Catalyst Book Press

The places, ideas, and people that change us

Men Don’t Give Birth, After All

I just got off the phone with a snotty bookseller in Boston.

I was trying to set up a reading for four of the Boston-area writers in my forthcoming anthology of literary birth stories, Labor Pains and Birth Stories:Essays on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Becoming a Parent. 

I mentioned the book and said four of my writers live in the Boston area.

“I feel like I’ve done this already,” she said.

My mind started racing. Oh, no, has somebody beaten me to the punch? Has somebody just released an anthology of birth stories?

Then she wanted to know who they were, which is a fair question. I mentioned the first writer (a man), and she snorted. “Did he have children?” she asked.

“Well….yes, he did,” I said.

“Did he give birth?” The only way to describe her tone is Boston-style snide.

“Well, he was there, after all, when his wife gave birth,” I explained–I hope in a gentle, soothing tone, that tried to get across the idea that birth stories are not only for or about women, and that, after all, women are not the only participants in this life-changing event. “And so it seems like he would be qualified to write about his own children’s births…”

“Uh-huh,” she said. “And? Who else?”

I listed the writers in order, my voice shaking as she grew quieter and quieter. Then she said, “We just did an event with a book about miscarriages, so I think we’ve already done this topic.”

Wow, I wanted to say. You think that having a miscarriage is the same thing as giving birth? Who are you? And where can we find your witch’s broom and witch’s hat?

November 10, 2008 Posted by | birth mothers, birth stories, bookstores, Catalyst Book Press, fertility | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birth Parents anthology

I’m pleased to officially report that Labor Pains and Birth Stories, due out in January 2009, will be followed in the next year by an anthology of essays (and possibly poems) exploring the experiences of birth parents. We are looking for essays (and poems) written by birth mothers and birth fathers who have given up their children for adoption, of birth parents who have met their children later in life, birth parents who have navigated the difficult waters of open adoptions, adoptive parents who have struggled through or been blessed with a relationship with a birth parent or who have watched their children reach out or struggle with their birth parents, and people who have been adopted and later developed a relationship or did not develop a relationship with a birth parent. The focus, however, is on birth parents (not adoption, which we may do for a later anthology.) We hope this will be a healing book, and perhaps a resource as well.

Though lots has been written about adoption, there is a real lack of resources for birth parents. I’m very excited to participate in this project, which will be edited by mother-daughter team Ann Angel and Amanda Angel. They have their own great story to tell, which they may choose to do at a later time on this blog. Essays can be short or long. We are a literary press and looking for essays written to the highest standards. Please submit your best work.

If you want to submit an essay or poem to this upcoming anthology, please contact Amanda and Ann at the following email: alangel78 at You can also contact us here at Catalyst Book Press at info at

p.s. this is a sensitive topic; for those who need it, we will welcome essays and poems written under pseudonyms…

May 3, 2008 Posted by | adoption, anthologies, art, birth mothers, birth parents, birth stories, Catalyst Book Press, fertility | , , , | Leave a comment

What, no names?

Ken Waldman called me a few days ago to say that he had brought up Labor Pains and Birth Stories , the anthology, to a bookstore owner in the Midwest. The bookstore owner was intrigued…but, “Who are the names?” he wanted to know. In other words, who are the famous writers I’m including?

I remember this was one of the problems my agent faced when she was trying to sell it in New York. In exasperation, she finally said to me, “I keep wanting to say that famous writers aren’t the point of this anthology….”

I do understand where the editors and the bookstores are coming from. Famous writerly people are more likely to sell a literary anthology, especially among dozens of other anthologies. But part of the problem is the idea that an anthology like this should be shelved with other anthologies. Doesn’t it seem obvious that it should be shelved in the pregnancy section? And when a pregnant woman comes looking at books, and sees the birth stories anthology, she’s not going to give a flip about whether there are famous writers in it or not. She’s going to care about whether she can read about natural birth, about miscarriages, about long hospital stays, about home births, stillbirths, etc. She’s going to care that there are real people writing these essays, moms and dads, doctors, sisters, friends….The writers I’ve included are good writers. They’ve been published in parenting magazines, literary parenting magazines, newspapers. They’re good parents. They care about their kids, their spouses, their families.  They’re good people. And they’re writing from the heart, about an experience that absolutely changed how they think about themselves, life, the world, God.

About the famous writers, I understand. I do. I really, really do. But I guess I’m feeling a little rebellious about it today…

February 27, 2008 Posted by | anthologies, birth stories, fertility | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mission Statement

mighty-mouse.jpgI’m using this space to work on the mission statement for the press. Please feel free to send comments. I can’t promise to incorporate your comments or pay any attention to them whatsoever–but I’m thrilled to  get ’em because they might, like Mighty Mouse, come to save the day!

A mission statement can often be sort of lofty and, well, high-falutin’ so to speak. I’m going to do that in part A. But in part B, I’m going to get down to the nitty-gritty to describe the things Catalyst will publish and the things Catalyst won’t publish.

The Lofty, High-Falutin’ Part

A) The definition of “catalyst” is “something that causes an important event to happen.” The best literature is a force for change. Catalyst Book Press will publish books that follow the human journey through life, paying special attention to those moments of individual and group transformation, revolution, and change. While it is a worthy goal to try to transform society, that means trying to change bureaucracies, which is like trying to stop the earth from turning. Societies are changed when individuals change and so Catalyst focuses on the ground up, at the personal level. We hope to publish books that 1) increase knowledge about the world and 2) work to help transform individual hearts and minds.

The Nitty-Gritty Part

B) First of all, with but a few exceptions, Catalyst Book Press will exclusively publish non-fiction. This non-fiction should strive for the best journalistic and literary standards. We are not interested in scholarly works though we are interested in works that have been thoroughly researched and investigated. So here’s a list of things that might appeal:

1) TRAVELNOTES Like people, places have a personality–that personality is influenced by geography, culture, religion, history and politics. So Catalyst is interested in publishing books about strange or unique places, perhaps books written by people who have either travelled somewhere or lived somewhere interesting.

2) FERTILITY AND FAMILY. Catalyst will be publishing a series of literary anthologies related to those kinds of topics (birth stories, birth parents, adoption, miscarriages, etc.) exploring people’s personal and spiritual transformations. From time to time, we will send out calls for submissions for these anthologies. Although Catalyst is not interested in self-help books etc., there may be other books that fit into this category that, from time to time, we will publish.

3) RELIGION. All religions can be a force for both good and evil. Catalyst is interested in exploring individual and group spiritual experiences, books that explore religious movements or depict religious people, spiritual memoirs, biographies, popular histories.

4) AFRICA. Anybody who knows me knows how much I love Africa. In the next two-three years, Catalyst will begin publishing books by Africans and about Africa. This may be the press’s death knell. It seems like nobody buys books about Africa (woe to us.) If necessary, Catalyst will start a side non-profit to pursue this interest.

January 21, 2008 Posted by | birth stories, Catalyst Book Press, fertility | Leave a comment