Tag Archives: publishing

worms everywhere

So, I went to NCIBA trade show on Friday evening and it was fun, if somewhat surreal.  NCIBA stands for Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, so I got to sit at my little author table and chat with lots and lots of book sellers.  Also sign galleys for them.  I’d never signed my name so many times before.  After a while, it started to dissolve.  Actually, seeing a tabletop covered with multiples copies of my book had the same effect–something about all that repetition induces the same sort of vertigo as standing between two mirrors that are facing each other.

A couple of the book sellers already knew who I was, and even what I looked like.  It occurred to me that this is what any amount of fame entails: people you don’t know know who you are.  Which is…  Spooky!  Let’s just say I’m not worried about finding paparazzi digging through my trash, but still, having a public face to any degree requires some adjustment.  At least I am not a memoirist, thank God.  Fiction affords me a covering, however flimsy.

Meanwhile I am about 15,000 words into In The Red.  While I know most of what happens in the story, it is dreadfully hard to make this narrative take any sort of shape since it insists on coming out in disorderly fragments.  It’s like I’m getting shipments of hashed meat and bone from which I’m somehow supposed to eventually reconstitute the entire cow.  Sometimes one of the bone pieces is sort of an interesting shape.  This is a conversation between Irina and Andrei, shortly after he tells her a hypothesis about something that is awful, and yet has a certain air of inevitability:

“One body for another,” he said placidly, “that is the way it works.”

How did he do this?  This relentless disdain for all people, this ability to carve them up until they were all selfish and rotten.  It was a talent—a talent for making the world ugly?  No, it was not that he made it ugly, how could he make it ugly sitting there all golden skin and lithe musculature and iron-gray eyes?  Filled with stark knowledge, yes, but so beautiful himself he could make nothing ugly.  It was worse.  He stripped and peeled and sliced everything until loneliness bled out of every cut.

“Andrei,” I said, “you’re disgusting.”

I expected him to laugh then; that was mostly the way he ended these kinds of conversations.  He never became offended.  He was impossible to offend.  At least he was true in that way.

He didn’t laugh.  He looked at me very seriously, at the outline of my body that I’d pulled the sheet over while he remained naked.  “How much more disgusting would I be,” he said, “if I came to you in the guise of a good man?”

I hadn’t thought of explicitly connecting these two things before: inability to be offended and being true.  But when I put the words down on the page, they made sense.  Say someone accuses you of something.  If you know yourself completely and the accusation is true, it will not faze you because you know it already.  If it is false, you will merely feel a sense of dim puzzlement as to where your accuser could have gotten such an idea.  If you react explosively with HOW DARE YOU? then somewhere along the line, you have told yourself a lie, and indignation is the handiest way to keep yourself from acknowledging it.  Being offended is the defense mechanism of the false.

And that is only one of the cans of worms this roughly sketched scene decided to open.  That is the problem with this book: I don’t know how to make order of it because it just keeps opening cans and there are worms everywhere.

Seriously, don't open it.


forthcoming press, without Posh Spice

Let us mourn the passing of the Litquake sticker on the sidebar.  Yea and verily, it was a fine sticker, and will be missed–from there and also from my Events page.  My poor Events page looks rather naked now, since it only displays one event for March 5 of next year.  Stuff will fill in before then as the publication date approaches.  I have an author thingy to go to this Friday evening, but didn’t put it up on this website because it’s some kind of industry trade show.  I’m not sure what I will do there–I guess try to look marketable to book sellers?

The Litquake reading was pretty fun.  Afterward I went to the super-secret invite-only party for industry people where I thoroughly demonstrated my embarrassing inability to mingle.  I’m already daunted by making chit chat in the best of circumstances; add loud music and darkness and I’m completely done for.  At my reading, I did give my contact information to a nice lady from the magazine Poetry Flash who wanted to interview me–which reminds me: I had my first interview ever with Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lovely experience and I will look forward to her forthcoming article and review of my book.  The interview should be out in a December issue; possibly the review also, though that’s not yet certain.

All of this means–hang onto your pants for this excitement–that in the not-too-distant future, there will be actual content to display on my Press page not involving photoshopped images of myself with Posh Spice.  Sweet.

Here is the UK cover!

