Lady of Lay Literature – an interview with Karen-Ann Theseira (1 September 2006)

Introduction

When the article in The Star about Snapshots! was published, Karen-Ann contacted me and told me about her project. I was somewhat fascinated and thought that this would be a good opportunity to give this project some publicity. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Karen-Ann Theseira …


Aneeta: Karen-Ann, let’s start with a little information about you. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where do you live and so on?

Karen-Ann: At present I co-own a restaurant, a franchise located in a major shopping centre here in J.B. The restaurant is seven years old. I was born in K.L. but lived in different parts of M’sia due to my dad’s work. We also lived in Hong Kong where I completed my primary education. I’ve spent several years in the service industry as a flight attendant and in guest relations. I’m married.

Aneeta: Now, I understand that you started out in publishing with no experience whatsoever. I was pretty much the same when I started out with The Banana Leaf Men. However, I wanted only to publish my own book, not other people’s stories. I would like to know, what made you want to delve into the business of publishing in the first place?

Karen-Ann: I’ve always enjoyed compilations. I like variety. So I came up with the idea of getting a group of people together to write stories which I would compile. It seemed like an interesting idea. We did not have a definite agenda or goal initially.

When the stories started coming in I soon realized we had a pretty decent ‘manuscript’ taking shape. That’s when I looked at the project more seriously. The prospect of actually getting published became less far-fetched.

Being a novice at writing, editing and not really knowing anything about the publishing world, I had to learn as I went along. This involved quite a bit of networking, emails and phone calls. I promised the writers I would take our project or book rather, as far as possible.

Aneeta: I understand your first book was entitled ‘The Book Project 1’. Tell us a little about this. In particular, what is this term ‘lay literature’?

Karen-Ann: Book Project 1 is a compilation of 23 stories by 21 writers. A variety of stories by a variety of people. Everyday, ordinary people who share their thoughts, opinions, feelings and there’s fiction and poems too. Stories that are real, relatable and hopefully relevant and thought provoking. That’s lay literature to me.

Aneeta: I assume that this project was a success as you seem to have gone ahead with a second and even third project. Is this the case?

Karen-Ann: We are a success in terms of how we took a simple, humble idea to print and how we continue to do this.

Aneeta: What are the highlights of your career, thus far?

Karen-Ann: As the creator of ‘The Book Project’ all contributions and queries are sent directly to me. I reply all writers with pointers on their stories even those whose stories I can’t use. I edit all stories. When my product is done I look for a publisher to finance it. With book 1 our publisher was Various Channels Marketing Sdn. Bhd. With book 2 it was Wide Alliance Sdn. Bhd. Both are based in J.B.

The highlight is meeting the writers. I see their talent and feel their enthusiasm when their stories get published.

Aneeta: Nevertheless, as you clearly stated that you assumed all functions of getting these books onto the bookshelves, I can only imagine the amount of negative comments you may have got for this effort, which, I’ve observed, usually originates from those who’ve never published a thing in their lives. How indeed did you deal with such comments?

Karen-Ann: Of course it is disheartening when someone puts down something I’ve worked so hard at. That’s just the way it goes. We must remain humble for it is only when we are humble are we able to learn. Comments, negative or otherwise, when taken in a positive manner can be helpful. I’m not an overly sensitive, emotional person. I try to remain calm and think about what is said.

Aneeta: Yes, that’s the trick I’ll have to learn – to remain calm. What plans do you have for the future, Karen-Ann?

Karen-Ann: Our project is a project in progress. We will learn, grow and continue to challenge ourselves. We strive to make every book an improvement from the last. We believe there are no bad writers and no bad stories. Everyone is given a sporting chance and due respect. Having said that, I do know we have a responsibility to the paying public as our books must be worthy of the retail price. We must strike a balance.

We don’t compete or compare. We just do what we do to the best of our ability. Book 3 is a compilation of fictional stories. Personally, I am very impressed with the level of imagination, originality and creativity in this book. If all goes well, the launch of book 3 will be in Dec. of this year.

Aneeta: It’s good you do not compete and compare. As you know, my website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give storytellers?

Karen-Ann: Be true to who you are. If you are a witty person then write that way. Put your personality in how you write. Also, be open to the process of editing. It’s tough I know to see your work go through this. But it’s necessary. The editor is really there to offer, suggest different perspectives on your work.

Aneeta: Karen-Ann, this is all I have to ask. Do you have anything else to add?

Karen-Ann:Good luck all writers out there!

Aneeta: Karen-Ann, thank you.

Karen-Ann: Thank you for the opportunity


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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