Local writer Nancy Overcott signs her new book, “Living in a Dream” for Lanesboro resident Helen Benson at Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company on Sunday, Aug. 11.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Local writer Nancy Overcott signs her new book, “Living in a Dream” for Lanesboro resident Helen Benson at Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company on Sunday, Aug. 11. SUBMITTED PHOTO
"There will be some big surprises through this," stated Tom Driscoll, owner of the new Lanesboro publishing company, Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company. Driscoll, 64, will be bringing what he estimates to be 60 years of writing experience to what many might see as a business-minded venture. However, to Driscoll, it has everything to do with the words on the page.

His love of writing has taken Driscoll through each moment of his life. As a high school student at Davenport West High School in Iowa, Driscoll was influenced by his school newspaper advisor to keep pursuing writing. He was drafted into the Army and worked as a chemical and radiological specialist. He also found time to write for the Yukon Sentinel newspaper from 1970 to 1972.

Upon returning home, he pursued an English degree and graduated from the University of Iowa Playwright's Workshop in 1974. After studying further in journalism he moved to Madison, Wis., where he worked for the Wisconsin Architect Magazine.

At this time in his life, Driscoll realized he needed a career to fund his writing habit. He got into construction, which led him to join the Peace Corps in 1985. Following his service, he was recruited to work in the United States of America International Development (USAID) program and eventually became a contractor for them. He worked in contracting until 2000, when he and his wife, Beth Stanford, decided to move to Rushford.

During the five of years after moving, Driscoll worked on rehabilitating an old house, all while continuing to write for the pure enjoyment of it.

After those years, he met John Torgrimson, then the owner of the Fillmore County Journal. He worked for the Journal for six years, writing stories on politics, energy and the environment.

"My skills have always served me," Driscoll shared, pointing out that in each area of his life, writing always played a role. To him, it is a vocation. Shipwreckt Books is a way, in his eyes, to continue heeding his calling to write.

"There is something very heartfelt about this business," he stated. "I want to work with writers."

What Driscoll means by that, is working with anyone who has a story to tell. The tagline of the publishing company is "Everybody has a story to tell. Let us help you tell yours."

"If you are a good writer, then there is a place for you. If not, then we can help you write a good story," explained Driscoll.

The publishing company has three imprints under which writers would be able to publish their work. Up On Big Rock Poetry is for poetry, Rocket Science Press is for literary fiction, and Lost Lake Folk Art is for everything in between.

Driscoll explained the first two imprints as being more selective in who would be published under them. He explained that he has formed ideas about what good poetry and fiction and, by and large, will be sticking to them under the other two imprints.

For fiction, he looks for characters with depth, among many other things. Poetry has always struck a chord with Driscoll. "I'm into the psychology of poetry," he remarked, noting how he can see the love writers have for writing through their poetry.

However, the Folk Art label is Driscoll's means to be more open in letting someone tell their story with their own style and voice.

Stories appearing under the Lost Lake Folk Art label aren't necessarily the "other" books few people will read. Driscoll mentioned that for many people who want to write a book and publish it through Shipwreckt Books, their main audience will be their family members.

A sign hangs in the Lost Lake Storytelling Center in downtown Lanesboro which equates publishing a book with creating a family heirloom. However, Driscoll encouraged people to also see Shipwreckt Books as an opportunity to start building status as an author. Driscoll is leading Shipwreckt Books toward attaining a more indie (independent) reputation.

"I'm pushing against the stereotype that all successful authors are rich and famous," said Driscoll.

The Folk Art imprint is 180-degrees from that stereotype, containing local authors who have stories to tell and who tell them in their own way. "I'm looking at everybody, those writers at the bottom to the top," he explained.

Since beginning to accept manuscripts, Driscoll reported that he has received an average of one new manuscript per week. He still considers himself in startup mode and said he would need to limit how much he can do. However, he is looking forward to seeing what people send him.

Guidelines for submitting manuscripts can be found on the business's website at shipwrecktbooks.com.

Having the Lost Lake Folk Art imprint and being willing to publish as many Folk Art books as he can has brought the word altruistic to Driscoll's mind. "I have a desire to work with young, talented writers," he said, clarifying that the statement included career starters and old writers alike. What they hold in common is having never published a book before. Driscoll will provide other services in addition to publishing.

Shipwreckt Books will offer help to those people at all writing abilities. The Lost Lake Storytelling Center will offer ghost, surrogate, team and project writing services as well as full editorial services. Driscoll said he recommends those who need help voicing their story and anyone who needs help with moving their book forward to see what Shipwreckt Books can offer. A cost of $1,500 plus expenses would cover full editorial and design services for a person's book.

Another thing going for Shipwreckt Books is its flexibility with printing on-demand. Driscoll could receive a manuscript, decide to publish it under Lost Lake Folk Art, but only need to print a small number of copies. If the book begins to sell, he can always print more. If it doesn't sell, then the author and the publisher don't lose as much money. Driscoll pointed out that in this way, books will start to catch up to indie music and film. He feels Lanesboro is the perfect town to start this venture.

"I'm carving out a niche in a perfect arts community," shared Driscoll. He noted Lanesboro isn't known so much for its literary arts, which he means to change.

On Sunday, Aug. 11, Driscoll held a book-signing event for local author Nancy Overcott, who was promoting her Lost Lake Folk Art book titled "Living in a Dream."

Driscoll said the Lost Lake Storytelling Center where his office and business is based out of was packed with the young and old. "It was exactly how we were hoping to start," he stated sharing that some people told him this publishing company and storytelling center was exactly what Lanesboro needed.

"I fully intend to contribute and continue in the tradition established by the Commonweal Theatre and Lanesboro Arts Center. I'm adding another leg to the cultural and artistic stool. I hope to help enrich it [Lanesboro] overtime," he said.

In a year, Driscoll hopes to publish five books under the poetry and fiction imprints and as many of the Folk Art books as he can. In the future, he hopes to see Shipwreckt Books be able to pay people for their writing as well as help himself recoup the capital he put into the business. Currently, Driscoll is drawing upon local authors, a poet from Iowa, and another author from Missouri. He wants to see more authors coming from more places.

In the near future, Driscoll will be publishing the first issue of the Lost Lake Folk Opera Magazine, which is currently accepting submissions of critical journalism, short fiction, poetry and graphic art. The end-of-summer issue is expected to come out in October.

Driscoll, Overcott, poet Haley Thompson and author Pixie Youngdahl will appear on Damon Prestemon's Sept. 1 show of Lanesboro Live! to talk about their books. Driscoll will be hitting the road to sell books in Iowa City and Shipwreckt Books is now listed in Writers' Digest.

With years of experience, skill and a desire to discover local storytellers and writers, Shipwreckt Books and Tom Driscoll are charting their course as guided by a love of writing.

Re-emphasizing his goal, Driscoll said, "I want to surprise people with who is out there."