Here’s a sentence I never imagined saying: “I’m having dinner with my publisher.” It seemed like a line I’d heard in a movie, but never expected to utter myself. But I did—or more like shouted it from rooftops, wrote it in emails, and posted it on Facebook when my publisher, Leslie Browning, invited me to dinner earlier this month.
In 2011, Leslie founded Homebound Publications, a small (but growing) independent press based in Connecticut. I first learned of Homebound through Poets & Writers Magazine’s database of small presses when I was searching for a home for my memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance. The press’s tagline made me smile:
An award-winning independent publisher ensuring the mainstream isn’t the only stream.
“It is our intention at Homebound Publications to preserve contemplative storytelling.”
prompted me to click on the link to Homebound’s website and continue reading.
Evidently I wasn’t the only visitor who wondered what the press means by “contemplative literature.” It’s explained in the company’s philosophy:
“In this throwaway-culture where we buy a book in the supermarket, read it over the weekend, and then toss it, we publish books that you will have on your nightstand for a few years and return to again and again—books that nourish your mind and soul.”
I started to feel prickles of excitement.
One of the strongest characteristics of my MFA program at Whidbey Writers Workshop was the emphasis on the profession of writing. Homebound’s view on the business of publishing was right in line with mine:
“So often in this age of commerce, entertainment supersedes growth; books of lesser integrity but higher marketability are chosen over those with much-needed truth but smaller audience. Here at Homebound Publications, we focus on the quality of the truth and insight present within a project before any other considerations.”
Discovering that the press’s books are printed on paper certified by forest sustainability programs, and it donates 1% of its annual net profits to charity, was the chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream.
Homebound Publications justifiably claims it’s a small press with big ideas. It publishes between fifteen to twenty books each year and has almost seventy-five titles distributed worldwide. Over the years, its authors have received dozens of awards including: Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, Nautilus Book Awards, Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, and Saltire Literary Awards.
I didn’t lose any time checking out Homebound’s Submission Guidelines and soon sent the information and manuscript requested. That was in May 2015. I learned of the press’s desire to publish my memoir a couple of months later and soon after that, I had my first “meeting” with Leslie by phone. A month later, I signed a contract with the press with a publication date of Sept. 2017. Since then, Leslie and I have communicated regularly via email, a private Facebook page for authors, and Basecamp (an online project management tool). As promised in the contract, she’s consulted with me about important decisions (such as front and back cover design and interior design) and assisted in marketing and promotion.
Before our dinner, I’d gotten to know a good bit about Leslie through our ongoing virtual conversations and by reading her poems and novel. A proud native of New England, Leslie grew up in the small fishing village of Stonington, Connecticut. In her writing, she explores the confluence of the natural landscape and the interior landscape; her longtime study of philosophy, nature, and art is evident in the themes she explores through poetry and fiction.
In 2010, Leslie debuted with a three-title contemplative poetry series: Ruminations at Twilight, Oak Wise, and Barren Plain (here’s a sample of one of her poems, “Where the Story Left Off.”) Her most recent book, The Castoff Children, is a page-turning novel set in the wintry streets of 1850s Boston. A group of orphaned children struggles for survival in this cold world, finding their way together, with friendship, perseverance, and courage.
Leslie’s dedication to authors and readers is also evident in her service on the Board of Directors for both The Arts Café Mystic (a poetic arts venue in Mystic, CT) and Independent Book Publishers Association. And a milestone accomplishment for the press is Leslie’s recent agreement with Midpoint Trade Books to provide national distribution for all Homebound titles (you can see them all, including forthcoming books, in their 2017 catalog).
I won’t deny that I loved being “wined and dined” by my publisher at Imperial Restaurant. But the best part was spending time with someone I now consider a friend.