Trish Lewis, Founder of Van Velzer Press

Van Velzer Press

I was fortunate to learn about Van Velzer Press before I was ready to publish my most recent book. In my experience writing is about equal parts actually cranking out words and thinking about what to write while staring into space, waiting for the light to turn green, or trying to go to sleep. Most writers hope to share their work with readers, which requires a team of editors and advance readers who give honest, but hopefully helpful, feedback. The team also needs graphic artists and book interior design people to attract potential readers and make the book look appealing as well as easy to read from a visual perspective.

Then someone has to publish and distribute the book. That someone could be the author, but it is just as likely to be a publisher who can navigate the ever-changing world of modern book production and distribution in electronic, print, and audio formats. I’ve been privileged to work with dozens of word lovers who have chosen coaching, editing, graphic design, marketing, printing or publishing as a career path. I am grateful to all of them. For without them, everything I’ve ever written would be languishing in notebooks and computer files.

Publisher Van Velzer Press

It is impossible to name the dozens of people who have helped get my words into print since my first article was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 1968. Allow me to introduce you to one of my teammates. Trish Lewis, the founder of Van Velzer Press, is the publisher of Mary Brewster’s Love Life: Matriarch of the Mayflower.

Publishing runs in Trish’s family. Her great-great Uncle, F. C. Van Velzer, and his father, and his father were traveling newspapermen. They traveled from the East Coast across the expanding United States in the 1800s, leaving behind them a trail of small-town newspapers. They stopped in towns lacking any reliable contact with the outside world and stayed long enough to establish a local paper. Then they traveled to another town in need of a paper. Eventually, they settled in California, near San Diego, where they launched another weekly newspaper in 1902.

Connection to Walt Whitman

Trish says her family tree includes Louisa Van Velsor, mother of Walt Whitman. Trish is carrying on the family business by publishing books. “We are proud to continue the family business in the art of literary magic. Van Velzer Press concentrates on our glorious country that boasts of such a rambling, brave, innovative history.”

I met Trish at a Vermont writers’ event where she was available to assist six of us authors competing to win a publishing contract. At the time I was working on Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures. I found her suggestions insightful and helpful. When I decided to write a second Mayflower historical novel from Mary Brewster’s perspective, I asked Trish if she’d be interested in publishing it. We both thought Mary ought to come out of the shadows of historical obscurity into the sunlight of appreciation for her role in the fledgling pilgrim community.

Mothers Who Research Family History

Trish and I have in common mothers who put in the long tedious hours required to trace our respective family’s heritages. Trish credits her mother and her grandmother, a dignified lady Trish knows as Grammy, for populating her family tree with names and details. I have my mother to thank for her detailed notes connecting our family to William and Mary Brewster who were part of the Mayflower voyage.

Aware of the strong publishing background in her DNA, she launched Van Velzer Press in 2019. “Yep, right before the pandemic hit, and tossed all my plans for my first year up in the air. No one but my husband and my mother encouraged me; everyone else just gave me a side eye and stayed quiet. I forged on ahead.”

Trish earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology in Pennsylvania which has helped her prepare for her current vocational passion. She’s over halfway through the credits required for a double master’s degree in of all things Microbiology and Political Science. It helps that she worked as a book editor for nine years before launching her own publishing business.

Joys and Challenges

When I asked her what gives her the greatest satisfaction from publishing, she told me, “Creating a quality book involves a heavy amount of research, even fiction, and lots of time rewriting, fussing, and rethinking. So, when authors hold their galley copies in their hands it is like a Christmas present. I love to see their joy. I also like helping produce stories that have an overall positive energy to give to the world.”

Trish says her greatest challenges have been access to good software and the high costs of printing and distribution. Like the authors she publishes, she finds the creative stuff a breeze and the rewarding part. I asked her if she could start over if she’d do anything differently. “Like planting a tree, I would have started earlier. I had the skills long before I realized I had them built up strong enough to be a publisher.”

Words of Wisdom for Authors

She has advice for authors about working with a publisher. “Many authors think their stuff is great right out of the gate. Well, it is not.  Authors write for themselves, and that is great.  Publishers then help shape the final book for readers – which means a decidedly different end product. The craft of writing — the skills — are something most hopeful artists fail to spend enough time perfecting. So, an author needs to know there will be changes to the manuscript. They need to enter into the process with a spirit of teamwork. Then it is all happy days and golden sunshine.”

I know many people who dream of writing a book. The difference between a dream and an accomplishment is the willingness to put in the hours required to learn the craft and produce the product. Trish’s advice to would-be authors is “Start by writing your story and not worrying about a thing.  Then, don’t be lazy – do rewrites and rewrites and rewrites until you think your manuscript is perfect. Then laugh when you see all the red a good editor puts on that screen for yet another rewrite.”

Editors as Advocates

It helps if an author can send his or her ego on vacation when the book is ready for serious editing. Red ink is not a grade about the author as a person or the value of the author’s work. Rather, it is rather a professional’s opinion on how to make a piece of good work better. Anyone who does much reading at all can quickly spot books published by authors who tried to skip this step of writing a book.

Thank you, Trish Lewis, for being part of my team and adding your red ink to my efforts.

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Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold.; Mary Brewster Brewster’s Love Life
Autographed copies are available on my website.

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