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Brian McNeece publishes on Internet

February 19, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

As Brian McNeece knows, writing the text isn't the hardest part of publishing a book.

"There's a tremendous amount of work trying to get published," McNeece said.

Years ago, the El Centro resident had written a novel and sent it to countless agents with the hope one would help him publish it.

He had no takers.

With his latest work, a collection of essays titled "Slipknots: Essays for a Tangled Age," McNeece decided to approach publishing from a different angle.

The finished product looks exactly like any other paperback: glossy cover, stylish fonts, even a dedication. The difference is in how the book gets to consumers.

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In a form of on-demand publishing, "Slipknots" is available through Writers Club Press, an imprint of iUniverse.com, Inc.

On its Website (www.iUniverse.com, surprisingly enough), iUniverse.com boasts it has "eliminated the necessity of massive print runs, dramatically shortened time-to-market, and given content creators control over when and how their works are published."

McNeece, for one, is a believer.

"The Internet is turning publishing on its head," McNeece said.

"This is the way publishing is gonna go," he predicts.

Though agents have been cut out of the process, acquiring books published this way is not a lot different from buying any other book.

Buyers can purchase "Slipknots" online through the iUniverse.com Website or at local bookstores such as The Book Nook and 5th Avenue Book Center, both in El Centro. If a bookstore doesn't have it, the store can easily order it for customers.

For a man who makes his living through words, writing is a major part of McNeece's life.

"My professional life is wrapped around language every which way," McNeece said.

The 49-year-old Imperial Valley College English professor calls writing "an outlet, catharsis."

Having kept a diary since age 15, McNeece finds writing to be a clarification process.

Most of the essays in "Slipknots" are letters McNeece has written and published in the Imperial Valley Press' "A Reader Writes" column in which citizens express thoughts and opinions.

McNeece says he writes to the paper regarding "just about anything."

Few of his essays, McNeece says, have hard and fast theses.

"They all unravel," he said of his essays. This "unraveling" is also the basis for the collection's title.

Through his writings, McNeece comments on his life and the world in which he lives.

Like other "folk philosophers," McNeece is one of those "people who like to reflect on events around them and their universal meaning."

"If you go to task honestly, you can't help but learn something," McNeece said.

This reflection is non-academic, McNeece explained.

"Everyone has it in them," he said.

McNeece's everyman-approach to writing is evident in his teaching, too.

"He never placed himself on a pedestal," said Charlie Zamarripa, one of McNeece's former students at IVC.

"He made me feel really comfortable. He didn't make it stuffy," Zamarripa said.

As an English teacher at Calexico High School, Zamarripa said he reads McNeece's columns from this newspaper to his own students.

"I'd like to borrow him," Zamarripa said.

In his essays, McNeece says he tries to use dialogue, include people and scenes and get away from the formal.

"For me, I'm a better observer if I don't have a stake in what I'm looking at. I can be more attentive. I'm not trying to control anything," McNeece said.

The resulting pieces of writing garner him compliments.

"I find his writings quite refreshing and always enjoyable," said Fred Fischer, chairman of IVC's English department and a member of the hiring committee that brought McNeece to the college.

One of Fischer's favorite essays, "Valley of Wonders," is included in "Slipknots."

In that piece, McNeece, an Imperial Valley native, "shows extraordinary insight into the Valley," Fischer said.

McNeece's foray into this new, online method of publishing shouldn't come as any surprise to Fischer, who says McNeece is "constantly on the lookout for improved methods of teaching and learning."

McNeece, apparently, isn't concerned only with his own publications. Fischer said McNeece has been instrumental in getting creative writing anthologies of student work published at the college.

"He encourages students to share their work," Fischer said.

Though "Slipknots" is available anywhere in the world thanks to the Internet, McNeece expects most copies will be sold locally. To put a face on this Internet publishing undertaking, McNeece will be at 5th Ave. Books from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The bookstore is at 510 W. Main St. in El Centro.

(Brian McNeece's latest column can be seen today on page A4.)

Staff writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3441.

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