2018-2019 Annual Contest Winners

The following works will be published in the 2019 issue of The Chestatee Review, available in April.

Poetry | Judged by Jessica Fjeld

1st: Untitled by Gage Walker 

2nd: “Sugar plum” by Elizabeth Devine 

3rd: “a distant memory” by Adream Thompson 


Short Story | Judged by Kevin Welch

1st: “Flesh Detectors” by Brianna Schantz 

2nd: “The Tie Between Our Worlds” by Ronna Mcallister 

3rd: “Desolate” by Taylor Nix  


One-Act Play | Judged by Brent Griffin

1st: “Death with Dignity” by Jacob Patton 

2nd: “Give Me Your Hand” by Gregory Hirsch 

3rd: “Search for Love” by Gregory Hirsch  


Creative Nonfiction | Judged by Phillip Quinn Morris

1st: “Mother” by Kondwani Kapembwa 

2nd: “Filled with Love” by Elizabeth Devine 

3rd: “An Open Letter to Lineman” by Tiffany Montgomery 


Formal Essay | Judged by Elizabeth Fields

1st: “William Shakespeare’s Day Off—The Dying Art of the Aside” by Nathan Moore 

2nd: “Children of the 6th Mass Extinction” by Elizabeth Devine 

3rd: “Intersecting Industrialization, Morality, Religion, and Policy in ‘The Cry of the Children’” by Teylor Jo Parks 


Visual Art Judged by Victoria Cooke

1st: “Self Portrait” by Alexis Walls 

2nd: “Secretion” by Lauren Bradshaw 

3rd: “Malone” by Sydney Gregg 


Other visual artists that will be published: 

“Teaset” by Dustin Hogan 

“The Explorers” by Joseph Taylor 

“Wonder” by Charles Byers 

“4.23 seconds” by Talia Lopez 

“Work 2” by Gage Walker 

“Coil Vase” by Cody Thomas 

“Domestic Massacre” by Zoey Fleck 

“Wordsmith #2” by Joshua D. Williams 

“Reborn” by Laura Fazio 

“Grounded” by Alexis Walls 

“Exposed” by Caleb Buckler 

“SOAR” by Christina Packard 

“A Dragon’s Lunch” by Mariana Magana


Submit to The Chestatee Review’s 2019 Valentine’s Writing Contest

Deadline: Midnight on Friday, February 1, 2019.

Guidelines: Submit up to 3 poems or 2000 words of fiction incorporating the theme of love and/or romance.

To submit: Email submissions as a Word document to chestatee.review@ung.edu with the subject line #ValentinesWritingContest.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place submissions will be published in the 2019 issue of The Chestatee Review, available in April.

Winning submissions will also be read at the Valentine’s Open Mic on the Dahlonega, Cumming, and Gainesville campuses.

Happy writing!

Read Gage Walker’s “Sweet Little Girls in Pastel Colored Headbands,” 1st Place Winner of the 2018 Gothic Writing Contest

TCRSweetLittleGirlsImage“Sweet Little Girls in Pastel Colored Headbands”

By Gage Walker

but you had a greasy little ponytail.
It was dirty blonde, you were clean

sad, blue.

you made me feel a medicated sadness.
It was being pumped into my brain

Jell-o, or pudding.

I wanna keep you in here with me
warm, and spoon feed you

Cream of Wheat

and whisper, just hot air. I’d fill you up with
secrets, love, like a hot air balloon.

we live to die

and make lives so sweet-(or atleast try to)-
so we won’t have to face the rotten truth;

our sins                          but

If it’s enough to fill us with joy (temporary)
If we can kill it with our hands, we’ll call it


and pray that it dies
quietly in our sleep

Read Claire Harman’s “On His Lonesome,” 2nd Place Winner of the 2018 Gothic Writing Contest

TCROnHisLonesomeImage“On His Lonesome”

By Claire Harman


On his lonesome,

A scarecrow stands—

Back field blues, dotted with withering cornflower,

Bachelor’s buttons

Sewn tight between flannel, under pin-stuck glower,

Mocking crow’s feet

Sidled on shoulders; on fabric creased and worn,

Wrought stiff and still,

Crucified plainly for crimes yet questioned, stitched to scorn,

Frayed, frocked, flocked, feared,

What ugly imitation his visage creates!

