Community novel project wins literary arts award

Media Contacts:

Diana Friend, Communications and Marketing Director
Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
(785) 580-4486

Leah Sewell, Communications Editor
Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
(785) 580-4487

Sept. 5, 2014

Topeka, Kan. – Two librarians at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library have accepted an award for their work on a book that hasn’t yet been printed.

The Community Novel Project is about to self-publish its third and fourth serialized novels, Superimposed, adult fiction, and Spirits of Oz, fiction for tween readers. More than 50 members of the Topeka community authored the books collaboratively.

Librarians and leaders of the project, Lissa Staley and Miranda Ericsson Kendall, accepted the Arty Literary Arts Award on behalf of the library. Topeka arts organization, ArtsConnect, presented the award Sat. Aug. 30. The Community Novel project won over two other nominees.

“The writers are very excited about the award. It’s a validation,” said Staley.

The library’s Community Novel Project plays into library trends of self-publishing in libraries and offering support to writers interested in self-publishing. The demand for participation was high, with so many writers volunteering that Ericsson Kendall and Staley decided to add another title, a novel for young readers, in 2014.

For the Community Novel, the librarians first extended an open invitation to writers in the community, facilitated a premise brainstorming session and gave each writer a login and password to a Wiki file-sharing page. The writers were able to see the document being added to and edited in real time. One author took over a chapter at a time, and volunteer editors, illustrators and designers helped to smooth the process along. The librarians conducted project updates every three weeks, and their duties included making sure deadlines were met, writer coaching when necessary and editing the content.

“We are here to help draw out the best in people’s work,” said Staley.

Each chapter was serialized on the library’s website,, and the author of each chapter was featured in an interview along with the content. A new chapter appeared the following week.

The setting for each novel is placed in the city of Topeka, so that every writer has a knowledge base for exposition.

At the conclusion of the final chapter’s publication, the novel will be published using the CreateSpace online self-publishing platform. A writer or community volunteer does the layout, and the library’s art director designs the cover.

The library will hold an event Sept. 28, 2014 to celebrate the book releases and to sign copies for the community.

“We’re demonstrating to the local writing community that the library is a convener, an encourager and supporter. We’re more than just a place to have your book shelved when it’s published. We’re giving them experience,” said Staley.

“I’m still getting used to showing my work to people,” said Community Novel contributor Stacy Spilker. “I’ve received positive feedback and actually been told I should look at getting it published.”

For more on the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s Community Novel Project, visit Or see Miranda Ericsson Kendall and Lissa Staley present a webinar on the project on the Nebraska Library Commission website.