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A longtime local writing teacher decides to publish her own students 

click to enlarge Valley Haggard

Valley Haggard

Valley Haggard believes everyone has a reason to write -- to heal, to educate, to laugh or to record history. She's led writing classes at Art 180, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Visual Arts Center.

In 2009, she turned the top floor of Chop Suey Books into her first independent classroom. First she launched Richmond Young Writers to fill the summer writing camp void, she says. During the next year, she began offering classes to adults. Black Swan Books set the scene for Haggard's first creative nonfiction class. Bird Cox, known for her Bizarre Market, joined Haggard at the organization and her creative nonfiction offerings grew.

During the next four years, she filled roster after roster with people from her personal network of writers, editors and publishers in Richmond -- a network built during her time as the book editor at Style Weekly and as a board member of James River Writers. She created a variety of courses as students asked for more, eventually turning Chop Suey Books and Stir Crazy into classrooms for these classes, too.

In 2014, Haggard secured a permanent classroom and office on the top floor of Chop Suey. Here she planted the seeds that would eventually give life to an online magazine, an anthology, podcast and hybrid press -- the later two launching this month.

During her creative nonfiction classes, Haggard asked students to write for 10 minutes. After those 10 minutes were completed, everyone read their work aloud. She repeated this three times during each class.

Therese Hak-Kuhn has sat in a variety of Haggard's classes for nearly three years. Hak-Kuhn is the executive director of ToLabor, an international organization that educates and certifies professional birth doulas. She's published articles and blogs to promote her work and is now writing a book. The 10-minute approach has helped along the way.

"It's a good process that encourages you to just to get it down on paper," Hak-Kuhn says. "Her method is spot-on. You don't sit down and write a book from chapter to chapter. You put it all together like a patchwork quilt."

Once finished, Hak-Kuhn hopes to publish her book with the Life in 10 Minutes Press. Other students are experiencing publication first the first time via Lifein10Minutes.com, which Haggard launched in 2015. Hundreds of people have submitted thousands of short writing samples, Haggard says.

"The stuff people were writing was so amazing," she says. "I found myself saying over and over again that I should submit their work somewhere. Then I decided to become that somewhere."

Since then, Haggard and Chop Suey Books Books published "Nine Lives: a Life in Ten Minutes Anthology" featuring favorite pieces from the collection. Submissions were reviewed and selected from professional authors as well as "musicians, yoga instructors, doulas, salesmen, stay at home moms, inmates." But Haggard decided more Life in 10 Minutes stories needed to be heard, written in or out of the classroom.

With co-host Ben Krumwiede, Haggard recently brought Life in 10 Minutes to the podcast arena. The duo invites writers who have submitted to Lifein10Minutes.com to read their pieces out loud. There are no interviews with the writers, no introductions. Each episode is about 10 minutes long and features two to four writers.

On July 26, Life in 10 Minutes will become the namesake of a hybrid press. Along with Elizabeth Ferris, Clare Lewis and Llewellyn Hensley, Haggard will provide traditional publishing services in partnership with authors who make a financial contribution.

"I read so many manuscripts that didn't get accepted by publishers and it was never about quality," Haggard says. "This feels like a solution to some of that."

Unlike a traditional press, authors receive much larger shares of the profits of book sales. They pay more upfront, however. After their manuscripts are approved, aspiring authors pay a flat fee of $3,900. In return, they receive layout, design, editing, marketing, world-wide distribution through Ingram Publisher Services, sales locally at Chop Suey Books and a launch party at the Life in 10 Minutes headquarters.

"Most authors will be able to earn money after selling a couple hundred books," Haggard says.

The press will be accepting submissions through Sept. 1. On the same day, Haggard will release the first book published by the Life in 10 Minutes Press, "Surrender Your Weapons." The book expands on lessons she shares with writers in "Halfway House for Writers," which she self-published in 2015.

There will be a "Surrender Your Weapons" book launch, reading and reception on Thursday, July 26, from 6:30-9 pm at Life in 10 Minutes, 2707 W. Cary St.. It's free. lifein10minutes.com.

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