Valerie St John
Co Executive Editor and Accounting
Valerie takes care of
Asia St John
Co Executive Editor and Designer
One of our awesome Editors
Dave St.John, Founding Editor of Elderberry Press
Perhaps you've wondered... is there an editor who both knows good writing when he reads it, and enjoys reading and responding to new writers? There sure is.
Often, writers write in a vacuum. As a writer myself, I know how hard it is to be read by anyone who recognizes good writing when they see it, and can give advice on how to improve. That's why I take my work as a sacred trust, guiding writers toward a goal they may not be able to see, so close are they to their work. Why do I read new authors from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Canada, Croatia, England, Thailand, Scotland and across the U.S. without charging for my time? Two reasons: One, it's my life's work. And two, I enjoy it. If you are looking for an editor who both reads his submissions and personally responds to writers with specific reactions and recommendations for improvement, you have found him.
My name is David St.John, but I write under the name D.W.St.John. In my half century of life I've striven to perfect my writing craft, and I'm still learning, still making mistakes, still getting better I hope. In my checkered past I've taught middle and high school for a dozen years and (arguably) escaped with my sanity.
I've studied writing on a post grad level, I've taught writing both to children and adults at university writing seminars, I've studied lit at The University of Wales, written, produced and directed a university play. I have five books of my own which have been read by over 150,000 readers, reviewed by PW, NPR, Booklist and, most importantly, by hundreds of readers.
What you will find is that my books (and our authors' books) are in libraries and E-book readers across the nation... and (most importantly) in readers' hands. That, after all, is where they belong. As to whether I'm qualified to judge others' work, that you will have to decide for yourself. Ask for one of my books in your public library or download an E-book sample and see what you think.
If you like what you read on our site, I hope to speak with you soon. I'd enjoy reading your manuscript.
(1956 - 2014)
Many young (and not so young) writers contact me regarding publishing their book or stories or poetry. If you're a writer, and are willing to hear the truth, you might want to take a look at this before you write me. After you do, if you would still like me to take a quick look and give you my reaction, I'm willing to do that, but don't expect to hear that it's marvelous and that you're a genius. Mozarts are rare. For the rest of us, genius is nothing more than sweat and tears and time and effort, and most young writers haven't learned that yet. If you've read a hundred plus books on writing, if you've written a million words to perfect your craft, if you've revised your work a dozen times, read it aloud and really listened to what you've written, then it might be worth reading. If not, you've got some more work to do. Hard? You bet it is. What on earth gave you the idea writing well would be easy? My purpose here, by the way, is not to discourage, but to open up your perspective just a bit, and maybe just give you a nudge in the right direction. Am I succeeding? You decide. I'd like to share a few letters I received recently:
You are wrong about me not listening to you. I am going to take your advice. And just live. My parents keep telling me to go for it but they are just being supportive. I will just be a kid and I will of coarse still write and continue to read but for now I will just write for me. For my enjoyment and for the pleasure of getting my thoughts down on paper. I so appreciate your advice and I will never forget it this email will be saved, printed, and put in my locker and on my wall. I am so glad that someone finally gave me some advice that was true and not emotionally influenced I thank you again and hope that later in live you can be the one to read my stuff if I do become a writer.
My friend Marc and I were talking about the advice you gave me. And he also is a writer but he said that it was really great to see someone who wanted to give young kids encouragement and at the same time bring them back down to reality. He was thinking about getting his book published also but when he heard what you had said he decided to wait and like you said be just be a kid. So you actually helped two kids and that others will feel the same way I did when I read your email and that was that someone was actually cool enough to tell us the truth and be honest. Once again I really appreciate your words. Please continue to help others god bless and take care. Dave, Wow, your advice really made me think. My parents are the ones who are pushing this for me, and I think their influence might have brainwashed me. I don't ever want to give up writing, but I think for now, I'm just going to enjoy being a kid.
Now my turn:
Let me begin by saying: If you enjoy writing, do. If you enjoy reading it to your friends, do. But I've published 4 books of my own and hundreds of books written by others, and I'll share a secret with you: There is no magic to publishing. Really.
