Fools Rush In

I said I always wished I could see uniform trade paperbacks of my work, books that could sit on a shelf and actually look to be related, visibly related, instead straggling like unruly foster children from different homes.

May 3, 2021

There we were at our corporate board meeting, beers in hand, at two kitchen tables two thousand miles apart, cheering the arrival of the first offering of Paint Creek Press, Dark Continent. We had promised the world (or as much of the world as might care) that the reprint Dark Continent would be published May 1st. And here we were, the three CEO’s of Paint Creek Press, myself in Washington, Andrea Gabriel and Janna Jacobson at their home in Wisconsin, cheering on behalf of Paint Creek’s first beautiful book. In hand!

We started out with no capisce whatever of the work that would be demanded.

Paint Creek Press began as a casual convo some months ago, around Christmas time, Andrea and I on the phone chatting about how I had used snippets from my various books as examples in Memory Into Memoir (forthcoming October 2021 from University of New Mexico Press). I said I always wished I could see uniform trade paperbacks of my work, books that could sit on a shelf and actually look to be related, visibly related, instead straggling like unruly foster children from different homes. Andrea had the idea for the press, including the name, and logo. Janna vetoed the first logo idea, hence the lovely new logo that looks both like a swath of paint from a brush and meandering creek. We started out with the sort of attitude you see in those old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musicals from the 1930’s. Sure, kids! We can do this! Hey! Why Not! And no capisce whatever of the work that would be demanded.

In the midst of much else this past gruesome winter I began re-reading my long out-of-print books as part of the Paint Creek process, returning to them first as Word Documents, and then as PDFs. This was a very strange experience since I never re-read my books once they’re printed. I cannot revisit them without thinking, oh, I should have changed this, or made that better, or why didn’t I …

I found myself offering tsk tsk editorial advice to the writer, moi.

Nearly all my novels are baggy books in one way or another, not at all neat or streamlined, the content often struggling with structure. This winter as I re-read These Latter Days, Graced Land and Memoir Club, I found myself offering tsk tsk editorial advice to the writer, moi. There were places I could see that sheer narrative exuberance had propelled the story into flights it probably didn’t need to take. For TLD I wished I had had more faith in the story and not sliced so much out of it. (Chapters I later published as stories, but still, they could have deepened the characters in house, you might say.) I could see places where I had quarreled with the original editor, quarrels I had “won,” and now I could see that her judgment was actually right. So, all that was sobering.

But the books of stories and novellas? Dark Continent and Delinquent Virgin? No. I could not have slid a butter-knife into that prose to improve them. They still left me so emotionally slain, I could only read one story a day, and then I’d have to move on to some other undertaking.

To see this first one so handsomely bound makes my heart soar.

dark continent book coverDark Continent was first published by Viking in 1989. I can’t remember when it went out of print, but as with all my books, once out of print, I have got the rights returned to me. This can be an arduous, sometimes years-long process with publishers who are literally finished with the book, but require all sorts of formal bullshit from the author. My books, all except for 2019’s The Great Pretenders, are mine to reprint with Paint Creek Press, and to see this first one so handsomely bound makes my heart soar.

For these editions, I supply the content, the proofing and editing if necessary, and Andrea the artist and Janna with their enviable tech skills provide the means for that content to become an actual book. Dark Continent owes its visual and material beauty to Andrea’s artistic eye for design. In fact, when she saw the original ARC , she so hated it, she didn’t even send it on to me. Now the book in hand has nice large print, generous margins, cream-colored paper, interesting interior motifs and drop caps which I especially like because they remind of of all those 19th century books I always loved. Now that the design and other apparatus are in place (a process I absolutely do not understand) once the content is ready, each volume can go forward across all selling platforms as e-books and uniform trade paperbacks.

However different these novels, stories and novellas may be in terms of their focus, their voices, their sometimes noisy, warring, and far-afield struggling storylines, they will all eventually line up on a shelf, Paint Creek Editions, visibly, tangibly related to one another and to the mind, the writer who first brought them forth so long ago.


  1. Frances Howard-Snyder

    So wonderful to see some of my favorite people working together on this magnificent project. I want to buy these new books.

