Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Akashic Writer, David McConnell Tries on Nonfiction; Says the Shoe Fits, Just Differently

Akashic author, David McConnell alongside the cover of
his new book, American Honor Killings:
Desire and Rage Among Men
What can be said when a writer leaves his or her fiction post, if only temporarily, to take on something harder, more factual?  It’s an interesting move, given that a fiction writer’s whole professional existence is heavily shrouded in the unreal.  It’s almost like a singer deciding to put the old pipes to rest and pick up some drumsticks; same general area but still is, for the most part, all new territory.

Yet, when novelist David McConnell describes the method to the madness of his new non-fiction book, American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men, it all makes perfect sense.  The book, released from Benay client Akashic Books just two weeks ago, is pretty much the non-fiction cousin of his previous two novels, The Firebrat and The Silver Hearted.  The subject matter is unanimous; very young, typically foolish male protagonists who get tangled in their respective webs of extreme bias and violence. 

In 2003 McConnell brought The Firebrat to life through the tale of an aspiring, witty writer who decides to out him and his subsequently outraged partner via short story.  The firestorm that commences sends the young man through a crash course of identity change that even his cocky intelligence can’t best.  In 2010 McConnell wove another tale of crime and secrecy in the context of a wartime seaport.  An old wino and a naïve sailor must band together to hide the fortunes of a few shady investors, but their worldviews clash.  The drunkard’s power-trip and the naif’s moral conscious clash with unexpected and rather unpleasant results.

The "Betrayal" issue of Granta,
released, Spring 2013.
Intricate, no?  Except poring over the details of these two stories was not enough for McConnell.  He describes why in a recent interview with Patrick Ryan, Associate Editor for Benay’s other client, Granta Magazine.

“I wanted to do something more urgent than wordsmithing in my mansard,” McConnell explains. “Violence has always loomed large for me as an imaginary thing. But violence is also on our cultural stage in a way it hasn’t been in earlier generations.”

Right you are, Mr. McConnell. 

With tragedies like Sandy Hook happening right in Benay’s very own backyard, we know all too well what he means.  Though American Honor Killings does not deal with quite that same situation, it stays along the same vein.  The book recounts six cases in which young men, harboring large amounts of seemingly irrational violence in them, have lashed out and killed.  The victims in each and every one of these cases were all homosexual men.  McConnell’s book specifically tries to crack the logic behind these killings, delving deep into the psyche of unstable, hate-ridden young men like his featured perpetrators.

McConnell writes in his book about one specific murder that it was driven by “an authentic instance of hatred that can’t be psychologized away – an idea of what’s right, not simple emotion, caused him to kill.”  When Patrick Ryan addresses this statement in the Granta interview, asking why it is not a case of the famously coined term “gay panic,” McConnell explains that all of the killers he writes of were reasoning individuals that used a “sober world view” throughout all of their actions.  “I’d say the crimes all primarily involve a diseased sense of self,” says McConnell, “more than they involve anything like a reaction to another, very different, human being.”

It is in this that McConnell’s own reasoning behind his book is revealed.  A writer can make a character as fascinating or as dull as they would like, but in the end it is just a character, and their perverse and violent world holds the sanctity of the fact that, in the end, it is not real.  It’s only natural that David McConnell came to realize this and, having dealt with such pressing subject matter, could no longer resist the temptation to dive into it for real.

To view excerpts from American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men please click here, where you can peruse sample pages and/or purchase the paperback and digital editions.  Please feel free to visit the Akashic and Granta websites and browse the additional upcoming features and titles that both publishers have to offer - they have much authorial talent, old and new, at your disposal.

- Colleen McClintock

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Art House: RubiconSeven Transforms Derelict Post Office Depot in New Canaan, CT

NCC design students and judges for the Art House
Located near the New Canaan, CT rail station, the1940's Post Office Depot has stood closed and unused for decades. Imagine the possibilities for reusing a landmark shuttered for 60 years!

Benay's client RubiconSeven delivers unique land use development solutions that improve lives, improve the ecology and environment, and build a meaningful place that values both consumers and the community at large.

The Art House is a collaboration of RubiconSeven and the RubiconSeven Foundation to develop the cavernous space into a studio for established artists, who will work and teach art students from the region. 

