Starting a Company

/beth wareham

About six months ago, I started a publishing company. It’s a bunch of people spread across the universe, working at all hours and with varying degrees of jubilation, on stories. We have big long stories about the holocaust and short little stories about a young woman and the first time she understood what bravery meant.

In this first small group of books, we have themes that make me want to run and cry: teenagers hold their mother as she starves to death of stomach cancer; a young American Jewish couple confronts the fallout of the Holocaust in 1950s Europe; essays from an 85-year old writer encouraging young women as they start their lives to seek out valor, courage, honesty, discovery, and living without fear.

And of course, I had to write a little cookbook and throw it in there because hell, why have a publishing company and not publish yourself? It’s masturbation and I LOVE it. (Thank you, Louis C.K.)

The real point of this is that in 6 months, me and my merry band of Indies made 6 books more beautiful and interesting than anything I ever made in a building in mid-town Manhattan. I worked in a skyscraper with 800 people and getting 6 books out took about half that group. I published about 15 books a year, some of it crap, some of it sheer genius. It was a huge, complicated, completely stupid way to make a book. I shudder thinking of those horrible covers.

Me and my merry band are, at our biggest, a group of six. We are always changing, always upping the tech knowledge and speed. We sell books in surprising places, pulled from the pack, highlighting the craftmanship and art of the work. We have no crap trying to sell you something else. We have no corporate boilerplates that mean nothing to any one except that guy in the corporate pr office. We are, to a great extent, enjoying a moment of real freedom.

Take a look at some of the first offerings. Let us know how we are doing. We do this out of love and we do this out of the belief that everyone has a story and the inherent right to tell it the way they want to.

We have nothing but respect for people who put themselves on the line with art, the people willing to expose and examine what is difficult, sometimes beyond comprehension, but essential to the movement – hopefully forward – of the human race.


Here’s Ruth reading from Reparations, a novel begun in the 1950s that sat in a box, one of those special jewels of Indie publishing.

Ruth Sidransky’s three new books as well as her masterpiece IN SILENCE are all available on amazon.

5 Bits of Simple Advice for Fiction Writers from Very Famous Editors

After 20 years as an editor in New York City publishing houses, I heard a lot of things. I even read a book proposal from a woman whose life was transformed after she met Tom Cruise.

Over and over, I come back to the simple advice I heard the best fiction editors (I was your garden-variety non-fiction type) say to their writers:

1. Chronology is your friend.

Start at the beginning and tell the story through to the end, just as if you were telling a friend. Only the most skilled of writers play with time and pull it off: Don De Lillo wrote Falling Man going forward in time, didn’t like it, and rewrote the book in reverse, making 9/11 the last event. Don’t try it at home, kids.

2. Limit your characters and make them vivid.

Dickens was Dickens because he could invite whole cities into his books and keep all the names and attributes straight. Tolstoy excelled at that as well. This will probably be harder for you, so focus on your handful of characters and make them memorable. I’ve read books whose plot still fails me, but a character stands in my mind’s eye still. That is success in writing.

3. Stolen from Stephen King: Adverbs are not your friends.

While I cannot make a citizen’s arrest for overwriting, I want to. Leave adverbs behind. In fact, be stingy with your adjectives. These are words that carry emotional connotations that you should achieve through the story’s action or choice of detail. Which leads to #4.

4. Detail is the soul of fiction.

Pick up a Chekhov short story. On the first page, he’s so completely described the room and it’s occupants on one page, you are now present in rural Russia with peasants, feeling the steam from the pot of potatoes and seeing the poverty in their clothes. One page and you are in their world.

5. The details you choose is what makes you great. 

Part of the joy of reading a book is one intellect bouncing against another, even if the two are not in the same room. A writers choice of detail focuses the work and shows a reader new possibilities for thought and life. Look there, not there, and the entire story changes.

I’ve overheard many more things and have some thoughts of my own. I’ll throw up some more here soon.

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Was it this one? BHS1979GuyFeste

or was it this one? BHS1979JackVentle

The late 1970s were so confusing. But I remember what I was reading. The coat hanger. The frozen facial expressions. The evil. Unknown

Mommie Dearest was not the first time I understood a mother could really screw it up, but a rich famous mother? It seemed impossible. So lurid.

I read it twice as I remember and chased my Mom with a coat hanger until she got mad. The dudes? I think the first one was named Peter and the second Jim.

The 1970s man. What an eye-opener.

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