Publishing is just this: Printing paper and selling it. That's all. Like making and selling fly swatters, toilet seats or apple pies. Nothing noble about it. Nothing magical. Just peddling books. If you write, write for the love of the world and the love of words, but not for the approval of the reader. Write, if you must, what is true, without a thought for what your reader will like. And if you want to get better at writing, read. You see, fiction (and poetry) should make the reader feel something. It should be a slap in the face, a glass of cold water down the neck, a tickle of a feather on nose. It's not just words. It's got to be more. Hard? It sure is. Doing anything well is. And publishing a book should not make anyone proud. It means nothing.
Thousands of bad writers publish their books every year. (Some sell millions of copies, too, but they are still bad writers.) Now there's a secret: Not all books published are good. Most are not worth opening. So, have I confused you? Excellent. Confusion is a sign of thought, of reconsideration, and reconsidering your goal of being a writer is something you should do. A professor once gave me some good advice. I asked her what I should study if I wanted to be a good writer and she said this: "Study something other than writing: Science, math, history---anything but literature."
Never have I had such good advice. Study, learn, watch, listen, learn---from everybody you meet, from everything you see. Learn a profession you love and work hard at it. Let life be your classroom. And some day, when you have lived, when you have learned enough, felt enough, seen enough, you may write what will make someone laugh or cry.
If this sounds to you much like the Yorkshire man’s edict to his large family that he who eats the most pudding gets the most beef, that's because it is. Once you have a profession you love you'll smile at your lost dreams of becoming a writer. (And it's never too late, you know. Many writers have bloomed in their dotage. So may you.) My own writing stank at 17---and at 37 for that matter. (Will the smart aleck out there shouting that it still does at 57, please sit down and shut up?)
They say you must write a million words before what you write is worth reading. That's right as far as it goes, but many will never write anything worth reading no matter how many words they write. That's just my opinion, of course. Want verification? Glance at the bestseller rack.
Think about the statement: "I'm a writer". You can say you're a potter or a welder and no one thinks anything of it, but you say you're a writer and they snicker to themselves, "ah, this one thinks he can write!" Because, you see, in the public mind only famous dead people and famous bestselling writers can write. And that's what you want for your life?
Why do you want to be published? Of course it's a silly question, I know that, but I ask anyway. You imagine that being published will mean that you are good. It will mean that you have something to say, that you are smart, and talented, and worthy of respect. Sure you do. I know you want that, because everybody wants that. I do. You do. Your mom does. So does everyone. I want exactly the same thing-----and that's after publishing 4 of my own books and being reviewed and sold and read by thousands of people. The thing is, though, being published doesn't do that for you unless you're one in a hundred million who gets lucky.
For the rest of us, things don't quite turn out as planned. If people don't see your book on the shelves of the library or store they think you're not a real writer. They think you're just a nut who pretends to be a real writer. It's true. Do certain authors transcend this prejudice? Sure, but it takes a very special person to do that. You may be one. I am not. For most of us getting published is easy: you pay money and you get published. It's like buying a car. You pay. No mystery. No honor. No glory. Just handing money and your baby to some slave trader and walking away, that 's all. No one will care about the blood, the sweat or the tears that went into making your book. To them it 's money, that's all, a product. This is what I found out when shopping for a printer for my first book. It was a hard lesson. But you still want it, don't you. Okay then. What to do?
That's easy. Read. Read books on real things. How to write. Biographies of writers and anybody else that interests you. Read what you like, but not too much fiction. Read some, preferably by good writers like London and Kipling, but only read what you enjoy. That's important. If a writer doesn't speak to you, toss him away. No matter his reputation or fame or wealth. Never read because you think you should. If you don't enjoy a book, learn from it, then it's not for you. Struggling through accomplishes nothing.
I have a question for you: Why are you writing a book? You know nothing to write about. That's not an insult---merely fact. Writing demands maturity, experience, knowledge. Wait twenty years and then, if you have time, write a book. In the mean time, learn---about other things. Learn to do things. Learn about people, about life. Read nonfiction. Read history books. Not the boring ones---the ones you can't put down. There are some...not many, but some. And read books on how to write. Read 100 of them and then read some more. And if they bore you toss them away. Others won't. Trust yourself. You are the best judge of whether or not a book has something to say to you. You are the only judge. My second question is: Why are you writing when you should be doing? Get out of your room and live. Talk, work, get a job, hang out, read, play, fish, swim---live!