The Art House recently invited design students from Norwalk Community College to create concepts for its sustainable, community-centered development. On March 14 students in NCC's Art, Architecture and Design program presented 25 designs, which emphasized multipurpose use along with environmentally friendly design. Key concerns are passive energy strategies and walkable integration with the surrounding New Canaan downtown.

The judges included New Canaan development officials as well as academics. They awarded honors based on historical sensitivity, an understanding of life, safety and building code concepts, as well as architecture and land use principles.

The top four winners of the NCC student competition were Dominika Fronckiewicz, Tetyana Fen, Aliaksandr Melko and Wonsun Oh. Congratulations!

According to RubiconSeven Principal Ted Bonner, NCC students produced outstanding ideas for this ground-breaking project. The participation of local students epitomizes the community-centered spirit of The Art House.  For details, visit and

Do What You Do Best, and Let Benay Do the Rest!

Benay is proud to provide financial and back office management services to RubiconSeven, allowing them to focus on what they do best - developing great projects.

If you'd like to spend more time developing your business and less time managing your back office, give us a call.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tin House and Granta Set the Gender Bar for Publishers Nationwide

Could we be any more proud of our clients?  After seeing the official results from the March 4th VIDA count, probably not.  Benay clients Tin House and Granta were rated by VIDA as two of the most progressive publishers these days when it comes to gender equality.  Out of the fifteen that were reviewed by VIDA they and the Boston Review were the only ones to find that they were balanced between men and women in editors, reviewers, contributors, and otherwise.  The remaining twelve were shown to be starkly in favor of women.

The "Fantastic Women" issue of
Tin House, issued Fall 2007
“It isn’t rocket science” – the very words of Tin House Editor, Rob Spillman as quoted in a recent article on the pop culture blog, Flavorwire.  Spillman states, “…you would think others would move toward gender equality, or at least make a gesture toward it… for us the VIDA count was a spur, a call to action.”

How right he is.  The numbers of the VIDA count were dismal in many cases.  The New Yorker results showed roughly two and a half times as many men were employed in all categories; The New York Review of Books was even more imbalanced at around five times as many male contenders in all categories.

Not surprisingly, Tin House was singing somewhat of the same song not too long ago.  The difference is in the way they handled it.  The editorial team saw that even though they asked for an even split of writers to cover, people just kept writing more about male authors.  So what did they do?  They did what any truly proactive, progressive publisher would do – they got über deliberate.  Spillman and his team decided to section off a chunk of time every editorial meeting to re-evaluate the gender balance.  If it is off-kilter they fix it.  It’s as simple as that, no fuel cell chemical equation required.

Those over at Granta take an even simpler approach; they take gender out of the equation altogether.  For Editor John Freeman it is not a matter of the best female writers and the best male writers featured in his magazine, it is the best writers.  He seems to find that middle part erroneous.

“I don’t force myself to think of Louise Erdrich, or Karen Russell,” Freeman says in the Flavorwire article. “In fact, it is hard for me not to [think about them]; to me, they are simply the best out there.”
American Dream Machine author
Matthew Specktor with his daughter.
Now it is not as if this means that the writers at Tin House and Granta, respectively, are chosen out of gender equal merit.  Matthew Specktor’s novel American Dream Machine set to release from Tin House next month hardly holds any female characters at all.  It is a story, told from male protagonist Nate Rosenwald’s point of view, about his one-time successful talent agent father Beau Rosenwald.  Nate relates the story of his father’s personal reinvention as he starts up his own agency, the American Dream Machine, with friend and consequent business partner, William Farquarson.

It is a son-and-father tale to beat the best of them, and there is nothing wrong with that.  As a recent review of Specktor’s novel on says, this novel may be all about men but it is by no means only for men.  In the novel Nate narrates with a distinctly authorial voice, channeling Specktor himself when he says, “This story… isn't about some bored actress and her existential crises, a troubled screenwriter who comes to his senses and hightails it back to Illinois. It's not about the vacuous horror of the California dream. It's something that could've happened anywhere else in the world, but instead settled, inexplicably, here.”

Hearing the novel put in this light, it isn’t really surprising, then, that it’s coming out of Tin House.  It could happen to anyone - it is applicable to anyone, un-biased and free from pretense.

- Colleen McClintock

Monday, March 11, 2013

Soho Press's Cara Black has done it again - and this time in Montparnasse!

