In the same vein as Mark Twain and Miguel de Cervantes, Christopher Stuart believes the quest is the most significant experience of life, specifically the elusive, timeless search for truth.
Over the last few years, Stuart has laid his own quest down in classic and non-traditional verse, and is now beckoning for an audience to join him. And while readers and critics of his work may read it as an attempt to debunk the notion of belief or faith, Stuart said that in his poetry’s deconstructive manner, it actually can reconstruct one’s philosophy.
“Nietzsche makes the individual re-evaluate where he stands philosophically and in terms of his belief,” Stuart, 27, said. “Some of my work can be abrasive or harsh, but, in the long run, it can strengthen one’s faith or help see what one actually believes in.”
This potentially abrasive quest is what Stuart details in “A Dictum of Pure Thought,” his first published work. Yet, Stuart’s ambitious theme may not prove to be the most controversial aspect of his work. After a heavy load of research to determine which publisher to turn his work over to, Stuart chose PublishAmerica, an on-demand house that has taken serious criticism over the last few years.
Its website boasts that PublishAmerica is the number one book publisher in the country, releasing more titles than any other traditional publisher and accepting more new and unpublished authors than traditional publishers. But aspiring writers who may have had delusions of a lucrative career are revolting against the company and have created websites devoted to criticizing PublishAmerica.
In January 2005, The Washington Post reported a story on self-publishing in which authors offered their angry and even heartbreaking experiences with PublishAmerica and its slippery contract, including the seven-year publishing rights, lack of distribution and sloppy editing.
Stuart said he was aware of the criticism while performing his research.
“My only alternative was to search for years and years for the right route to publish my work or use the expensive self-publishing route,” Stuart said. “PublishAmerica outweighed those two negatives. From where I was then, it was the right fit.”
After putting the final touches on his collection, Stuart decided against an agent and went with the on-demand company. Without a degree in English or creative writing, Stuart said he believed it would be more difficult to find a major publisher to accept his work.
“I came across PublishAmerica and sent them some information on my work,” Stuart said. “I was surprised when they wrote back and decided to take my work. I didn’t have to pay one cent and they would pay royalties.”
Stuart, an art teacher at a south suburban high school, began writing his collection three years ago, around the time he moved to Forest Park. His inspiration would be engaging with the works of existential philosophers and intellectually rigorous discussions with friends like Kevin Country.
“I’ve always considered Chris to be artistic and intellectually challenging,” Country, also an aspiring writer, said. “We can bounce ideas off of each other or have discussions on the idea of expression. Chris likes to call these discussions ‘symposiums.'”
Ed Avis, the publisher at Marion Street Press in Forest Park, commends Stuart’s literary accomplishments, especially in a publishing climate that looks only for best-sellers. According to Avis, Marion Street Press publishes about 10 books per year. PublishAmerica claims to publish around 2,500 books each year.
“A book of poetry is very hard to get published, probably the most difficult,” Avis said. “Stuart deserves credit for getting a publisher to pick his work up.”
Some of the criticism directed at PublishAmerica has focused on the lack of promotional work that authors were expecting the company to do. But Avis claimed that this practice, or lack thereof, is present in major publishers as well.
“Authors doing their own work-and marketing-happens all the time,” Avis said. “It’s a common practice.”
Avis, who used Nielsen BookScan (a database of all the books available for purchase) to determine that 100 copies of Stuart’s work have been printed, was impressed and said Stuart ought to be delighted.
Since the publication of his work, Stuart admits he is still “in the dark” and is somewhat disappointed in PublishAmerica because they have yet to report how “A Dictum of Pure Thought” has been received by critics and consumers. Despite this, Stuart said he may use PublishAmerica again for the novel he is currently working on. After a year or so, Stuart said he will re-evaluate the company and how it handled his work before making his next publishing move.
“My ultimate goal is to really have an audience,” Stuart said. “I am not worried about which publishing house accepts my work, how popular it is, or how much money I make from it. I just want an outlet of expression and to have people impacted by the thoughts and questions I share with them.”
“A Dictum of Pure Thought” can be purchased on Amazon.com for $19.95