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Mother, daughter find success publishing magazine

Susan Warren Utley, left, of Front Royal, and her daughter Savannah Warren, of Charlottesville, stand along the Shenandoah River recently. Their publishing company, Haunted Waters Press, has been going strong for a year, and this December they plan to begin a print edition of their online literary magazine, "From the Depths." — Courtesy photo

A screen shot of the cover of the online literary magazine "From the Depths" is shown. The theme for the fall issue was horror.

By Mary Petrides Tillotson -- Daily Correspondent

It was their experience as writers that brought Susan Warren Utley and her daughter Savannah Warren together to create Haunted Waters Press, a publishing company that produces an online literary magazine out of Front Royal. The magazine, "From the Depths," has been published quarterly for a year, and the mother/daughter team plans to have its first print edition ready in December.


Utley and Warren have been writers for many years, and the idea of publishing a literary magazine came up naturally, Warren said.

"I don't think that we knew how much work it was going to be and how quickly it would take off," she said.

Both women had experience having magazine submissions accepted and rejected. They wanted to keep that writer's perspective when taking on their roles as editors.

"While those rejections feel so bad, once you get that first acceptance, you're so happy. There's validation," Utley said. "We wanted to be the friendly publisher."

The editors read every submission and, when they must turn authors away, they include suggestions for improving the piece, or recommendations of other publications that might be better suited for that author.

"Sometimes they're shocked because they get this huge rejection letter," Utley said.

The kickoff

Before the first publication date last December, Warren and Utley spent six months advertising for submissions and promoting the magazine on social media.

"I'm no expert in marketing, but Twitter and Facebook are pretty self-explanatory," Utley said.

The magazine was overwhelmed with submissions of poetry, short stories and flash fiction, receiving more than 200 submissions for the first issue, including six from outside the country. When the first issue went live, the site received more than 1,000 visitors. Now, the site averages 350 to 500 daily visitors.

"As a writer, I don't think I ever realized how difficult editors have it sometimes. There's definitely a lot of work that goes into proofreading everything and making the decisions as to what goes in and what doesn't go in," Warren said.

The magazine does not yet bring in revenue or pay authors, and the women edit "for the love of the work," Utley said.

"The satisfaction of doing it is great. We're really having a lot of fun," she said.

The Press

Authors have been asking for a print edition, Utley said, and the editors are hoping to make that happen by December.

"I know how that feels," Utley said.

She purchased three printing presses - two from Pittsburgh and one online - and will use them to print other merchandise that will be their "first attempt at moneymaking."

Some flash fiction - very short stories, only a few sentences long - will be printed on posters, postcards and bookmarks and sold.

"We want to do something that's elegant," Utley said.

She said she hopes to have a storefront to sell the items, but paying authors is a higher priority. She will begin selling the items online.

The team

The two said they work together well. Utley called it "a good collaboration."

"[Warren] has a lot of strengths that I don't have, and vice versa," she said.

The magazine work has only strengthened their relationship. The two have always been close, talking on the phone every day even before the magazine became a reality.

"She is my best friend," Utley said. "Working with her is a pleasure, as with anything else we do together."

Warren lives in Charlottesville, so much of the work is done over email and phone.

The daily phone calls often turned into thrice-daily phone calls when the magazine gets busy.

"Especially around the week or so before an issue comes out, our conversations are really centered around what we're doing with that, and sometimes we'll hang up and I'll call her right back because I've forgotten to ask her how her day's gone," Warren said. "It's been an adjustment, and we've really enjoyed working together."

For information on submissions or to view the magazine, visit www.hauntedwaterspress.com.

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