Editor's note: This is the final installment of a three-part series on South Shore authors and the routes they've followed to publish their works.
Tucked behind a yoga studio just off Highway 50 in Meyers sits a literary oasis. Free books fill the shelves, prints decorate the walls and there's a basket of writing journals in the corner.
In the middle of it all stands Kim Wyatt, publisher at the independent South Lake Tahoe press Bona Fide Books.
"It's a center for wayward writers. It's whatever I can do to help artists and writers. I had to make it because I needed it," Wyatt said.
Wyatt founded the center two and a half years ago as what she calls the "natural convergence of her lifelong love of literature and commitment to community." The press has published four books, including its nature-centric anthologies "Tahoe Blues" and "Permanent Vacation."
Wyatt followed a career path in traditional publishing, reporting and editing that spanned from the "Anchorage Daily News" in Alaska to Frommer's Travel Guides before establishing Bona Fide Books. Her aim is to publish and promote bold, unsung writers.
"I knew a lot of great writers who weren't getting noticed. So I wanted to get involved with a small press to give those writers a voice. And there's so much talent in Tahoe," she said.
When Wyatt looks at Tahoe's writing community, she doesn't divide it into North and South shores. Groups like Tahoe Writers Works and the Wordy Girls draw authors basin-wide, and accomplished writers live all around the lake. Part of her goal, Wyatt said, is to unite the region's authors and artists by giving the storytellers a sense of place at Bona Fide's brick-and-mortar office.
Wyatt hires local copy editors, photographers and designers to help create the press' books. Bona Fide Books accepts authors' submissions just like a traditional publishing house, but for both "Permanent Vacation" --a collection of stories about working and living in national parks - and Tahoe Blues" - 60 short fiction and nonfiction tales about Lake Tahoe --Wyatt went looking for writers.
She didn't have far to search. Author of the "Tahoe Rim Trail," Tim Hauserman contributed as did award-winning writer and Lake Tahoe Community College teacher Suzanne Roberts.
"Maybe it's something about the lake and the granite and the pine trees. Maybe it's something in the water," Wyatt said.
Bona Fide Books isn't the only independent press south of Lake Tahoe. In fact, it's not the only one in Meyers.
Jared Manninen founded Makoto Press after he was laid-off from a corporate job in 2009. He'd always wanted to write and illustrate books, and e-books didn't provide a platform for graphic novels.
So he decided to blaze his own trail, and has published two of his own books through Makoto Press, which he runs from his home in Meyers, over the past three years.
"I wanted something a little more third-party looking. I knew I wanted something independent of Jared Manninen because I wanted it to grow bigger than me," Manninen said.
Makoto Press' titles, which include a horror anthology comic book and an illustrated story compiled from journal entries Manninen wrote during his trek on the Appalachian Trail, don't have much in common with Bona Fide's books, but the two publishing houses share more than a common location. They were both founded on concepts of authenticity and sincerity.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bona fide as something "made in good faith without fraud or deceit." According to Manninen, Makoto is one of the seven Samurai virtues and translates loosely to complete sincerity. Part of that authenticity means seeing his project through to its end, he said.
The presses give both Wyatt and Manninen the freedom to pursue their passions. Wyatt said one day she'd like to establish a Tahoe Center for Writers and Artists that would serve as a gathering place for authors as well as offer classes and workshops.
Manninen estimates that it will be about three years before he's ready to publish other writers' works, but one day he'd like Makoto Press to focus on writing and illustrations from veterans and law enforcement personnel.
At the moment, he's just living day to day to make his dream a reality. The publishing world is a competitive place, and Manninen said he's always refining and defining his goals.
"There's just so many small presses. Making a living, finding viable distribution outlets, and my stories are all over the map. Everyone's screaming for your attention nowadays and a lot of people wonder about traditional printing books if it's even worth the bother. I think that print is always going to be there, just maybe in lower numbers," he said.