Latah Books respects its authors as partners
By Marijke Fakasiieiki
Latah Books is named for "the creek that staff have lived, worked, recreated and meditated beside and fallen in love with for many years," said Jon Gosch, founder, publisher and executive editor.
His inspiration since starting the publishing house in 2018 has come from the writers who apply to have their books published, even though on average just one to two percent of submissions are among the six to eight books Latah Books publishes each year.
Jon's background as a writer and author wanting to get his own work out into the world has led him to see authors as partners who deserve respect.
"There is a sense that our books are our babies. We've been gestating them for months or years. It takes care to get them into the world," he said. "So, I am honored to be part of the process."
From his perspective, many people in the publishing industry are introverted.
"I love the collaborative aspects of the job and the synergy to work with authors to make their books better," he said. "I know this and have seen with our own books how impactful a book can be on someone's life.
"I preach the gospel that books can influence and can literally save a person's life. One of our books has made a difference helping veterans, as one author told of the demons that led him to consider suicide," he said. "The story in From Survivor to Surgeon, about a former refugee from Vietnam, is another model for that.
"Nothing is more meaningful or impactful than the value of publishing. That drives me to keep doing it," Jon said.
In divisive times such as these, he believes Latah Books, at 331 W. Main, can build bridges to help bring people together.
Part of its mission is to represent, as much as possible, authors from blue-collar and working-class backgrounds, and writers from rural communities.
"Often those authors are overlooked," Jon said. "People in rural areas do not have as much access to publishers, but they have important stories to share.
"It's important to represent values and be apolitical. We see people as people, and humans from all spectrums need to be able to share their stories," he continued.
In Jon's life, one thing has naturally led to another. He studied creative writing and wrote for the school paper at the University of Washington.
He wanted to write books and help others with books since he started writing books as a second grader.
"A teacher distributed my book to students. That's where I got my first fix," he said.
In his 20s, Jon wrote two novels. One was Deep Fire Rise from his experience growing up in Longview, near Mt. St. Helens.
While looking for a publisher, he began editing books for other authors, including Michael Gurian and Terry Trueman.
Knowing several authors who were seeking a publisher, he decided to start his own publishing company. As he was launching this venture, he had another job, but found book publishing went better than expected.
The venture grew over the last five years, so even though Latah Books is relatively young, they publish six to eight titles a year.
"While we focus on authors from this region, we pick authors from anywhere in the country if we are excited about what they write," said Jon.
The focus is on narrative-driven works with a great story, more than just information. They publish fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, narrative and mystery thrillers.
In nonfiction, Latah Books concentrates on memoirs, anthologies—like one on the Community Building—and narrative nonfiction—like Michael Gurian's books on childhood development.
They had success with Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt's Memoir, in which Kacy Tellessen from Spangle shared his trials and tribulations during the Iraq War and his struggles with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
"It is used by area veterans' groups to help other veterans recover from PTSD," Jon said.
Another memoir is Spy Daughter, Queer Girl: In Search of Truth and Acceptance in a Family of Secrets, about a woman whose father was a CIA spy, and her quest to unearth secrets about his role in the CIA during the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis and coup in Greece, as well as secrets about her mother's mental health and her identity as a queer woman.
A recent biography, The Boy Who Fell to Shore: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Thor Tangvald by Charles Doane, recounts how the author lived his whole life at sea and thought only weird people stayed on land. He suffered many tragedies in the community of blue water sailors who are always at sea.
"We print fairly eclectic material, and we are locally rooted," Jon said.
Other genres include an outdoor adventure coming out in March as a collection of essays in a memoir format: All the Things: Mountain Misadventure, Relationshipping, and Other Hazards of an Off-Grid Life, by Ammi Midstokke, a columnist for the Spokesman-Review. She writes about living as a mom off the grid in rural Idaho, and the challenges of fixing up a house in the boonies with little knowledge.
From Survivor to Surgeon: A Refugee's Memoir of Perseverance and Purpose was co-written with Paul Luu, M.D., and Christopher Maccini, who shares Paul's experience coming to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam among the "boat people." He learned English, earned a GED, studied in college and medical school, and eventually became a surgeon.
Christopher earned a master's in fine arts from Eastern Washington University, worked with Spokane Public Radio and is now working for National Public Radio and living in Spokane. Their book is used in ESL classes at the Adult Education program in Spokane Community College and at North Central High School.
Jon said it helps young refugees and immigrants move from a mindset of just taking readily-available jobs to support their family to realizing there are other paths if they want professional careers.
A Shrug of the Shoulders shares stories about Japanese internment, by Elaine Cockrell, who lives in Longview. Her grandparents owned a beet farm that hosted Japanese workers during World War II as an alternative to the internment program. Rather than being cooped up in an internment camp, they were gainfully employed members of U.S. society.
"One Block Revolution: 20 Years of the Community Building, the story of the development of the Community Building Block on Main Street in Spokane, reveals the neighborhood life that the Community Building campus has fostered, its green energy, food co-op, nonprofit office space, a food court and more," said Jon.
Summer Hess compiled firsthand accounts of contributors sharing what this type of community project takes.
The number of copies per print varies. Some titles sell more than 10,000 copies and others print 2,000. Typically, the runs are small. Many books are also sold as digital or audio books.
"With so many demands on people's attention, a book needs to be beautiful to hold attention to the story. People judge a book by its cover, so we make it sharp and appealing," said Jon.
Kevin Breen, a graduate from the Eastern Washington University master in fine arts program, is the lead designer.
Latah Books arranges for its authors read at the Get Lit Festival.
"Our authors are always looking for opportunities to share their stories," he said.
Typically, authors reach out to community groups. Some opportunities to read come through word of mouth or friends.
"We have built respect. Authors are interested in submitting their manuscripts because they trust us. Seeing reviews and endorsements helps them recognize that their books will be given the same level of respect and love as we give our other authors," said Jon.
For information, call 394-4740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.