Until bonds snap,

And with duty relieved, he contorts off his stake,

Left to wander—

On his lonesome.

Read Claire Harman’s “Gallows Bird,” 3rd Place Winner of the 2018 Gothic Writing Contest

GallowsBird“Gallows Bird”

By Claire Harman


A hallowed fiend is he, the bird atop the sill,

A fickle muse, from somewhere over distant rill.

Hear! Nevermore, the raven calls, shrill voice cawing,

He taps his beak in jest, his twisted feet still clawing.


A poet’s demon, the bird with human cry,

A poet’s omen, casts wicked gaze and smile wry.

Look! Furthermore, the raven preens on night so dreary,

He cants his head, peering in on man struck weary.


A murder past, the bird, alone, beneath the roof,

A murder planned, beheld, befitting of the noose.

Heed! Evermore, the raven, cursed with message bleak,

He dances, manic, in stark madness he is pleased.


“A writer, mad, you are; how long will you rave?

Pinned by pen, you are; from your desk until your grave!”


“Hang me if you will, but only I,

The crook,

The rook,

Will last to see the day!”

Story Structure For Nanos

If you’re doing NaNoWroMo, and you’re looking for a quick and dirty means of outlining that will help you avoid tripping over your own feet this month, this here post can help! Even though the month has already begun, I think a little time spent planning out your story’s skeleton can’t steer you wrong, no matter where you are in your process.

The problem I have found with structural guides for writing a novel is that they all use different terminology to describe what basic type of action should be written at each major point in the plot, which can get confusing. Also, there are lots of different ideas about how to break up the structure. Like, should I do three acts? Or four? And why does this Freytag thingy look so unlike any novel’s structure that I have ever read?

There are ways to look at all–or most of these structural guides that will bring them into perspective so that you can see how they are all basically trying to map out the same things. For example, the three-act structure that many advice columns use as an example of how to lay out a basic, classic plot progression are usually derived from the theater, and they happen to have a very long second act in their middle. In fact, that second act makes up exactly the equivalent of two acts if you were to divide your novel into four equal parts, with the mid-point in the center serving exactly the same purpose as the mid-point in a four-act structure.

You’ll notice, in the graphic below, that traditional story structure is used and referenced so often that you don’t even need to worry about whether to use three or four acts. The whole thing has been broken down into percentages, and that is very helpful to someone who is trying to establish a beat and timing for an entire novel over the course of a single month. So really, regardless of whether you’re getting your advice from someone who swears by the three- or four-act structure, what you’re looking at in either case is fundamentally the same thing, and both can be used interchangeably to establish your milestones. As far as Freytag’s Pyramid is concerned…you should probably just ignore that one for now. Maybe study it later if you are fascinated by the history of structure.

The terminology used in structural guides can also be a problem for a writer in a hurry. For example, a single point that is generally agreed to occur at the beginning of the second act has been called: Fun & Games, Belly of the Whale, Tests Allies & Enemies, Road of Trials, and The Special World. It is worth reading on why this one single plot point has been described in so many odd and seemingly disparate ways. Each term represents a different style, or era, or perspective on story. However, if you’re at the point where you basically get the gist of what these terms mean and you just want to know where in the story it is all generally supposed to occur so you can build yourself a little milestone map, the graphic in this post can help you with that!

