A speaker at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference in 1997 said the chances of a member of that audience having her work published by a New York publishing company was just about nil.
Shocked and hurt, five women in the crowd later formed a writing collective for moral support, and for the comfort of numbers in their efforts to change the odds of women writers being recognized.
That was the beginning of the Kentucky Book Mafia, known now as KaBooM Writing Collective, a small group of women writers from a variety of genres.
They have been known to boldly ask for the books of women writers or Kentucky writers to be moved to a more prominent location in bookstores.
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"That was where the 'mafia' came in," said Jan Isenhour, who has been a member of the collective for five years.
The women aren't that insistent any more, otherwise local bookstores would have several copies of their newly published anthology When the Bough Breaks featured in their windows.
After nearly 11 years of individual members of the group successfully publishing works, Mary Alexander, Susan Christerson Brown, Isenhour, Leatha Kendrick, Gail Koehler, Lynn Pruett, and Pam Sexton have published a collection of essays, poems and fiction that carries readers through weigh stations in a woman's life.
And while that may be noteworthy, what is just as interesting is how they published the anthology.
With two grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and from LexArts, totaling $3,950, the writers have not only determined how each page of the book will look — down to where the page numbers and placement of the authors' names will be located — but they also have taken the time to learn how to sew the sections or signatures of the book together with a frame, needle and thread.
They researched how to secure ISBN numbers, Library of Science numbers, how to fold the pages, collate them, sew and glue their book.
"The sewing part is fun," Isenhour said, "but it is repetitive. We are touching every single book many times. That's a little bit different than sending the manuscript away and getting a box of books back."
They worked with Gray Zeitz, owner and operator of Larkspur Press in Monterey, Ky. The company specializes in old-time handset metal type and publishes mostly Kentucky writers. The women wanted Larkspur to publish their book, but Zeitz said hand-setting it would increase the selling price because of its length.
So he came up with an idea he had used with other authors: have the book offset printed at Feeback Printing and Mailing Services in Lexington with the same paper he would use.
The women call it a hybrid.
They took the finished pages, collated them into signatures and folded them, punched pre-determined holes, and then sewed them together into books. Six signatures sewn together equal the body of their book.
That product then was returned to Larkspur where a paperback cover was attached to 350 of them and a hardback and dustcover placed on another 150.
"We decided to do the book this way because we love the books that Larkspur Press produces," said Brown. "Their books are not like anything else anywhere. Everything says quality."
The women spent a day at Larkspur learning to hand-sew the bindings, and Zeitz then lent them a couple of frames so they could work at home. The method allows the pages to open naturally and completely, Brown said.
The books and the authors will be at table 10 at the Kentucky Book Fair on Nov. 7, at the Frankfort Convention Center, 405 Mero Street, Frankfort. The hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and admission is free.
Just as the publishing of the book is a hybrid, so are its contents.
"It's not just pretty to sit somewhere," Sexton said. "Each of the sections has a small essay with it by that writer, and it includes a 'try this' section, which is a writing exercise that has been useful to us."
It can be a teaching aid, enabling other writers to perfect their craft. The theme of joining and staying together despite how many boughs may break, dictated the work the authors selected, she said.
That cohesion includes surviving as a unit and as friends the many small decisions the women had to make to complete the process. It took nearly two years from concept to finished product.
Brown, who also set up KaBooM's Web site, kaboomwriters.com, said the words and the book itself bring joy to the reader.
"There is more to both of them than meets the eye," she said. "It is a rare opportunity to be that connected to a physical product."