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Industry Veterans Keep Writing

Short stores, romance and mystery novels, and reference books.

Staff Report (May 18, 2009)

Three industry pros have kept creating long after they left our creative industry:

Jerry Constantino

Jerry began his publishing career as a college student at Bradley University in Peoria, doing janitorial work at PJS Publications, which published two magazines and was on the verge of bankruptcy. After graduation the owner made Jerry publisher and gave him one year to turn around the company. Jerry did just that, and then bought Profitable Craft Merchandising, a trade magazine that was Jerry's first foray into our industry. Later he founded Crafts magazine, and acquired Sew News and other industry-related periodicals. PJS Publications was eventually sold and Jerry retired.

"I just decided about six months ago that damnit, I want to write fiction," Jerry said. After a lifetime of non-fiction, fiction is a fun, new challenge and I am enjoying it very much. I"ve got a several dozen stories I will admit to. Short stories – and dialog – are tough but fun.

"I've got one short story – 15 pages – that I really like and am going to try to turn it into a book, for me if for no one else. And I'm knee-deep in a series of stories for my grand kids. They are a most appreciative audience."

Jerry's most recent short store is available at www.everydayfiction.com/23-down-by-jerry-constantino; Jerry also writes a blog at http://itsnutsoutthere.blogspot.com.

Lois Winston

Lois has probably had more counted cross stitch projects published in our industry's magazines than any other designer – but that is only part of her creative abilities. She has written a number of works – often with a craft or needlework element. (She dedicated her first novel to Priscilla Hauser, the well known decorative painter/teacher and the founder of the Society of Decorative Painters.) Her first two novels Talk Gertie To Me and Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, were published by Dorchester Publishing. Lois brings us up to date:

A year and a half ago I was "this close" to selling my mystery series, the first book being Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. The heroine is the crafts editor for a woman's magazine. Warner Books was about to make an offer. They were being sold to the Hatchette Group, though, and they were waiting for the sale to go through. So the sale goes through, Warner Books becomes Grand Central Publishing, and the first thing they do is fold their traditional mystery line. No line, no sale.

"At about the same time Avon decided to fold their traditional mystery line. All of a sudden there were all these established mystery writers who were orphaned and vying for whatever publishing slots were left. I'm still trying to find a home for that series. Everyone who reads it, loves it, but no one wants to buy it.

"I'm sure you've heard what's going on in the publishing industry. The recession really hit publishing hard. There have been massive layoffs at all the major publishing houses. On top of that, of the four book distributors, one went bankrupt recently, and one is having major financial problems.

"In a way, I was glad I hadn't sold another book because anyone who's had a release date the last few months has really gotten screwed by this. Anderson, the company that went bankrupt, was the main distributor of mass market paperbacks for supermarkets, drug stores, and Wal-Mart. And if you don't get your book into Wal-Mart, you can pretty much kiss any royalties good-bye. On top of that, Borders has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. A few weeks ago their stock was down to 64 cents a share.

"Oddly enough, even with all the financial chaos going on, the sales of romance fiction is way up. I guess everyone is looking for a happy ending, and romance fiction is one of the only places where that's guaranteed.

"On the up side, though, there are two producers who have shown interest in optioning Talk Gertie To Me for the movies. We'll see if anything comes of it. Often producers want options without offering any money or very little, but one of them even has her dream cast already figured out – Anne Hathaway for Nori and Meryl Streep for Connie! Wouldn't that be nice?

"I've also been asked to participate in a mystery anthology. There will be three or four authors. I'm working on a novella, using the character from Talk Gertie To Me. It will be published by Highland Press as both an e-book and a trade paperback. No release date yet. This all came together only a couple of weeks ago, so the book probably won't come out until sometime in 2010.

"Meanwhile, I've written the first book in a proposed kids' series for middle-grade-age kids. It's about a sister and brother who have a grandmother who's a children's book illustrator. Whenever Grandpa is away on business (he does something for the government that's top secret), grandma comes to stay with her grandchildren. Grandma is a bit magical. She has a magic paintbrush that's very much like a magic wand. She can transport the kids into her paintings where they go on various adventures, but no one else is aware of grandma's special talent.

"My agent will be starting submissions on that soon, and I have a few other submissions that we're waiting to hear about. It would be nice if something happened soon. It's been a long dry spell between sales."

To learn more, visit www.loiswinston.com. An excerpt from her first novel, Talk Gertie To Me, is available by scrolling down the right-hand column here at Kate's Collage and click on "Excerpts from Talk Gertie to Me."

Geoff Wheeler

Geoff was editor of Profitable Craft Merchandising, Creative Product News, and other industry publications, and served as Chair of the Craft Division of the old Hobby Industry Association. A life-long jazz fan, he turned his investigative talents toward the history of jazz recordings. Geoff writes:

"After I left magazine publishing in 1995, I thought about writing a book. From start to finish, it took 19 months to get out an 8-1/2x11, 512-page self-published book in 1998 that was well received and sold OK for the kind of highly specialized text it was. Since about 2003, I have been writing numerous articles, letters, and short pieces for three different journals (one in the U.S., one in England, one in The Netherlands). Since roughly 2000, I have been working at various times on four different books. I plan to get another book out this year, and still another sometime in 2010.

