Tag Archives: Hubert O’Hearn
Hubert O’Hearn, previously featured on Reading Recommendations, has launched a new publishing company. Here he is to tell us the story behind the inspiration for, and how he’s set up, Four Freedom Publishing.
Readers and Authors rejoice!
Write the Silence/Right the Wrong:
The Four Freedom Publishing Story
by Hubert O’Hearn
It was just as the sun was setting on the second of three days with no electricity, no internet and no food when I realized that life was presenting me with two options: die or launch a publishing company. And here you thought a Harvard MBA was tough?
Journal Entry One:
The business of writing is hard enough when you can see what you’re doing, but this? The power is off because I have no money and Electric Ireland’s system of taking payments by credit card is disabled. Of course I sent them an emergency email with the dying breaths of my laptop battery but … no response. It’s someone else’s problem and not theirs; it is mine.
I had moved to Ireland from Canada at the end of 2012 in order to live two experiences. I wanted to live in the country I had fallen in love with when I was ten years old and I was going to do it as a writer. There had been just enough writing success in Canada to convince me that if I truly dedicated myself to just that, I could do it: twelve years as a newspaper columnist, six produced plays, several publications running my book reviews, and a decent CV of speech-writing and other This Gun for Hire work.
It’s funny now when I look back at how I arrived nearly three years ago. My bank account was fat, the first house rented was huge, there was even a Jaguar parked in my driveway. Then, a whole lot of circumstances went wrong, more than need describing here. Suffice it to say that by the time my dog Stella and I had, to use the polite term, simplified our lifestyle by moving into a low rent yet comfy duplex cottage in County Mayo I had learned that one really can live without most of what you might think of as ‘necessities.’ Yes, I had become poor and yet, I was (and am) having the time of my life.
I’m no good at reciting poetry from memory – not even my own work – however I do have a deep fondness for T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, particularly this section:
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
That was where I lived, in the Shadow. I knew who I had been and I equally knew who I wanted to be, yet I was no longer there and was not yet there. I was where I was – taking any writing assignment I could get. There were web content articles, editing books and articles, reviews, interviews, ghostwriting, advertising, receiving a contract to publish a book of poetry (yay!) and watching its sales fail (boo!), coaching writers, teaching, even entering contests provided there was no entry fee. And my ego told me: You’re a goddam great writer and your day will come!
Journal Entry Two:
This is one of those really special moments in a man’s life when he sits back and thinks, “You know, maybe somewhere along the line I might have made a mistake or two.”
Yeah well, could be. On the other hand, if I’d had it to do all over again I’d probably have just done it all again. Maybe take more pictures next time, and more detailed notes for when life brought me right here again.
A Brief Philosophical Statement
The single smartest piece of advice I have ever been told came from my beautiful friend Lydia Cornell (yes that Lydia Cornell). Lydia and I have been ‘sore arm buddies’ for years now, picking one another’s spirits up during various crises. So Lydia one day either said to me or wrote to me the following:
There aren’t good things or bad things that happen to us. There are just things. Whether they turn out to be good or bad depends on what we do with them, how we choose to see them.
Remember that one the next time you feel that ev’ryone’s agin’ me. When something happens that adversely affects your plans, consider that it occurred as an outcome of your life. Perhaps instead of viewing that seemingly nasty episode as some sort of punishment, view it instead as a message for change.
Amen and onwards.
The True Origin of Four Freedom Publishing
Four Freedom Publishing really began as an outcome of a ghostwriting project I was hired to create. Please forgive me for not supplying all the details, however revealing a client’s name or the book title truly goes against the ghostwriter’s creed.
In any event, I was hired by a client to write, format and publish a book on sports. Great fun! I have often said that in my heart of hearts I am a sportswriter; indeed one of my favourite assignments of all-time was when I was a regular columnist covering TNA wrestling for PWTorch.com.
I wrote the book and went to CreateSpace to put it together. While filling in all the various fields I came to the one labeled Publisher. Years of reviewing books had taught me that any book that listed CreateSpace as its publisher was, odds on, likely to be a piece of hastily and badly written crap. (There have been exceptions. Off the top of my head, out of some hundred or so that I have been assigned I can think of … two.) Therefore, on the spur of the moment I decided to do my client a favour and invent a third party publisher.
