Just a few of my grandfather’s books, which I now have a proper shelf for. To call them my grandfather’s is a bit of a misnomer. Most have a little lineage written inside them, a history of their gifting. My grandmother gifted one to her father, which found its way back to her, to my father, and now to me. There’s a book that my grandparents gifted my father, who would later gift it to my aunt, who must have given it back to my grandmother at some point before it went to my parents, and now to me.
My family was never very talkative when it came to our history. I’d like to think of us as somewhat circumspect, or perhaps close-mouthed. These books have wound up being a small course in personal archaeology for me. There’s just enough fact to trace our lineage, our love of books, and to allow me room to imagine who we were when these books were new.
And of course there are the stories inside.
I haven’t seen some of these books since childhood. It’s been like meeting old friends again and learning the ways the years have changed you, and all the ways they haven’t.

Just a few of my grandfather’s books, which I now have a proper shelf for. To call them my grandfather’s is a bit of a misnomer. Most have a little lineage written inside them, a history of their gifting. My grandmother gifted one to her father, which found its way back to her, to my father, and now to me. There’s a book that my grandparents gifted my father, who would later gift it to my aunt, who must have given it back to my grandmother at some point before it went to my parents, and now to me.

My family was never very talkative when it came to our history. I’d like to think of us as somewhat circumspect, or perhaps close-mouthed. These books have wound up being a small course in personal archaeology for me. There’s just enough fact to trace our lineage, our love of books, and to allow me room to imagine who we were when these books were new.

And of course there are the stories inside.

I haven’t seen some of these books since childhood. It’s been like meeting old friends again and learning the ways the years have changed you, and all the ways they haven’t.

mamaguru asked
“Your post reminded me of my college prof. who told us we only got 12 exclamation points per year. "Use them wisely," she said!!!!!!!!!!!”

Oh, the exclamation point. I once got righteously indignant over the use of one in a short story. An editor had thrown one in and I got huffy about it (to myself, of course). “My character wouldn’t use an exclamation point. Nope. This is internal monologue. Who uses exclamation points in internal monologue?!?!?!?!?!?!”*

Note: one is never more impressive than when wearing pajamas and being huffy about punctuation.

I let it slide because a story is never really set. That ! is a cue for people reading aloud. That ! is a cue that people read my writing differently from how I write it, which they should.

In the end, I’m the only one who reads that piece and remembers the exclamation point.

And really, in our heads we’re always using exclamation points. They’re like adverbs. Everyone says to cut them out but the more you cut them, the more you really want them back.

*excessive punctuation intentional, and meant to convey my whiny writerly self who has opinions about things.

The First Pass

It’s official: I have reached the point in the process where everything looks wrong. I have spent the past 20 minutes questioning whether a comma goes somewhere or not (the answer is both yes and no, based on style).

I also just sent a work email on a Saturday, proving I have lost all concept of Spacetime. Yes, somewhere in the world it’s still the workweek, but even there, it’s probably not a time when anyone should be reading emails.

Consequence of losing all concept of Spacetime: all commas are 50% off today. I’m practically giving them away. 20% off semicolons, and—get this—style inconsistencies are FREE. That’s right, folks. Any and all inconsistencies with long dash use, the oxford comma, and when we are and aren’t using boldface, that’s 100% FREE OF CHARGE! WOO!

It’s incredibly cool to see the layout, to finally read it like a book, but…

… I may have read my book too many times.

Colonial Comics MICE Takeover

colonialcomics:

Well, folks, Colonial Comics, New England 1620-1750 makes its grand debut at MICE 2014. This isn’t just a grand debut for you all, this is also a grand debut for me. I saw the pre-proof version of the book but that was the last I saw of it. Fulcrum made some final edits, those edits were sent to the printer, and now a drop shipment is being sent directly to MICE. When I get to the show on Saturday, it will be the first time I’m seeing the book. But there’s a lot going on, so let’s get these things down.

Saturday, October 4th

9AM - My flight lands in Boston.

9:55AM- My cab pulls up to Lesley University Hall. I go directly to the Fulcrum Publishing table (D15) and you get to see a grown man kissing a book. 

