topic, I was becoming too emotional to be able to work on the book, and days and weeks might pass before I could return to it.

When I finally had an advanced draft of the book in hand, I realized how difficult finding a publisher would be because the book could not be easily categorized. Was it history? Biography? Creative nonfiction? A University Press expressed interest but, in the end, declined publication, the editor telling me he greatly enjoyed my writing style but that the book was too eclectic for his readers. I had my fair share of agent rejections too.

Then, I discovered Sunbury Press, a publisher not overly concerned about pigeon-holing the book, and In the Company of Patriots became real.

Virginia Brackett holds her own copy of IN THE COMPANY OF PATRIOTS

About the Author

Virginia Brackett - author photo

Virginia Brackett is a retired professor of English who has written 17 books, including In the Company of Patriots, The Facts on File: Companion to 16th and 17th-Century British Poetry which was named a Booklist Editor’s Choice in 2008 and A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros. You can learn more about her at VirginiaBrackett.com.


Praise for In the Company of Patriots

In the Company of Patriots (Pull-Quote)

Buy the Book

Get 15% OFF at Sunbury Store

Author writes about surviving abuse and homelessness

R_fcCourtney begged to matter. It was only when Rebecca showed up, beaten and bruised, in the ditch that ran between their homes that Courtney realized: she wasn’t the only one. Together, they built a bridge—a physical bridge to hide beneath, as well as an emotional bridge to take them back to the little girls within themselves; the ones they’d had to leave behind in order to survive. A murder, an adoption, new friends, a paralyzing accident, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, and the haunting echoes of years of abuse come together in the story that follows a young girl and her friends discovering that, even against the odds, nothing is ever in vain. Courtney Frey’s story, based on the truth of her own childhood and young adult life, demonstrates that finding love starts with purpose. The author conveys through her own character her search for that purpose, as well as the desire to be needed, wanted, loved, and validated—and how continually seeking those things dramatically shaped her formative years. In a story about searching for self-love, enduring family dysfunction, surviving abuse, and fighting back, Courtney Frey reveals to the reader the secrets of her emotional journey and how she discovered that writing was, at times, her only lifeline.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Courtney Frey is an author, speaker, wife, mother of three grown children and grandmother to two granddaughters. She currently resides in Iowa, has a B.S in psychology, is a birth mother, and is an advocate for mental health and women’s issues. She can be contacted through her website www.courtneyfrey.org.

Restitution

Authored by Courtney Frey

List Price: $19.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
244 pages
Sunbury Press, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1620066560
ISBN-10: 1620066564
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Women
For more information, please see: http://www.sunburypressstore.com/Restitution-9781620066560.htm

Meet Sunbury Press' Owner Lawrence Knorr! by Tammy Burke

http://glvwgwritersconference.blogspot.com/2014/03/meet-sunbury-press-owner-lawrence-knorr.html

LvK by Tammi KnorrHow delightful having you back at the “Write Stuff” conference again! And wow! Is it coming up fast. Anything new and exciting you can share regarding you and/or the Sunbury Press?  
 
Lawrence Knorr: Yes!  It is an honor to be asked back. It is hard to believe two years have passed since the last time! Sunbury Press just completed its best year ever from a sales perspective. We continue to grow and succeed in a very tough, competitive environment. We are celebrating our tenth year in business in 2014 — but I can tell you it feels like 100 years! We’ve transformed ourselves twice in that span — caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly — what’s next? Most recently, we have seen ebooks peak, their growth rate slowing, while independent bookstore sales have picked up. While our Amazon business has continued to grow, other channels are growing faster. We have dubbed 2014 our “Year of Collaboration” focusing on ways our 120+ authors can experience better results by helping each other and by working together in teams. So far, there has been a lot of positive energy. We also opened, February 1, our first company bookstore in Mechanicsburg, PA, where our headquarters is located. Our goal was to provide a storefront for all of our books — and a venue for our authors to meet the public. We really want to be an important part of the local community for our local and regional authors — and provide another option to our more far flung partners. It’s a great place to meet prospective authors and to talk about books with the general public.
Based on your webpage, I understand the your company holds a “Continue the Enlightenment” mentality from the 18th 3609278century and the “Age of Reason.” Could you expand more what that means to you and to the Sunbury Press?
 
