This is a collection of 21 stories that were written from December 17th, 2017 to October 15th, 2019. They are all based on unusual black and white photos that I found. Some themes will become apparent – monkeys, alligators, names, citizenship. Who is “in” and who is “out”? What is “normal” – and who decides?The photo is the basis of every story. I select pictures that are odd, that seem to have a backstory. Yet, none exists. The human brain needs completion to feel at rest, even if the completion to the narrative isn’t necessarily true. So I write what the picture tells me to write. It is a little like being a detective, and a lot like being an artist. What would you create with limited ingredients or information? Sometimes a limit can be helpful. It forces you to focus on what you have. These stories might disturb you. They might make you think. Both can be useful. It is up to you to decide. These were initially posted on my blog, betsybeadhead.com. Many have been polished up for this book. If there is a difference between the version on my blog and the one here, the printed version is preferred.
Free Range Faith. Essays on following Jesus and not Christianity. Published 12/11/2014. ISBN-13: 978-1502367679
Fortunate Stamps. Collage using stamps and fortune cookie messages. Published 1/17/2015. ISBN-13: 978-1507623480
The Condensed Gospel. The Gospel, as one story, in order, with no repetition. Published 12/19/2015. ISBN-13: 978-1505514940
Travel by Stamps. An all-ages story using vintage stamps for the illustrations. Published 12/27/2015. ISBN-13: 978-1522947127
Some for the Road: Meditations and milestones on the road of recovery. Daily meditations on recovery. Published 4/22/2017. ISBN -13: 978-1507633588
Images of God (in color). Inspirational poetry and pictures, in full color. Published 6/21/2017. ISBN-13 978-1546815129
Images of God (in black and white). Inspirational poetry and pictures, in a more affordable black and white format. Published 6/23/2017. ISBN-13 978-1548191023
Short and Strange. 25 unusual short stories inspired by vintage photographs. Published 9/26/2017. ISBN-13: 978-1974103669
maps for lost places. 27 speculative fiction short stories. Published 1/6/2018. ISBN-13: 978-1981396856
Creating a Life. Essays about being an artist with a full-time life. Published 2/17/2018. ISBN-13: 978-1985022140
home is a place in your heart. Essays, poems, workbook-style prompts and full color pictures exploring the idea of “home”. Published 10/30/18 ISBN-13: 978-1726019750
The Invisible House series. Essays and tales about negative space and impermanence. It is more of an art piece than anything else. It is non-classifiable. ISBN 9781795706964 Kindle edition published 2-27-19
The Abandoned Project (volume 1) Short stories inspired by pictures of abandoned doors and gateways. Published 5/16/19 ISBN: 9781799149507
Short and Strange volume 2 21 short stories inspired by unusual black and white vintage photographs. Published 11/22/19 ISBN: 978-1703976113
Stamp Stories A diverse collection of art and stories illustrated by stamps and ephemera. In color. Published 3-23-20. ISBN: 979-8629681601
Tuesday Buffet A series of photographs taken once a week of a tree, for a year. Published 3/31/20. ISBN: 979-8632414265
Female Trouble: stuff we don’t talk about Essays on womanhood in 21st century America. Published 5/8/20 ISBN: 9798644132874
poems for hard times 47 poems of inspiration and uplift, written between 6/30/13 and 1/31/19. Published 5/14/20 ISBN: 9798645747121
Wander Essays, poems and stories inspired by The Wander Society. Written between February 2016 and June 2018. Published 6/23/20 ISBN: 9798656489744
A Walk Through the Bible Essays about the Bible, written April 2013 to July 2020. Published 8/14/20. ISBN: 9798672088235
The View From Here 125 essays on an array of topics that will probably improve the world if people actually read them. Written between October 2013 and January 2021. Published 2/18/21 ISBN: 9798708113092
A Life in the Margins 126 essays, written between January 2013 and April 2021 about nearly 2 decades of working for a public library. Published 6/28/21 ISBN: 9798528401553
Further Along the Road 85 essays, written between May 2013 and December 2019 on recovery and health. Published 10/12/21 ISBN: 9798495431485
All titles are available through Amazon. Most titles are also available on Kindle unlimited.
Author page: amazon.com/author/betsynelson
I’m having debates in my head about how to do the book and if I’m ready to publish. I realize now that I’ve already said it several times – it is already written, I don’t need to add more.