The graphic comes from the blog of a writer named Ingrid Sundberg, and if you’re looking for some explanations of all the odd names for traditional plot points, or if you would like to see some clear and basic explanations of the non-traditional types of plot arch, I’d suggest reading a string of posts she has written on the topic. They’re extremely helpful if you’re working out structure on the fly, or if you’ve had to pause your word count to reevaluate where your story is heading. Go see what Ingrid Sundberg has to say about plot structure.

chestatee review nanowrimo plot structure outlining ingrid sundberg

Story Crafting Methods From Orson Scott Card: The M.I.C.E. Quotient

Regardless of whether Orson Card is one of your favorite writers (or human beings), he had a very tidy idea about the nature of stories and how to build them. This idea comes from Card’s books, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Characters and Viewpoint.

Enter, The M.I.C.E. Quotient: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event.

Card’s hypothesis is that every story is, at its fundament, made up of these four elements, and that at different moments within a story, or between different genres, any one of those elements may be a dominant force. In short stories it’s common to have only one element in the forefront, whereas in novels all four have their place, and are constantly pushing and pulling against one another throughout the course of the narrative.

To simplify — the longer your story is, the more plot threads it will have, and the more of these four elements it will likely have room to focus on. So, you can judge how to apply Card’s logic when you’re writing any one of the generally accepted lengths of story:

Flash fiction (50 to 1,500 words)
Short Stories (3,500 to 7,500 [or 10,000, depending on who you ask] words)
Novellettes (7,500 to 17,000 words)
Novellas (17,000 to 40,000 words)
Novels (40,000+ words)

The whole idea behind MICE is that how you begin a story will (ideally) be mirrored by how you end it. So if you begin by focusing on one of these elements, be it milieu, idea, character, or event, Card believes (believed? Is he still alive? I don’t care enough to Google it) –Card believes(d) that you should aim for ending your story by focusing on the same element as that which it began with. So let’s take a moment to understand what these elements are.


Basically, the milieu of a story is what kind of world it takes place in. It seems like maybe the M in “milieu” sounded better to Card in the acronym than an S did, because the milieu story is really about “setting”. A milieu-focused story begins with the emphasis on where your characters are, and ends on a note of deeper understanding of the place. Examples of milieu stories are Alice in Wonderland (starts when she enters Wonderland and ends when she comes out the other side) and Gulliver’s Travels (also begins with the main character’s entrance into the setting and ends when he finds his way home).


Idea stories begin with a question. For example: Why is there a body on the floor? Where is the treasure? What do I have to do to get a drink around here? This type of story should probably only end after the dominant question has been answered. (Mr. Hollingsworth killed this person in the library with the candlestick. The treasure was hidden in a cave in the Black Mountains. To get a drink around here, I simply had to wait patiently and say please and thank you and tip. You get it.) Arguably, there’s often little distinction between the idea story and the event story–or any of the other types for that matter. Shouldn’t every tale begin with at least some event happening? Well, with idea-focused stories, although things are happening, the main thing that the writer takes issue with is not so much the result of one big occurrence and the resultant fallout like the event-focused story, but rather with what decision a character made to bring that event about, and why they made it.


Character stories begin with someone who is dissatisfied with their life or some aspect thereof, and only end once that character has managed to change their circumstances, or has otherwise resigned themselves to things staying the same. One would think the second option has never been published because it sounds utterly boring and sad. But have you seen the film, The Remains of the Day? This is a character story where the characters’ dissatisfaction builds, and then…remains. It is sad, yes, and many would probably argue that it’s boring too, but still, it manages to be a great story. Honestly, that’s partly because Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson can do no wrong, but if their character roles hadn’t been written as compellingly as they were, and if the characters’ inner turmoil and quiet drama had not been the most committed-to focal point of the film, there really wouldn’t have been much of a story there at all. It would have been just some people in a house giving one another weird looks over the dinner table. It would have been just “a bunch of stuff that happened.” If you’ve got a story that can’t stand steady on its own without your focus being mostly on the inner experience of its characters, then you’ve got yourself a character-focused story, for sure.


Event stories begin with some cataclysmic event that affects everyone in it somehow. This should bring to mind every natural disaster film ever made, or pretty much any disaster movie ever devised, from shipwreck stories like The Poseidon Adventure to even romcoms that begin with somebody’s girlfriend breaking up with them or a man leaving his bride at the altar. The Event is a catalyst that causes a whole mess of problems, and then the end must somehow resolve that event, even if resolving it only means a temporary fix or a solution that ends up creating a new problem of some kind, or that everyone dies.

