Monday, April 16, 2012

Northwest Author Series: Kevin Sampsell

The Book World:  From Reader to Published Author

Kevin Sampsell is an author and a publisher, plus he has the bibliophile's dream job:  he works at Powell's City of Books.

Kevin didn't provide "how to" information for the attendees. Instead, he related his unexpected journey from reluctant student and non-reader into the world of books and writers.

Raised in Washington's Tri-Cities region, young Kevin wrote song lyrics for his future career as a rock star. ☺ Lyrics evolved into poetry. With little interest in school, Kevin bypassed college but did attend broadcasting school and worked briefly in the industry. He was in his early twenties before he gave reading a try, mainly true crime, Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. He continued writing poetry and started to participate in open mike events as well as submit his work to small magazines. Kevin produced chap books of his poems to share with friends and distribute at readings. When friends asked for his assistance with creating chap books of their own work, he established Future Tense Books.

Kevin also set up poetry readings for friends and others whose work he appreciated. He was an early participant in and success at Poetry Slams. Through his open mike and modest publishing connections, he was hired in a seasonal position with Powell's. This led to a permanent job at the headquarters store. When the event planner resigned to focus on her writing career, Kevin applied for and was selected for the position where his past experience with setting up readings was highlighted.

Future Tense Books gained noticed when it published Zoe Trope's Please Don't Kill the Freshmen, her observations of life written while attending high school. The small paperback was well received and garnered the young author a contract with Harper Collins for an expanded version.

Kevin published his own memoirs of growing up in a a small town as A Common Pornography (not a pornographic work, he is quick to state) which was also picked up by a major New York publisher in longer form. New connections within the writing world brought Kevin the opportunity to write book reviews, and writing-related articles for Associated Press. The success of Future Tense Books brought Kevin the job of editing Portland Noir, an anthology of crime-related stories. In addition to publishing two to three books a year, Kevin currently has a novel in progress.

For someone who was not an early reader and who never plotted out a career in writing, Kevin Sampsell ended up with a life that many an English Major would envy.

The message I took away was Kevin's immersion in the writing world established contacts and opportunities, and each phase of involvement in the book world opened the door to the next one. He was willing to begin in a small way and didn't expect to his a home run the first time out.

Kevin provided hope and encouragement to the attendees. Kevin wanted us to know that it's never too late to begin a writing career. Nor is a college degree in English, Journalism, or Creative Writing a prerequisite. Persistence and a willingness to learn, however, go a long way toward building a writing career.

The Northwest Author Series is winding down as the summer months approach. The last session for the 2011-12 season is scheduled for May 6:  "Much Ado About Middle Grade" presented by Heather Vogel Frederick.

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