Brian Walters developed his poetry "on the side" for years before a chance meeting with a publisher who opened the door to on-demand printing.
By Dan Waidelich, Special to The Roanoke Times
In spite of diminishing profits for booksellers and the rise of e-books, one local writer and his publisher have managed to find a road to success.
Blacksburg resident Brian Walters is a part-time author who celebrated the release of Watie's Surrender and Other Civil War Narratives, his third collection of original poetry in November.
Watie's Surrender is an exploration of American history using a unique blend of verse and narrative poetry, Walters said. The poet developed his style through years of exploring the literary world as a hobby.
"I've always written on the side, but you have to sustain yourself," said Walters, who is a physical therapist by day.
"For a long time I was doing it just to enjoy the creativity."
Readers will find a diverse wealth of influences in Walters' poetry -- from the Civil War history of Virginia to the Old Norse civilizations of Scandinavia. No matter the topic, the poetry tends to be accessible and concise, Walters said.
One poem, entitled "The New River," reflects the author's adoption of Blacksburg as home.
"There's no question this is a beautiful area. It doesn't surprise me there are so many artists here," Walters said.
Walters, who originally hails from Northern Virginia, comes from a literary family. After graduating from George Mason, he spent a decade in Denmark, all the while outlining stories and crafting poetry.
It took a chance meeting with a publisher in Blacksburg to finally see his work put into print.
"We met at Blacksburg Physical Therapy when I had a torn rotator cuff," said Warren Lapine, the founder of Wilder Publications and the man who decided to publish Walters' work.
"He told me he wrote poetry and I thought 'Oh, shoot,' " Lapine said.
The locally based businessman has been in the publishing industry for 20 years and is used to hearing submissions from amateur writers.
"You really want to be polite to someone who has your arm in that position," Lapine joked.
When he gave Walters' work a chance, however, he was immediately on board.
"I read his poetry and it was fabulous," Lapine said.
The pair immediately struck up a partnership that lead to printing of The Retreat from Moscow and Other Poems, Walters' first collection.
Walters had initial concerns about the nature of the poetry market but Lapine stepped in with his publishing model, which uses print-on-demand.
A print-on-demand title is published when ordered, meaning publishers don't have to order gigantic quantities of a book that might never sell on a larger process. The system has been on the rise in recent years as digital printing was refined.
The print-on-demand model is popular with university presses and smaller publishers such as Lapine, who can use it to help authors like Walters.
"I don't do it a lot, but I'm always willing to publish local writers," Lapine said. "We have a lot of talented people in this area, but Brian is probably a world-class poet in my opinion."
For now, Walters and Lapine are enjoying the quiet success of poetry-on-demand. According the both author and publisher, they will continue to get Walters' work out as long as people keep reading.
"They get my work out quickly," Walters said.
"It takes maybe only three or four months after I finish a book so there isn't too much of a wait for my next one, whatever that might be."