What I learned at the WB
This was a previous Writer's Buzz in December (we didn't get pics from Feb.), but doesn't it look fun?
In case you’ve been in quarantine due to the hacking, soar-throated, feverish, eye-reddening madness that is Denver’s “is that really just a cold?” season, we had our second edition of our The Story of A Book at 910 Arts a couple Saturdays ago at the Writer’s Buzz. Despite some shoddy time-management skills displayed by the emcee, the evening was a rousing thoughtfest. Here are a few things I learned:
- When you get together four writers, published everywhere from a small press in North Carolina to the behemoth at Penguin, you will hear four vastly different stories of the route toward publication. On the other hand, the day-to-day struggles of facing the blank page and mustering the energy to ‘block out’ rejection and the biz are almost identical.
- Jenny Shank, whose book The Ringer comes out in a matter of weeks, is taking a creative approach to buzz creation. She’s set up a Web page for El Johnway–the best and most elegant defacing of a beloved sportsman’s action figure I’ve ever seen. Check it out! She has a great essay, “The Ham-and-Egger,” in the Jan/Feb 2011 Poets & Writers about weathering rejection for years and years before The Ringer was accepted for publication. Quotable from the evening: “We’re all underdogs, here.”
- Next up was Eleanor Brown, author of the The Weird Sisters (number 14 bestselling hardcover fiction this week), who talked of the surreal experience of moving from struggling writer to besieged “author.” As author, she’s doing interviews, book tours, radio shows (including this great NPR one), and barely getting a moment to catch her breath. A quotable from the Q/A afterwards: “The best way to handle rejection of your work is to always be writing something new.” (She said it better than that, so chalk that up to paraphrase.) She also gave an “aww, shucks” quotable about Lighthouse being one of the reasons she moved to Denver. (We’ll take it!)
- Harrison Fletcher’s had to practice perseverance and faith with his memoir about his father, which was picked up by the American Lives series at University of Nebraska Press (forthcoming in 2012). Following his agent’s advice, he abandoned the project for a more straightforward nonfiction book about his mother’s side of the family, only to continually return to it like the unscratchable itch that it was. Until he finally did scratch it–going solo with his agent’s approval, he found the perfect home for the book.
- And finally, Jackie St. Joan, heroically battling a cold that she worried microphone sharers might catch, told the story of publishing My
Sisters Made of Light, a novel loosely based on time spent in Pakistan and a woman she’d interviewed there. After turning down several offers, her agent went out with the novel in a big way–and didn’t sell it. So St. Joan decided, in order to feel like the book had life, she’d pursue small presses. Eventually, she landed in the offices of Press 53
, which has turned out to be the home she always wanted for the book.
So, in summary, the answer to seeing a book in print is: there’s no answer except doing it–writing, believing, and enduring the ups and downs that seem to be on every writer’s course. Hope to see you all at the Draft 9.0: A Reading Show Saturday, 3/5, 7 PM, at 910 Arts. (Four short readings, four genres, all putting “you” in the voyeur hotseat.)