So, How Is This Useful?

All of these distinctions may seem somewhat arbitrary, but they can be extremely helpful in simplifying how you think of your work. They can be used to quantify what readers expect from certain genres, and they can also be used to help you divide up your chapters in a logical way, with each chapter taking a different type of focus on your characters’ journey. You can combine the MICE quotient with any traditional structure in this way to help you keep things interesting.

The most helpful use for MICE may be that it helps you to visualize how you’d like to start and end your story. Having some cohesive means to align your beginning and ending makes a story feel more whole and satisfying. It also doesn’t hurt that knowing which of the four aspects you’d like to be your most dominant can help you determine what mood and tone you want to go for, what attitude, and what POV.

To learn more about this and to get turned on to a great writing podcast, visit Writing Excuses.com and listen to some funny and successful genre authors tell it.

Here’s a good little tidbit to keep in your pocket from Dan Wells, who contributes to the podcast: If you’re using the MICE Quotient, you know that your beginning needs to mirror your ending in some way. So you can think of the mid-point of your story as the main tipping point of change between the state your main character begins the story in, and the state they end it in, and then take a look at MICE to figure out what part of the quotient these states fit into.

Dan uses The Tell-Tale Heart as a great example of this. He says that the final event of the story — the main character being arrested for murder — is not the true end-point of change for that character. That arrest is an Event. If this story were mainly an event-focused one, the biggest change in the character’s life would be his ending up murdering someone and going to jail for the rest of his life. But, this is not a story about a man going from a state of freedom to incarceration. It is the story of how and why this happened, as a result of some creepy changes the Character goes through.

This character is a guy (or woman??) who spans the story by going from a state of sanity to utter insanity. That is what the whole tale is about. Even in the opening lines, the reader is shown this: “Can you not see that I have full control of my mind? Is it not clear that I am not mad?” If you’re having trouble with the middle of a story, as so many writers do, think on what the main mid-point in The Tell-Tale Heart is, and how it marks a tipping point for the character from sanity into madness. That ought to simplify things if your mind starts feeling soggy every time you think about how to navigate the center of your story. Consider what MICE element your story focuses on most, determine the beginning state and end-state of that element, and then you might see your middle go from being a schlog to something exciting and full of possibility, as it is only the most crucial state of change between what you now understand to be the beginning and ending of your milieu, idea, character, or event. 🙂

Novel Writing Wisdom: The Creative Penn podcast wants to help you learn how to write

Writing podcasts are a wonderful resource for writers, published and unpublished alike. No matter what you’re into–be it poetry, literary fiction, short stories, memoir, whatever–there is a podcast for you out there somewhere. Today, I’m sharing some notes I have taken from Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast. Joanna has professionals from the publishing and writing industries sit down with her every week, and the knowledge they impart is usually very specific and highly useful. 

These notes come from Joanna Penn’s interviews with novelists Rebecca Cantrell (episode #326) and Rachel Aaron (episode #329). They both have really interesting and fun blogs, so check those out by just clicking on their names.

Keep in mind as you read these points that there is no one way to go about writing that is always best, or always best for you personally. The opinions in this post are those of Rebecca Cantrell, Rachel Aaron, and Joanna Penn.

On The Importance of Characters and How to Use Them

  • Most of figuring out what to write or how to write it is only a matter of figuring out character personalities and motivations.
  • Your character arch ties into the story by being the one thing that makes it a story rather than “a bunch of stuff that happened”.
  • Every scene is the result of something that a character did, or of a decision they made: that makes a character driven story. That makes it gripping and keeps the reader going, and you do not want to let the reader rest; you want to keep them hanging on from page to page by focusing on your characters.