Murder Below Montparnasse
author, Cara Black
I think it’s a bit indisputable that today’s generation of young Americans very accurately channels the wily ex-pats of the 1920s.  Frankly, we pride ourselves on it.  Any of my friends would give anything to romp around the glowing Paris streets at night, sipping Sazerac to their hearts delight, dancing with Djuna Barnes, and musing to F. Scott and Zelda about what is to be young and alive.  They are sensibilities that we can’t help but feed into; it’s the artist in all of us!

This is precisely why, when I say Cara Black’s new novel Murder Below Montparnasse has nailed it, I’m talking down into the floorboards for good.  Black takes all of the young dreamer sensibilities that are relevant today and mixes them with her characteristically elusive, keep-you-guessing style to create a new and exciting genre of literature that’s at once accessible and complex.

Marilyn Stasio lauds Black in her recent New York Times book review, calling Montparnasse a neighborhood, “rich… for the purposes of a plot that hangs on a Modigliani canvas and involves Russian émigrés and Surrealist artists…” – and boy is she right.  Montparnasse is historically one of the most artistically concentrated areas of Paris, hosting painters, poets and writers like Picasso, Joyce and Hemingway in its sprawling bars and cafes.  
A building in Montparnasse painted, no doubt, in
tribute to the many artists that have frequented it's streets.
The novel’s protagonist, Detective Aimeé Leduc, gets caught up in a bit of this history herself, having been mysteriously enlisted by a Russian man named Yuri Volodya to protect a – you guessed it – prized Modigliani painting.  Aimeé is thrown into what seems to be Black’s bizarre and twisted take on the embodiment of Golden Age Syndrome, where the seemingly desirable sensibilities of a highly romantic age are shrouded in deceit and betrayal. 

If you would like to get a taste of what Black’s novel has to offer, I suggest visiting the Soho website, where you will find a large excerpt of the novel available.  If you like what you see – and I have no doubt you will – there is further good news.  Murder Below Montparnasse is just one in a series of thirteen murder mysteries by Cara Black, which collectively comprise the Aimeé Leduc investigations.  Each book in the series is set in a different section of Paris; together they are a literary map, rich in French cultural history and insight into the delightfully seductive Parisian landscape.

Learn more about Cara Black, and get a chance to meet her on her nationwide book tour by clicking here.

- Colleen McClintock

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rubicon Seven: Spreading the Gift of Art

One of Benay's clients, Rubicon Seven, is making huge strides for the art community in New Canaan. Tedrowe Bonner, principal of Rubicon Seven, has transformed the old Post Office Garage Depot (located between Elm and Cherry Streets behind the Dunkin Donuts) into a new arts center. The building, now called the Art House, will offer free studio space to artists. In return, the artists must teach art to local children for free.

"'The idea is that New Canaan was one of the greatest art centers in all of America,' Bonner said in an interview, 'and our aim is to bring back that spirit, to get the artists back in town. To do that, we know that we have to give artists space that is virtually free. We're giving accomplished artists basically free space, but in exchange for that they teach art to kids in the region.'"

The building will be designed and renovated by Norwalk Community College's Art, Architecture and Design students, which will provide them with an invaluable, hands-on experience.

"'Norwalk Community College has a very good design program,' Bonner said. 'Their work is to figure out how to create a green building, a sustainable building, that does not change the iconic nature of this building. A building that uses no fossil fuels, uses the sun, is a good working space for people, and really holds together the fabric of this building.'"

New Canaan is home to an interesting history of architectural design. If you've ever seen Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, then you know what I'm talking about. A quick look at Wikipedia and you'll see how a group of Harvard architects (The Harvard Five as they are now known) designed and erected about 80 modern homes in the '40s-'60s. In the middle of colonial New England, these homes looked out of place and garnered strong reactions. Today, many of the homes are still standing as a testament to the rich history.

There is already a prominent arts center in New Canaan, the Silvermine Arts Center. However, Bonner's goal is to create a more tight-knit community for artists. According to New Canaan News Online, "Bonner said his space will differ from Silvermine in that its virtually free space will allow a small group of artists-in-residence to form a tight creative community. He thinks they could eventually have up to 10 artists-in-residence. Silvermine has a guild of more than 300, according to its website."

