If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
—Henry David Thoreau
As we drew closer to the release of both The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns, Amanda M. Thrasher, author and co-owner of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press (PRPP), my publisher, emailed me a list of questions to be posted on their webpage along with my biography. As I read through the list, the last question made me smile: “Do you believe in miracles?” My reply: “Absolutely!” Because that’s how my relationship with Amanda Thrasher and her business partner, Jannifer Powelson, began in September of 2011 (see my January 23, 2014 blog post, “Signs,” for more details of why my wife refers to Amanda as her “sign”). And since then the miracles, both obvious and sublime, have defined the framework of my experience working with these professional, encouraging, patient, and dare I say fun (and funny) ladies.
From the start, everything about Amanda, Jan, and PRPP has been different from the traditional publishing industry. It’s a company founded by authors, first and foremost, and they understand the roles of both authors and writers. What I learned is that these women have a passion for both writing and writers, and they’ve built the mission of their small press on a platform of support and encouragement. “I want writers,” Amanda told me. “Not writers obsessed with being authors. Writers write no matter what, while authors can become caught up in the illusion of being an author. It’s not always glamorous. It’s hard work. Writers love the story, regardless of what it is; they understand the importance of their voice.” PRPP only signs writers who contribute and help build their list, who understand that marketing and writing in today’s world go hand-in-hand. They’re seeking writers who will commit to not only producing quality books on a regular basis, but also engaging directly in the success of the other writers under the label’s wings. We as writers are encouraged, even expected, to look for opportunities to help each other out, build each other up, and spur each other on. And isn’t that what life’s all about?
As Director of Programs for the Fort Worth Writers, a read-and-critique group, I’m in charge of securing three or four writers a year to give a talk about some aspect of the writing and publishing experience. Amanda graciously accepted my request to be my first speaker of the 2014 season, and it tickled me that it took three rounds of explaining to convince folks the efficacy of PRPP’s unorthodox philosophy. Of course once the light bulbs went off, many of the attendees scrambled to talk to Amanda about their projects and their frustrations with the publishing industry at large.
Progressive Rising Phoenix Press is truly progressive when it comes to offering writers an unexpected publishing experience: they respect and believe in the writer as a writer and not as a commodity. Amanda told me, “We don’t do this for the money as a traditional publisher; you build a list, everyone will benefit. We do this because we know what needs to be done.”
For me, being part of this organization aligns with my own calling to minister to other writers who either have the vision but don’t have the knowledge to press forward with their dream, or have been stomped on while dashing down the traditional publishing route. I love encouraging other writers, and Jan and Amanda passionately execute this vision, leading their writers every step of the way through the process. And believe me, if they can patiently lead this hard-headed writer through the minefield of contemporary publishing, they can lead anyone!
It’s no secret I’m a perfectionist. Over the years I’ve learned to rein in that meticulousness (somewhat) to get it to move in a direction that best serves not only my own vision but the grander vision of God and those committed to serving the greater good. There’s a fine line between being organized and being a control freak, and both Amanda and Jan have gracefully, and at times, firmly, guided me along the process of publication, from submitting my manuscript to developing effective press releases to participating effectively in the book design and layout process. They’ve both helped me to see the big picture, to focus on the task at hand, and to let go of some control of the creative process for the benefit of the final product (and to allow their very tolerant designers to do their jobs). They’ve helped me open my eyes to the fact that, yeah, they and their designers really are experts, they really do know what they’re doing, and they really do care about their writers. We’re in this together, and together we all have the unique responsibility to lift each other up to build not only a label but the vision of PRPP’s distinctive publishing concept as well.
The past three years has been nothing short of miraculous, and I’m blessed to be associated with the talent, vision, and tireless drive that both Amanda and Jan demonstrate. Their personal touch, attention to detail, and passion for both the writing and their writers has been life changing, amazing, and encouraging. I’m looking forward to many more years, books, and glasses of wine with these ladies, and I hope that I can touch their lives in a positive way as much as they’ve influenced mine. May we all continue to step to the beat of a different drummer.
For more information about Amanda M. Thrasher, visit her at:
For more information about Jannifer Powelson, visit her at:
- Twitter: @JCPowelson
For more information about Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, see