Plotting and Story Structure

  • One method that keeps a story interesting and character driven is for your characters to begin the story with some mistaken or negative assumption which they have internalized as a result of their previous lives. There would come a point in the story where that assumption will be standing in the way of them getting what they want (reaching their most important goal). The character(s) must realize, through the plot events, that their assumptions were mistaken. This is the classic part of the story where they change internally and learn to be better people, thus enabling them to reach their goals.
  • It is tempting to come up with some cool stuff that you want to happen in a story then try to find some way to make that fit into a coherent structure after the fact. Your story probably won’t come from within the characters if you do that, it will all be external, and thus, superficial. Best to start with who they are and why they are that way, always.
  • Plotting: you should know where you’re going before you start writing. Have some concrete idea of how the story will end, why it will end that way, and what shape your character will be in when they get to the end. Ask yourself first: where am I going? Then once you get that, ask: how did I get there?
  • In series: there should be some overarching problem that your story must work towards remedying, so that there is one umet goal through each book until the end of series. It should be a situation that remains a threat or problem throughout the series, and the second book is where you should think about really starting to develop it. This makes your installments less meandering and more cohesive.
  • Like sketching out a drawing before you paint the big picture: your first draft can be extremely simple and imperfect, and yet still help you immensely as you write the second draft. If your scenes read something like this: “Joe went to the market and Mandy is going to be mad cuz he didn’t get her grocery list…,” then you will likely finish more quickly than if you had obsessed over all the moving parts involved in writing a story. Your second draft will fly out after writing and reviewing the pertinent details in this manner, and as you draft you’ll have more headspace available for things like language, form, and technique.
  • Drafting fast: your stamina, speed, and skill will grow with experience, and experience could come faster if you do fast first drafts.
  • Write fast, publish slow: call it a quality check. Quality means making as many edits as are needed.

Publishing and Marketing Your Book

  • If you’re an author and you’ve got multiple books on the market, some things will hit with your audience and others will lay quiet. Once one of your better selling books gets more than a few hundred reviews, or even fifty, begin focusing on your non-starters and market them differently. You can rewrite the synopses or product pages, market to different demographics, put a better cover on it, etc.
  • Experiment with a lot of different types of marketing and discover your own ideal combination of things that you do not hate doing. Look at the lives of successful authors to determine what kind of life you want. Find someone who lives the way you’d like to, then study what they do and how they interact with audiences.
  • Mailing list dos and don’ts from Rebecca Cantrell:
    -Try only sending out an email when you have a new book out, and let those who sign up know that this is the only time you will email them.
    -If you stick to this (and you should stick to your promises with email lists) people will probably remain interested enough in your emails to actually open them, as though they are little presents that only come once in a while.
    -If you write something just for the subscribers, and you don’t fatigue them with emails, they will be excited about what you do for them and they will talk about it, which is key. It feels exclusive to them when you operate this way. If you give them, and only them, whole short stories about the most popular characters from your writing (for example), then your actual, hardcore fans will really appreciate it. Promise them something you can deliver, then deliver it.

Successful Self-Publishers and the Lazy Writer Stereotype

Image Credit: Entrepeneur.com

Self-publishing has gained popularity for many reasons. It’s exciting. It puts nearly full control (and responsibility) into the hands of authors. And the royalty rate is about 70%, with a few caveats. That can be a pretty percentage compared to the usual rates for the traditionally published. Yet, another thing that drives the self-publishing craze is that writers and scam artists alike are drawn in by catchy headlines and book titles that scream, “I made a million dollars in two hours by publishing my own book, and you can too!!”

If someone is just dying to tell the world how making a fortune can be so easy, most of us have the good sense to realize that they’re only trying to make things easier on Number 1: themselves. Still, scammy books like that sell by the crate because the fantasy they offer is undeniably appealing, regardless of how deeply we understand that nothing worth having is free.

Finding professional success takes effort, skill, and lots of persistence, and doing it all by your lonesome takes even more of all that. Just ask a successful self-published novelist.

