How a new company was born during the Coronavirus pandemic
At 33 years old, I found myself forced to start over, again. This time, I was hungrier than ever to find that thing you always read about in self-help books (surely, I’m not the only one still reading self-help books) or see in sappy movies. I was desperate to find my one true calling in life. I’ve done just about everything you can think of in my 18 years of working. From bagging groceries to heading up international marketing and PR teams, my career has run the gamut, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with what I’m doing.
Then, COVID-19 changed my entire life.
I remember walking around the grocery store on one of my furlough days (my schedule had been reduced to three days a week at the beginning of the pandemic) and getting a text from my boss. “Hey. Can you talk?” Never what you want to hear when you know the company, and economy, is going through a financial crisis. I called immediately and got the news, right there next to the pharmacy. I cried. People stared. It was embarrassing. In my life, I’ve been laid off twice and had to leave a company due to moral objections to the CEO’s behavior both in and out of the organization. One thing was always consistent: I was working for someone else, making money for someone else, and ensuring someone else’s dreams come true.
“When times get tough and people get desperate, their creativity runs free.”
About two weeks after my layoff, I had sunk into a fairly deep depression. I don’t know where you fall on the religious side of things, and it doesn’t really matter, but I found myself one night begging God for a sign of what to do and how to survive this current crisis. God sent me the sign I needed. While the exact details of that sign aren’t important, it did open my eyes that I needed to focus my life and efforts into creating something bigger than I that might make a difference in people’s lives, one word at a time.
City Limits Publishing is named after a restaurant where my best friend and business partner, Janet McMahan, met for lunch after our first meeting and solidified our friendship. We’re an odd pair. To outsiders, we give off a less dark and twisty Harold and Maude with a splash of endless optimism, countless inside jokes, and devilishly funny humor. She’s the yin to my yang, the Turner to my Hooch, the ebb to my flow, the Rodgers to my Hammerstein, the 17 syllables to my haiku. We went through the COVID pandemic together, spending our days writing, reading great books, binging Homeland, talking endlessly on the phone, and dreaming up dozens of fun projects. She’s the reason I survived the pandemic emotionally intact.
One day, as Janet and I were developing another idea, I threw out the idea of self-publishing some of our work. This snowballed into just taking the leap and opening our own publishing company. It’s honestly been easier than expected, mostly just because we’re having a great time developing these book projects and getting our message out to be heard.
“I just wanted a place to give people a voice.”
One passion, that I’m fortunate Janet shares, is the desire to help people find their voice. Janet is a brilliant writer and has focused a lot of her talents on writing music, book, and lyrics for musicals for kids aged one to 101. She has a talent I cannot help but be jealous of when it comes to putting sentences together and making her audience sense like each little syllable was written with love and devotion to their feelings. Watching her pull the absolute best out of everyone is inspiring, and it’s become a central mission of City Limits Publishing.
We’re focused on author development. If you have an idea, we want to hear about it. If you’ve already written something, but it’s sitting on a shelf idle, we want to help you finish and publish it. If you’ve never written a word, we’re here for you. We’re not just launching a platform to sell books. Anyone can do that. We’re launching an organization with the tools and resources authors of all levels need to bring their work to the masses, including publishing, design, and writing workshops to help develop ideas and turn them into long-term income opportunities. Our one goal and mission is to help our writers find their voice.
“We want our work to mean something. Anything. Just stand for something.”
What’s the point if it doesn’t mean anything? I’ve spent my whole career failing to make a difference with my work. Now, I’m lucky to have found a new path. With Janet, we’re launching the Tennessee Youth Literacy Fund with special projects throughout the year dedicated to raising funds to put more books in the hands of readers under 18. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that only 79 percent of our adult population has sufficient literacy skills. The US ranks at number 125 out of 197 countries in terms of literacy. Specifically, Tennessee ranks at 87% of adults with adequate literacy skills, number 36 in the nation. We find this alarming, and we know there’s something we can do to help.
We’re launching a “Buy One Gift One” program allowing everyone purchasing a book through our website to add a second book onto their order for 50% of the cost. We’ll then turn around and donate that second book purchased to schools in lower income neighborhoods throughout Tennessee. We’ve compiled a list and we’ll be sending books in order to ensure everyone is cycled through to fairly distribute books to the schools that need them the most. Additionally, we’re beginning a program that will allow us to offer virtual writing sessions for young adults, giving them a chance to write short stories, novels, and poetry which will then be published!
“Mission, Passion, Purpose”
Our mission is clear: To help authors find their voice, develop their writing and storytelling abilities, and publish their work.
Our passion is unwavering: We love to create, and watch people create, and foster creativity. We strive to help others find that creative spark.
Our purpose is powerful: We’re here to improve literacy, publish quality written content, educate potential authors, and help others.
Will you join us?