I am not real people; I like to tell stories and sleep a lot.

My health has kind of sucked lately, which unfortunately means I haven’t written anything in a while.  My ideas for my next book are sort of suspended in amber right now while my body is being an ass.  But, I got another blurb for 13 rue Thérèse and it is totally huggable, check it out:

13 rue Therese is a wildly imaginative, multifaceted, confection of a novel.  Like a master magician, Elena Mauli Shapiro gently introduces the beguiling Louise, and asks us to participate in solving her many mysteries.  Louise’s story, we are warned, has ensnared many great minds.  By the novel’s heady conclusion, we too have fallen captive to this most mischievous and provocative heroine.

–Maria Semple, author of This One is Mine

What a lot of great adjectives!  I eat them up.  Nom nom.

Meanwhile I got a confirmation e-mail for my reading at Litquake’s Lit Crawl on October 9th in San Francisco and I am very excited about it.  Not least because the e-mail included stuff to paste on my blog.  Because I am a big dork, I love to paste stuff.  Witness:

If you click on that cute little sticker, it will take you to the Litquake site listing all the cool events for the whole festival.  The specific event I will be reading at is listed here.  I also put it on my Events page.  Lit Crawl looks like a ginormous literary progressive, like bar-hopping with stories.  After the whole shabang, I have been invited to this party for which my name was put on a list.  Whoa.  I am also having business cards printed (a couple of people at the Sacramento panel asked me for one, which totally confused me, until I realized that I look like a grown-up, and technically maybe even a professional, and that I should have one).  Plus I finally broke down and acquired an iPhone.  All these things are harbingers of definite adulthood but I refuse to pay attention.  (Adults have great toys though.  Did you know that the primary function of the iPhone has nothing to do with telephone calls and everything to do with Pacman and taking goofy videos of your cats?)

Speaking of adulthood, when signing up for the iPhone, I had to go through this big security rigmarole during which I was asked about my mortgage and car loans.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  Real people with real grown-up jobs at which they have to wear real grown-up clothes and use hilarious words like “synergy” and “productize” and “thinking outside the box” have mortgages and car loans!  I am not real people; I like to tell stories and sleep a lot.  I know: I am a bad, bad American.  Maybe it is because I am a native speaker of French but I cannot hear the word mortgage without being overly reminded of its etymology, which comes from the French “mort” and “gage,” literally: DEATH PLEDGE.  Oh dear.  Why would I want to sign up for one of those?

While we ponder that, here is another sticker for the road:

peeking around the stage curtain

I spent the evening in Sacramento at my first speaking engagement as an author!  It was a novel writing & publishing panel at UC Davis Extension, where I’ll also be teaching a course in about a month.  Anyway, I got to chat about my book and how it came to be, from inception to the travails of getting it represented and published.  It was the largest audience I have addressed so far (around 80?) save for the one time I got to introduce Tobias Wolff to an auditorium of about 300.  It was somehow not nerve-wracking at all; I guess all the teaching experience is good for making you mellow in front of groups of people.  When I did the Tobias Wolff thing five years ago, I was all shaky and suspected I might pass out!

While I was there, I got penciled in by some Sacramento library organization for a book round table thingy in March that sounds pretty fun.  When I get the e-mail with the details, I should forward it to my publicist to make sure it’s okay.  One of the other writers on tonight’s panel keeps a literary blog and asked if I could have my publisher send her galleys to review.  The lesson here, I guess, is that speaking engagements come with crazy amounts of networking.  Cool, because I suck at seeking that sort of stuff out for myself.

Other exciting buzz-type stuff: galleys are clearly being sent out to book bloggers.  I googled myself to find out what a prospective student might see if they searched for me and found this, this, and this.  That last one has a photo of the adorable package the book came in, with wrapping paper that matches the lid of Mme Brunet’s box, a tin of French candies, and a personal note from my editor.  Damn yo, Reagan Arthur Books knows how to do it up nice.

So, sleepy time for me.  It will be pleasant to drift off thinking there are people out there in the great big universe who are excited to read my baby.

domesticating subversive elements

From the Awesome Files: more people have reached my blog in the past month by looking up “Cheez Doodles” than my name.  This is due, of course, to this post.  Plus there has also been an uptick in public Cheez Doodle curiosity due to the fact that Morrie Yohai, Doodle Creator, died recently.  His life was kind of awesome.  I recommend googling him.