You should be busy in the real world, not hiding from it. Be with people. Study them. They will teach you much, and what they teach you will use all your life, whatever you do. But right now you are a pump on a dry well. You have nothing yet to give. This is why your poetry is only words, your scenes merely motion, your characters cardboard. It's okay. Later you may. But right now, give up the pretensions of being a writer slash poet slash whatever and for goodness sake, just be a kid, be a girl, be a boy, and have some fun. I know you will ignore this advice. I would have, too. But that doesn't mean it's not right. I know. I've spent thousands of hours writing lousy books. I just burned my first one last night. Those were hours wasted. Lost forever. You, kiddo, will be a teenager only once. If you waste your youth scribbling instead of living, you will regret it---often and forever.
Want to know a secret? One it took me 40 years to learn? You are a good person, a decent, good, smart young person who is worthy. Now. As is. Being you is enough. Just you. Not: you the writer/poet/published author. Just you, the decent, smart, caring, humane young person. Try it. Do as I have and shrug out of the bonds of being a writer just as you would an old, tattered, heavy, smelly jacket, and take a few steps---as you. If people ask, tell them you gave it up. You're too busy just now. Maybe later. You might like it. I do. I know it doesn't seem like it now, but you will soon find out just how short your time here is this turn of the wheel. Use it. Every unforgiving minute of it. Use it. Live. Whatever you imagine you will gain by writing, let me tell you, you will most likely not. Respect? Forget it. Money? Ha! No way. You'd have a better chance joining the legions in their scrabble to become a movie star. And you know what their chances are. But don't give up writing! Don't you dare. Write on. By all means, write letters. Write letters which are more than scribbled trash. Write well. Learn to paint, to sculpt with words, and write for someone to read.
Learn to have the patience to revise. Read your work aloud and cut and cut again. Then reread and cut again. Like Disraeli said: "I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I didn't have time to make it shorter." Take the time to make your writing distilled, concentrated, powerful. Writing ability is power. It will open many doors for you. You will use it in whatever you do. It will get you what you want if used wisely. So, you see, if you choose to perfect your writing craft, even if later you choose to set aside your aspirations to be a writer, not an iota of effort will be wasted. But toss off the yoke of being a writer and you will find yourself walking lighter on your feet. You will be free. Of course you won't listen. At your age I did not, could not, would not listen either. I wish you all the luck in the world.
Post Script: I'd like to finish up with this letter from a college student convinced he should quit college to sweep floors at a publishing house in order to be published:
Dear Mr. St.John,
You most likely do not remember me, but my name is Jesse Oakes. I wrote to you a few years ago concerning my desire to enter the publishing world in order to give my writing a better chance at success--at the time I was still in school. I studied to be a biochemist and have a number of publications for my research, and, thanks to your advice, I'm still in biochemistry now instead of sweeping floors at a publication house. I do DNA research for medical diagnostics that make transplantation and grafts possible. Anyway, I'm writing to you today to reinitiate contact. Even though I never went into the working literary world, I've still made a constant effort towards making my writing successful, and will continue to do so.
Sometimes it feels like we're each of us alone, that we can't really reach anyone else, but sometimes maybe we do. All we can do is try.
Be well all,
Publishing is evolving. Shouldn't your book evolve with it? It only makes sense.
Elderberry Press accepts and reads submissions by new authors (no agent required), professionally proofreads, designs, publishes, promotes, distributes and pays royalties on books in print and ebook versions worldwide. Yes, you can publish your book even if you're a new author. Yes, you can be read by an editor, published by a reputable, selective book publisher and be read by tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Elderberry prints on demand (POD) and makes your book available in ebook version across the web.
Elderberry print and ebooks are available from your favorite bookseller
Elderberry Press, Inc. donates books to libraries and charitable organizations.© Elderberry Press, Inc.