City of Refuge-the Self-Publishing Saga Continues


I’m so grateful to all the people who’ve written in to share how much The Fifth Sacred Thing has meant! And to say variations on “You’re right, Bantam is wrong, there is indeed an audience for a sequel!

So yes, I am going to self-publish City of Refuge.  Then comes the question—how?

On the one hand, it’s never been easier to self-publish. Just upload the damn thing to Amazon and have done with it.

But I’m old-school enough to believe that every book benefits from skilled editing. I’ve been fortunate in my writing career to have worked with some wonderful editors, like Marie Cantlon who edited my first three books, and Linda Gross Kahn who edited The Fifth Sacred Thing.

It’s a measure of how publishing has changed that none of those wonderful editors are still in the business! Most of the other top editors who were there at Bantam and elsewhere are now freelance. On the one hand, that means that really amazing people are out there for hire. On the other hand, it means publishers don’t have to pay health insurance or vacation pay or pensions for those people. Editing used to be a prestige career—something that somebody like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a former first lady, might do as a second career! Now it’s something 20-somethings do for a few years and then move on, and old-fashioned ideas like pensions no longer apply.  As someone who has always been a freelancer, I know the story well. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but it comes at a price that the freelancer pays.

But enough of that rant. The point is, as a freelance sort myself, I don’t have the deep pockets of a publishing conglomerate. Yet, along with the editor, a book needs a copy editor: someone who checks the spelling and grammar and the continuity, who makes sure if you use double dashes in chapter one you don’t use space dash space in chapter fifteen. Little picky details, but they make a difference, mostly in making sure nothing gets between the reader and the experience of reading.

And then there’s the proofreader, who checks the whole thing for typos, especially those ones that spellcheck will miss because you’ve spelled the word correctly, but it’s the wrong word. Know way, you say? Surely that can’t be rite!

And a designer, and an artist to do the cover illustration, and a whole host of other things. All of these people deserve to be paid.

Undoubtedly there’s a better system than capitalism for supporting art and literature. In fact, the system I came up with for the world of The Fifth Sacred Thing and City of Refuge would be my preference: everyone has a basic, guaranteed income, that represents your fair share of common resources and the wealth of the past. Everyone then gets work credits for whatever work you do, including housework and caring for children or the elderly. If you’re an artist or a healer or someone who’s work doesn’t lend itself to counting hours, you get a stipend. And if people really like what you do, they give you gifts.

Ah, how happy I’d be living in that world! But we’re not there yet, and in this one, I believe people deserve to be paid fairly for their work. And that includes writers, because writing well is excruciatingly hard work!  And while people tend to believe all writers are rich, in reality, a mid-level writer like myself, in a good year, might make a salary akin to an elementary school teacher, provided I do lots of touring and speaking engagements and workshops.    Without benefits like health insurance or pensions, of course.  Not that I’m complaining–for there are infinite, unquantifiable benefits!  And I consider myself so blessed and fortunate to be able to do work that I love!

But, in this world, where the usual sources of funding for the arts have all dried up, there’s really one way left to fund a huge project, and that’s to go directly to the people who care about the work, and ask for support.

And that’s what I’ll be doing. We’ll be starting our Kickstarter campaign, on the advice of Akasha Madron, my favorite astrologer, on July 31. It’s also the eve of Lammas or Lughnasad, August 1, one of the eight great festivals of the Celtic and Pagan year. As Maya says in The Fifth Sacred Thing:

Este es el tiempo de la Segadora, the time of the Reaper, she who is the end inherent in the beginning, scythe to the ripe grain.  The Crone, Goddess of Harvest.  In this her season we celebrate the ancient feast of the Celtic sun god Lugh, his wake as he ages and descends into Autumn.  It is a time of sweet corn, ripening tomatoes, the bean drying on the vine.  The harvest begins.  We reap what we have sown.”

An auspicious time to begin!  I really hope you’ll support the campaign, and help spread the word!  And I’ll be updating you all again during this coming week!

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16 comments to City of Refuge – the Self-Publishing Saga Continues

  • Kathy Sipple

    Though I am not an editor by profession, I have assisted several author friends with editing their books. I am a freelancer who would love to attend your Earth Activist Training. If you are interested in doing a barter, I would love to help you in whatever way I can.

    I read The Fifth Sacred Thing 10 or so years ago and have since gotten very interested in permaculture, as it applies to agriculture, but especially as it applies to social systems. I just ordered your Empowerment Manual this week.

