Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole


I am not a do-it-yourself type.

Not for me, the leisurely stroll through Home Depot, salivating over paint samples and closet organizers.  I don’t peruse the magazines for cupcake decorating tips or instructions for making picture frames from seashells. I don’t browse the how-to section of the bookstore to learn to renovate a bathroom or fashion a chandelier from twine. I don’t: decorate cakes, grout tile, hammer anything, touch a pipe wrench, knock down walls, sand, blot, or sponge. I do not own a tool box, a drill, or a glue gun.

But Saturday I took an all-day workshop offered by Central Carolina Community College. Nine of us immersed ourselves in the new publishing paradigm: do it yourself.

Our group was as varied as any random group of writers could be. Our projects ranged from cookbooks to novels; collections of poetry, short stories, and nature essays; childrens’ books about cleft palate and Santa’s dog. Each a wonderful book of the writer’s heart.

The instructor told us of her own publishing history, both successes and failures, and handed around her books.  She showed funny cartoons to illustrate each topic.  Energetic and articulate, she provided suggestions tailored for each project.  She brought a pile of self-published books so we could understand production value. She recommended that professionals be hired for the cover design and copy-editing. She spent an hour on social media, making us aware that it is easily the subject of another eight-hour workshop to find and connect with your people.

She talked about the differences between DIY and traditional publishing and the pros and cons of both. Modes of printing, distribution channels, discounts, book packagers, designers, e-books, terms and definitions, marketing and promotion, success stories, and sales trends — all were presented and discussed with humor and candor.

At the end of the day, we all had that deer-in-the-headlights look you get upon opening the door to a brand new world, like Dorothy landing in Oz, Harry arriving at Hogwarts, Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

Bring it on, we said, to varying degrees.

My project? A collection of mystery stories, and I know that a traditional publisher will be very difficult to find for it.

But my DIY-avoidance record will remain. Because the instructor was my daughter, Adrienne Ehlert-Bashista, and she’ll lend me a expert hand. Sitting in her class, I soaked up everything she said, grateful that I won’t have to do-it-all-by-myself.


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