Keeping The Heart of a Spartan in Lansing
For more than 17 years, Camron Gnass has used his creative and entrepreneurial gifts to bolster the Capital region and those who love it through his successful creative studio. Beyond being committed to the region, Gnass also bleeds green; Spartan green, of course. Talk to him about his work, his family, his football team, and there is no mistaking his enthusiasm and pride.
It all began in 1995 when Gnass started his visual design business in East Lansing. The company grew and changed rather quickly, and in 1998, he moved his creative studio, Traction
, to downtown Lansing.
In 2008, Gnass launched Sport Community Publishing, and began publishing Greater Lansing Sport
magazine. But when the opportunity arose to take his publishing efforts to a new level by bringing Jack Ebling’s new book, Heart of a Spartan
, to life – he jumped on the opportunity. And now he has added book publishing to his list of accomplishments.
Building a Team
Ebling, renowned Michigan sports writer and former sports columnist for the Lansing State Journal
came on board as the editor of Greater Lansing Sport
at the magazine’s inception, and he and Gnass formed a great partnership as a result. “Jack’s expertise with the general sports community, and his national appeal, made him a really good fit for us,” says Gnass.
In the middle of the football season of 2010, Ebling shared his idea for a book on Michigan State University’s football team, the Spartans, saying he thought the season was going to be “special,” and he asked Gnass to take on the publishing.
“I was looking for someone who understood three things: the publishing process, Spartan athletics and me,” says Ebling. “I knew Camron's commitment, to the community and to quality, from his work as publisher of Greater Lansing Sport
The Right Pieces
Gnass was no novice to book publishing; he’d worked with other publishers on a few projects, and he knew it meant taking a risk. It would be a big financial commitment and a lot of hard work-- taking on a whole new business, facilitating the design, handling the marketing, the distribution -- but he was ready to jump.
“All the right pieces were there,” he says. “It just felt right. We had an incredible author, an incredible photographer and an amazing story.”
Additionally, this was Ebling’s seventh book. He could have gone anywhere, but he asked Gnass. “I’m honored that he thought that Sport Community Publishing could be an asset for him and for getting this story out to the Spartan community.”
Keeping the book’s creation close to home was important to both Ebling and Gnass. “I wanted to keep it as local as possible,” Gnass says.
Gnass didn’t have to look far. He hired the team at Traction to do the design work. Matthew Mitchell, Michigan State Athletic Communications, was on board for doing the photography, and he contracted Peckham for distribution.
He tried to find a local printer, but to keep the price of the book under $50, they had to go elsewhere, choosing a U.S. printer with a Michigan presence.
Cover to Cover
As Gnass opens the book to the center spread, he beams with pride. He flips to the black and white cover, “There are five different dust jackets people can choose from,” he says. “We did that because we know that every Spartan is a Spartan for a different reason. We figured every opportunity we could give somebody to make a connection with the book, the better off we would be and the better off the sporting community would be.”
The forward is written by Tom Izzo, another fact Gnass is really excited about. The next section covers the Red Cedar Rival, which includes a historical narrative of the early beginnings and 33 vignettes by past players, including George Guerre, Kirk Gibson, and Bill Burke to name a few.
Then it’s on to “A Football Renaissance,” which is the bulk of the book and provides a sort of play-by-play of the 2010-2011 seasons. “Jack wrote regular essays about what was going on -- the last two thirds of the book, readers are getting a week-by-week chronicle from that time,” Gnass says. “This is not a look back. Each page is more like a diary entry of exactly what was happening at that time.”
Trials and Tribulations
From the beginning, the project has had its challenges, not unlike the two seasons it covers. For several good reasons, including Ebling needing surgery and a Spartan loss against Alabama, it rolled into a two-year project.
While Gnass and Ebling had worked together, creating a book was new terrain. Ebling notes that he and Gnass’ vision for the book didn’t always line up. “But the final product is better for that collaborative process, including the conflict,” he says.
Then came the 2012 January Outback Bowl; Gnass got a little worried at halftime when the Spartans were down 17-0. “I was standing on the concourse at the stadium wondering what was going to happen to this great story.” Gnass says their amazing win in triple overtime couldn’t have been a more perfect ending.
The book recently launched with an official party and book signing, and many more signing events will take place across the country.
“More than half of the copies have already sold, says Gnass. His hope is the need to print more. The book is available at select Meijer stores across Michigan and at every major Lansing bookstore. It can also be ordered online
“We hope that our next book is an update to this book,” says Gnass. “We hope that there is another incredible season in store. That would be the best ending to this book.”
Dawn Gorman is frequent contributor to Capital Gains.
Photos © Dave Trumpie
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.