Congrats to Patty Banker!

40 years later, the novel is in print and e-book!

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Yes, Authors Work!

January 28, 2017 was a busy day for the Burts.

Steve and Jolyn spent the daylight hours (9-3 pm) selling and autographing books at the Central Florida Author Expo at Eisenhower Recreation Center in The Villages, Florida.
The big sellers of the day we Steve’s Dumb Jokes for Kids series and the couple’s co-authored instruction manual, Publish Your  Book Free: Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide to CREATE SPACE Print-on-Demand Publishing. They autographed books for residents of Central Florida and visitors from all around the country.

villager-gary-toppi-found-he-had-a-maine-connection-with-author-steve-burt-right-while-purchasing-joke-books-for-his-nephew-300x225After packing up, they raced home and dressed for a black-tie affair in Orlando, over an hour away: the Florida Book Festival Awards. Steve’s collection, Christmas Soup for the Soul: 10 Hearty Helpings from New England’s Christmas Story Pastor, won the gold for Best Holiday-themed Book. The join-authored Publish Your Book Free won silver for Best How-to Book.

fl-book-festival-sjIt was a long but satisfying day for the couple. Steve said, “I’m pretty sure most people think writers sit at their word processors four hours a day, drinking coffee and pecking away at the keys. Let me assure you, being an author is damned hard work. And it’s not like the pay makes up for it.”


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Central Florida Authors Expo

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4th Joke Book Coming

Coming this spring. Watch for it.

Q: What do you call a woman with one leg shorter than the other?

A: Lena.


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40 years and finally published!

Thrilled to announce that my dear friend Patty Banker has finally published her first novel, one she wrote (and I first saw) in 1980. Yes, 37 years it took to reach the public.

In 1980 I had just finished as assistant pastor at a church in Brewer, Maine and was called to pastor the Thorndike Congregational Church in Thorndike (near Unity, Maine). I met Patty and her husband Dick in a cemetery (they were mowing it) and invited them to church. Not long after that, they found out I was a published author and invited me and my wife and daughter to dinner. Dick mentioned that Patty loved to write, but said she had no idea what to do with her work (typed on a manual typewriter). I asked to look at some of her stuff and said I’d get back to her with suggestions.

One of her poems immediately found a home in a religious magazine, so she was suddenly a published author. She even got a couple dollars for it. A PAID published author. That didn’t rock the town, county, or state, and it didn’t get her name in Time Magazine. But her family celebrated. They were very proud. They always knew she had talent, right from the womb (well, maybe not that early).

So Patty risked handing me her novel-in-progress. I took it home (her only copy) and went through it quickly. It had promise. I suggested a couple of revisions and gave her a few agents and publishing houses to query. I told her that her chances were slim – not because it was a bad book, but because there were many good books competing for limited space in the market and on shelves. She got involved in other things – “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans” – and never got around to shopping the manuscript around.

I departed the area in 1983 to pastor a Vermont church. Patty and I stayed in touch. I retired in 2012 and in 2013 moved to Florida, where I started teaching a course at the Lifelong Learning College – Publish Your Book Free (using the Create Space online software system). I helped a few dozen senior learners get their first books into print. My wife Jolyn and I developed an instruction manual (same name as the course) that won a Florida Book Festival Award in the How-to category. My classes and our guidebook had helped make it easy for beginners to publish their work – novels, collections, cookbooks, memoirs, children’s picture books, and more.

Then I remember Patty Banker’s novel manuscript from 1980. I knew that she still wasn’t much into computers and wouldn’t easily get into converting her work into a Word document that could be used as a Create Space interior. And I knew she’d be daunted by the Cover Creator program.

So I contacted her younger sister, Jacquie Ludden, who has secretarial skills. Jacquie agree to type the manuscript as a Microsoft Word document, which she sent to me as an email attachment. I did some basic editing, added headers, footers, pagination, a front title page, and a second-title/copyright page. I reformatted it from 8 1/2 x 11 tobookcoverpreview 6
x 9 and changed to “mirror margins.” I had Jacquie email me a photo of Patty for the Author Page, a photo of Patty’s late husband Dick for the Dedication Page, and an historic photo of the Thorndike Congregational Church for the cover. I uploaded the manuscript in its new iteration into the Create Space program.