I mean, don’t ask any famous “Billionaire Romance” authors who have practically Forrest Gumped their way into a bottomless pile of cash. Those people most likely got lucky, pure and simple. But almost any other self-supporting, fulltime author will do, because most self-pub writers will never see that unlikely level of good fortune. The authors featured in this post have worked hard to put themselves in the way of luck, and their results have been encouraging.

Rachel Abbott: From the article “14 Hour Days, Marketing and Dealing with Snobbery: my life as a self-published bestseller”

rachel abbott

Rachel Abbott has sold over 2 million books throughout her career, and yet, she has only written six novels, and I think it’s safe to assume you’ve never heard of her. Back in 2011, after Rachel couldn’t find an agent who was interested in representing her first novel, she turned to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing website.

She knew that her work wasn’t yet good enough to win a contract, but she wanted the experience and feedback that a publishing author receives, and she wanted to live the life of a writer. However, when she began her self-publishing endeavor, she quickly realized that the life of a writer wouldn’t be quite as glamorous as she had imagined. “My initial vision of days spent doing nothing other than plotting and writing were way off the mark.” 

When Rachel published her 2011 novel, Only the Innocent, she was working 14 hour days, 7 days a week just to give her work a proper chance at success in a crowded marketplace. For three months, she says, “not a word of a novel was written.”

Two million books later, not much has changed about Rachel’s weekly work schedule. She is still busy keeping up with spreadsheets full of a million sales data points, corresponding with design and editing specialists, staying engaged with her readers, and so many other things that an independent publisher cannot afford to ignore.

“Self-publishing isn’t for everybody,” she says. “There are some overwhelming decisions that have to be made: who should design the dust jacket? Who should edit? Which title is the right title?” Furthermore, there is the question of how much an author should pay up front to have all of this done.

Nonetheless, Rachel plans to continue her current profession and her current workload well into the future. “In the end…it’s been an amazing experience, and not one that I could possibly regret.”

Mark Dawson: From the article “Amazon Pays $450,000 a Year to this Self-Published Writer”

Mark Dawson

Again, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of this author, but as the headline above states, Mark Dawson does okay. Mark had published a title with a traditional publisher in 2000, but it turned out to be a major flop, because, as Mark says, the publishing house he had signed with wasn’t able to publicize it hardly at all. Sales were so bad, and Mark was so ambitious, that he would visit bookstores where he’d sneak his book off the shelves and place it somewhere more visible in the store.

The idea of self-publishing was fairly new when Mark took the initiative and released his second book, The Black Mile, on Amazon. At first, sales were abysmal. He was close to giving up. Then, one day, he realized that authors could give books away for free on Amazon as a promotional tool. Imagine how this completely unknown author felt when he realized that, over the course of a single weekend, his book had sold more than 50,000 copies.

People liked his work, a lot–they just hadn’t noticed it before among the thousands of other titles available on Amazon and elsewhere. Nobody had told them that Mark Dawson the author existed, and nobody had yet demonstrated that his series could be a good use of readers’ time.

“It was a wasted opportunity,” Dawson says of his freebie strategy, “But it did give me a kick up the arse and proved to me that this is legitimate and that I should write a new book, so I did.”

What carried Mark into his current tax bracket was his vigilance with marketing his work and making real connections with readers and other writers. Since that first massive free sale, he has gone on to conduct many writing and publishing seminars, and he sticks to traditional strategies as well, like approaching bloggers with requests to review his books. He also makes certain to respond to all messages from his readers and keep them in the loop with whatever he’s doing. You could say Dawson is a fulltime writer/publisher/publicist.

Through the process of all this, he has been steadily building an email list that now consists of about 15,000 readers who are willing to engage with him in some way. It is the loyal network he has built, his constant contact with fans, and his heavy, $350 per day use of Facebook advertising that now keep Dawson cozy at the top of the heap. 

Polly Courtney: From the article “Why One Author Chose Self-Publishing Over Harper Collins”

Courtney Polly

Many authors who self-pub are called “hybrid publishers”. They offer a mix of some books that were traditionally published and also a few that they DIY’ed. According to Hugh Howey and his associates over at AuthorEarnings.com, hybrids are the writers who bring in the most income overall.

