HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (6/4/13)—The process of writing literary-style fiction is oftentimes a deeply personal affair. From the underlying subtext to the attributes of the characters, the details a writer presents on the page—no matter how minute they may seem—are oftentimes pulled from deeply personal experiences, observations, or beliefs. A death of a friend, unrequited love, a cathartic epiphany, a joyous miracle that took place in the creator’s life—all are fair game for a wordsmith’s inspiration. And while many an author will pour hours, weeks, months, or even years into editing and self-directed criticism, it’s not too uncommon for an author to cower before the thought of actual publication. Bluntly put, the thought of giving someone else control of a personal creation can be daunting and anxiety-inducing for most anyone.
Thankfully, however, there are several independently owned publishing companies out there today making the thought of handing over a prized manuscript to complete strangers a tad bit easier to swallow. Among them is a relatively new company hailing from Virginia Beach known as Empress World Publishing.
So why are we at the Sugg Street Post, which is based out of western Kentucky, writing anything about a publishing company based in Virginia? The main reason is relatively simple: Empress World Publishing’s chief editor, Ben Adams, is a former west Kentucky resident and a central Kentucky native. Moreover, what Ben and EWP’s founder, Sirrico Whitfield, are providing for up-and-coming writers is noteworthy, as are their all-inclusive end goals.
As I was fortunate enough to work with Ben during my employment as a lead reporter in Hopkins County, I was able to recently contact him, as well as Sirrico, to find out more on the burgeoning, creativity-based endeavor they are both undertaking. The result of our correspondences are as follows.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Lebanon in central Kentucky as the youngest of five children. My parents own and operate two businesses there and we kids grew up around the family businesses. We learned how to treat people, how to communicate effectively, how to run a successful business and, perhaps most importantly, we became very close to one another because we had to work together on one common goal.
In my spare time, I enjoy being a father and a tennis instructor. With the help of several contributors, I also publish HorsesandHoops.com, a website which promotes Kentucky’s sports and entertainment events.
When did you move to Virginia and why?
My wife is a physician and we moved our young family to Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia because she started an OB/GYN medical residency at a local hospital here. Aside from being a plane ride or an 11-hour car ride away from family and friends in My Old Kentucky Home, we are extremely happy with the move. Hampton Roads is a large metropolitan area and provides us a nice, safe environment to live and raise children. Having our pick of many nearby beaches is definitely a plus!
You recently began working with a publishing company based out of Virginia Beach called Empress World Publishing. How did that situation come about?
We moved here in June and it took a little while for me to find work. Although this is a big area with many job opportunities, my search was made more difficult because there were so many more applicants for each position. Admittedly, I was also looking for that “perfect” job opportunity.
I had previously worked at a growing eNewspaper in western Kentucky and I had also worked as an editor for a large law firm and international legal organization in Cincinnati so I really must give those two opportunities the most credit for me being able to land the job with Empress World Publishing.
The writing skills I learned under the eNewspaper's editor and the editing skills I honed under Multilaw’s Willis Gregory have really helped me become a better writer, editor and worker. After the initial interview with EWP staff, I knew this was definitely the right place of employment for me.
As you mentioned, you’re the editor with Empress. Is writing/editing something you’ve always enjoyed or was it something that you recently became interested in?
I’ve always enjoyed the written word. However, during my school years, I found writing to be a very challenging endeavor. The ability to convey accurate, factual information, research and opinions can be extremely tedious. With the help of my parents, I was taught to always “say what I mean and mean what I say.”
I always asked questions when I was a kid. When I was younger, I can remember my father would try to temper this habit by throwing words at me and telling me to say them, spell them, define them and then use them in sentences. I would then go research them and return to him with my work. The words progressed to bigger, more meaningful words and I loved it. These exercises were very helpful and they also showed me that he took a personal interest in my learning process. I will soon use this method for my own children.
What’s the gist of the latest book you’re working on, Luna Morba?
Luna Morba is a novel intended for a young adult audience. A young man, en route to beginning his life after college, encounters situations which require big life decisions. As the book progresses, the young man is pushed further into an unknown world where he learns many things about himself and his purpose in life.
Ultimately, what about Empress makes it different from other publishing companies?
I believe EWP is a genuine company looking to help others accomplish their goals. In a world of faceless, corporate publishing companies where the average writer is simply a collection of pages, EWP is a welcomed bright spot where someone can take his or her talents and be treated as an individual.
Sirrico Whitfield is a very gracious and caring man and his dream of providing an outlet to all writers, including those who might otherwise not be published, serves a valuable purpose in this industry. The entire EWP staff is very professional and compassionate and is on the side of the writer. In this industry, the differences make the difference.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am a poet, songwriter and author. I was born and lived in Panama for the first few years of my life while my father was stationed there with the military. My family eventually moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia where my five siblings and I would be raised. I still call Virginia my home; it's where I live with my wife Sandye and our two children. My son and daughter inspire and encourage my writing. I have always had a passion for writing. However, I spent many years pouring effort into my dream of playing in the NFL. I was a 5’6” wide receiver in high school and college where I surprised people with my speed and fearlessness. I have been grateful to go through the trials that have helped me become who I am today, including two battles with cancer. I try to live every day by my motto - “Start every day with a dream in your heart…” - and my ultimate goal is to reach the hearts of children and adults all over the world, encouraging them to start each day with a dream in their heart because anything you can dream, you can achieve.
