The Women Behind the Words

Celebrating the Women of
The St. Petersburg Press

. . .

Inspired ideas sparked in casual conversations led Amy J. Cianci, engagement director of St. Petersburg Press to create an event honoring 10 of the publisher’s women authors during Women’s History Month.

The Women Behind the Words: Celebrating the Women of The St. Petersburg Press showcased the literary achievements of featured female authors. Each author read excerpts from their published books, talked about their writing processes and why they are compelled to write and courageously bring their words to the world.

“The event was wonderful,” says Cianci. “The authors addressed a full-house audience and all enjoyed a really special evening. All those women authors gathered together in one room at The Studio @ 620 was an incredible, unique journey showing what each author has achieved. The universal goal is to feature what our authors accomplish.”

Amy Cianci introducing the evening’s celebration

Aligned with Women’s History Month in March, it was the perfect time to introduce this special presentation of women’s words. All authors have ties to the St. Petersburg area. Whether they live in the area part time, full time, or at some earlier time in their lives before moving away, “St. Pete is in their souls,” Cianci says.

“The goal for events is to stir some buzz about our authors’ books,” adds Cianci. “It does take a village to support a literary community, and we want to stay in the news and keep up with what our own local authors are accomplishing.”

Featured authors and book titles presented at The Women Behind the Words event appear below, and their book information is on the  St. Petersburg Press website.


Melanie Bowman & Meredith Gaunce – Traveling St. Pete: A Girl’s Guide

Jeannie Carlson – Landmarks in the Sand

Kerry Kriseman – Accidental First Lady

Andi Matheny – Act ALIVE

Maureen McDole – Feast

Jane A. McNeil – Days of Fear

Brittany Ranew – Lion of Fire

Beverly Smith-Tillery – Invisible Wounds of War

Shannon Spring – Open Mic for Animals: Evidential Fairy Tails

Midge Trubey – Rock Doesn’t Roll on an Empty Stomach


A wide variety of genres was represented, including poetry, memoir, fiction, non-fiction, historical, travel, instructional how-to, rock-star cuisine, pet channeling and fantasy. The stories all braided together magically for an empowering presentation.

If you missed this inspiring evening, do not despair. More events are on the horizon. For example, The St. Petersburg Press Roy Peter Clark Award happens on May 23.

This is the third year St. Petersburg Press has sponsored this awards ceremony to recognize the recipient’s outstanding contribution to the greater St. Petersburg literary community. Nominations are open, and details about the award are on the website. Save the date and stay tuned for more information on this special event.

The St. Petersburg Press was founded in 2018, reportedly in response to productive brainstorming between Joe Hamilton, who is also founder of the St. Pete Catalyst, and Paul Wilborn, a board member of St. Petersburg Press and executive director of the Palladium at St. Petersburg College. Cianci has served on staff since the beginning.

“Paul Wilborn’s Cigar City: Tales from a 1980s Creative Ghetto was the first book we published,” recalls Cianci. “We have grown since then, but we’re still a small publishing company, and we rely on our local community and bookstores like Tombolo Books, Book & Bottle, Barnes & Noble and others to help promote our authors’ works. The books we publish are also available through and other online book distribution platforms.

“Our focus is always on the authors, and our author-centric approach to publishing means the author is in control of their book.”

The women behind the words at St Petersburg Press

Similar to the decentralized shift in the music industry, the St. Petersburg Press business model is described as the literary version of that movement. Comparing their publishing process to being a literary midwife or doula, Cianci says they do the hard labor and deep breathing required to organize, format, print and publish each book, and there are fees for those services.

The benefit to authors is when they are handed their published book, it is still their book, their “baby.” The author’s words, title, cover art and all aspects of the book have been artfully prepared as the author directs.

“The St. Petersburg Press is my passion,” Cianci adds. “I love everything about it. It’s kinda’ my baby. I find a fun nugget in each work. Every author’s journey is different and special.

“For me, each project starts at that point of respect for the author who is brave enough to share their words with the rest of the world.”

Cianci clarifies that as a publisher, not a publicist, St. Petersburg Press encourages clients to manage the lion’s share of marketing their books. Authors who don’t have the skills or the desire to market their books and want professional help with that are happily referred to effective book marketing professionals in the area.

Publishing packages detail the services St. Petersburg Press provides at various fee levels. Authors choose the best option for their project. That information appears on the website and in client contracts.

“Today, we have 15 projects in progress, our biggest year yet,” Cianci says. “We have been blessed. I don’t advertise. It’s not important for me to market the press because the work speaks for itself through word-of-mouth referrals.

“Our authors are our best advocates.”


Photos provided by St. Petersburg Press


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