By NYWW Faculty Member Ross Klavan
I’d finished work on the book—I’d suffered, wept, bruised my fingers against the keyboard–and now I was sitting there with one main, terrifying question: Who in his right mind is going to publish a novel called Schmuck?
This dark comedy (wait! a quick plug!) entitled Schmuck is a weirdly energetic (and not always comic) ride through 1960s radio, World War II, Jewish gangsters, show business and beautiful babes with nods along the way to father-son theatrics, the Vietnam War, Bob Dylan, Jean Shepherd and Soupy Sales.
OK. So. You know the answer. I’m with Greenpoint Press.
There are great things about an indie publisher and you should know what they are. Unlike the sterile glass-and-steel, sunshine-blocking, overly air-conditioned corporate book companies in their big-deal high-rise offices (many of whom still sneak out for a cigarette instead of talking to you), the Indie Publisher actually loves books. Not only that, many indie companies are run by people who are also acclaimed writers—like Greenpoint, run by the award-winning Charles Salzberg. I’ll tell you what’s good about that—when you haven’t written a word and you’re a month over deadline and Charles calls you (personally) to say, “Hey, how’s it going?” and you answer, “Oh, hey, hi! Great!” Charles knows you’re sitting in your underwear watching reruns of “Route 66” and haven’t done a damn thing. He doesn’t have to yell or browbeat or insult you or take up a lot of your time. He just knows exactly where you’re at and what you’re up to and that’s incredibly comforting.
Likewise, notice he personally called. Even better, he’ll take your calls. He might even take you to lunch (although not, like a Corporate Publisher, to a place with banquettes). But, unlike the Corporate Publisher who says he’ll quit smoking but would rather light up than talk to you, at Greenpoint, the writer is brought in on so many decisions about his own book—print style, cover art, ads, those little designs on the pages—that you soon realize you know nothing at all about publishing and you start making up lies which is a good warm-up for the next novel. You don’t get that kind of help from Corporate.
Listen, if you’re a good writer then you’re probably a good reader and I’ll bet a lot of your favorite books, especially those from your misspent youth, came out from indie publishers. So, you’re already halfway there.
I’ll tell you something else. You want to go Corporate? There’d be one reason to do it: If Maxwell Perkins was going to edit your book. But that’s not gonna happen because 1) he’s dead and 2) he got beaten up by Ernest Hemingway which definitely did not happen to Charles Salzberg.
Indie’s the way to go. Face it: Indie is the future. Indie will be out there dancing in the fields wearing beads and flowers while Corporate is out there on the pavement worrying through his fourth unsuccessful Smokers Anonymous. The world is changing and in a very few cases, it’s changing for the better. So, fear not. And send in your book…
Welcome to Our New Website!
August 4, 2014 What We Did on Our Summer Vacation…
Remember when you were a kid, when summers really were a vacation? As soon as school was out, your agenda was pretty much to play outside a lot, catch lightning bugs, eat plenty of popsicles and watermelon and go swimming as much as possible–with maybe a family trip or some summer camp, and several good books thrown into the mix? Ah, all that sweet, sweaty, meandering downtime…Where did it go?
We hope you at least got in a little beach trip, enjoyed some ice-cream, or oohed and aahed at the fireworks on the 4th (some things, at least, stay the same when you’re a grown-up!) While we tried to squeeze in some fun here and there, we at New York Writers Workshop have been busy doing our homework this summer. Between running writing workshops and seminars everywhere from Alabama to Singapore, and working on our own writing and editing projects, we’ve also spent the summer planning our next round of fall and winter classes, workshops and conferences, and loading up and launching our brand new website. [Special thanks to Matthew Kressel of Sunray Computer for his gifted design skills, Sharon Gurwitz for her consulting wizardry, and Allison Estes, who had no idea what she was getting into when she came to us and said, “We really need a better website—you want me to see about getting that done?”]
Welcome to our brand new site! We hope you find something you’re looking for here, and that we’ll see you at a class, a weekend workshop, a pitch conference, a New York Public Library or Brooklyn Central Library workshop, a Trumpet Fiction reading, or another New York Writers Workshop event soon! Please visit often—we have new happenings all the time, many of which are free.
Also, be sure to check this section for our monthly newsletter offering insight, advice and stories for those who share our love of literature and the craft of writing.
–New York Writers Workshop
This month, New York Writers Workshop asks our members, “What did you do on your summer vacation?”
“When I was a kid I won first place in the science fair, and the prize included a tour of NASA, but my parents wouldn’t take me. This summer, I actually got to go–it was the best vacation ever! I also worked on the final version of my next book, which is also my first picture book, Izzy & Oscar. It was so much fun to tackle a new genre, and I’m really excited to see it in stores next April! And finally, I learned more about websites than I ever thought I would need to know…Can I go back to NASA now?”
