imageThe writing of Arthenia Bates Millican opens a window to a world that is hidden from many, unless you were alive in the southern United States in the mid-twentieth century, and even then, you may not have experienced it. The lives of “Black folk” were the subjects of her creative, yet authentic pen, as she faithfully transcribed into fiction the unique stories that she observed and heard among some of her friends, relatives, and neighbors. Raised in a family that valued education and standing in the community, as she grew into adulthood, Dr. Millican found that listening to, and learning about, the values, work, and passions of the laboring classes revealed a stronger fabric of community and spirit than perhaps some had realized. For many first-time readers of her work, the voices of the people may initially appear quaint, perhaps even unintelligible, but the earnestness and fragility of their everyday circumstance is unmistakable. You are drawn in, you hear the click of knives chopping vegetables, you smell wood smoke, feel the sweat of a dusty walk to town in the heat of a summer day, hear the swish-swish softness of taffeta as your neighbor settles into the adjacent pew at church. And the most troubling of circumstances can be ringed with a wry observation amid laughter in spite of heartbreak.

These are happenings that all but the most jaded can feel, and to which most can relate at least on some level. The value that Dr. Millican placed on the black experience is one of authentic realism, and few capture it with the deft selection of words that she has. She has been compared, rightly, to Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Thomas Hardy, in the way each has given a microphone to voices of the everyday experience of folk who may be forgotten in the faster, more urban places of civilization. Dr. Millican knew and recognized that these experiences are a vital part of our human language and understanding, and to ignore them would be a grave injustice – not only to them, but to us. Her stories cut right to the heart of what it is to be a part of a family, a neighborhood, a village. Her characters care about one another even when they are at odds; they pierce directly to the point without artifice or “beating around the bush.” Life is short and precious; people can be mean or sordid, but that doesn’t make them worthless; beliefs can be hard to bear but sometimes they are the “warp and woof” of a community, the very thing that brings people together, in spirit and reality.

The latest collection of stories published by Propertius Press is The Bottoms and Hills: Virginia Tales, by Arthenia Bates Millican, to be released on the occasion of the author’s 99th birthday, June 1, 2019. We are proud to be a part of this project, in conjunction with the Arthenia J. Bates Millican Literary Foundation. Pre-order your copy today at http://bit.ly/virginiatales and check the Facebook page frequently for updates at https://www.facebook.com/thevirginiatales/.

 

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We are excited to offer five new books set to be released in 2019 that are available for Pre-Order! These books are available, or soon will be, for pre-orders at your favorite online book merchants (Amazon, BN.com, iStore, etc.) – However, you will get the best prices, and delivery on the day of release, by purchasing directly from us through our website.

For a limited time: FREE SHIPPING when you use our Shopping Cart!

 

 

shakespeare-wordsLanguage evolves. If it did not, we would all still be conversant in Chaucerian English. These changes often begin as stylistic exceptions that come from an individual or cultural difference to accepted written speech. The British Library has a wonderful resource that catalogues the changes in written English over time.

All that said, we still take our editing seriously around here. (More about that on our Submissions page.)

But we DO publish works that remain faithful to the voice and style of our writers.

Sometimes it is a bit challenging to strike a balance between style and being understood. When we send back an edited manuscript, there can be a bit of tug and pull about comma placement, word choice, and even spelling. Some writers honestly do not react well to being edited. I hope folks understand that we are committed to putting out the best work that reveals the essays, stories, and non-fiction narratives in their best light. No one wants to have their* book put back on the shelf because a reader is less than impressed with the language. A reader who gets the impression that a book was published while bypassing the editing process may not come back to that publisher for another read, which hurts all of our authors.

And yet, even those who are called experts in the field do not always agree these days.research

When style and language are a bit different from the norm, we will sometimes ask our authors to write a style note, or put a few words in the introduction or preface to the work that explains what’s going on here. This will alert our readers – your readers! – that your voice, while perhaps different, is to be respected in its uniqueness. That uniqueness should not be seen as a flaw, but neither should it stand in the way to understanding.

Because language is all about communication; otherwise, what is the point?

*This is a plural pronoun, used as singular – one of the evolving language choices we will use – as it is now commonly accepted correct grammar, in addition to the other examples used in this post. Did you find them?

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AJBM FoundationPropertius Press and the Arthenia J. Bates Millican Foundation are proud to announce an exciting reprint of a collection of tales hinged upon “a way of life” in Southside Virginia, the “Old Dominion,” in the authentic language as heard by the author and originally written down in the late 1950s. Entitled The Bottoms and Hills: Virginia Tales, this treasure is re-published posthumously in cooperation with the Arthenia J. Bates Literary Foundation. Beautiful original illustrations by Ansar Muhammad enhance the work. News of the book was carried to the Women of the World Conference in March 2019, and it has received praise and attention from members of the College Language Association. Proceeds from the volume will benefit the Arthenia J. Bates Millican Literary Foundation, whose mission is to promote literary arts and culture. The release is set for what would have been Mrs. Millican’s 99th birthday, June 1, 2019, with an event at her home in Sumter, South Carolina.