Lately I have been chatting with the English editor about the UK edition of my book.  There will be a few textual differences, plus the afterword will be a foreword because their copyright laws over there are intense.  You have to be really careful when writing a work of fiction based on actual artifacts, so much so that they are trying to cram my lyrical, dreamy-eyed background story full of painfully awkward legalese.  Ouch.  Such is life.

Lately I have also done a whole bunch of messing around with this blog.  If you’ve visited more than once in the the past couple of days, you’ve probably seen the color scheme change.  For a while I had it set up as white text on a black background.  It looked kind of sexy and made photos really pop, but I received such vociferous objections to its illegibility that I backed off into this cream-and-blue color scheme.  Not quite as striking, and thus it should prove less offensive to certain visual sensibilities.  Oh, and guess what?  I added an “events” page!  Because I am starting to get booked for events!  Very exciting.  I also added a placeholder “press” page.  Do check it in you’re in the mood for goofiness.  If you click on the photos, you can see them in their full-sized glory.

Today I read this rather interesting article on Slate called “The strange comforts of reading Mark Twain in the age of oppositional defiant disorder.”  It does offer some cheer with its sweetly quaint observation that children have always been the same, before their behaviors were pathologized with excessive medical diagnoses.  I didn’t buy the pat faux-nostalgia at the end of the article though.  Things were better for rowdy children in the nineteenth century because they could grow up to strike out into the wilderness?  Please.

Yes, the way we castrate the brains of unmanageable children with medication is shameful.  But it wasn’t any easier to be different back then.  Shaming and brutal corporal punishment don’t sound all that much more humane than Ritalin to me.  The truth is that society always has and always will attempt to smother subversive elements.  That is a great deal of what education is for.  Do you remember, I mean truly remember, how awful school could be?  I recall quite vividly sitting in science class in ninth grade, so painfully bored that my very personhood was slowly unwinding like fraying rope.  I was stuck there on my awful little hard stool between two shitheads too vain to get glasses who constantly tore mine off my face, without request or warning, when they needed to read something off the board.  I was quite convinced that when I entered that room, some lever was pulled that actually warped spacetime to make one hour into five.  One day it was so terrible that I wept, quiet and unseen.

This sort of dehumanizing, life-draining bullshit is what they do to prisoners to break them.  We do this to our children, every day.  Before I went to college, school was a veritable Calvary.  The most stimulating classes were, at best, barely tolerable.  They did teach me something valuable: how to float outside myself, how to ignore authority in a way that looked like cooperation in order to be left alone.  Most children are not gifted with my strange little mystic tendencies, however.  They will make their suffering known.

You might ask how I wound up working in, of all places, the educational system.  One of the reasons is that I wanted to give my students little glimmers of life from inside the grinding guts of the machine.  You will not believe how gratefully students react when you tell them something true, something a little wild that they are not used to hearing inside a classroom.  Literature is full of subversive elements, and bringing those out in an institutional setting can be liberating, thrilling even.  You don’t have to destroy the tidy little box society tucks you into, but sometimes–sometimes you really have to give it the finger.  Just that, just this tiny gesture of fuck you, I will not want what you tell me to want can be enough to stay alive.  I assure you, there are few things as wonderful as watching a room full of exhausted students domesticated by an oppressive educational system realize this.

now it is my turn to say Squee

The headline above was the subject line of an e-mail I got from my editor this morning (I type “Squee” often when excited).  Her e-mail read:

Because we just got galleys!!  And they look GORGEOUS.  There are a few images that printed a bit dark, so we’ll make notes and see what can be done to fix them for the final (may have to reshoot some of the coins, in particular).

There is also an unusual mistake – the spin printed with RA/LB logo, but no title or author.  This is not great, obviously, but not the worst thing ever – we’ll sticker them before we send out any copies to reviewers, bloggers, etc.

I only got one early copy but the rest will be here in a day or so and we’ll send some your way.