  2. Scott swanson

    Hi laura. Have you revised the reprints at all? Do you allow your editor/proofreader to insert grammatically correct punctuation even if you’d prefer to skip that comma, or leave it in?

    • Laura Kalpakian

      As I am the editor/proofreader these are my choices. Though styles in punctuation have changed somewhat, I’ve basically left punctuation etc. the way it was. I have made small edits/changes/deletions to bring some of the characters, especially in THESE LATTER DAYS into better alignment with appearances they make in other books and stories, notably AMERICAN COOKERY which is centered on the same St. Elmo family as TLD. It’s been interesting to find tiny errors that got past the original proofers when the book was first published. At least so far these are the only changes I have made to these books. I have thought of you often, especially now that my wisteria is starting to explode! I hope you and yours are well and happy.

  3. Laura Rink

    So excited for this undertaking! Looking forward to lining up your Paint Creek Editions on a shelf in my house.

  4. Katherine Thomerson

    Hi Laura!! Love that your books are being reissued; I still have all of your original publications. But..I will buy the new ones for my family of readers and friends. I love the ReadersBlog. Thank you so very much for motivating and encouraging rereading Virginia ! I taught the book Room of Her Own and of course named a part of my bookstore for that fascinating story which pushed my literary intelligence. Thank you so much for writing these creative and literary influential blogs!!!

  5. Jes

    Laura, Janna, Andrea–

    This is a gift to literature, to writers, to art. Words in just the right order, at just the right time.

    Thank you.

    • Terry

      Well, this is exciting, Laura! Can’t wait to talk to you about Paint Creek Press when I see you.
      Where comets the name?

  6. Brenda Wilbee

    I’ve often wished the same thing myself, all those out-of-print books all graphically a match and looking like a single writer wrote every single one. So I know the THRILL this must bring you! Such an undertaking and you know we all so LOVE your work and will be buying the new editions to set alongside our old.

  7. Janet Oakley

    So glad to hear this. The books have been out of print for so long and just shows how little the Big 5 care. It’s a whole new world in publishing, even just three years ago. I’ve heard getting the rights is an arduous business, but I’m glad you are moving forward. Can’t wait to read the new version of TLD.

  8. Annie Nolting

    Oh, the joy of your ‘baggy books’. You might have no idea how they delight readers. I snatched you up when first moving to the Pacific Northwest, curious about what sorts of authors reside here. I launched into Steps and Exes, and Educating Waverley to discover what this landscape is about as well as I read and retread passages describing spring cascading down slopes with the unfurling rhododendrons. The land in Alaska where I had lived most of my life had little in common, the language of writers so crystalline.
    I was hooked on the energy of your stories and lined my shelf with every publication of yours I obtained from amazon. Those stories (The Dark Continent with its rich chocolate dust cover) were reread more times than you have reread :). I read one right after another and when I reached Cosette, your meticulous detail and attention to to history solidified my assessment that as an author you are totally brilliant.
    These books are timeless and will travel with me to the rolling hills of Vermont, into the he hands of interested new readers who sprawl on blankets listening to cicadas, or on a pilgrimage to Old Orchard beach to lap up another sort of sea then the sea that floated Isadora Island.
    So glad you are investing the time to keep these books circulating!!!

  9. Victoria Doerper

    This is such good and heartening news. Thanks to all three of you creative and brilliant women for taking this on for the benefit of us all. I’m so looking forward to these beautiful resurrected books.

  10. Patty Stephenson

    Congratulations on your latest endeavor! Isn’t is great to still be breaking into new adventures at our age? I think I have read/have all your books (many courtesy of your proud Aunt Angagh). But knowing that they will be more easily available to a new generation is outstanding! Keep it up!

  11. Virginia Herrick

    I’m just thrilled about this collaboration, being a long-time fan of yours and Andrea’s, and now adding Janna to my list of admirable colleagues! Onward!

  12. helen k johnson

    Wondereful reading


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laura kalpakian
Fair Augusto & Other Stories

Fair Augusto has been reprinted by Paint Creek Press and is available on June 20th 2023.

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