HESSE, Jurgen

Author Tags: Advice

Born in Germany in 1924, Jurgen Hesse grew up in Italy (no military service) and came to Canada in 1958. He received numerous awards for his radio documentaries and he wrote two self-help titles, The Radio Documentary Handbook and Mobile Retirement Handbook. For his Voices of Change: Immigrant Writers Speak Out (Pulp, 1990), he interviewed 15 immigrant writers and included an introductory overview interview with Ron Hatch. He continued his 'Voices' series with Voices in Exile: Refugees Speak Out (Thinkware, 1994) and Voices in Mexico: The Middle Class Speaks Out (Thinkware, 1995). He wrote and aired many exceptional radio documentaries including one on the anarchist-novelist B. Traven and another on the death of his father. He met his wife in Mexico in 1988 and visited Mexico many times. Hesse also wrote Where Credit Is Due: A Celebration of Fifty Years of Edelweiss Credit Union History (Vancouver: Edelweiss Credit Union, 1993). He died on July 30, 2008.

[BCBW 2008] "Mexico" "Advice"


I was very pleased to see a feature article on novelist and independent publisher Ernest Hekkanen. He’s a most worthy subject for coverage. B.C. Bookworld has, over the years, shown commendable interest in self-publishing. Nonetheless there are several facts about self-publishing that continue to escape the general reading public.
A common misconception is that self-publishing is for authors who do not manage to have their manuscripts accepted by commercial (trade) publishing houses and that this failure is based principally on lack of quality in writing, a biased point of view or a skewed perspective. This public perception may be accurate when it comes to occasional, and amateur self-publishers, principally those who pen their memoirs in retirement. However, the work of professional self-publishers such as myself (with 23 titles, most self-published by Thinkware) and Ernest Hekkanen does compare favourably with professionally published books. High quality, professional self-publishing is a recent phenomenon made possible largely by the rapid advances in computer technology and desktop publishing software. That said, the discrimination practised by the Canada Council and other federal and provincial departments vis-ŕ-vis self-published books is an established and regrettable bias. I, for one, resent this cavalier treatment. I know I’m not alone.

To wit:
1. The Canada Council does not disburse publishing block grants to self-publishers. The majority of commercial Canadian publishers apply for, and receive, block grants that subsidize their publishing programs. Thinkware Publishers, my company, has managed to publish many titles, sometimes as many as four a year, operating on a shoestring, WITHOUT being eligible for block grants. Yet we exist, doing fairly well, even turning a modest profit. I have written a book detailing the process: The Word: an adventure of the mind (Thinkware, $15).
2. The guidelines to the federal Governor-General’s literary awards stipulate that self-published authors are not eligible. No reason is given. That exclusion presumes that self-published books are unworthy, an assumption that constitutes a flagrant violation of the principle of equality prevalent in our society. The award has set itself up as infallible; my question is: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?) This exclusionary clause must be changed to one of inclusion of self-published book authors.
I suspect that most, if not all, other literary awards in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, have similar exclusionary clauses when it comes to self-publishers, although I understand there are some noteworthy exceptions. What kind of risk would these award-giving agencies run were they to include a new category of self-published books or accept self-published books in literary competitions? I submit that the risk is non-existent. If a self-published book does not fare well in the competition, toss it out! Perhaps it is time for someone such as B.C. Bookworld—or another interested group or individual—to try to establish an independently-published book prize or book prizes. It would take energy and dedication, as well as a deft hand in raising funds. Meanwhile there are literally dozens of high quality, independent titles published each year in B.C. that are worthy of scrutiny and recognition beyond the pages of your publication.
Jurgen Hesse

[Hesse has written to the Canada Council asking it to change its policy of refusal to give block grants to self-publishers and asking the Governor-General’s Awards to include self-published books.


Mobile Retirement Handbook

"We've had nothing but good adventures on the road," says 63 year old freelance writer Jurgen Hesse, author of Mobile Retirement Handbook (Self-Counsel $9.95), "So I've written a book to awaken and to fortify interest in what I call mobile retirement."

Hesse and his wife have shared travels throughout North America in a modest recreational vehicle since 1975. He has gathered information on selecting an RV; financial considerations (he travels with a 'debit card'), personal safety, emotional hurdles (becoming someone of 'no fixed address') and other practical tips for adapting to life on the road.

"You see bumper stickers saying I'd Rather Be Sailing or I'd Rather Be Skiing," says Hesse, "Well for me, one of the great things about RVs is that no matter how big an RV may be, it can still help you get beyond the cities to experience nature directly."

Hesse believes the sub-culture of RV users who are both exploratory and elderly is expanding rapidly. In a scenic province such as B.C., with the highest per capita average age in Canada, his book may be just the ticket for persuading others to get their retirement lives moving.

[BCBW Spring 1987]