"These books are all aimed at the experienced, sophisticated collector and discographer. These books would not be of interest to the average fan, jazz journalist, or academic. Nobody else writes what I do the way I do, specially in the detail and depth. My operative principal is: why use a photo when you can use 1000 words? Thankfully, I have a large amount of recordings, research documents, and other materials to draw from. When I want something, I check to see what I have. I haven’t used a library or institutional archive in years. If I need help with something, I generally contact another collector. Collectors have the recordings and the documents.

"Virtually every institution that has a collection of jazz records, books, magazines, etc. has acquired its inventory from private collectors, such as me. This is true for the U.S. Library of Congress.

"Working with libraries and institutional collections is generally a pain, frequently requiring an advance letter of interest, citing research materials desired. You then need to make an appointment. Getting the materials is very time consuming. One can spend days at an institution, a lot of it just waiting for materials to be brought to you. There are also stringent security procedures to follow. Sometimes the only things one can bring into a library is a standard yellow pad and a writing instrument. Because of this, I would never give or sell any part of my collection to a library or archive. The best stewards of such materials are other collectors. They live with them, know and understand them, and know how to respect them."

Geoff's first two books are Jazz By Mail Record Clubs and Record Labels 1936-1958 and Columbia Phonograph: Pioneer in Recorded Sound and America’s Oldest Record Company, 1886 to the Present. (The company now operates under the name Sony Music Entertainment and Columbia is an imprint.)

Here is the Forward to Geoff's latest work, Collectors Guide to Jazz on Bootleg & Reissue 78 R.P.M. Records 1932 to 1952:

For many record collectors and listeners, reissues of vintage and rare recordings have been an essential and formative part of the jazz experience. Without reissues, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to discover and learn from out-of-print recordings by the early innovators, and to explore recordings by unfamiliar artists playing unfamiliar tunes. Where jazz records are concerned, every day is an opportunity to hear and learn something new.

The Great Depression spurred the first generation of reissues. Many records that didn’t sell at their original retail prices of 60- or 75 cents during the first years of the Depression might sell if reissued on lower-priced labels without compromising the price-integrity of the higher-priced flagship labels. Victor was the first major company to make reissues a core part of its marketing program when launching its Sunrise and Bluebird budget labels in 1933. Reissues, in fact, provided an instant catalog to which could be added new recordings. Such was the case with Victor’s Bluebird label with its vast catalog ranging from no. 5000 in 1933 to no. 11590 when the series ended in 1942. Columbia and Decca also reissued recordings, but it wasn’t until 1946 that collectors interested in early recordings on Paramount, Gennett, Autograph, and other long-gone pioneering labels of the 1920s, finally had a chance to acquire 78 R.P.M. reissues of many of these very rare recordings. Since these reissues weren’t licensed from the source companies, they became known as "bootlegs," akin to bootleg liquor of the 1920s and early ’30s. In fact, some writers on bootleg 78 recordings referred to the people who issued them as "’leggers."

Between 1946 and 1952, producing and selling bootleg 78s became a minor industry unto itself. This book catalogs more than 40 bootleg labels that issued nearly 700 catalog numbers representing nearly 1400 sides. Collectively, this is far more early jazz than all the major labels combined reissued on 78. Despite what they were called, despite the general assumption that what bootleg labels were doing was illegal, stores stocked the records, people bought them, magazines reviewed them and accepted paid advertising for them. The only people unhappy with this affair were Victor and Columbia Records because some of their rarities were being reissued on bootlegs. With few exceptions where a recording was an original pressing, virtually everything issued was dubbed from source recordings, some using foreign issues where the quality of the pressing was better than the domestic issue. The quality of the dubbing was generally of a high order, especially because many of the source recordings used were in near-mint or mint condition. It would be nearly impossible today, more than 60 years after the fact, to find such records in excellent condition. Record collectors who have troubled to inform themselves about these 78 reissues seek them out because they likely play better than a worn original and they are definitely far cheaper in price. Many of the later bootleg labels pressed their product in vinylite, so unlike shellac 78s, they were less likely to break under normal use. In this respect, they were ahead of most major labels, which still issued 78s on the ersatz post-war equivalent of "shellac."

Not only is this book the first to list and discuss bootleg 78s and legitimate reissues in depth, it is also the first general discography organized alphabetically by label. It is thus radically different from Hot Discography, Rust, and every other discography organized by artist or recording date. Even experienced collectors are likely to find many surprises in this book. It is hoped that through reading this, collectors and discographers will give greater credence to 78 bootlegs and reissues, and respect them for the contribution they have made to the study and knowledge of jazz history. This book is also intended to assist record researchers who do not have access to rare originals and reissues, and to save time and effort in searching for information that can be found right here. – Geoffrey Wheeler, January 2009

The book is 424 pages, 8-1/2x11, nearly 300,000 words, comb-bound so the book lays flat for easy reading and reference. The cost is $55.00, plus $4.50 for postage and Delivery Confirmation anywhere in the Continental U.S. Total cost: $59.50. To order, email Geoff at dialjazz@verizon.net.

Geoff's fourth book, Dial Records: West Coast Jazz and the Be-Bop Era, will be published this summer.



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