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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

Shining a “Brilliant Light” on new books and good writers

Back when the New York publishing world still wanted my books, I wondered if the people there ever got out. Did they talk to people outside their island, beyond their castle walls? They didn’t seem to. Yes, they went to book fairs, where they talked with other book people and reinforced their shared preconceptions. Otherwise they seemed to stay behind those high walls, working and deciding in an insular world.

Now the world has changed. As it did for films and music, the digital revolution has enabled a vast, tumultuous blooming of independently published books. From all over the countryside, floods in the thousands come out each season, unjudged by the gate-keeping of the traditional houses, all of which have been absorbed by giant multinational corporations. So it’s a very different world for everyone — readers, writers, publishers both indie and traditional, and all the librarians and other curators out there.

When you have a good new indie book, the biggest challenge, unsurprisingly, is simply getting seen. You do your very best, you do everything you can, but you’re ignored by the book establishment, the major review journals, the makers of best-of lists; you do not get a look. How can you catch a reader’s eye? After months of trying with Street of Storytellers, my 17th book overall, I felt ready to give it up. Let it go. Even if nobody ever reads it, at least I made the book and it’s good.

Then I got an email from Brilliant Light. This, I learned, is a year-old enterprise run by an energetic small team, with rich experience in writing and publishing, that's devoted to helping readers discover the work of good authors here in New England.

“Our goal is to come up very near the top of the list when searching for New England writers and their books on the Internet,” said Brilliant Light’s unexpected email. I responded by asking the team — writer and artist Jon Meyer, writer, editor and artist Deb Meyer, and publishing-world veteran Scott Lesniewski — to tell me more.

“As it turns out, there are a ton of talented writers and great books out there!” the Brilliant Light team wrote back. “And the amount of effort and care writers put into their craft truly deserves a GIANT billboard (remember those?) on the ‘information super-highway.’”

“For the algorithm-inspired generations of today, we humbly offer a well-researched and maintained selection of New England writers, in various topics, at no charge,” Scott added. For writers, he added, “I think the challenge is still in genuinely connecting to the audience.” That’s for sure.

“Online,” he said, “it is easy to forget there are people (hopefully interested, engaged people) in front of screens and keyboards. An author must begin with something awesome — their excellent work — and then, bring it to their audience in ways that aren't overly pushy or selling... an age-old challenge.” So Brilliant Light spotlights and recommends poets and other writers, features independent bookstores, offers sample pages from new books, and lists upcoming events.

Even with all that, I don’t expect Brilliant Light will work miracles for anyone. It’s still an enormous challenge to get engage readers outside what’s now a very corporate-minded publishing establishment. But discovering that there just is an initiative like this, started and run by very smart people who seem really to be connecting with readers out beyond the towers ... well, this makes it seem worthwhile to keep going. Keep at it.

If we do, who knows? A brilliant light might just shine.

I hope you’ll visit Brilliant Light, at They're well worth a look!

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