    I believe your sequel will be important and timely, even without knowing the particulars.

  • Wishing you all kinds of good fortune and success with this adventure, Starhawk! Much love – Phila

  • Tina Clark

    I loved The Fifth Sacred Thing and I am so looking forward to City of Refuge. Your Kickstarter campaign begins the day after my birthday, and I plan to ask people to donate to your campaign in lieu of presents. And about the publishing industry today, it seems to me that the big publishers aren’t even hiring the competent freelancers, because almost every recent book I read is full of grammatical and spelling errors. And as a former freelance copy editor who worked mainly for self-publishing authors, I also know that many authors don’t realize that no matter how good one is as a writer, everyone needs a copy editor – even other copy editors. So I love the fact that you feel copy editing is important.

  • Lindy Clements

    I am with you! And sharing your posts.
    is Aug 31st Lammas??
    Namaste <3

  • xan avalon

    I’ve done newspaper editing and copy editing here and there; am a well known and probably much detested grammar nazi and spelling geek, so…. Only problem is I have no Spanish to speak of and if you use as much in “Refuge” as you did in “Fifth” this might need to be looked at by someone better qualified.

    Am retired on SS so have plenty of time; thanks to newspaper days I know what “deadline” means; don’t need money up front and would be happy with some sort of percentage arrangement or agreed fee later after some sales start coming in, whichever you prefer. (I should probably hold out for the % because this thing is going to sell like CRAZY but am not about to haggle with the woman who turned me on to Wicca lo these many decades ago with “Spiral Dance.”)

    I think this is a very important book, maybe the most important you have ever done, and at the most important time. The edifice of our overbuilt civilization is showing ever more cracks; flakes are falling from facades everywhere and you can take “flakes” in any and every sense of the word you like. “If not this, then what?” is the question everybody is thinking and nobody wants to say out loud with their mouths… because the only answer we’re allowed to think is doom, disaster, despair and death. The possibility of another answer, a different answer, and a better way? Wadda you, some commie?

    This IS a revolutionary work, and oh my do we need one right about now.

    Ahem, let me get down off this soapbox and return to the job-application part of this. If you find a better editor at least keep me in mind for the final-read-through crew. Cheers and blessed be and mazel tov. 😉

    • It’s wonderful to get so many generous offers. I do already have a team lined up, but I will keep your contact information as I hope to do future projects. Thanks! And your comments reminded me of a passage in the book:

      Bird dreamed of a fortress. Impregnable, formed of cold blocks of gray stone, it towered above him. A bugle blew. The gates opened, and legions of soldiers poured out. Masked and helmeted, armed and shielded, they marched in lockstep, left, right, left, an invincible force.
      “But how do we fight this?” Bird asked. “How do we bring it down?”
      He wasn’t sure who or what he was asking, but he heard a voice, low and toneless.
      The fortress falls when the ground beneath it shifts.
      A rumble…the earth shivered and trembled under his feet. He stepped closer to the fortress walls. A shaft of light came down out of the lowering clouds, and played over the surface of the stones. It formed a rippling pattern, like the broken webs of light playing through water. But the light, he realized suddenly, was shining through the stones. The walls that looked so solid were riddled with cracks. They were brittle, and ready to fall.
      And now, up through the cracks, vines snaked, and out of the stones herbs and grasses sprouted. The walls began to crumble, but the roots and the twining stems held the structure together as mortar turned to dust. Trees took root in the rubble and arched overhead, their branches heavy with fruit.
      Where the fortress had stood now was a leafy hall, open, with room for the multitudes.

  • Starhawk, I am so glad I read this post.

    I am a professional editor and writing coach, one of those 20-somethings who never gave up the business. Additionally, I am a ritualist and a woman whose life was changed when my first girlfriend left her copy of The Fifth Sacred Thing at my house (we were 15). I still have that treasured copy, which you once signed at the Mankato Women & Spirituality conference after we danced a very incredible spiral dance together. I also run a podcast called “In Her Room: Women Writers on Life, Craft, and Changing the World,” (

    My experience ranges from proofreading to full-on content editing, and I would like to add my name to the hat as a possible contributor to this project. I am definitely open to barter/exchange, and would also love to offer you a place on my show, especially as the Kickstarter approaches. Do let me know if you are interested in any of these offers, as your work has changed my life in many incredible ways and brought me meaningful friendships across the globe.