An author and lifelong educator, Arthenia Bates Millican (1920-2012) has been described during her career as a writer, poet, professor, researcher, humanitarian and “humanist of rural Southern folk.” She has received worldwide recognition for her work. Much of Millican’s substantial literary reputation is based on Seeds Beneath the Snow: Vignettes from the South. Her work has been compared to that of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston and Thomas Hardy.

More updates to follow soon!

 

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Image from Shutterstock

You’ve written your story, and now comes the time to dig in, to sift through the words, to pare back and refine and polish. Or do you? Would you send a raw manuscript out to potential publishers?

I hope the answer is a resounding “no.” Although an exceptional plot and engaging, well-developed characters can sometimes redeem a poorly penned story, and likewise, a unique take on an unexplored, fascinating and relevant subject can make a nonfiction work ring with meaning that survives ratty presentation, it’s never a good idea to skip using the grammar reference, dictionary, and thesaurus.

You want your work to shine above the others, and unfortunately many publishers simply won’t bother with a poorly-worded submission. In order to give your work the attention it deserves on the publisher’s side of the desk, give it the attention it deserves prior to sending it out.

If grammar and spelling are challenging for you, engage a friend to help, or the services of a professional editor. Look for recommendations, or read through some examples before hiring someone.  Honestly, some manuscripts that were stated to be professionally edited appeared to us to be anything but. Be careful about sending your work to the lowest-priced or most expedient service available, such as those offered through popular self-publishing packages. Some of the most poorly-written submissions we’ve received were unfortunately the results of poor writers paying for these kinds of services.

As in all things, you do get what you pay for. However, as it is with some of the best things in life, excellent help is available for free!

Consult with some of the resources available at local community colleges, libraries, and writer’s groups. Honest and accurate feedback is essential to making your best work. Try not to argue over suggestions about word choice and clarity. The end result is up to you, but helpful advice can ensure your work is not only read, but recommended. And that will increase the popularity and enthusiasm surrounding your book!

Happy writing, and editing!

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The Death of Literature by the Digital Age

SnapSNAP, by Regan Gillespie. What would it take to make you snap? To become so consumed with bloodlust and rage that you begin thinking twisted and bizarre thoughts… doing unthinkable things. Quinn Darby reluctantly moves from a thriving metropolitan area to her husband Aiden’s rural Midwestern hometown following the economic crisis of 2008. While the community quickly embraces its native son, Quinn is labeled an outsider who doesn’t belong. While Quinn struggles to accept her lost career and deal with Aiden’s dysfunctional, bipolar father, Aiden begins to revert to a younger self – carefree, rebellious. He abandons professional ambitions, falls back in with old high school friends and garners the aggressive attention of local women with less-than-innocent intentions. One afternoon, Quinn stumbles across one of Aiden’s social media accounts and is blindsided with details of what appears to be a torrid affair between her husband and a married neighbor named Charmella. The more Quinn obsessively digs, the more she learns about how she’s become the talk of the town… the butt of the jokes… the outlier… and it’s more than she can take. She simultaneously attempts to right her mental health and save her marriage with the help of a therapist, while plotting and carrying out elaborate and sinister revenge plans against those she feels have wronged her.

The Bottoms and Hills: Virginia TalesThe Bottoms and Hills: Virginia Tales, by Arthenia J. Bates Millican. A collection of tales hinged upon “a way of life” in Southside Virginia, the “Old Dominion,” in the authentic language as heard by the author and originally written down in the late 1950s. This treasure is re-published posthumously in cooperation with the Arthenia J. Bates Literary Foundation, in celebration of the author’s 99th birthday. With the original foreword by Charles H. Rowell and afterword by Jerry Ward, these sixteen stories capture “those haunted Black Virginia voices” that “constrained her to write about them, and she willingly became an instrument, as it were, through which the folk preserved their culture and traditions, including their art of story telling.” This edition faithfully recaptures the original, with new commentary and introductions by some of the great voices in Black America today. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the AJBM Literary Foundation, whose mission is to promote creative writing, and “to utilize Millican’s literary work to help the parents, students and members of the community reclaim their pride in the creative imaginings of South Carolina.” Watch for updates on the book’s Facebook page, here: http://www.facebook.com/thevirginiatales

