Why I Publish

Imagine you’re a clumsy, bookish kid with no real talent for sports. Your otherwise good marks in school are marred only by the humiliation of Gym class, where you eke out a passing grade mainly due to the occasional written exam. Naturally, the other kids taunt you.

Now imagine your folks split up about the time you turn sixteen. Suddenly you’re living in a different town, going to a different school, with a belly full of hurt and a whole new group of kids to taunt you. After the first day of Gym, you’re sitting in the locker room, tying your shoes, and a couple of bullies approach. (They never come alone.) You don’t know how to fight—you were raised to turn the other cheek—all you know is how to suffer. You steel yourself for what’s coming.

Suddenly, around the corner of the lockers strides this other kid, a big guy, fit to be a linebacker. “Leave him alone,” he barks. “He’s my friend.”

The bullies shuffle backward, saying, “Sorry, Allan. Sorry. We didn’t know.” It’s almost comical watching them try to sort of bow and run away at the same time.

The big guy, ‘Allan,’ pats you on the back. “So what’s your name, new kid?” he asks. “If we’re gonna be friends, I gotta know what to call you.” And you realize you’ve just met your first real-life hero.

True story. The bookish kid was me, of course. Allan stuck by me through the rest of high school, despite our having nothing much in common. Later, we worked eight years together in a factory, before a layoff prompted me to try my hand at college and led me to a publishing career in Wisconsin. In the meantime, Allan fought, and beat, a bout of cancer. He wasn’t going to let that bully him, either.

Allan inspired me to stick up for the underdog myself. I strive to apply his example any way I can. Which brings me to Popcorn Press. This little part-time publishing venture allows me to apply the skills I’ve learned in my career to help everyday people get worthy projects into print—without charging them for it, the way many services do. Many of our books contribute funds to the Milwaukee office of Feeding America.

But now I’d like to mention a specific project.

Recently, Patricia Harkness approached me about publishing a biography of her father, Bob Sampson, a real-life hero who, despite having had muscular dystrophy, accomplished much in the 20th-century fight for disability rights. Pat had written a first draft of his biography, but she needed help finishing it, and she needed a publisher. Bob’s life story struck me as so important, so worthy, that I had to do something to help. So I introduced Pat to Doug Niles, one of my professional novelist friends, and together the three of us launched www.WhatIftheGlassBreaks.com to tell people about the project.

Here’s how you can help: Visit the site, and if you agree that it’s a worthy cause, please spread the link to your friends and family.

That’s all. Just please spread the link. www.WhatIftheGlassBreaks.com.

Thanks much,


Photo by colros

5 thoughts on “Why I Publish

  • October 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    There are a lot of us with similar high school gym stories, but yours ends with a hero, and that makes it resonate. I read the Bob Sampson site, too, and it has a hero, so I immediately donated to support. Great cause, and thanks for sharing!

  • October 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    What an inspiring story. I was horrible in gym too. The only time I got an A was the semester I broke my ankle and couldn’t play basketball, so I had to take a written test instead. Aced it. Sharing the link and this story.

  • October 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Steven. That’s greatly appreciated. I believe that if we can just get the word out, the project will speak for itself.


  • October 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Great post, Les; I’ll spread the word again soon.

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