Update from Book World

This book is purr-fect.

This book is just purr-fect.

Meet Viviane, the editorial assistant at Shade Mountain Press. She loves Her Own Vietnam. Let’s hope readers and reviewers demonstrate the same exquisite literary taste.

Here’s a quick update on where things stand in the publication process.

Her Own Vietnam is going to print!

I’ve made all my final changes to the book and sent them to the publisher, Rosalie Morales Kearns. She added her own corrections and sent the manuscript to the designer, who produced a final version ready for printing. After a few more tweaks to the back cover design, Rosalie will send my book to the printer.

From a writing point of view, the book is finished – out of my hands, and on to become a real, physical object that cats can walk upon.

As the printer churns out copies of the book, Rosalie and the designer will be hard at work creating the ebook version of Her Own Vietnam.

My first public reading

I’ll be reading from and discussing Her Own Vietnam at Chicago’s venerable feminist bookstore, Women and Children First, on Friday, November 14th. If you’re in Chicago, please come!

November 1 is approaching fast

My book will be published on November 1. That date, which once seemed so far in the future, is zooming toward me, and I have so much to do before then. Line up more readings. Set up author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. Find ways to get the word out to potential readers. Brace myself for reviews from journals and readers.

And mostly, get accustomed to the fact that my brainchild will soon be out in the world.

Okay, I lied

Viviane doesn’t actually work for Shade Mountain Press. It would be more accurate to say that Rosalie, the cat’s ostensible owner, works for Viviane.

 

Let the judging begin

HOV ARC

My ARCs have arrived – the Advanced Reader Copies of my novel. These are real live books that look almost exactly like the final book, except that the text has not yet been proofread and the back cover contains some technical information that won’t be in the final version.

I am not being immodest when I say the book is beautiful. I had nothing to do with its appearance – all praise goes to the designer.

Now what?

The book will be released on November 1. In the meantime, we try to get it reviewed.

My publisher is assiduously contacting book reviewers and review outlets with the hope that they will request an ARC. Many have done so and more, we hope, are pending. 

So many  books, so little time

Of course, requesting an ARC does not mean the person will actually review Her Own Vietnam, much less review it positively. Most book reviewers are writers themselves, many with outside jobs as editors or teachers. They live among teetering stacks of books and articles demanding to be read, beset on all sides by deadlines.

Like all writers, book reviewers live in the condition the novelist Alice McDermott described as “having homework every day for the rest of your life.” And like all devout readers, book reviewers have much more desire than time to read.

But still: a reviewer could be reading my novel right this second with the specific intent of judging it, in print and in public.

Different ways to hear it

Listen to this sentence in your head. You could hear it in at least two ways:

“A reviewer could be reading my novel right now!” [Delight]

“A reviewer could be reading my novel right now!” [Terror]

You be the judge.

News from Book World

Photo: Mr. T in DC

My idea of heaven.                 Photo: Mr. T in DC

So much has been happening in the process of turning Her Own Vietnam into a real live book! Let me catch you up.

An ARC is born

Tomorrow my book will go to the printer, who will produce Advance Reader Copies or ARCS  – the semi-final version of the book. It looks almost exactly like the finished book – it has cover art, a brief description of the novel and even a couple of blurbs – and the text is laid out as it will be in the final version.

But an ARC is not a final version; it’s an uncorrected proof. It still needs tiny tweaks and corrections. So if a brainstorm hits me with a brilliant new way to end the novel, can I still revise it? Nope. The book is essentially done. Within a few days my publisher will send out the ARC to reviewers who may appreciate the book, or savage it, or – and this is the most likely scenario – ignore it.

Blurbs to the rescue

In a previous post I described the nerve-wracking process of asking well-known writers for blurbs. Well, the writer who had been so kind to me in the past was generous once again, and provided a wonderful blurb. To do so required her to lug my printed manuscript on a family vacation. I am more than grateful, and really hope the karma of her kindness will come back to her in the end.

Another author spills her writing secrets

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my writing process. Now you can get a glimpse into the writing process of another writer, Kristin Ohlson. Her third book, The Soil Will Save Us, is sparking national conversations about a cheap, innovative and practical way to combat climate change – and it’s been under our feet the whole time. Take a look here.

The Writing Process: A Blog Relay

Read Women 2014 by Joanna Walsh

Read Women 2014 by Joanna Walsh

The writer Rosalie Morales Kearns asked me to participate in a blog relay Q&A about the writing process. She is the author of Virgins and Tricksters, a collection of shimmering short stories that combine erudition and whimsy, a sly feminist wit and a sense of melancholy. Rosalie is also the founder of Shade Mountain Press, a new literary press dedicated to publishing women, which in 2014 will publish two books: Egg Heaven, a collection of haunting and lyrical short stories by Robin Parks; and my own novel, Her Own Vietnam.