My reply:

So this morning I had a writer’s wet dream.  I wrote this truly inspired paragraph (I really wish I could remember what it was about, all I remember is that it featured apples in some way) and when I hit the final period I felt this gentle tap on my shoulder.  I turned and there was JM Coetzee, who scooted me out of the chair and proceeded to write an extensive and very loving critique of said paragraph, which he signed “John Maxwell C.”  Then I woke up and there were GALLEYS AT MY DOOR.

Seriously, if I smoked, I think I’d have to light one up.


See, he wrote “John Maxwell C” instead of “JM Coetzee” because he loves me and only me.  My editor wrote back:

Ha!  But wait – do you mean galleys really WERE at your door, or is that part of the dream thing?

At which point I completely lost in the ability to format or punctuate properly:

They’re really heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere

And my editor exploded into capital letters and question marks:

OH!!!  So – don’t they look AMAZING???  I mean, aside from the stuff you hate that we’re fixing??  I can’t stop admiring mine.

Then I passed out:

indeed forsooth yea and verily

Je suis derrière la porte.

My big achievement for today was hiding a picture of myself behind the door on my “about me” page.  Trust me, considering my technological ineptitude, this is indeed an achievement.  I also made a little icon of my book cover for my sidebar that links directly to my novel’s Amazon page.  If I were truly virtuous, it would link to a page that read “be good and buy me from a struggling independent bookstore!”  But, I am not that virtuous.

Oh–I almost forgot: I also added my twitter feed to my sidebar.  Yes, I signed up for twitter.  My editor told me to, and because I am a befuddled virgin author, I acquiesced.  140 characters is bloody short.  It’s an interesting exercise in editing though.  So far I’ve managed to avoid using “2” for “to” or other internety abbreviations that raise my old, obsolete hackles.  I’ve also managed to avoid steering the horseless carriage as it frightens me and I do not enjoy it.  (Dude, I’m totally serious.  I don’t drive.  I’m sure at some point I will have to remedy this situation.  At some point.  But I am very gifted at procrastination.)

I continue on with my new novel, In the Red.  Although it appears that for every page I produce, I must delete two.  I have a plot, but I do not have a structure.  I also have a taciturn protagonist, who is a rather stark contrast from my dear, voluble Trevor.  It appears she will not disclose anything unless I ask her directly.  So, progress is slow.

I am also in the thick of reviewing typeset pages for 13 rue Thérèse.  They look really pretty, although in a lot of places the typesetter misunderstood my instructions so extravagantly that it makes me want to lie down and whimper softly to myself.  Sigh.  The galleys will contain the errors as there will not be enough time to correct them before they are printed.  Double sigh.

Typeset pages are a much different animal than manuscript pages.  For one thing, I must limit my editing as much as I can in order to make as little extra work as possible for the typesetter.  I’ve only changed one word here or there; the time for extensive edits is over.  I’m having a lot of conversations with myself that look like this:

“Oh that paragraph is terrible! We must delete it immediately.”

“Ssssshh calm yourself. Maybe no one will notice.”

“Well, I hope to God nobody quotes it in a review.”

A typeset text is literally set.  It’s like lava that’s solidified into rock.  If you want to change it you have to whip out a chisel, because the stage of flux has ended.  It’s hard to describe the transformation.  It’s not my manuscript anymore; it’s now part of the collective record.  Everything that went into the text is subsumed within it.  The people who inspired the characters are now gone from inside them; only the characters remain.  The sources are immortalized; the sources are expunged.  The text is dead; long live the text.

Sweep away the ash and lay your hand on rock that was once liquid and hot enough to burn you away into the barest wisp of nothing.  From red to black, the flow froze into these furrows and whorls you can follow with your finger.  Yes, if you like you can follow them up all the way to the dark gash whence they came.  If you like you can make yourself dizzy looking down into the fathomless deep, but be careful.  If the earth starts to tremble, you won’t have much time.

Cheez Doodles for my ego

“13 RUE THERESE is a puzzle-novel and gave me the same fizzy satisfaction as completing a Sunday crossword.  It will light up your brain and your heart.”
–David Ebershoff, author of THE 19TH WIFE

Pretty spiff, no?  This here is my first blurb.  I hadn’t even known the publisher was gathering them when I received this, since galleys aren’t out yet.  I will get typset pages  at the end of next week; I’ll have three weeks to turn them around like I did the copyedits.  Then the galleys will materialize on August 6, and the book will start to look like a book!  There will be much squeeing.