Since moving to Ireland I had been working steadily on a collected series of essays titled For Freedom: A Human Rights Reader 1948-2015. I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, but you can find it on Amazon and I’d be frankly delighted if you did as it is a very, very good book. The publisher who had agreed to release For Freedom was in financial difficulty, so there were delays involved there which culminated in the manuscript returning to my hands. As such, it was in the back of my head to release it on my own. At a certain point, you just want to be free of the bloody thing. (If you are a writer yourself, you’ll understand. If you’re not a writer, imagine the manuscript as your child trapped in permanent, noisy adolescence leaving you longing for the day when the little arsehole moves out of the house.)
I decided to kill two birds with one stone and so typed in that the sports book was published by Four Freedom Publishing: Ireland – US – Canada. I drew up a logo, slapped it on the back cover, and so it was that Four Freedom was born, or at least achieved fetal status.
Journal Entry Three:
October 25/2015 9:30AM
Slept quite well actually and incredible dreams. A poem even, completely written:
I whispered all my secrets
Into lovers’ ears before
Can they even be called secrets
Or chocolate mints for paramours?
As each one left my pillows
Crumpled wrappers on the floor
She then became a secret
To tell the next one I adored.
I never meant to be this way
Unless of course I did
But that’s the real secret
The one I still keep hid.
Not bad. More importantly, I know what I want Four Freedom to be, what I want it to do. If I’m going to spend this much time staving off death with single sliced white bread sandwiches smeared with scrapings of jam, if I survive, I will make someone’s dreams live.
Yes, I do get a bit vain-glorious at times, but then again so did all my heroes in the writing trade and not just the authors themselves. You think Maxwell Perkins didn’t know he was damn good and knew what was best for his writers? Or Harold Ross when he assembled the Murderer’s Row of brilliance that was the original The New Yorker? Or Richard Seaver, searching obscure little book shops and small printers in Paris over weeks and months, as he described in his posthumous memoir The Tender Hour of Twilight looking for this little-known expat Irishman named Samuel Beckett because – he! – Dick Seaver! – was the one who could bring Beckett to the world’s attention. Do editors and publishers have big egos? Darling, they can’t get big enough.
The Lights Come On, The House is Launched
As you can tell, given that I’m not quite dead, the lights did eventually come back on and all the ideas and notes I made of them over those days and nights of dark and furious journaling have been put into action. There were four key decisions I had made:
1) If Four Free Freedom Publishing was truly to be worthwhile for me to focus the remaining half of my life on, it must make a positive impact on the world. Therefore, all its works in whatever category must touch on the advancement of Human Rights in brave, daring and entertaining forms. Our motto will be taken from a line written by Jacques Derrida:
What cannot be said above all must not be silenced but written.
2) We will publish in four categories: Non-Fiction, Fiction (both short and long), Poetry & Children’s, and Drama or Screenplay
3) There will be 16 titles per calendar year, so that each can achieve proper attention.
4) Marketing will be achieved by setting out an investment opportunity with a 22% annualized return, and also by offering free books to anyone willing to share our releases on social media. The world is Four Freedom Publishing‘s marketing team.
And now …
And now we have a website.
We have an email address: fourfreedompublishing (at) gmail.com .
Most importantly we have writers and editors and proofreaders. The books we have in the works include two one act plays in one volume, a poetry collection by an exciting new Canadian writer, two children’s books by an author from Northern Ireland, and just in its genesis a book about healing the soul from the traumas of everyday life as that too is a Human Rights issue.
As well, there is one series that I suppose is not actually Human Rights based. We are releasing a series of books with the prefix The Friendly World of … Those are gently humorous, yet content-filled books about various dog breeds. I suspect they will pay for the rest.
As For You?
