The small press challenge
Our session with independent small publisher Debra Winegarten answered many questions about what it's like and what it takes to professionally publish and print a beautiful children's picture book on your own.
Debra passed away with a sudden cancer on September 10, 2018, less than a year after she gave this workshop.
She shared with her writer's candor and passion about the challenges and the editorial and technical issues involved in producing Almost a Minyan, written by Lori S. Kline and illustrated by Susan Simon.
Although her Austin-based independent press, Sociosights Press produced informational books on a variety of topics. Almost a Minyan, her company's first picture book for children, tells of "a loving daughter and granddaughter, whose family stays connected to each other and to the past through sacred Jewish traditions."
Debra's assignment for us invoked another story she's contemplating for her press: the story of "Saint Esther" from the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible.
She asked to see a pencil sketch or a piece of final art, a character sketch or a scene showing Esther in the narrative.
"There's a possible book on crypto-Jews I might pick up," she explains.
Wikipedia sidenote: Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; practitioners are referred to as "crypto-Jews" (origin from Greek kryptos – κρυπτός, 'hidden').
"I have an illustrator in mind," Debra told us. "But I'm not wedded to that person (or the book for that matter, but if something really amazing appeared, it could help sway me!)"
She was an author, publisher, educator, flutist, and all-around rabble-rousing feminist who delighted in inspiring and challenging others. After receiving her undergraduate degree at Texas Women's University and her master's in sociology from The Ohio State University, she taught sociology at the college level. She founded Sociosights Press, whose mission is to publish books that "transform society one story at a time," in accordance with the principles of tikkun olam.
In the workshop we learned from this cultural pathfinder about many facets of running a small press, including working with authors, illustrators and designers and book marketing on a micro scale.