Who among us hasn’t thought about writing a book? OK, you in the
back; you can put your hand down now.
Port Orchard writer Rosie Atkinson, author of the historical romance “Albin’s Letters,” is living proof that self-publishing has democratized the world of books.
Hilda Sjostedt, a comely Swedish girl with one blue eye and one brown eye, has fallen in love.
John, her strict and bigoted older brother (and guardian), is one of the most powerful men in Helsinki, and he heartily disapproves of Albin Putkonen, the Finn who has won Hilda’s heart.
Albin is from Saamiland in the far north of Scandinavia, or “Lapland” as John calls it.
Those people, says John, are “inferior … flower picking trash.”
Albin and Hilda share a forbidden tryst and hatch a desperate plan that starts with a long separation. Will the Scandinavian star-crossed lovers be reunited? Or will fate — and Hilda’s brother — conspire to keep them apart?
So begins “Albin’s Letters,” a novella by Rosie Atkinson and the true story of her grandparents’ journey to North America.
The book, published this year on Amazon.com, has racked up a number of favorable reviews.
“I found myself rooting for Albin and hoping that the truth would come to light for Hilda,” wrote Laurel Johnson of Southworth. “This was an easy read, written in a lilting style that left me very curious about Albin and Hilda’s progeny. I hope Ms. Atkinson will tell us more.”
Atkinson, 83 of Port Orchard, has had a lifelong career as a writer, starting with writing poetry as a young homemaker. She spent many years in the newspaper business, first as a columnist for the Port Orchard Independent, then as women’s editor for the Bremerton Sun (now the Kitsap Sun).
Formerly an avid boater — with her husband Charlie and their six children — Atkinson has written numerous articles for Nor’westing, Sea and other boating magazines. She also wrote a column for a weekly Kitsap County publication, Wednesday Magazine.
After Atkinson left the Sun in 1979, her focus turned to fiction writing. She joined the Peninsula Chapter of Romance Writers of America and got up to speed on the latest technology.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was get a home computer,” Atkinson wrote in her blog. “Charlie found one for sale by a fellow employee at Boeing. He brought it home, plunked it onto a table and said, ‘There, now go ahead and write your heart out.’”
Atkinson watched other writing club members clamber their way into the publishing world. Fellow member Debbie Macomber, also of Port Orchard, is now a regular on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Similar success eluded Atkinson, even though she wrote almost every day.
“I never stopped writing, but I lost the incentive to do anything about publishing my work,” Atkinson wrote in her blog. “For one thing, it seemed so daunting and I knew nothing about publishing books.”
Then in 2013, Atkinson joined the legions of writers who have found self-publishing a viable option for getting their book out in the world.
As the Internet has exploded, so have online self-publishing programs and resources. Publishers World, in a recent article, announced a service of Bloomsbury Publishing that helps writers sift through the myriad DIY options. The Writers & Artists Self Publishing Comparison requires registration and completion of a questionnaire, information from which may be shared with service providers.
Atkinson was fortunate to have her daughter, Phyllis Counts of Seattle, help her sift through the options. Counts, a graphic designer, made the cover art for “Albin’s Letters” and hooked Atkinson up with people to read and critique the manuscript. A librarian who is a friend of Count’s fact-checked the book.
“It takes a village,” said Atkinson, who advises anyone interested in self-publishing to have their book professionally edited and the cover professionally designed.
Kitsap Sun reporter Steven Gardner, who in 2012 self-published “Spill Your Guts’ Guts,” seconded the recommendation for a professional editor.
“If you are thinking of skipping the editor part, let me shake some sense into you,” Gardner said. “If you don’t have anyone to edit your book, I guarantee you will find things in your finished copy that you will regret. Your book will look self-published, which I guarantee will lose you sales.”
Gardner’s book is an adaptation of stories from his Field of Steve podcast. If I had written the book jacket blurb, I would have called “Guts” a humorous, unaffected tribute to human longings, foibles and follies.
Gardner assembled the project with two Amazon self-publishing programs Create Space, for the print edition, and Kindle Direct Publishing for the eBook.
Gardener’s overall cost for the two programs was about $100. Self-published authors should expect to pay an editor several hundred dollars on top of that, he said.
For future projects, Gardner plans to be more aggressive about marketing, wrangling book clubs about a month before publication, scouring online for interview opportunities and working with local bookstores to do readings.
Atkinson, too has “a few more books in the mill,” including a sequel to “Albin’s Letters” in which we learn more about Hilda’s feisty spirit or “sisu,” the Finnish expression for determination, the will to finish the job at any cost.
Speaking of which, Atkinson advises anyone with the itch to write a book not to give up.
“Everybody has a book inside them, if they can just get it out and write it,” she said. “
Besides the Albin-Hilda sequel, Atkinson has in the hopper a hot romance about a newspaper reporter in Seattle and a couple of half-written “creative non-fiction” projects. Some days, she gets overwhelmed thinking of all there is to write.
“But hell, I’ll probably live ’til I’m 115, so there’s still time,” she said.
Albin’s Letters on Kindle or paperback copies may be ordered from Amazon.com or by calling Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 360-698-0945.