Check out Rosalie’s blog to learn about her writing process and see what she’s working on now.

Writing Process Q & A

Question 1. What are you working on?

I’m putting the finishing touches on Her Own Vietnam, which will be published this fall. The novel is about a woman who served as a U.S. Army nurse in Vietnam, and decades later must confront her wartime memories and the fractures in her family life as the country prepares for the war in Iraq.

At this point, the writing is completed and the book is in the design and production process. In the next few weeks Rosalie will send Advanced Reader Copies to review outlets, and then the book will go through a final proofreading before it goes to press. I’m lucky that Shade Mountain Press invites its authors to participate in all of this, from discussing the cover design to considering different styles for the chapter headings to thinking about which publications and websites might review the book.

Question 2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Her Own Vietnam is my third novel. All explore in different ways the terrain of women’s friendships. My characters tend to be politically engaged in the world, and recognize the gravitational pull of public events on their personal lives. I bring a lesbian sensibility to the work, which means a sensitivity to women’s experiences and the struggles of all outsiders to resist the undertow of other people’s definitions of them.

Question 3. Why do you write what you do?

My writing tends to start with a question. What would happen if…? What would it feel like to…? For all three of my novels, the central question of the book has come to me while I was walking. Clearly I need to walk more often.

Question 4. How does your writing process work?

I always envy those writers who say the words just come to them, and admire the writers who outline everything beforehand. For me, writing is an act of exploration: I write to see what will happen next. I start with what I think is the beginning of the book, and keep writing, seeing an inch or two farther along the path with each writing session. I generally don’t know where I’m headed until at least halfway through the first draft. (Sadly, this is also how I drive.)

Writing a novel is a little like being in love; there’s a current of energy constantly running just beneath the surface of your daily life. For that reason, I always carry a little notebook and a pen, to jot down ideas that occur to me throughout the day. Somehow these ideas lose their potency if I type them into my phone or computer. Paper and pen still have a special kind of power for me.

Passing the baton

I’ve invited two writers to carry on the relay and answer these four questions about the writing process on their own blogs. Please look for their posts next week.

Kristin Ohlson has an impressive knack for writing compelling nonfiction about serious subjects and infusing her work with warmth, humor and drama. Her latest book, The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet, was published this spring and is collecting wonderful reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it “an important book and a pleasure to read.” Kristin also wrote the award-winning Stalking the Divine, and co-wrote the New York Times bestseller The Kabul Beauty School. Read her blog here (click on Blog and News):

Adele Levine recently published Run, Don’t Walk: The Curious and Chaotic Life Of a Physical Therapist Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She is a prolific humor writer, but this powerful memoir of her years working with American troops who lost their limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan packs a punch along with the laughs. Read about Adele’s writing process here:

I hope you will explore the websites and work of these extraordinary writers. Remember, it’s still (and always) the year to read women!

 

 

Meanwhile, back in book world…

 

Photo by Kate Ter Haar

Photo by Kate Ter Haar

A lot has been happening in the publishing process for Her Own Vietnam. Here’s a quick update.

Rosalie, my publisher, sent me her marked-up version of the manuscript. I was not surprised to see that her edits strengthened the book. She noticed all the little writing tics that I’m blind to (like an over-reliance on rhetorical questions – who knew?) and suggested ways to alter them. I had a week to revise the manuscript and send it back to her.

Dingbats are real

Now Rosalie is working with the designer to design the interior of the book. Even as a published writer and avid reader, I had no idea how many decisions go into designing a book. They are considering elements such as the font for the text and chapter headings, how much space there should be between each line of text, and even what the “dingbats” should look like.

Dingbats are those little symbols that appear between sections of a book and signal, as our designer says, “significant breaks in time, space or consciousness.” They’re used primarily in novels, because most short stories are too concise to call for such breaks.

An invisible art

My theory is that book design – like movie music – is most successful when no one notices it. The design should subtly facilitate the reader’s experience with the book. If you notice the design as you’re reading, it’s too obtrusive.

Building the ARC 

This month Rosalie will print Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCs, to send to review outlets. ARCS are semi-finished versions of the book; for example, they may not be proofread yet.

It generally takes several months for a review to be published. Nor is it certain that anyone ever will review my book; there are far more new books than reviewers or places that publish reviews.

Leaving my hands

The publication process is thrilling and nerve-wracking. There’s also an undertone of sadness, as my book slowly leaves me. The farther a manuscript proceeds through the production process, the more the writer’s role diminishes.

Already the novel is on its way to becoming almost as much Rosalie’s book as mine. Soon it might be yours. And at that point, as you hold a novel in your hands or e-reader, it’s all up to you. In the end it’s the reader, not the writer, who gives a book meaning.