Craig Selbrede/Courtesy Photo
Not many college students can say that they are published authors — Craig Selbrede ‘22 can.
As a sophomore in high school, Selbrede, now an English major at Bates, wrote a young-adult fantasy novel. Despite the market being competitive, Selbrede wanted his writing out there. “I felt like [the series] were good, I felt they deserved to be read, but I didn’t think they were necessarily going to make it past a round of editors looking at manuscripts and such. It seemed like, to get it out there and have the experience of having something published, this project was better-suited to being self-published.”
So he founded his own publishing company, ACC Pub Ink, and has so far published three novels and one novella, “Makeshift,” which earned him a Scholastic Art and Writing Award Gold Medal. The creative source for this award winner? The title itself: “I like this word, what can I do with this word?” he said, reflecting on its writing process.
The novella, like much of his work, deals with mental illness. He considers, “What is the nature of these kinds of emotions, and how do we deal with them, how do we live with them, and stuff like that,” through a fantasy and science fiction lens. He appreciates that fantasy has fewer guiding “rules,” so many of his novels and stories live more in that realm.
He is on the creative writing track at Bates, focusing on fiction. The demands of the coursework sometimes conflict with his style: fantasy and science fiction, after all, are hard to condense down to ten-ish pages. As a consequence, he said his prose has had to grow “a lot more to the point…I don’t really have time to write like a full novel.”
He tries to do something related to his writing every day, even if it’s just checking in with the team behind “Relic,” a forthcoming webseries he created.
That is right: in addition to being a published author, Selbrede has also written, acted, and produced several webseries. In his senior year of high school, after feeling typecast by the school’s theater department, he teamed up with a friend to write a science-fiction web series entitled “Two.” Friends of friends brought actors and behind-the-scenes people in, and the show was shot, edited, and released on YouTube by a wing of ACC Pub Ink he’s dubbed “ACC Cinematic.”
During his sophomore year at Bates, Selbrede worked with a team of students to create and film a second webseries, “Cedric Clarke and the Unsettling Dark,” another sci-fi piece about a Bates student — played by Lucas Allen ‘22 — who has to uncover a mysterious group operating on campus and solve a murder. Writing and casting happened during the fall semester, and filming began in the winter.
Unfortunately, production had to be halted in March when all students were sent home due to COVID-19. The one completed episode is available to watch on YouTube. Three more episodes, out of six planned, have some scenes filmed and may be posted at a later date. Regardless, creating the series is one of his favorite memories.
“There was one time, we were filming and I had a lot of homework to do, so I literally had to hand the camera to someone else and say, ‘I’m sorry, I have to go do this project,’” he shared. “I walked by where they were filming a little later, and it was just in full swing. They were all really into it and putting a lot of time and energy into it, and I didn’t even need to be there to make it happen. It had taken on a life beyond what I was intending to do.”
It certainly was not the last time he had to hand over control. “Relic” was meant to be produced this semester while Selbrede studied abroad in England. He spent this past summer collaborating with a group of students there to develop and write the show. When it became clear that he would not be able to travel, he had to hand off a lot of the day-to-day showrunning responsibilities to collaborators.
“Because I kind of have the whole tapestry of everything in my head, they still need me there as the head writer to connect the dots on things and establish why things are the way there are in the scripts, or everything would get pulled in too many different directions. So they still afford me a good amount of creative control,” he said. “But in some ways it’s nicer, because I don’t have to worry about any of the actual hard stuff,” like scheduling filming amid frequent COVID-19 lockdowns.
In and out of the classroom, Selbrede has found Bates to be a supportive environment for him to continue to create. Recruiting collaborators from the community, he has learned, requires being very direct about expectations and time commitment, since “everyone’s so busy. Film and TV production has to be a lot more concise — and even then a global pandemic will hit and cut you off before you’ve done more than an episode,” he said.
“It’s added another layer to things, as every extracurricular does… I think freshman year I expected to just come in and keep doing what I had been doing. But now I’m a little more practical, a little bit more diversified about the type of things I do and the genres — or lack of genres — I do. Now I’m always looking forward to doing something different.”