Lawrence Knorr: “Continue the Enlightenment” is a motto that represents our mission statement. Simply put, we are a publisher of diverse categories, but we are always seeking to bring new perspectives and voices to the marketplace. The Enlightenment was about a new order of things — not unlike what is happening in publishing today. The old order governed by a strong center of control is being challenged by more democratic ideals. This is what the independent publishing movement is all about — whether doing it yourself or with an independent publisher. We are experiencing an era of rapid democratization of the publishing industry. If only Hugh Fox had lived a little longer! I’ll never forget the day he called me – Hugh Fox – one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize. He revealed he was dying of cancer and offered me the opportunity to publish his remaining works. He said Sunbury Press was exactly the kind of publisher he was looking for. I was very grateful for his offer, and encouraged him to spread the dozen or so works around to other presses, keeping two of them for ourselves. Hugh liked the motto, and we think it is very appropriate at this time.
What was the motivation to start the Sunbury Press? What makes it different than other publishing companies?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I started the company in 2004 because I wanted to publish some family histories. I didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, so I Ambit_Island_Series.inddembarked on figuring out how. While this was only ten years ago, it was when vanity presses were a cottage industry and print on demand and ebooks were in their infancy. I just wanted to sell some books at cost to family members. But, I really enjoyed it and realized I could publish other books — not just my own. Two hundred and twenty titles and one hundred and twenty authors later, we have really grown thanks to our business model and our philosophy. We are different for several reasons:
1) We are very tech-savvy. My wife and I both have long careers in IT and understand the Age of Content and the importance of search engines, ecommerce and mobile commerce.
2) We do NOT charge for services. Many publishers are experimenting with vanity, hybrid or subsidy models. We refuse to go in this direction, instead making our money by selling books.
3) We have editors working for us as employees of our company. We take quality very seriously.
4) My wife and I are also photographers and digital artists, able to design book covers, marketing materials, graphic designs, web content, etc.
5) We are “generalist opportunists” — working in a broad number of categories. We understand the advantages of breadth and scale to the economic sustainability of an enterprise.
6) We love what we do. I really enjoy working with authors to bring their work to the marketplace. It tickles the soul.
 
tsarr_pubI was wondering…Is there anything in particular you are looking for in an author and his or her manuscript?
 
Lawrence Knorr: Quality Manuscript + Motivated Author + Publisher = Success
We are always looking for high quality manuscripts — in a variety of fiction and nonfiction categories. Quality is more than just well-written / grammatically correct. Quality is about fresh ideas, new found truths and entertainment. We like material that brings value to our readers.
We like to gauge an author’s motivations. Gone are the days of sitting at a typewriter, mailing a box of paper to a publisher and then waiting by the door for the checks to arrive. Authors need to be involved in their success. While we provide editing, design, formatting, ebook creation, printing, distribution, marketing, etc., we do best when authors are out and about advocating their work and promoting themselves. We are an ideal option for authors whose work is good enough not to have to pay to publish — who want to be writers and not start their own publishing businesses. Most writers are not business savvy. We bring the business expertise to the mix.
 
Anything you’d like to see more of? Anything you’d like to see less of?
 
ktcw_pubLawrence Knorr: Thankfully, the vampire craze has past. There’s probably a metaphor somewhere in that regarding the publishing industry! We are always looking for more history and historical fiction — more clever YA and more entertaining police procedurals and mysteries. We like good literary fiction too! We’ve had a lot of inquiries about poetry — something we rarely publish.
 
Do you work with authors to help them increase sales? Or do you allow them to do that for themselves?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We generate our revenue exclusively from selling books. So, we are ALWAYS looking for ways to sell more books — whether a new channel to open, a new retailer to call upon, a new country to access, or an author’s activities. As I stated in the opening, we have dubbed 2014 the “Year of Collaboration” and are seeking new ways to collectively leverage our scale. There are opportunities for Sunbury Press authors to go beyond our activities and their individual efforts — to work together within a category or region.
 
I understand you have authored eight books on regional history. Could you tell us more about them? What were their inspiration.  
 