10:01AM - The first copy of the book is sold. I hand this lucky person a signed copy of the book along with a piece of paper that highlights the 12 contributors that will be present at MICE:

image

I tell this wonderful person that the first three people to show me all twelve signatures will get a prize. I sign the book and my right-hand-man Charlie Fetherolf signs it, as well. Joel Gill is at table D14 and he signs it, too. The owner of the book then runs off and gets the low-hanging fruit, visiting the tables of E.J. Barnes (B7), Dan Mazur (D11), Josh O’Neil (A22), Sarah Winifred Searle (A35), and Alexander Danner (D12) to collect 5 more of the 12 signatures, bringing the total to 8. Then comes the hard part. Where is John Bell? He’s not here yet. Where’s Ellen Crenshaw and Matt Boehm? They’re not here yet, either. A. David Lewis is taking care of his newborn. Getting all twelve signatures will be a challenge…

10:02AM-11:29AM - I continue to sell books. I give out origami Mayflowers, Colonial Comics-branded tea bags, Colonial Characters trading cards, and tax stamp stickers. I try to get a picture of every person who purchases a copy so that I can thank them later.

11:30AM-12:30PM - I’m on the History in Comics panel, moderated by Colonial Comics contributor and assistant editor John Bell. I have E.J. Barnes and Ellen Crenshaw with me (Eleri Harris and Dave Ortega are on the panel as well). I call out Matt Boehm in the audience. If you haven’t gotten them yet, there are three more signatures for the taking. If only you can find A. David Lewis…

12:30-3:59PM I’m back at the Fulcrum Publishing table (D15) - signing copies and telling you how much I love you. Meanwhile…

1-2PM - Colonial Comics contributor Alexander Danner moderates the panel Developing the Graphic Novel with Raina Telgemeier, Emily Carroll, and Paul Hornschmeier. How often do you get to see a panel featuring two amazing cartoonists whose names end in -eier? Only at MICE.

3:30-4:30PM - Colonial Comics contributor Alexander Danner leads the Writing Comics workshop. His script was amazing - if you miss this workshop, you miss one of the best reasons to be at the show. Except! Conflict of interest! Because…

4PM-5PM - I will be on the Letters From the Editor panel with Chris Duffy, moderated by Zack Giallongo. I will tell you how to handle writers like Alexander Danner and how to become a writer like Alexander Danner so which one do you go to? The answer is simple - you go to both, somehow. 

5PM and on - Selling books and socializing. Pitch me a story!

Sunday, October 6th

I will be selling books and signing books and telling you I love you. Then!

1PM-2PM - Go check out Colonial Comics contributor Josh O’Neil hang out with Box Brown in the Marketing for Self-Publishing and Micro-Press panel moderated by Colonial Comics contributor Dan Mazur. What do you call a panel where 2/3rds of the contributors are Colonial Comics contributors? You call it a Good Panel (TM). Or…

1PM-2PM - I’ll be paneling with Cathy Leamy and Colonial Comics contributor Joel Gill at Teaching With Comics as part of the Comics in the Classroom Symposium

2PM and on - Signing and selling books, if I have any left. Pitch me a story!

And that will be it. At some point Sunday evening I will begin to glow. I don’t know when/if the glow will go away, but I will consult my doctor about it after five days of continuous glowing.

Colonial Comics, New England 1620-1750   debuts at MICE this weekend. While move-related shenanigans are keeping me from Boston, it should not keep any of you. The post above highlights the adventures of our intrepid editor.

He’s worked on some seriously great swag. I’m not even kidding. Just to further emphasize: Colonial Comics-branded tea bags, Colonial Characters trading cards, and tax stamp stickers. Tea bags, people. Picking this book up at MICE offers you not just a sweet read, but a great cuppa and really interesting thoughts about the mythology that’s developed around chucking tea into a harbor. (Incidentally, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone bust their butt so hard to make great swag.) And maybe, I dunno, maybe you can learn about how it came to be that A WOMAN OWNED THE FIRST PRINTING PRESS IN THE US!!!

I haven’t even seen the final on this book, but I’m so, so proud that my story on Elizabeth Glover is part of it.

If you’re in Boston, go. Go and stick a tax stamp on someone who is taxing.

An Artist’s Quiz

The amazing sarahsamudre tagged me in her post. It’s a really good idea to do what Sarah says, so I’m going to comply.

1. Why Write?

There are half-worlds and snippets of sentences that are always rattling around in my head. There’s a very specific little girl who needs to have something said about her. There are also ideas I have about my world and life that I don’t understand until I’ve worked them out on a page. I write because I think more clearly when I do. I write to learn—about other people, about myself—and to give half-formed thoughts a chance to be something better. I also write for the simple yet highfalutin idea that I want to make something beautiful where there wasn’t anything before.