Other good news: the London Book Fair has borne fruit.  13 rue Thérèse sold in Russia, Poland, and France.  On top of the previous UK and Italy sales, that is five foreign markets so far.  Sweet.  I hope more are forthcoming; I love the idea of having a nice stack of the same book differently iterated, as I love the idea of not being able to read my own transmogrified prose.

A special Godspeed goes out to the French translator, who will have to translate my translations of French letters that are reproduced in the text.  Good luck with that.  Since a lot of the metafiction in the novel happens in the way Trevor chooses to edit and translate those letters, the French version of the novel will present a huge tension.  The target language will be the same as the original, making the changes especially naked, and also making it obvious that Trevor himself was translated back.  This will make the translator extremely and unusually visible.  I am not opposed to the translator playing around with this bizarre situation, like maybe adding his own set of weird footnotes.  We’ll have to see.  It makes my brain tremble to fathom it.

Speaking of translation, did you know that in England, book blurbs are called “puffs?”  I find that word both apt and adorable.  Plus it makes me kind of hungry, it makes me think of Cheez Doodles.  Nom nom.  Cheez Doodles for my ego.  More please.

Meanwhile I’ve been telling my husband that I’m going to bust some heads if no critic calls my prose “luminous.”   Ooooh, let me tell you one of my most depraved fantasies…  It is to write a terrible book, I mean horrid–the vilest excrescence my suffering body could ever push from itself–and then have it printed with ink expressed from firefly abdomens so that the prose would quite literally be luminous.  Aaaaah I am so perverted.  Maybe in a previous life I knew Huysmans.  Maybe in a previous life I was Huysmans.  Did you know that towards the end of his life, he became a huge Catholic?  That too, I find both apt and adorable.

Huysmans would approve of this. It is definitely in the decadent spirit.

a great gift for your little savage

Tomorrow is my last day of school.  I’m finishing up 22nd grade, and in all likelihood I will only enter a classroom again on the teacher side of the desk.  Weird, no?

I will have to pick up my last paycheck, surrender my keys, and go to the registrar’s office to make sure they mail me my diploma once it’s printed.  Another master’s degree!  One thing that is certain about the life of a person with two master’s degrees: at some point, a plan was changed.  One does not get two of these things on purpose.

When my husband & I get a roomier place to live, we should put up a Wall o’ Degrees, everything from high school on.  Between the two of us, that will be eight of them.  Adding up to 46 years of schooling.  Yes, that’s right, FORTY SIX YEARS.  If our combined schooling were a person, it would be in the thick of its midlife crisis right now.

I don’t think I mentioned yet on this blog that I have a teaching gig for next Fall: an online fiction workshop for UC Davis Extension.  I will try out the teaching creative writing thing.  Meanwhile, I am looking into joining a writing group in San Francisco this summer.  I am hoping it will give me (1) deadlines and (2) human contact, otherwise I am likely to turn into a smelly grunting hermit who has been working on the same paragraph for weeks on end.  For the sake of my sanity and my marriage, I will try to avoid that.

(The biggest threat to my productivity right now is Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii.  What a fun–and graphically stunning–video game!  I love Yoshi so much.  If only I could eat my enemies whole and shit them back out as candy in real life…)

The last of the copyediting stuff for 13 rue Thérèse happened last week.  I am not quite sure what happens next.  I’m guessing I’ll get to see sample pages of the layout?  As a publishing virgin, this whole process is very mysterious.  I will say this: making a book is more work than you can possibly imagine.  Writing the damn thing, as much of your blood as you pour into it, is totally the easy part.  Submitting it is the worst part.  What happens after someone buys it is a very peculiar process.  Your dream gets fashioned into a product.  Your reclusive, naked forest child is scrubbed clean; taught to speak, smile, and shake hands; given a haircut, a nice suit, a pitch; then sent out into the world to sell himself.  It is a great gift for your little savage, but also a great act of violence against him.

I guess anything worth doing is like that; anything worth doing makes you into a different person.

Why is Yoshi always spoken of as male? Doesn't he have to be female? He lays eggs. Discuss.