Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 4 – Readers and Writers Book Club

Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 4

Becoming A Published Author

Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book

By Evan and Lois Swensen

Chapter Four

Jan Boylan

What’s Next!

I had never even thought seriously about publishing a book, unless it was a children’s book, and then it would need to be illustrated, and I wasn’t a good enough artist. I wasn’t a good enough writer either, and had no idea where to start.

Fast-forward to 2003. I was on the board of directors for the Senior Center, and chairman of the fund-raising committee. We needed a project to make money for the Center. I thought, gee, we have this huge number of senior citizens and many of them went through the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage. Maybe they would like to share their stories. If we copied them and put them together with a comb binder we might even be able to sell them at the Center for $10 each. The authors would at least buy one and that would pay for the paper, ink, and so forth, and maybe a little extra.

I put out a flyer at the Senior Center and asked for stories. They started coming in fast and furiously. I also got a call from Dolores Roguszka. I had no idea who she was, but when she offered to help I jumped at the opportunity to have some assistance. “Of course I would love the help!“

Then I went to talk to her and found her to be very intelligent, and she was also an author. She had written a book on photography 30 years before, but hey. She knew more than I did. She would edit the stories. Super!

So I gathered the stories, typed them up from bits of paper or from taped stories and interviews. Some came by email, and that made my job easier. We kept the email communications red-hot. I sent stories to Dolores for her final touches and editing. She also collected stories from her friends, many of whom were old-time Alaskans. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use most of the stories verbatim because there was so much repetition—how many times could someone read about a kitchen floor covered with broken dishes, catsup, mustard, and honey—but Dolores knew how to cut and paste, and she worked very hard. Fortunately Jean Paal contacted Dolores and helped her with the editing, which gave her a much needed respite.

When we thought we had enough stories we talked about a name for the book, and how to organize the stories, what to use for the cover, and so on. Dolores definitely took the lead, as she was smarter about it than I was. Although we agreed before a topic was put to rest, so I did get in my two cents.

Before Dolores retired she had been a photographer, and had taken lots of pictures of the earthquake aftermath, so we decided to include many of her pictures interspersed throughout the book, and she had the lead story, which she had written right after the quake.

Stories typed and edited, pictures selected, title decided upon. Dolores wouldn’t let me get away with the comb-binding idea. She said we needed a “real” book. Now we needed a publisher.

We went to the phone book and found some listings, took our papers and headed for the offices. The first publisher we went to wanted to know what we wanted. Since we really had no idea even what he meant, that wasn’t very helpful. He showed us several books he had published, but that still didn’t tell us anything we really needed to know. We were a little discouraged, and I talked to Elizabeth Tower, who I knew had published several Alaska history books. She suggested we talk to Publication Consultants.

What a difference! He told us what we did and what we didn’t need to do, and we knew we had found what we were looking for. He helped us with decisions and guided us in the right direction. We received the first printing on Thanksgiving of 2004. They sold so fast we felt we needed to order a second printing right away. We doubled our order, but by March 2005 we still needed to send for a third printing, having sold the first two. We are now in our sixth printing, and couldn’t be happier with his direction, and with the results of our efforts.

AND . . . the Senior Center has had money to pay many bills, and the money is still coming in, although not as quickly. It was a great project, and one I repeated on a different topic a few years later. All royalties from both books, The Day Trees Bent to the Ground, and In the Light of the Night and the Dark of the Day continue to benefit the Anchorage Senior Center.

I also published a pamphlet on bridge about the ABCs of bidding, entitled, Bridge Bidding Made Easy. It is a great aid in learning the bidding process.

Haven’t decided what to do next. Maybe I’ll write that children’s book..


Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.