I’m still writing more, and I can and will always write more. I have finally realized that I can publish the new stuff later. I can republish old stuff and put it with new stuff if I find I’m writing a lot on one theme – like Communion, for instance. This book is a taste, a start, a beginning.
I’m weary and I worry about going through editing. But then I remember the only thing to it is to do it. Just start.
Also, then I remember the Jewish idea of the yetzer hara – knowing about it is helpful. I’m seeing all these distractions as a sign that I’m on to something good. It is a sign now, when I stop to notice it playing this game on me.
Just like how a child learns “this” feeling is a sign to go to the bathroom – “this” feeling of being distracted is a sign that outside influences are messing with me, trying to stop me from doing what I’m being called to do, what I’m made for. Sounds paranoid? It isn’t. It is actually very healthy. The idea of the yetzer hara isn’t mine, and it isn’t new. It was very freeing to learn about it. I’ve written about it many times before. It is an indicator to me now. I’ve transformed it from being a stumbling block into a steppingstone.
The idea of the yetzer hara needs to be introduced in mental hospitals. Heck, it needs to be introduced to people before they get into mental hospitals.
So the more I write about writing, the more I’m not putting my book together. See, it is a game, a distraction. This is all part of being human. I still feel a need to publish something every day. It is a way to stretch and clean out my head. But I need to use this unintended vacation time (the library is closed for remodeling) to work on my book, as I’ve said all along.
Perhaps there is a good reason I found out that Internet Explorer isn’t to be trusted. I was using it and Chrome to work on the book. I had my main blog open on Chrome, and I had the Empty Cross Community blog open on IE. I’d post from one to the other, and check to make sure I’d not already posted something. I created the second blog just to create file folders for my book. My first book. Which is already written, mostly. I’ve not added anything new to Empty Cross Community that isn’t already in BetsyBeadhead. It is just more focused – just the religious stuff. No rambles, no pictures.
I found out that IE is highly suspect, so I stopped using it. It is impossible to look at two WordPress sites using the same browser – I can’t log into both and look at both. It thinks I’m “BetsyBeadhead” when I’m on “EmptyCrossCommunity”. It won’t let me post to it. So I had to stop. I’m starting to see this as a good thing – it has created a stopping point. Start on the next part of the project. Stop adding to it. Start formatting.
Time to get going. Wish me luck, and say a prayer if you are the praying type. Pray that my words are of use to people, that they lead them towards God, and towards healing.
I’m looking at publishing some of my blog in book form. This has lead to a lot of questions. Do I self publish? If so, who with? How much do I want to do on my own? Do I try to find a “real” publisher? And perhaps more importantly, what do I hope to gain from publishing my words in book form?
They are already out in the world. They have already been seen. They are available all the time to anyone who has access to the internet.
In part I want to provide an experience. I want to provide an order and a flow to it. I wrote my pieces at different times and with different topics. And not everything is that great.
In part I had to write some of the “meh” pieces to get to the “ah ha” pieces. I’m reminded of the idea that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. So you have to write a lot of posts before you find your focus.
In a way I want to provide an appetizer, then a four course meal, then the dessert. I want the posts to lead from one to another in a logical way. I want them to be grouped together in a logical way too. There is an order of sorts with the blog because of tags and of categories, but there is nothing saying that people will go from one to another in order. That is a strength and a weakness to a blog.
Right now what I have written is more like an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle. That was helpful to me at the beginning. I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted and in whatever order. This meant that I didn’t have any rules. Sometimes rules help and sometimes they hinder. I felt that if I told myself I could only write about one topic at a time then I’d miss some posts that would be valuable. In a way it is like drawing without any lines. You have to do whatever works to get the work done.
Recently I was talking with a guy with a company that is a division of Thomas Nelson. That company’s name would be in my book, but it would still be mine and I would pay for it. It wouldn’t be cheap. The starting price is one thousand dollars.
Now, that amount of money isn’t just for their name. They would do the formatting. They would create the cover. They would professionally print it. They would proofread and edit it. Basically all I’d have to do is write it, and really, that is already done.
Now, it would have to fit in their strict guidelines. They are a Christian company. They don’t allow slander, cursing, or plagiarism in their books. You also have to actually state that you, the author, are Christian.
In a way they would legally protect me too. They would make sure that nothing in it could come back to haunt me.
But a thousand dollars is a lot of money. I’d get just ten copies for that. I’d have to pay for more copies.
The representative was trying to rush me, to get me to commit to them. He wanted me to hand over money before he even looked at my work.