With the marketing clout and high-quality editing and packaging offered by traditional publishers (and not to mention the wide-open channels for bookstore stocking) these authors get better exposure than most indie publishers. Yet they also get that self-pub, high-percentage payday.

Polly Courtney began her life as a published author at Harper Collins, one of the “Big 5” largest publishing houses in the world. Unlike Mark Dawson who was mentioned above, Courtney found that the effort her publisher put forth to market her work was tireless and valiant. The result was that sales for her first two books, It’s a Man’s World and The Fame Factor, weren’t half bad. Some would say that, regardless of the drawbacks of her traditional publishing experiences, Courtney should have just smiled and gone along with whatever Harper Collins was gracious enough to do for her.

But Courtney was less than thrilled with her publisher.

Harper Collins slapped covers on her books that, while very handsome and statistically likely to sell, did nothing to say, “This is a Polly Courtney book.” Her covers had nothing in common with one another, and had no author-specific branding whatsoever. The cover images said, “These are Harper Collins books,” and radiated the impression that each novel fit neatly into a category of Harper Collins’ usual offerings–for women. Of course, that’s business. A publishing house must do what it can, especially right now, to ensure its continued existence.

But the main issue was that, as Courtney later stated, the books didn’t fit with their covers at all. Courtney’s book about a woman competing in a male-dominated business was given a cover that made it look like ditzy chick-lit. Her title about the harsh realities of a young punk singer’s life comes off as a starry-eyed romp through girl-pop glamour, à la Jem. After the launch of her third book, the Daily Mail ran this headline: “Novelist Fires Publisher for Putting ‘Fluffy and Degrading’ Covers on Her Books.”

While Polly does have a serious advantage in self-publishing because of the publicity drummed up by Harper Collins, the work she does in publishing her own titles is most often focused on her audience–a component of the equation which she felt the big publisher had often ignored. “When I talk to people about publishing the book,” she says, “I keep slipping into saying ‘we’re doing this’ and ‘we’re doing that’, which I never did while I was with the publisher.”

Courtney now launches her own books after focusing on crowd-based work, like testing cover images with her readers, appointing beta-readers, responding to critical feedback, and generally staying in contact with her fans to keep them engaged. Time-consuming as this may seem, readers are an integral part of her process, and to Courtney, they represent the most important part of it all.

The Stereotype of the Lazy, Unskilled Self-Publisher

Many discerning readers and academics have been known to describe the act of self-publishing like this: “You just point and click Publish.”  

But the next time someone tells you that self-publishing equates with low-effort, low-quality work, and is nothing short of the death knell for literature as we know it, remember that this isn’t necessarily true. Many more writers than the three mentioned here have demonstrated that, in the long term, self-publishing can favor serious writer/publishers of original mainstream and literary fiction, and also non-fiction.

The point is this: when a writer sets out to control their own destiny, they will most likely only get back as much as they put in. This is a fact of life for authors who have no multinational PR departments or expensive developmental editors at their disposal. An independent publisher’s potential is only developed if they pursue personal and professional betterment, but the dream is attainable.



While this blog is not monitored, maintained, or necessarily even condoned by school administrators, The Chestatee Review blog is a university affiliated website. All comments will be moderated accordingly.


Did You Know “Bookshelf Porn” Is a Thing?

Kids today, amiright?

The thing is, I get it. I’ve been known to disappear into Google-image-search rabbit holes from time to time after I’ve come across some image of an incredible library in Austria or Derbyshire. So, let’s get into another rabbit hole, shall we?

What I’m about to show you is a list of private libraries of note. These are the collections of famous authors, wealthy nobles, and various assorted eccentrics. 