2. Aesthetic?

I’m eclectic—in my writing, in my clothing, in my music, in my home. I love short sentences, but adore varying rhythms. I like using commonplace words in unusual ways. I love anything with a bit of the fantastic about it, and especially love things that verge on slightly sinister and dangerous. I like minimalism, art nouveau, the pre raphaelites, and a nice velvet Elvis, which says a good deal about my aesthetics. Oh, and anything at all that might require wearing large hats gets bonus points in my book. I adore swearing. A well-placed swear can save almost anything.

3. Process?

I work longhand, on typewriters, and (when it can no longer be avoided) a laptop. A story usually begins with a snippet of dialog that I let fester for a few days, weeks, months, years. Sometimes I have a whole town built around it before I know who says it. Sometimes characters walk right up and introduce themselves. Once, I was lucky enough to think of an entire novel in one go while in the shower. It took forever to write, and most iterations of it were totally useless, but that one moment of “Ah-HA!” was life-changing. 

When I’m blocked, I have a sentence I like to start things off with; it’s generic filler that lets me run through a conversation quickly. That usually gets the writing flowing. It’s, “Charlie, I can’t stand to look at you anymore.” I have no idea who Charlie is, or who is saying this to him, but it helps me get going.  I’ve also been known to draw or sketch when I’m stuck.

When I *must* work I give myself a word goal and stick it on the wall, the desk, the screen, or anywhere I can’t avoid seeing it. I’m very deadline oriented. While I know just hitting the word goal isn’t usually making good writing, it carries me through to the editing process where I can then try to make things work.

Largely, my process involves casually berating myself for bad ideas, rotten sentences, and scenes that don’t go anywhere. I spend much of my time dreading writing scenes where there are three people in the same room. Dear god, that’s worse than learning gymnastics.

4. At the moment?

It’d be easier to say what I’m not doing. I’m moving house, getting excited for the launch of colonialcomics, an amazing comic anthology that features a story of mine (preorder)beginning the marketing and PR phase for my debut novel, The Book of Speculation (St. Martin’s Press, June 2015); trying to tweak a story that’s been bugging me for months, and starting in on what I’m pretty sure will turn out to be my second novel. This may or may not require a stay in Titusville, FL, and has necessitated watching lots of footage of the Challenger disaster. I might need more sleep. Oh, and I’ll be bookbinding again shortly. Eep.

5. Shortcomings?

I’m incredibly self-critical. While self-deprecation can be charming, it’s not the best when you mean it. I have that terrible writer problem of simultaneously thinking my work is absolute crap, but it’s better than anybody else’s crap. Also, I live in fear that my lack of an MFA shows.

As a writer, plot is always tricky for me. As a reader, I prefer what’s called “European pacing,” which doesn’t always fly here in the States. Basically, I don’t mind if it takes a character three pages to turn a doorknob, so long as the internal life makes that turning meaningful. So, if there’s one flaw in my writing that I try to devote the most attention to, it’s finding my plot. Because I’ve lost all plot. Always.

I have an absolute gift for putting my foot in my mouth at inconvenient moments, the timing of which is often so absurd it borders on sitcom. Also, I was the least funny clown in clown class. I’m pretty sure this fact can be verified by several people.

I’m too clever by half, which often leads me to discover that I’m far from the smartest person in the room.

Oh, and I might spread myself a little too thin.

6. A writer is?

Fueled by coffee and unsettling dreams.

QUIZ OVER!

Tag! You’re it: christopherkeelty, karissachen, evan-morgan-williams

(Please feel no obligation to respond.)

On Covers

I’m woman enough to admit that I have no idea what my book is about anymore, other than it’s my precious little baby, so I simultaneously want to strangle it and keep it safe forever. The worst person in the world to ask to explain any book is its author.

"So, it’s this thing where this guy has a friend who is in trouble and he’s got to save him, but we’re not sure if the thing that he’s saving him from is really a danger, because centuries back there’s this thing that happened that might not be real, probably is, but might not be—no, I know unreliable narrators, but hang in there with me—there are these, like FIVE threads, and they kind of weave, like when you hold hands? But there’s this folklore element that relies really heavily on the tradition of oral storytelling, and think about playing a game of telephone over 300 years…"

Yeah. No, I don’t know either. At some point we just start wildly gesticulating before getting really embarrassed.