Come and join us. You’ll find all the details on the Four Freedom Publishing website vis a vis submissions, or marketing, or even investing in us. This is all a glorious adventure and one I will do my damndest to push forward in a quest to make this world just a little bit better than how I found it. So I shall end this with the closing lines of a poem I actually do remember, Tennyson’s Ulysses. I say to you:
Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Be seeing you.
Thank you, Hubert, and I wish you the best of luck with your new publishing venture!
Hubert O’Hearn has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations. He is a Canadian-born playwright and journalist who now lives in Ireland. When he announced his new The Writer’s Pro Shop Series recently I asked if he’d like to write a guest blog post to help promote this service that’s intended for writers at all levels in their careers. So, here’s Hubert!
The Writer’s Pro Shop Series. Why You Need It.
The Writer’s Pro Shop is a series of weekly writing exercises I am offering for free on the internet. Not only are these important skill development exercises on my own website (bythebookreviews.blogspot.com), I’m also allowing anyone with a personal website or blog to freely use this content just so long as it is properly attributed back to me. Everybody wins!
Why Did I Develop These Exercises?
Through my work as an independent book editor I have discovered that my writer-clients get stuck in patterns. They – and probably you – see their writing projects in only one perspective and so, when a need arises for a change to a scene or even a book’s overall structure arises, they literally do not know how to shift their minds to write anew.
Because of the above, I started using a modified technique derived from my work as a theatre director and acting coach. Actors too get stuck in their heads, to use the conventional phrase. They are reluctant to try something different when playing a part because what they have been doing feels safe. Familiar is safe, change is scary. Therefore I would challenge them with games, improvised situations, role switching, you name it, just to get them to see their character and scene differently and so jump-start the discovery process.
For writers, I would suggest similar exercises, short assignments related to the manuscript yet not necessarily a re-writing of a given scene or chapter. If there was a scene in a novel that involved two main characters having a conversation in a restaurant, how did the waiter observe that? Re-do a paragraph in the present active voice. If the dialogue was dull, write a four-way conversation with no ‘John said’ indicators yet have the four voices be individually identifiable.
Because these were exercises and not taking a sledgehammer to the walls of the novel (these techniques work perfectly well with non-fiction, drama and poetry too) my writers did not feel threatened; instead they were freshened. So that is where the idea for both The Writer’s Pro Shop and my Six Months to Better Writing subscription course began. Yet I wanted to take it a step further. I started to think of writing in terms of Sports Science.
What Does Sports Science Have to Do With This?
Let’s assume you have a favourite sport. Your favourite team or individual performer does not train by only playing practice games. That might be fun, yet playing the same way does not result in improved performance, or at least not efficiently. As the great golf coach David Ledbetter says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
I took a look at two games – golf and poker – for comparisons to writing. If you’re a golfer and you go to a driving range, are you like most people and just stand on the tee and hammer away at your dwindling bucket seeing how far you can hit the ball with each club? Do you ever try a new swing thought, stance, cut or draw, rhythm, or anything at all different from what you’ve always done before? Have you ever worked one-on-one with a pro? You can only see yourself from within yourself, whereas the pro sees all of you. Bear that in mind as we proceed.
Poker is another great metaphor for writing. It costs $10,000 to enter the Main Event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Anyone with ten grand can enter, and literally thousands of ‘anyones’ enter every year, which is why the prize money for the winner has risen to the multi-million dollar range. $10,000 is a pretty good number for a writer to consider. When you factor in the time you take researching and writing a book, plus formatting and marketing it, if you are going the independent route, you’re spending at least $10,000. Now, is that money going towards making you money, or is it adding to the prize purse of a marketer or Amazon/Kindle?
How is this relating to writing?
Writers are exactly like the golfer who just practices the same thing over and over, or the poker player who enters the World Series convinced he can be the next amateur to win the whole thing having done nothing to prepare other than being the best among a small group of friends. Both are making their ways, their habits of playing, permanent.
That, my curious friend, is exactly what with absolutely no exaggeration 99% of all writers do, which is why only about 1% of all writers make a living at it. They don’t work to improve their game.