Peralada Castle Library, collection of Miquel Mateu (1898 to 1972), Girona, Spain

peralda inside private libraryperalda outside view

The stunning thing about this library is its incredibly rare and important collection of books…and the fact that it’s in a beautiful castle is pretty cool too. This library was once the living quarters of monks inside a Carmelite monastery before it was repurposed in the year 1888. It holds over 1,000 very old copies of Don Quichote, 200 titles from the 15th-century beginnings of typography, an ancient copy of Malleus Maleficarum, a 1492 copy of Cosmographie by Claudio Ptolemee, early maps drawn before the “New World” was known by Europeans to exist, and the list goes on and on.

George Lucas’ private library, Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA

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Love him or hate him, George Lucas is doing just fine. Skywalker Ranch houses this library, its own firestation, and a 300 seat movie theater. Imagine spending a day lounging in there. How many fun genre books must he have?

The Biltmore Estate Library, Asheville, NC

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The Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States, and it sits in the hills of North Carolina. Its 250 rooms were built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. The incredible painting on the ceiling was created many years before the library opened by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675 to 1741), and it was shipped in from Paris after being restored. And just check out that gorgeous spiral staircase. Ah, to be obscenely wealthy.

The library’s shelves house 10,000 books, with 12,000 more sitting in storage. Mr. Vanderbilt was a history buff, so a large part of his collection is comprised of valuable historical texts. However, many of Vanderbilt’s titles reflect the interest he took in home design (architecture, landscape design, art, interior decoration) which initially lead him to build this incredible mansion, so his library is partly a storehouse for records of what was in fashion for home design throughout the 1800s.

The Private Library of William Randolph Hearst, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

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Touted as one of the biggest “yellow journalists” in recent memory, Hearst played hard and dirty as a journalism businessman throughout the turn of the century. His daughter was famously brainwashed by a cult after being taken for ransom and ultimately succumbing to a case of Stockholm syndrome. Weird, right? This is his library, and also what he called his “Gothic Study” where more books are kept. They are both breathtaking.

The Chatsworth House Library, Derbyshire, England

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The Chatsworth house is massive, historically significant, famous for appearances in film, and most of all, it is chock full of wealth, beauty, and valuable cultural artifacts. Its library holds one of the most important collections still in private ownership which has grown and evolved over a span of 400 years.

Currently, the Chatsworth collection is being appraised as part of The Chatsworth Library Project. To see what rare and incredible works are turned up in the library’s shelves, you can follow the blog of research associate, Wilfred Jack Rhoden.

Cardiff Castle, Wales

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On the whole, Cardiff is about 2,000 years old. First, the Romans built forts there, then the conquering Normans built a castle keep over those forts, then even later, it began to change hands among noble English families. One day a commission was offered to William Burgess, a man with a serious penchant for interior design, to reinvent the place. It is now one of the most wildly ornate castles in the world. The library there is small, compared to the others on this list, but it is incredibly beautiful and stocked with ancient books.

Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, Scotland

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The largest house in Scotland’s Northern Highlands, Dunrobin Castle is around 750 years old and is still home to the nobles of Sutherland. The library holds more than 10,000 books, mostly about the area’s development through the 19th century and Scots law.

The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination, Ridgefield, Connecticut

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This 3,600 square foot library is housed in a wing of the home of American inventor, entrepreneur, and digital luminary Jay Walker. The library is not open to the public, and its website states: “The Library contains some 20,000 volumes and hundreds of museum-level books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts. The architecture of the vast room was inspired by the mind-bending designs of artist M.C. Escher; it features multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, a glass bridge, illuminated glass panels, dynamic lighting, and specially commissioned art and music.”

Christiansborg Castle, islet of Slotsholmen, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Christiansborg Castle holds the Royal Library of Denmark, and every book that is published in Denmark must have two copies deposited here. So, not only is this library stunningly beautiful, it is a depository for the complete literary history of Denmark going back many, many years. This, of course, means it is not a private library like the others on this list, but, come on. It’s too amazing to be left off any self-respecting page of bookshelf porn.

Though there are so many more unbelievable private libraries in the world, I must cut this list short for now. But in the next few weeks, I’ll be back with some of the coolest bookshops ever.