It's a rather noble cause, in my opinion, for Bonner and Rubicon Seven to continue to make New Canaan a mecca of modernized architecture and art. The Art House is an ecologically sound building with the intention of freely spreading the gift of art. It will be exciting to see how this new center will impact the community.

Read more about the Art House here.

Learn more about Bonner and Rubicon Seven by visiting their website.

- Marcie Gainer

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hanover Publisher Services: A Helping Hand for Indie Publishers

There has been some new and exciting developments for Benay client, Steerforth Press. They have officially debuted their small press distribution unit, Hanover Publisher Services.

Hanover Publisher Services has been around since early 2010, although they were never formally introduced to the public. Publisher’s Weekly states, “HPS evolved from an informal relationship with its distributor, Random House Publisher Services that allowed the indie house to offer select small presses—with the approval of RHPS—distribution via RHPS, which generally will only work with publishers with more than $500,000 in sales.”

Chip Fleischer, President of HPS and Publisher of Steerforth Press, explains how RHPS president Jeff Abraham expanded Random House’s distribution services. However, RHPS was reluctant to take on small clients. This is where Hanover Publisher Services stepped in. According to Fleischer, HPS “’enables Steerforth to leverage its good working relationship with RHPS and its good understanding of RHPS's complex operating systems.’”

In other words, HPS works for the little man. They get the independent publishers to the mainstream distributor. The whole process is streamlined because, Fleischer noted, ‘it's the same as having a single publisher client with multiple imprints.’” A win-win for everybody.

HPS currently has five clients including For Beginners, Campfire Graphic Novels, New Europe Books, Steerforth and their newest addition, Brooklyn-based Archipelago Books. Fleischer “said that HPS is taking a ‘go slow’ approach to adding new clients, but he also said he will consider adding more publishers if they are ‘the right fit.’”

Read the two articles on this exciting new development here and here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The IRS Lends a Helping Hand via YouTube

If hearing the words “April fifteenth” is enough to make your palms sweat, fear not!  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

On Monday, March 5th the IRS released a two-minute video (seen below) entitled “How to Use the Where’s My Refund? Tool” to the YouTube public.  It provides clear, concise steps on how to go about getting your tax refund this season, as well as other information on tax returns.

The IRS YouTube channel holds many other informational videos, including what to do if your W-2 is missing, how to protect yourself from Identity Theft, and more.  They are mostly organized into playlists found on the home screen.  The main playlist is entitled “Tax Tips” which covers general FAQs that taxpayers have.  Other playlists include “Do Your Taxes for Free,” “Identity Theft,” and “Small Businesses.”

If you do end up with the IRS owing you money this tax season, the good news is that 90% of taxpayers get their returns back within a month’s time.  Some do take a bit longer to process depending on the circumstances.

To find the IRS YouTube channel go to

Most videos are offered in Spanish, ASL and various other languages.

It's A Bird! It's A Plane! No, it's... SOHO PRESS!

After last week’s blog on success story, Colin Cotterill, and his fresh new novel The Woman Who Couldn’t Die, we once again must pay tribute to the powerhouse publisher and Benay client, Soho Press.

Jim Milliot’s review last week in Publishers Weekly gave Soho Press my – and I’m fairly sure, everyone’s – undivided attention.  Milliot cites the company as having a 96% sales increase from last year’s period, alone.  That’s higher than any other independent publisher across the nation, including Other Press, a neighbor of Soho in Manhattan, BenBella Books out of Dallas, Smithsonian Books out of Washington, D.C. and Ulysses Press over in Berkeley, California.

So what has this stellar valedictorian done to reach the top of its class?  Milliot gives us the inside scoop on four key steps that the publisher has taken to achieve such astronomical success:
Digital Publishing: In last two years Soho has focused many of its efforts on developing the digital sector of the company.  In 2012 e-books accounted for just over half of the company’s total sales, with the format representing 43% of sales for literary titles and 67% of the titles under the Soho Crime imprint.

Marketing and Publicity: Soho nearly doubled their promotional budget from January of 2011 and gave a slight increase to the numbers behind the marketing and publicity team.  They also broadened their advertisement horizons, sticking to traditional media mediums while utilizing the social media boom to their utmost advantage.

Distribution Reform: Seeing the opportunities that could come from working through a large-scale distributor, Soho turned to Random House for distribution services in January 2011 and broadened their outreach significantly, reaching audiences overseas.

