Writing in New York
I RARELY INDULGE in travelogue-style posts, but I’m compelled to share with you my crazy July in New York. I originally planned to stay for only eight days, but a new project came up which kept me in Manhattan for three weeks. It was part vacation, part public relations, part writing retreat.
My wife Ami and I touched down on the evening of the Fourth of July, dropped our bags, and dashed out to see if we could catch some fireworks near the Brooklyn Bridge. During the course of the trip, we got to do some sightseeing and hang out with family.
A few days later I got to hold in my greedy little hands an actual physical copy of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN! This early paperback version is called an “ARC” (Advance Reader Copy) or “Galley” (no idea where that term came from.) Publishers print a limited quantity of ARCs to send to booksellers, bloggers, reviewers, and industry influencers in order to drum up early interest in the book.
Publishing is such a by-remote, over-the-internet business these days that when I get a chance to physically interact with some piece of the journey, I make a point of it. So, when I managed to get my hands on an ARC, I just sat and inhaled that new book scent for a while. Glorious. And, while I had already drooled (and am still drooling) over the awesome cover design, now I finally got to see the spine and the back as well.
And, of course, my good friend and designer/photographer/musician Zander Vera made his own version of the cover.
The next day I headed downtown to HarperCollins Headquarters to meet the dedicated and passionate Sales, Marketing, PR, and Design folks at Balzer + Bray who are already working hard to set up SYMPTOMS for success, including cover designer Sarah Kaufman (above)!
I was fortunate to get some face time with my literary agent, Rachel Ekstrom (L) and my editor at B+B, Kristin Rens (R). These two women have created an incredible publishing experience for me so far, and I’m inexpressibly grateful to both of them.
Next up was my literary agency’s annual party. Writing is such a lonely profession. Mostly, writers spend our days locked away behind a keyboard. So when we get a chance to interact live and in person, it’s a rare treat. Rachel, Ami, and I even got to hang out with Sean Chercover (far R), author of the awesome Game Trilogy.
We enjoyed one more brief burst of sightseeing before Ami had to head home: the 9/11 Museum. We spent six hours and could have stayed longer. It was a powerful, emotional experience I’ll never forget. Then, after a week of making good memories, it was time to get back to work.
When you tell your friends that your book is coming out “next year,” they invariable reply, “Haven’t you already written the thing? Why does it take so long?” Well, it’s like this: imagine you’ve written an important letter, and you know you’re going to make 100 photocopies. You’d edit the crap out of that thing before you pushed the “start” button on that copier, wouldn’t you? And maybe ask a smarter, better-read friend read through it a few times? Well, multiply that times 352 or so pages and many more thousands of copies and you begin to understand why it takes so long. Aside from the creative editing process, which is about making the characters stronger and the story better, you’ve got copy edits and line edits and first pass pages and galley pages and second pass pages. And probably more pages I’m not even aware of yet. So when my friends ask, “Is this the last round of edits?” my answer this this: I’ll know the edits are done when I hold the hardback first edition in my hands. But, as you may have guessed, I’m a huge word geek–so I actually ENJOY proofreading. And it was pretty amazing to go through my first pass pages while looking out on a view of the Empire State Building.
I’m not sure what any of this means, but apparently I did something very, very wrong on this page.
Though my host cats, Mila and Watson, did their best to keep me on deadline (Mila was really riding my back), I still missed my cats, Knack and Dottie [AKA Feline Editor.] But I did get to FaceTime with the beasts back home. Because, you know, that’s totally normal. (My dog, Zeppelin, refused to sign a release, so I couldn’t show her photo here.)
I made one final return trip to HarperCollins HQ to film a series of videos with the EpicReads gang. We had a blast. I’m not sure how much of my foolishness will end up on the internet–but they may have found a recording of my appearance on Sister, Sister and/or footage of me reading the flap copy of my book as Christopher Walken. Allegedly.
Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I got to spend one of my last evenings in New York seeing the amazing production of Sleep No More, an inexplicably amazing immersive theater experience I would describe as Macbeth meets Eyes Wide Shut. The audience all wear masks–and since I was pulled onstage for almost ten minutes, mine came away with lipstick on it. And a little goat blood. I love New York.
Even though I was eager to be back home with wife and pets, it’s always sad to leave New York; Murray’s Bagels with vegan schmear. Blossom on Ninth Ave. That place in Chinatown with the…bean…thing.
Writing in another city–even if only for a few weeks–has always been a dream of mine, and it came true this summer. It’s hard to out-do that last summer before your senior year of high school–but I think I may have topped it this time. Here’s to bigger dreams.