“It took me thirteen long, arduous, hope- and despair-filled years to get published, so this summer I went on the world’s longest book tour: 4 months, 20,000 miles on the road, kids in the back seat, husband working from the front. We saw 45 states and about 450 bookstores. And what did I learn out there? That America is still filling its bookstores. We’re not as device-plugged as a trip on the subway might lead us to believe. And–that being an author is the best job in the world.”
“Spent big part of summer waiting by phone to hear if there’s interest in the mystery my agent’s shopping. (Yes. Some.) Spent the rest of the summer finishing off a novel I’ve been working on for 4 years. In August going on a trip to California with my husband, daughter, her boyfriend, my son, his girlfriend, and my other son. Whether that turns into a murder mystery or novel remains to be seen.”
“I spent my summer vacation holding ‘it’ in.”
[Summer 1970] “One July day when I was 16, I went to a pow-wow in Oklahoma for a boy going to Vietnam. He was dark and thin and held a crumpled bag. As people danced around a fire, he told me he was 18 and his name was Jesse, and he had dropped out of high school. Jesse bent down and took an orange out of his bag and held it out. ‘No thank you. I’m not hungry,’ I said. That fall, I heard that Jesse had been killed in action. I will always wish I had taken that orange.”
“Well, I finished going through the edits on my middle-grade novel, Finding the Worm, due out from Random House next February. (It’s the sequel to my 2013 novel, Twerp.) I was relegated to benchwarmer on both of my softball teams, so that’s a flicker of mortality right there. Oh, and I shot a man in Reno…just to watch him pose.”
“I made God laugh. Or at least that’s what the proverb about making plans in life says I did. Three weeks before our first baby was due, my wife and I mapped out when we would get all the must-haves in preparation for the big day. It was a great looking chart we put together–colors, timelines, arrows pointing from one thing to the next. That was around the time God burst out in laughter…in the form of my wife’s water breaking. Three weeks early. Three hours from the city. Three hundred years before I was going to be mentally ready for all this. Just over 54 hours later, Levi JJ Stern made his debut amidst that laughter that was now shared by two very happy parents who had to scramble to buy a whole bunch of junk online.”
“My college roommate, now a famous poet, Jan Heller Levi, once told me, “You will write your major work, your first novel, when you turn 70,and there is nothing left in the world to distract you.” Close enough. I started Gilson’s Piece on July 8, 2014. Soon thereafter, I was distracted by needing to move my horse to another stable. She is plumping up on her new grass pasture, and I am recovering from worrying about her over another dirty martini.”
“My life is pretty much a summer vacation…which means that I’m doing pretty much what I do all year–except this year I took the summer off from teaching to finish the fourth novel in the Henry Swann series, and I’m making a big move from the east side of Manhattan, where I’ve lived my entire life, to the wild, wild west side. Also, my birthday is in the middle of summer and since I was sent to sleep-away camp from the time I was four years old and as a result missed that celebration, I like to think of the entire summer as my own personal birthday party.”
“I have a love of poetry on the page, but this summer I discovered how much I love performing my work–through a reading series called The Inspired Word, which has outposts all over the city. My favorite is a downstairs bar on the lower east side with a corner stage, stars that flash on and off, and terrific, funny emcees. What’s best though is the love this singularly diverse community has, not only for language and writing but for each other, and how welcoming and generous their spirit is…a lesson for the heart and for me of what is possible.”
“I spent a full week with my nine-year-old niece who flew alone from Indiana to stay with me in New York. Even though I’m her aunt, there were times I felt like I was playing with the little sister I never had. Aside from the touristy adventures, my favorite moment was when we played dress up in pink and blue boas, hats and my dresses. It was an unforgettable week and I hope to make it an annual get together with her in the city.
–Monique Antonette Lewis”
“After teaching a week-long intensive writing workshop in an ancient villa near Verona, (one highlight, the thrill of seeing Aida at the Roman arena with 14,000 people, despite a late start because of rain, which soaked us), I enjoyed a week of studying Italian at a small scuola d’Italiano on the Adriatic Coast in Le Marche, where the beaches are backed by dramatic cliffs and the water holds you up in an effortless float even if you are a sinker like me. Now, if I could just have my memory buoyed up like that, so I retain all that good Italian I learned.”
“My summer began in May, with writing conferences in the Philippines: Silliman University’s National Writers Workshop, and Mindanao State University’s Illigan National Writers Workshop. In June, I traveled to Leyte and Samar where I gathered oral histories from residents who’d survived Super-Typhoon Yolanda. In July, I participated in the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators “Bridging Cultures” conference in Singapore. In between, I wrote, read, napped, went scuba diving, ate mangoes, practiced yoga. I’ll close out summer work with a two-day workshop in Baguio, Philippines.”