General Growth:  In 2013 Soho plans to launch a new imprint for young adult novels called Soho Teen.  The new addition will add 12 titles to the 64 titles that the company has already published.

Soho Press Publisher, Bronwen Hruska
And the best part, if you can even believe that it get better - they are just so darn down-to-earth!  Look no further than the About Us page to see for yourselves.  Among other things, the Soho team boasts the qualities of a former cactus model, self-proclaimed habitual defector, and greek yogurt lover.  Publisher Bronwen Hruska pokes a bit of fun at herself, saying “None of the screenplays [I] sold were ever made into movies so you can’t watch them.” 

Hruska has had a bit of additional success recently with her book Accelerated – a gripping commentary on the tendency that our society has to jump the gun on ADD and ADHD diagnoses in children.

All in all, she and her team seem to achieve the embodiment of modern grace, thriving in the fast-paced culture of today’s business world without selling their souls.  It’s one of the more refreshing things I’ve seen to date.  I’d recommend Soho for any young professional as a good business model simply because, ladies and gentlemen, Soho Press is on fire.

If you’d like to learn more about Soho Press, visit their website at

- Colleen McClintock

Friday, March 1, 2013

An Intern's Farewell

Put down that spoon!

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about my experience as an intern at Benay Enterprises. Today marks the final day of my internship. Though, I am happy to have gained an invaluable experience over the past 5 months, the time has come for me to explore other options and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. However, the beginning of the rest of my life may not have been if it weren’t for this unbelievable organization, as my experience here has instilled within me the qualities I will need to succeed in life.
The bittersweet end approaches ever so swiftly. With only an hour left in my time here, I cannot help but to look back to 5 months ago, when I first joined the Benay team. I had absolutely no office experience; I didn’t even know how to operate the scanner properly. Still, Dawn saw a quality within my writing that gave her the impression I could play a unique and necessary role in the office. She believed in me as a writer, and took a chance on a young guy who was fresh out of college.
Merrilee, Susan, and the rest of the friendly Benay employees took the time to teach me the ropes, no matter how busy they may have been handling royalties, back office functions, or bookkeeping needs for their valued clients. Eventually, with lots of trial and error, I became a functioning part of the well-oiled machine that is Benay. 
Witnessing first-hand the hard work and dedication it requires to run a business smoothly has paid dividends and has taught me a new level of professionalism, one which I will undoubtedly carry myself with for the remainder of my career. Moreover, the time each Benay staff member has dedicated to helping me grow as an individual will forever be appreciated.
Just last week, I walked into a job interview in midtown Manhattan, and even though there were dozens of applicants in the waiting room with me, I knew I was going to get the job. I knew that once I got the chance to tell the board members about my experience with Benay, all the qualifications I had surmounted in such a short period of time, they would not be able to turn me away. Sure enough, I received a call even before I could get home, and the job was mine.
Benay Enterprises tells their clients, “Do what you do best, and let Benay do the rest.” Well, the same statement holds true for my experience here as an intern. I was given the creative control over the company’s blog, and my blogs received quite a bit of attention, resulting in a recent offer to write a column for a local Danbury news site, The Mercurial, that had been re-publishing some of my blogs all along. Furthermore, FLW Magazine, the leading publication in the world of bass fishing (my other passion), was so impressed with the promotional pieces I wrote for Benay and For Beginners, they decided to give me a monthly one page article in their nationally circulated magazine.
Though I would like to say that I have done as much for Benay as Benay has done for me, I simply cannot because this company has given me the exposure and important contacts I needed in order to break into the world of writing. The experience alone has been worth more than my entire undergraduate career, and for that I cannot thank Benay enough. However, I am now moving on to work and write copy for an organization in Manhattan. Though I am destined to a dreadful commute, I look forward to this opportunity that never would have happened without Benay Enterprises. As a side note, if anybody out there is looking for a roommate within a short commute to the city, feel free to let me know J. More importantly, and I don’t have to say this because I won’t be here tomorrow to face any sorts of consequences should I admit otherwise, if you or your organization is ever in need of financial services or back office functions, I highly recommend you get in touch with the dedicated professionals and bookkeepers at Benay Enterprises.
For the last time,
-Mike Iovino