JFR_fcLawrence Knorr: Where did I ever find the time? My early books: “The Descendants of Hans Peter Knorr,” “The Relations of Milton Snavely Hershey,” “The Relations of Isaac F Stiehly,” “General John Fulton Reynolds,” “The Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower” and “The Hackman Story” were family history / genealogy focused. I wanted to write about my relations — a very deep and rich history linked to important people and events in Pennsylvania and the nation. While researching at the Lancaster County Historical Society, I also stumbled upon the journal and letters of my great uncle David Bear Hackman, describing his adventure to California for the Gold Rush. I edited and contextualized this treasure into the book “A Pennsylvania Mennonite and the California Gold Rush.” My more recent works have been collaborations:  “Keystone Tombstones Civil War” with Joe Farrell and Joe Farley — about famous people buried in Pennsylvania who played a part in the Civil War and “There is Something About Rough and Ready” about the village in the heart of the Mahantongo Valley at the center of that region’s Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I have several other projects under way for release in the coming years: “The Visiting Physician of Red Cross” – about the career of Dr. Reuben Muth of Red Cross, PA (I have his collection of visiting doctor records from 1850 to 1890), “Palmetto Tombstones” — about famous people buried in South Carolina, “Scheib of Shibe Park” — a biography of the former Philadelphia A’s pitcher — and youngest American Leaguer ever — Carl Scheib of Gratz, PA.
 
Being born and raised in the Susquehanna Valley myself I was wondering if you’ve done anything regarding Sunbury, particularly the Hotel Edison or Lewisburg?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We borrowed the name Sunbury from the town in Pennsylvania because it was near the Mahantongo Valley — and I liked the name. But, that’s about as far as it goes. We have yet to publish anything about Sunbury, the town in Pennsylvania or nearby Lewisburg. However, our book “Digging Dusky Diamonds” by John Lindermuth is about Shamokin, PA and the nearby coal regions. Our best-selling “Prohibition’s Prince” is about the famous moonshiner Prince Farrington from Williamsport, PA.  Our “Keystone Tombstones” series spans the entire state and often touches on historical figures from the Susquehanna Valley.
 
Do you have favorite time period and place regarding history?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I teach Comparative Economic and Political Systems at Wilson College once a year. I really enjoy teaching this class because it allows me to span economic history from classical times to present. My favorite time periods / places are the Roman Empire in the first few centuries AD and 19th and early 20th century America. I am intrigued by our industrialization in the early 1800s — and the entrepreneurship and personal responsibility that was present. Most of the people living today would feel very insecure without their comforts, insurances and government safety nets. I long for that time when individual hard work and creativity could amount to something tangible — and when we relied on ourselves, our families, our religious institutions and our communities.
 
What did you like best about holding the office of president for MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I was honored to be elected the President of MBPA for one year. I met a lot of great people, including my predecessor Mary Shafer. My goal was to make sure our organization survived the struggles it was going through and could become sustainable. The new team that formed was very motivated to do so, and they continue on without me. Unfortunately, the demands of my growing business prevent me from volunteering at this time.
Your digital photography is quite beautiful. I particularly enjoy your vibrant use of color. How long have you been practicing this art and I’m curious…how many book covers have you designed?
 
Lawrence Knorr: Thank you! I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 years old. I began showing my work in 2006, after a local gallery liked my attempts at “Photo Impressionism.” I was one of the pioneer artists who was trying to make photographs look like paintings. My work has been shown around the country and has won awards — and is in collections and even a museum or two. While I have not been as active at showing my work, I have designed over 100 book covers over the last three years. My wife says they are getting better!  I really enjoy doing it, and most of the authors are very pleased with the results.
 
What are your thoughts on selling internationally? Do you find that foreign bookstores cater to the same reading choices as here in our area?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We sell our books in at least a dozen other countries — UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, India, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan … even Lebanon! We’re developing expertise in foreign rights as well as foreign distribution. We have found the rest of the world lags the US in eBook adoption — and still have a very strong book retailers. We’ve had the most success in the UK, for obvious reasons – but have also broken through where our titles touch on target markets.
 
I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview, Lawrence. We look forward to seeing you soon!
————————————————-
Lawrence Knorr has been involved with book publishing for fourteen years. His  company, Sunbury Press, Inc., headquartered in Mechanicsburg, PA, is a publisher of trade paperback and digital books featuring established and emerging authors  in many fiction and nonfiction categories. Sunbury’s books are printed in the USA and sold through leading booksellers worldwide. Sunbury currently has over  120 authors and 200 titles under management.
Lawrence has taught business and project management courses for ten years, and is the author of eight books. He is also an award-winning digital artist, and has designed dozens of book covers . Lawrence is the former President of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)
Most interested in U.S. & World history and other nonfiction (sports,
professional, hobbies) — also historical fiction, mystery/thriller.

Will consider YA fiction, contemporary and historical romance, horror (no
vampires), literary fiction.

Not looking for children’s picture books and poetry at this time.

————————————————-
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).