I told him that I know his job is to get the little fishes into the basket. He laughed. He couldn’t say anything to that because “The call will be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”
I was being kind. His job is to hook them, to reel them in.
I said I’ll think about it. I haven’t dismissed that avenue. That name is a respected one in the book world. They have high standards. Their books are good inside and out. If I went with them, that would make my work look even better and give it a level of authority.
He mentioned something that publishing your own book is like starting an independent business. If you are going to open a coffeeshop, do you go and do your own thing, or do you go with a known brand? Do you have a small Mom and Pop shop or do you lease a Starbucks? He said that people gravitate towards the already known and already tried. Also, if you go with the known brand they’ve worked out a lot of the kinks for you.
But, a lot of people I know trust the individual shop more. They like the quirks and charm of a one-off. They’d rather support an independent over a chain any day. They know that more time and attention goes into the independent shop. They care, because they have to.
What I need to do now is to separate the wheat from the chaff. I need to focus in on one topic or a related group of topics and put them all together. I’d need to do this for any publisher – whether it is “real” or self-published. I already have a good idea of what posts the most useful or helpful that I’d like to use.
There is nothing stopping me from trying with CreateSpace. It is the self-publishing division of Amazon and is totally free. I’d have to do most of the work. The reviews are good. I have friends who have used them and they like them very much. But you get what you pay for.
The marketing is the same with both companies. There is none. I’d have to do it all on my own.
And, as people are pointing out, actual brick and mortar book stores are disappearing. So why am I worried about the idea of how am I going to get my book on the shelves and into the hands of readers?
I certainly don’t just want to just sell to my friends. That is a very limited pool. I want a wide audience. I knew someone who got in on a pyramid scheme of selling supplements. The pyramid collapsed on him because he was only able to market to his family and friends. He ended up having to buy a lot of the product himself. That is insane.
I am bold enough to say that I think that some of the things I have written are revolutionary, and helpful, and needed. I am bold enough to say that I think everybody should read what I have to say, especially Christians. They will be the most challenged by it, and they will give me the most flak.
Boldness is part of writing. Just writing, even if it is just for yourself, is claiming your voice. It is saying that what you think matters and needs to take up space in the world. To post it for your friends to read is another step. To post it so strangers can read it is a further one.
I feel like I am just getting braver and braver with each step.
Where am I headed?
Further away, or closer towards? I think that perhaps it is a little of both.
I find it fascinating how easy it is to create a brand identity. You can print your own business cards, address labels, and letterhead. You can put your logo on hats, t-shirts, and water bottles. Anything that you can imagine can be printed with your own name and logo. You can print your own book and publish your own website and blog. It is all very easy and inexpensive, and pretty amazing. So where is the line, or does there need to be one? What makes someone official? The logo? The certification? The experience?
For some jobs they ask for four years of school or four years of equivalent experience. They are considered equal. However, way too many people go through four years of school and they still don’t know anything when they graduate and get hired. Another person at the same job can have four years of experience behind her, but no diploma. So what does the diploma mean? Somebody else thinks you might know how to do something? You test well?
Maybe there is something to just doing it anyway and not waiting for someone to give you permission or certification or credentials. They say the suit makes the man, after all. So maybe the book makes the author.
Maybe we have entered into a time when people don’t have to do it the old way. Maybe we have entered into a time where self publishing doesn’t have the air of desperation it used to. It used to be called a “vanity press”, but now famous people are self-publishing and essentially giving the finger to the big publishing houses. They are doing it all themselves and taking all the money.
Maybe people have just gotten tired of waiting for someone to invite them to the dance and they decided to put on their favorite shoes and go and have a great time. The more you do for yourself, the more control you have over it.
I sold beaded jewelry I made on my college campus. I had all my creations in a metal Bahlsen cookie tin. I did fairly well, and learned a lot about human psychology. It was amazing how many women were so proud of my creativity and entrepreneurship. It was also amazing how many men wanted a piece of the action.
Several men said they could “help” me sell my jewelry, for a cut. They said would show off and take anywhere up to 25%. They never volunteered to help me for free, or take the time to help me make the jewelry in the first place. I felt like they were being pimps. I’d do all the hard work and they’d get some money. This hardly seemed fair. I always said no.
So maybe it is the same with schools and credentialing. Maybe they just want their cut. You do all the work and they give you a piece of paper for all your trouble. Maybe it is the same with publishing houses. I do all the writing and they get all the money.