December 4, 2015
No one’s been more surprised than I in the way my book has emerged, from rough notes out of my journal and memory to a reasonably polished manuscript.
From taking an online memoir-writing course three years ago to developing a story line that makes sense (they tell me) to my 20-plus readers, our three children, my California editor, and to me.
From thinking I would publish the book myself to this: Paraclete Press out of Cape Cod has agreed to publish my book. My working title and subtitle: A Path Revealed: How Hope, Love, and Joy Found Us Deep in a Maze Called Alzheimer’s.
Never heard of Paraclete Press?
Neither had I until last spring. But the more I find out about them the more I like. For one thing, Paraclete, though not large by industry standards, has been around for three decades and is owned and run by a monastic community. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve published some of my favorite authors.
A nice way to wake up...the front porch view from Paraclete’s community.
About the time I stumbled on to Paraclete, a minister friend and academic urged me to submit my manuscript to a large religious publishing house he knew in Oregon, which I did. That firm agreed to take my book, but it didn’t feel right so I declined. In the meantime, I modified that first proposal and on a bit of a lark sent it to Paraclete, which publishes 40-50 books a year.
In July, their editor told me that Paraclete wanted my book. We signed a contract in early October, and I visited them two weeks ago.
If you’ve ever tried to get a book published for the first time, you’ll realize how incredibly painless this process has been. I’m still amazed.
Begun in 1983, Paraclete describes itself as a publisher of “essential Christian wisdom … Although Benedictine spirituality is at the heart of all we do, we are an ecumenical publisher and as such we present works that unite us and enrich our understanding as Christians, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or Evangelical.”
In addition to books, Paraclete publishes music and videos. As a side note, for two decades I’ve listened to a handful of their CDs—sung by a choir called Gloriæ Dei Cantores, or Singers to the Glory of God—without making a connection until my recent visit. (Click this link. You’ll be delighted with what you hear. I promise.)
I felt good about my book’s fit with Paraclete before visiting them. I feel even better now. While there I learned they’ve published a couple of my favorite authors: Frederick Buechner and the late Basil Pennington. I and many others consider Buechner to be one of our best living writers, religious or secular. Pennington, a Trappist monk, was a younger peer of Thomas Merton’s.
Topping these, however, is this bit of inside-the-industry info that should give you a better idea of Paraclete’s quality of work and reach. I was delighted to learn that Phyllis Tickle served nearly two decades on Paraclete’s editorial review board until her death in late September. This is how the New York Times’ obituary described her: “Phyllis Tickle, who helped energize the religion publishing market in the 1990s, wrote dozens of books on spirituality and gave voice to a movement that believes Christianity is entering an epochal new phase…”
The Times continues: “Ms. Tickle was the founding religion editor at Publishers Weekly, the leading journal in the book trade … In that post she identified and covered a rapidly emerging market for religious-themed books and helped publishers tap into its profitability.”
“Phyllis was a dear friend of Paraclete’s,” managing editor Robert J. Edmonson told me, adding that she was intimately and energetically involved in their book selections.
Edmonson, who’s lived in the community for three decades, is a master translator (French-English), having edited and translated several books on spirituality, including those by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
Paraclete’s editor is Phil Fox Rose, who will be my book’s development and structural editor. I wasn’t able to meet him, but our correspondence makes clear his is an eclectic background, both editorially and spiritually. He cut his teeth in the mid-80s at PC Magazine, the tenth largest circulating magazine at the time, and subsequently worked in senior editorial roles with other tech publications.
Then early this century, his career path took a sharp turn into “making a living while writing and editing about faith.” Rose was content director for the Busted Halo site and he continues to blog for Patheos. But, he says, that “noisy, reactionary world” online is wearing thin. So when Paraclete offered him the editor’s position earlier this year, Rose jumped at the opportunity. “I’m still part of the conversation, but in a long-range constructive way, which I find far more satisfying.”
An equally strong reason why I went with Paraclete is its sales and marketing staffs, numbering a dozen or so. Their network includes independent and major bookstores, Protestant and Catholic bookstores, churches, conferences, libraries, and magazines—outlets that are virtually impossible for me to reach on my own. A staff like Paraclete’s is an increasingly rare gem these days in the publishing world.
As I mentioned, Paraclete is owned and run by a monastic community founded in the 1960s, the ecumenical Community of Jesus. About 275 persons, predominantly Protestant, live on site or nearby, including 85 or so vowed nuns and monks. Here’s the interior of the community’s Church of the Transfiguration…
My apologies for so much insider trade talk on books, but for many of you who’ve asked about our book’s status I thought you would like to know in whose hands our story is placed.
P.S. Oh … I almost forgot. My book has a good chance of being published early next fall. But having been in the newspaper and magazine business 30-plus years, I’m not counting on that until it happens. Stay tuned.
P.P.S. Again, feel free to pass this post and others along to your family and friends. Or they can receive their own copy by signing up at www.carlenmaddux.com.