The Impish Humor of Marlon BrandoThe Impish Humor of Marlon Brando, by Aubrey Malone. A fascinating biography that reveals the comic side of the actor who some have described as one of the greatest who ever lived. An enigma, with his share of dark moments, Brando nevertheless was described by more than one colleague as a comic or even a practical joker, both on and off the set. “Anyone who’s studied Marlon Brando’s behavior over the years,” a writer surmised, “knows that to sort out the guy’s umpteen complexes would take the combined efforts of Sigmund Freud and King Solomon, with an assist from Dorothy Dix.” Most of his biographers either ignore or sideline his sense of humor, preferring to concentrate on Brando the rebel, the brooder or the sulker, despite the fact that after he died in 2004, among his personal effects there were a collection of humorous videos: a concert performed by the stand-up comedian Richard Pryor, one called The Best of British Comedy, and a sizeable number of films featuring Abbot & Costello and Laurel and Hardy. He’d often confessed to watching old footage of the latter duo for hours on end with tears rolling down his cheeks. Brando’s madcap humor, tinged with absurdity, has only been glimpsed briefly in the acres of space devoted to him over the years, not only in biographies but in the hundreds (if not thousands) of newspaper and magazine articles that purport to define the greatest actor of his era. But it was often that sense of humor that sustained him through many of the tragedies in his life. Within the pages of this meticulously researched book, Brando comes back to life, and we are given a rare behind-the-scenes view of the world he knew, with sparks of hilarity with which he often enlivened those around him.

 Watch for these to be released in the next few months. Happy reading!

We are pleased to announce three unique new eBooks soon to be available in our catalogue! Eye Exams, by Richard Krause, is a collection of witty aphorisms that will catch you off-guard, make you smile, and pause with new understanding of the world around you and the people within it. Metamorphosis is our long-awaiting anthology of short stories by fifteen talented writers, and each will linger with you long after you’ve finished reading. Simple Gratitudes, by Hannah Greenberg with Rivka Gross, is a beautifully written series of chapters based on daily life that will invite you to step back, take a deep breath, and find ways to bring the sacred into your own everyday experiences.

Each will be available in paper formats later this year.

 

Eye Exams_final digitalcover2FEye Exams, A Book of Epigrams, by Richard Krause.

He started out carrying a notebook walking the streets of New York City, riding the subways, or just sitting in his taxi cab at night with a notepad on the front seat, writing what he saw and what occurred to him. Every morning he’d sit down and the shorts would be copied or new ones would come. At first, he looked through all he had read to find them. How could they come from him? Who was he to write them? But except for a few, he soon realized they were his and decided from then on, he would go where his mind led him.

Eye Exams is the production of the last four or five years, his struggle with the world outside and within. His sole object is understanding. The twists he imagines make them his, part of the aesthetic that confers value. Occasionally something comes out unadorned as a simple truth. He is surprised by that, feeling he has no more right to it than anyone else. Some that come from within are so thoroughly his own nature that he has to look on them as estranged. Writing these confers a certain immunity. He cannot be touched with shame or embarrassment, any more than he can be entirely proud of them.

For any readers still with him, the author hopes you will find something here you either were or were not looking for.

Metamorphosis, An Anthology edited by Propertius Press

Metamorphosis, A collection of stories. Edited by Propertius Press.

An old woman boiling laundry in her yard on a remote mountain top suddenly sees a rabbit and thinks dinner is on the way. A young student dealing with the aftermath of rape lashes out, opening a deeper wound. A poet, in despair over making a living, finds the keys to another world – whether real or imagined. A couple of brothers paint remarkable frescoes on the ceiling of a church. The individuals who make up the stories in this collection encounter the unexpected, and don’t necessarily live to tell about it. Working around the theme of life-changing experiences, these twenty-one tales were selected from over two hundred submissions received over a period of three years.

We recommend you take them in slowly, one at a time.

Coming soon!

In the preface to the beautiful and inspiring work, Simple Gratitudes, Hannah Greenberg begins, “It’s neither riches nor social status that makes our tenacious hanging on to life worthwhile. Rather, it’s our integration of challenging “sensibilities,” of deep feelings which might be sweet, but which are necessarily sharply disconcerting, that stretches us and that enables us to grasp the best qualities of this world. “Gratitude,” not “entitlement,” remains the proven route, within our mortal existence, to serving The Almighty and to finding joy in our service.

What’s more, it both behooves us to see the entirety of our commonplace experiences as spiritual, and to elevate all of our spiritual happenstances. So much work has yet to be completed in our process of releasing personal and social expectations and in replacing those anticipatory notions with simple faith. Simple Gratitudes invites us to live by working for The Boss.” With simple but clear-minded and visually rich descriptions, the author elevates normal everyday happenings to a spiritual plane that lies deep in everyone’s heart in a way that transcends religious creed, race, and time itself. No matter where you are or your pattern of belief, you will find her words resonate with gifts of a universal truth.

Click on the Bookstore tab to view our current catalogue.