Then I spent a couple of hours on Cover Creator (on the site) and had the system mate the cover and interior. The book was done, so I submitted the files to Create Space for file check and got approval. I proofed the book online and had the book go live. Two days later it appeared on and Barnes and

I then ordered 25 copies that will arrive at Patty’s mailbox (or front door) around the 29th. Will she ever be thrilled to finally hold her literary baby in her hands!

Sometimes good things take time.

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That 92 year-old Down East organist

Amazing Grace – that 92 year-old Down East organist

Steve Burt


Over the years I’ve learned that every small church has its own special ways of doing things. Thirty-five years ago, I learned that fact the hard way.

I was a still wet-behind-the-ears divinity student at Maine’s Bangor Theological Seminary when my friend Mark Alley, who is retiring this year, was a student minister serving the Down East “Schoodic circuit” of three small Methodist churches – North Sullivan, Prospect Harbor, and Gouldsboro. Mark was called away suddenly and asked me to fill in for him.

I did, and things went smoothly – until I got to the Prospect Harbor service. I was running a little late from the previous service and had to hit the ground running, unaware of how things worked at Prospect Harbor. And Mark hadn’t had time to fill me in.

I flew in the front door and was hustling toward the pulpit when the morning’s lay leader grabbed my arm and insisted on a two-minute detour so I could meet the organist. She was Prospect Harbor’s pride and joy. At 92, he pointed out, she was the oldest living active church organist in the Maine Organists’ Guild.

As we were introduced, I could see the pride in her beaming face. But when I went to shake her hand, what I saw was crippling arthritis, fingers like gnarled tree roots. We traded smiles and nods and I turned and ascended the pulpit, aware that I was already a couple minutes late in starting.

As she began the prelude, I couldn’t help noticing that she missed about every third note. Even sadder was the obvious fact that she had become almost totally deaf. It was a difficult combination for an organist to overcome – deaf ears and stiff fingers – but, oh, how she glowed as she touched the keys.

When the prelude ceased, I led the responsive Call to Worship, offered an Invocation, and announced the first hymn, #92 Amazing Grace. But the congregation didn’t seem to respond in the expected way; they held their hymnals in their hands, not bothering to turn to the page. I simply assumed they must all know it by heart, so I waited for the first familiar notes from the organ.

The music began—a tune that sounded vaguely (just vaguely) familiar – and, backed by my never-quite-on-key voice,  my lips and mouth tried to sing the first verse: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.  But the sound I was making wasn’t sweet at all! My lyrics were accurate, but they didn’t match the tune.

I glanced out at a smiling congregation in collusion – in cahoots, I’d say. They were flipping quickly to the back of their hymnals to an appendix called Index of First Lines, where they could quickly locate the page number for whatever hymn the old organist was so haltingly playing. In no time they caught up and sang along. They were used to this, of course, but I wasn’t. This congregation was playing Name that Tune – at my expense. The organist wasn’t playing my song at all! She hadn’t heard or hadn’t understood what I announced.

As I stood there lost and uncomfortable – childlike – the morning’s lay leader calmly stepped out of his pew, walked up to the pulpit, and handed me his own hymn book – turned to the correct page. “Here you go,” he said stage-whispered. “Sing it with us.”

A few minutes later, with the hymn over, my face still beet red, I recovered enough to ask for prayer concerns then launched into my pastoral prayer. The congregation sat solemnly in their seats, eyes closed, heads bowed as I spoke. We were back on familiar ground, in territory that everybody, including the organist, would know. After my Amen everyone would automatically rise and we would sing the Gloria Patri together.

