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.
I have arrived! I am referring, of course, to the existence of my book’s Amazon page. Pretty neat. It is a little odd that a book that won’t exist for another nine months is already on sale. Yet here it is–already discounted! More internet excitement: there is now a little blurb about me up on my publisher’s website, complete with author photo.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my Master’s exam and managed to pass it–though by how much depends on which professor you ask. The response ranged from “good job!” to “perfunctory and pro-forma.” Yes, the latter is a direct quote. I kind of like it, actually; it’s so rhythmic and alliterative. Perhaps I should write a poem titled “Perfunctory and Pro-forma.” Anyway, as the undergrads say, D is for Diploma. So, I am a Master–but not a Doctor–of Literature. I think that means I get to order Literature around and tell it to make me a sandwich, but I can’t write it a prescription for antibiotics if it starts to cough up blood.
Two days after taking the exam, I received the copyedits for 13 rue Thérèse, and have been eyeball-deep in them ever since. I was asked by a friend what the difference is between edits and copyedits, so I figure I should explain it here. Edits have to do with aesthetic or characterization concerns. An edit will say something like, “that peanut butter metaphor in Chapter 12 needs more work,” or “can you set a scene in flashback to explain why the protagonist is so traumatized by cucumbers?” Compared to copyedits, they are big-picture stuff. Copyedits operate on a level of excruciating detail. They say stuff like, “are you sure you want to use that adjective? You just used it five pages ago,” or “insert comma here.” And there are like eight million of them on every page; the manuscript is absolutely covered in little green hieroglyphs questioning the smallest of your decisions. They are the most existential-crisis-inducing thing ever.
Copyedits make you say things like, “YOU CAN PRY THAT M-DASH OUT OF MY COLD, DEAD HAND.”
(It’s all right, my precious m-dash, no one will harm you–sleep, my darling, sleep).
I’m going to take a break in the middle of a pile of grading to talk about spiffy writing stuff. (I love teaching but oh my God, the grading–it hurts.)
13 rue Thérèse is wending its slow way through the digestive system of the Little Brown entity (wait–this would make publication defecation, but it’s too late to turn back now, I’m committed to this gross analogy), going through all the biological and chemical processes that turn a manuscript into a book. I’ve seen a spec cover for it, and it is cool. Frustratingly, I am not allowed to post it, because it is still super secret.
A development that tickles my heart: the book now has an ISBN number! Seeing those 13 digits is like seeing the inky footprint of your new baby on the birth certificate.
Also, cool multimedia ideas are happening. My editor mentioned the prospect of putting QR codes in the book, which are basically barcodes that look like runes that take you to a website when scanned by a computer or phone camera. These codes would link to additional content, or sound files of me reading some of the letters aloud, stuff like that. I am thinking it would be fun to have fragmentary mini-stories that are interlinked in unexpected ways, like a little internet labyrinth. It’s an interesting new medium to exploit.
Also, my kickass agent and my awesome editor have asked me for short stories to submit to The New Yorker‘s summer fiction issue. The odds that I’ll get in are quite low since I am such fresh fish but it is still pretty damn exciting to put together a solicited submission to the Holy Grail of literary magazines, which will likely be read by an actual editor instead of a glaze-eyed intern with a finger poised on DELETE. (Note that I am not talking smack about the glaze-eyed intern; I’ve had the job of reading through slush piles and it is deadening.)
I should get back to grading… Don’t wanna. Hold me!