    Blessed Be,
    Sara Blackthorne

  • We set up a free to use crowdfund platform for ethical projects. No %. All money goes directly to you. Might be worth considering

  • Starhawk, I love your work and would love to help birth this book into the world. I am a writer, editor, author coach and publisher, having founded Green Fire Press precisely to provide affordable publishing services for writers who want to retain the autonomy of self-publishing while achieving the high technical standards of traditional publishing. Green Fire Press would be honored to work with you! Get in touch if you’d like to discuss. And BTW we met when I took your June workshop at Rowe a year ago. –Jennifer

  • Elizabeth

    I’ll be waiting with bated breath!

  • April Dawn

    As I have told you in the past – both e-mail and in person at village books in Bellingham, Washington. I love, “The Fifth Sacred Thing”. It changed my life. I will support you and send this to as many people as I can. I am so excited for this new book!

  • starrdusk

    starrhawk, I have a question and don’t know where else to put it that I know you will see it and, hopefully, be able to respond. It doesn’t really have much to do with your book here, but every time I hear people talking about terrorism you are the one that comes to mind for this question I have.
    You are educated, experienced and knowledgeable in foreign affairs; I know only what I hear from two sides of the coin. Even listening to different people on the history of things is so often biased and two sided that I choose basically to just not get into it too awfully much.
    I hear the sides that talk about how terrorism is over-exagerated and then of course the mainstream concern about it; my husband began to talk against it when he got into listening to Alex Jones; they believe that it is all hyped up for the purpose of instilling fear in our country. Right now with the talks on Iran and the Nuclear deal the topic of terrorists has again come to forefront. I recently had a question come up on a Quora page from a “young man’ who is breaking sanctions in Iran as well as copyright laws from Microsoft in order to create apps. This alerted me to the ability in our WWW technology for a person in a country with strict sanctions on it, who is capable of breaking copyright laws AND those sanctions with-out getting caught, to be able to lead terrorist and nuclear exchange of information from his land to ours. Of course, when I mentioned this, he was greatly offended, said that they are not the terroriss that we make them out to be. That is when I first thought of you, a week and a half ago.
    The topic came up again today because I seem to speak to these things when perhaps I should shut up and just paint my oils and acrylics and stay out of it, but this thing about terrorism; could you enlighten me at all on this? I know your heart and so, even though you are a beautiful Jewish woman I know that your heart is for the people, the children and women and those who are in a country where they have no say and are led by generations of bad spiritual goals; this young man says that I am wrong that they are not the ones who encourage suicide bombing and terrorism. Others here in the US quickly agree with that saying that it is indeed a hype to keep our people afraid. I do not want to give an answer to the questions that have risen from my post with-out having at least attempted to get your position on this because I am not educated at this point in time on those matters and would have no idea who to trust to listen to on this topic. I know your busy and understand you may not get a chance to answer this but it would be much appreciated if you can. If not, even a quick word…. would help to let me know you got this.
    Debi K Baughman

    if you prefer, my e-mail address is above, or it can go to Also, anybody else who reads this and is interested in answering; I am sorry to interrupt your blog here, but really do not know where the best place would be to ask you this question, or who else to ask.

    • Hi Debi, thanks for asking. It’s true that I don’t have the time right at this moment to give your question the full answer it deserves, but I’ll say a couple of things briefly. I haven’t been to Iran, but I’ve spent time in both Israel and Palestine. Like everywhere, the people there are human beings with a wide variety of opinions, lifestyles, desires, and political opinions. The vast majority don’t want violence, but just want to live their lives. I’ve known deeply religious and spiritual Muslims who are beautiful people, and I’ve met others, on both sides, that were angry and bitter. But the question I’d ask around any campaign of fear is, ‘What questions does it keep us from asking?’ There’s more than 6 million children a year, world-wide, that die because of policies of the IMF and World Bank, cutting programs for clean water and health care–that was an estimate from the World Health Organization and that was ten or fifteen years ago. So why are we not looking at that? I know so many people who have lost their homes, due to foreclosure from the banks–that’s a form of ‘terrorism’ that affects our lives probably much more than a young hacker in Iran. And spiritually, fear is not a good state to live in. So I’d say, breathe it out, let it flow through you, and call on the energies of love in the universe to help us get through these complicated times into a future where we can honor everyone’s humanity. Thanks for writing!

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