But either my prayer was too long or too quiet, because right in the middle of it came the first notes of a song. Except it wasn’t the Gloria Patri, it was the Doxology, what Sunday schoolers called The Ushers’ Marching Music, the Collection Tune. That jerked everyone to their feet as two men grabbed the collection plates from the little altar table and scrambled to pass them. We all sang “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” and had the money back on the altar table before the song ended with a sung Ahhhhh mennnnn. Good-natured chuckling rippled through the church. I simply shook my head.

It was the same with all three of Prospect Harbor’s hymns that morning; the organist and I never managed to coordinate anything.

But it was then and there in that little rural community with a congregation of perhaps 18 souls that I learned something about the intimate caring nature of the small church. After the service I quietly asked the lay leader and several other church members why they didn’t gently ease the elderly organist into retirement, give her a gold watch to seal the deal?

The Prospect Harbor folks took into account that I was young and inexperienced rather than simply insensitive. They were gentle with me.

“As you can see,” the lay leader said softly, “We’ve adjusted. Perhaps our next organist’s playing will be heavenly, but for now it’s more important that this lady keep playing. Besides,” he said, “she’s not just an organist, she’s our organist.”

Prospect Harbor’s 92 year old organist is long gone and I myself am retired now. But my memory of that morning and what I learned lingers still. It’s one of the reasons I continued to serve small churches throughout my career.

Lessons of love, well learned, have a way of staying with us, finding a home in our hearts.

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Author Expo Jan 28 in The Villages, FL


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New Rack Card lists 17 books

Finding a way to show 17 titles and covers was a challenge, too much for a business card or a bookmark. So for 2017 we designed “rack cards” for the book table at arts and crafts shows. Have a look.

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Publish Your Book Free wins New England and Florida Book Festival Awards

December 29, 2016 – Steve Burt, retired pastor and award-winning apublish-your-book-free-cover-imageuthor, has spent the last couple of years teaching senior citizens how to publish their books on FREE. His wife Jolyn Joslin, a retired middle-school teacher, has been his classroom assistant. She also edits many of his books and has produced several of her own.

Many of their students completed the class and immediately went on to publish their books on Amazon – cookbooks, novels, collections, memoirs, family histories, children’s picture books. The grateful students encouraged the Burts to broaden their reach and empower others by writing an instruction manual.

So Steve and Jolyn spent the summer at their Maine camp expanding Steve’s class notes and exercises into a book that shares their secrets. Publish Your Book Free: Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide to Create Space Print-on-Demand Publishing came out on Amazon and Barnes  & Noble in October.

On Christmas Eve they learned that the New England Book Festival Awards had been announced, with Publish Your Book Free being named honorable mention in the How-To category. The day before, Publish was named Runner-Up in the Florida Book Festival’s How-To category. The Burts will accept the Florida prize at a dinner/reception in Orlando on January 28 (after they sign books at noon the Writers League of the Villages Authors Expo.

“We had to decide which awards to attend – Boston or Orlando,” Steve said. “Snow and cold or warmth and sunshine? Air travel or car travel? Besides, Orlando’s an hour drive from home. We’ll skip Boston and the snow and cold this year,” Steve said.

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Third Worst Joke Book completes Dumb Jokes for Kids series

On Christmas Eve morning Steve Burt typed the punchline to the 154th and final joke in his popular Dumb Jokes for Kids series:third-worst-joke-book-front-cover

  1. Why does Piglet smell?

Because he plays with Pooh all day.

Third Worst Joke Book is Burt’s third joke book of 2016 and fifth book this year. The other two releases were his inspirational collection, Christmas Soup for the Soul (Florida Book Festival Award, Best Holiday Book), and the illustrated manual for aspiring authors, Publish Your Book Free (New England Book Festival honorable mention for Best How-to Book).

Third Worst Joke Book will join its siblings First Worst Joke Book and Second Worst Joke Book (Dumb and Dumber) on, Barnes and Noble .com, and other online bookstores between Christmas and New Year’s. All three are in paperback and–for those in a hurry to yuk it up — Kindle ebook.

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