Look at the practice range at the next major golf tournament on TV. What do you see the players doing? They are working with their coach, their caddy, even other players, getting swing tips and advice. At the WSOP, even someone who has won multiple winner’s diamond bracelets, like Phil Hellmuth, spends weeks before the event practicing specific situations that may come up during the actual tournament. Pro golfers and professional poker players alike are always looking for that little insight that will make them one-tenth of one percent better, because that 0.1% improvement is the difference between cashing a decent cheque or eating hot dogs for dinner.
What Most Writers Do is What You Shouldn’t Do
Most writers – and this definitely includes many of the greats – use the same inefficient technique for improvement. They write an article or a book, it doesn’t sell, so they write another. They may read a book about writing, or some interviews, maybe listen to an editor like me, then go and write another article or book (or play, poem etc.). Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat …
What makes no sense to me is why anyone would go through a process that can take years or decades before it makes a positive change in a writer’s skills. Go spend that $10,000 on scratch tickets, because you’re playing the same odds and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
The Writer’s Pro Shop Exercises: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
This is why I have built this series of exercises. I know that you need to work on specific parts of your game. You need to make your strengths – let’s say you’re brilliant at dialogue – powerful strengths, plus we’ll use what you’re already strong at to improve the areas of writing you’re weak at.
Now, there is a flaw to all this! I would be dishonest if I said The Writer’s Pro Shop is all you need to succeed. The flaw is that you’re like the golfer who works out and practices with a mirror or video camera, guided by a coaching manual or DVD. You really aren’t getting direct feedback and commentary from a pro. You really do need to work one-on-one with someone you feel comfortable with and who knows what they’re talking about. But I’ll save my strong suggestion that you sign up for the Six Months to Better Writing course until the very end of this article. So let’s just ‘q.v.’ that one for now.
What I have done in the Writer’s Pro Shop is develop weekly writing assignments that you can easily adapt to a present project, or use generally to improve your skills. It is really based on not anything so technical as improving your grammar or expanding your word choices. Using our golf metaphor once more, those factors are club selection; we need to work on your swing and visualization.
Visualization is everything in the Writer’s Pro Shop Series. We write what we observe, after what we observe runs through the colours of our imagination. So, let’s observe differently. It will be easier for both of us if I show you what I mean. Here is the first exercise I give every client, from absolute newbies to seasoned professionals:
On the internet, find a photo of a painting that interests you and draws your attention. The only restriction is that it must contain at least one person in it. Download the photo, then write 500 words of any story you feel emerging from it. Do not concern yourself with a beginning or end. Just write what you feel. This is not for publication, so allow your instincts room to play.
Do you get it? To write more artistically, think like an artist. To short-cut the process, that exercise makes you look at a piece of reality that a painter has already seen as art. Then we move on through areas like:
• Character development
• Finding the crucial detail
• What voice to use
• Making a plot logical, yet still enthralling
And (using my TV pitchman’s voice) many more!
Speaking of TV pitchmen, you do need to work one-on-one with a coach like me. I’m not a big believer in writing workshops. I don’t take them, I don’t lead them, frankly I avoid them. I find that their time is too compressed and they tend to break down into something akin to a herd of rutting stags clashing horns. They may be great vacations and you may have a couple of great takeaways in terms of tips or friendships, but as a career developer ….. meh.
Six Months to Better Writing, my course, uses the same exercises as The Writer’s Pro Shop, except I adapt them to suit your specific needs. Also, you get direct commentary every week from me on your assignment, along with the next week’s assignment that frequently builds off the work you have already turned in. Sixty bucks a month, quit any time, or stay longer than six months. Plus I limit the number of student/clients I work with to 24. Any more, I’m a factory and the only good writing that came out of a factory was Cannery Row.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?
If you want to get in touch with me about either the Pro Shop or my course you can email me here or by using the contact info below. Regardless, thank you for reading this. That’s all we writers ever ask for: Someone to read our stuff.
Be seeing you.
Hubert O’Hearn is the author of two books, an independent editor, and a professional book and music reviewer. He also is the designer of the Six Months to Better Writing Course, working one-on-one with writers drawn from the entire range of experience. For comments or queries he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)