You are the owner and founder of Empress World Publishing. What was your inspiration for starting such a company, and when did you first establish the business?
I have desired for a long time to step out and create a business that could make a difference in the world. I spent about 10 years writing poems and starting stories, and I made a promise to myself that I would one day get them published. When it came down to finally making that step, I made the decision to self-publish. The biggest reason was that most publishing companies these days take what you have written and change it to fit their standards, and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing control over this story I created. When I decided to self-publish “My Elephant Did It” in 2012 is when I started Empress World Publishing and I named the company after my first born, my daughter, Empress.
What is Empress all about from your perspective?
Empress World Publishing (EWP) is not just about my dreams of being an author and selling books. It’s about encouraging, dreaming, and believing in the impossible and spreading that frame of mind all over the world. Beginning at a young age, society puts limits on what we will achieve in our lifetime. Our ultimate goal at EWP is to reach the hearts of children and adults all over the world and encourage them to set high goals for themselves and never give up on them even when you hear “No” a million times or when you don’t have any support from friends and family. It’s also about giving those authors, no matter the age, an opportunity to publish their works! We want to give them opportunities to share their writing and, nowadays, that can be a very daunting task!
Is writing/reading something that you’ve always enjoyed?
I remember as a child loving to tell stories to anyone who would listen. I can remember going to family reunions and standing in front of my family members telling them stories from pure imagination. As I grew up, I became very dedicated to football, but I also had notebooks full of stories that I would write and share with my friends and family, all of who seemed to love my stories.
What is your ultimate goal with the business? Where do you want Empress to be 10 years from now?
My ultimate goal with the business, aside from what I have already shared about reaching the world and encouraging people to believe in themselves, is for EWP to be a household name. My goal is to have Empress World Publishing right up there with the big-name publishing companies, but have it stand out as a company that gives average people like me a real opportunity to call themselves published authors.
What sets Empress apart from the so-called pack?
I believe what sets EWP apart from the so-called pack is the type of group that has been put in place to run the company. We have built our foundation with honest and hard-working people who truly want to see dreams come true. We believe in our company, in our dream, and we set goals knowing they may be difficult to achieve, but we work together to accomplish them. We love the fact that we are a group of co-workers that work together very professionally, but we are also a family. We care about the happiness and well-being of our customers and audience, but also the people who work hours and hours behind the scenes, and this can make all the difference in the success of a company!
What kind of involvement do you have with your community?
Being active in the community is huge for me. We have done numerous events at local elementary schools and after-school programs in the community where the themes of my assemblies are: “If you can dream it, you can do it,” which is a quote by Walt Disney. My company is full of hearts wanting to serve the community and those who are less fortunate than us. We are connected to our local Samaritan house and do events with the children. During Christmas, we also do something that we call “Bless a Family” where we collect donations from people within the company and people we know in order to purchase things that the family needs, as well as fun things like toys or games for the children. This has been a very rewarding experience for our company.
In essence, what you’re doing is very much a part of the US’s recent “entrepreneurial resurgence.” What was it about starting and running your own business that caught your interest?
Aside from being my own boss, I loved the idea of building something from the ground up. I knew that in order to make my company different it couldn’t be about the money; it needed to be much more than that. I knew there would be very, very hard and long days, but I also knew that there would be a rewarding day for each of those hard days.
With Empress, is there a certain genre that you focus on or are you open to a variety of literature?
There is not one certain genre that we focus on at Empress World Publishing. I currently have published two children’s books, one a compilation of poems and the other a fiction story. I will also be releasing my first young adult novel, which is a supernatural fantasy thriller. I have other books I have started that range from romantic to comedy to children’s, and even musicals. We are open to a whole variety of literature.
If someone is interested in working with Empress, what should they do? How do they submit their work?
Tell me a little about your upcoming release, Luna Morba.
Luna Morba is the title of my very first young adult novel. It is a supernatural fantasy thriller that I am very excited to release! My goal is that it is a book that draws the reader into the characters world and makes them never want to leave. I also have filmed a movie-style book trailer for Luna Morba, which actually sparked a love for film and directing that I cannot wait to explore further in the future. Luna Morba is scheduled to release in July of 2013.
To learn more about Empress World Publishing, or take request submission information/guidelines, please visit their official Facebook page at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/EmpressWorldPublishingLlc. You may also visit http://sirricowhitfield.com/ for information on the works of Sirrico Whitfield.
You may also watch the trailer for Luna Morba by visiting the official Empress World Publishing YouTube page or by clicking the video attached below this article.
Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos provided by Ben Adams