Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Book Publishing

Book publishing is a weird thing. To begin with, books start out in the mind. There is nothing physical about the beginning of books, only the ruminations, the nattering of internal voices. Slowly these translate into words and find their way onto a page where they may become "real," by that I mean, printed, a physical thing in the world. Even then, though, written in a notebook, typed in a computer, they are still ephemeral in many ways and for so long personal. At some point though they are shaped into what we imagine as a book, but even then, it is a stack of 8.5 x 11 papers. It develops a physical presence in the world, but not what we know to be a "book." For me, I've spent ten years writing poems. Celebrating when they found their way into print in journals, print and online. I imagined a book, even fantasized about what it would look like, but they were vague fantasies. Then, there was the promise of a book. The work to craft a manuscript that would be a book. At some point, there is this transmogrification of years of work into an object. Page proofs from the publisher. Cover designs. The exciting part of imagining and creating books. And though there is the blessed moment when the object arrives and you hold it in your hands, the process is still no less weird. You have a stack of things, beautiful, gorgeous things, that contain hours of your labor. You know you must do something with them. You make postcards and mail them to everyone for whom you have a mailing address. You send copies to friends with short funny notes. You inscribe them. You look for reviewers. You share them. You hope people find them, read them. It sounds like a linear process as I write this, but it isn't. The fits and starts of writing poems continue even with the physical artifact in hand. Mail takes time. People take time. My beloved read my book last night, three days after I gave it to her (I don't begrudge her the time), I listened to her chuckle at moments. She looked up after the first few poems and said, this isn't about me. It wasn't. Keep reading, I told her. She did. She finished the book. Ten years of writing, she read it in about thirty minutes. She liked it. I'll wait to see if others do. It's weird though, the time, the transformation, the waiting. There is the pleasure of "I made this." There is the anxiety of "Is it good enough?" I'd like a better adjective than 'weird,' but at the moment it is all I have. That and a stack of books, bearing my name on the cover.

1 comment:

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