I think this is part of why lots of authors wind up totally shocked when they see their jacket art. We really have no idea what our books are about, and here comes someone with a visual representation of other peoples’ ideas about it.

I saw some potential jackets for The Book of Speculation yesterday. I was absolutely blown away. It’s impossible for one cover to contain all the threads that run through the book, but the covers I saw yesterday captured the mood, the danger, and the little house I’ve been seeing in my head for umpteen years.

While it’s super unprofessional to cry in meetings, I was right on the edge of it, quivering lower lip and all.

It’s an indescribable feeling to see someone put in one visual statement an idea that you’ve been wrestling with for years.

I can’t remember if I whispered, “Oh. You get it.” I’m pretty sure I meant to.

Now, now I need to do things to justify those covers.

In Another Room

I am leaving Brooklyn.

My books are in the other house, the house I’ll be moving into come mid October. There’s something unsettling about wandering around an apartment in which the shelves are completely empty.

The art is gone as well, moved piece at a time to preserve it from breakage by movers. It’s one thing to break something irreplaceable when there’s only yourself to blame. Shifting any guilt or anger to movers falls into the realm of unmanageable.

My typewriters are out at the house already, because I  didn’t want to be that crazed woman on the curb yelling, “CAREFUL! That’s a 1942 Underwood and it’s irreplaceable! DON’T TOUCH THE HERMES! Hey, no that’s my mom’s Smith Corona electric. NO. NO. BAD MOVER! BAD!” I’m probably crazed enough to start spraying them with a water bottle.

I’m in a strange spot where I’m constantly reaching for  things that aren’t here—a thesaurus, my Jane Austen action figure, my teapots, that really good pen that I moved because I forgot it was in that pen bag. It’s a bit like having a phantom life rather than a phantom limb. I can still feel the things that were here, but know they’re somewhere else. They’re an unscratchable itch.

Our goal is to have everything but the furniture moved before actual moving day. Along with my things, I’ve somehow managed to move a significant portion of my mind.

Please Somebody Make Me Sound Better

Copy edits arrive today, which is an exciting and intimidating prospect.

  • I gleefully anticipate seeing exactly how poor my grammar is.
  • It’s gotten pretty bad since my proofreading days
  • Em dash, how to?
  • Oh, perhaps a little less em dash.
  • Maybe every sentence doesn’t need one.
  • I fear the question mark.
  • I doubt it will be like my old job where I could just send back a bit of copy with a note saying, “I think they mean Centenarian, not Centurion.”
  • As an FYI, there’s an enormous difference between your very old grandma and a Roman officer, a rather comedic difference in the right situation.
  • Oh funeral programs. Why are you so funny?!

On the pleasant side of things, I cheerfully have no idea what I’m doing, which is standard operating procedure for me. I do know that whatever I’m required to do is bound to demand a lot of pens in interesting colors. Oh, and sticky notes—mustn’t forget the sticky notes. And a hat. Crap. Forgot to buy a hat specifically for reviewing edits.

I’m trying to embrace the fact that this is the last time in my writing life that I’ll ever be quite this green.

But, in these last few hours of freedom, I’m indulging in reading some utterly delightful fluff.  At this point our hero is at a cursed (of course) excavation site in Egypt. A camel has just eaten his hat. for the second time.

Note to self: Obtain camel for copy editing purposes.

colonialcomics:

Next up is a story that’s pretty special to me, “The Press’s Widow: Elizabeth Glover” by Erika Swyler and Noel Tuazon. Early on in this project I was researching the printing industry in colonial New England and came across the story of Elizabeth Glover, the woman who brought the first printing press to New England. That’s essentially all I knew about her, and I asked Erika Swyler if she was up to the task of finding more information. 
I met Erika via tumblr, when she asked me if I could look over a short story she wrote about the ups and downs of a woman’s life over 84 years. I loved it and asked her to review the story that became The Little Particle That Could. 
Erika did a great job filling in the seemingly monumental gaps in Elizabeth Glover’s life. She discovered that Glover came over with her husband, who died on the trip, leaving her with a collection of kids, two debtors, and a printing press. The story ended up touching upon a lot of aspects of colonial life, including the difficulties women faced in opening and running businesses, the need to increase social stature by through marriage, the importance of the printed word, the early days of Harvard University, and the printing of the first book in the America, the Bay Psalm Book, a risky venture made when money was tight and which was riddled with errors. An original copy of the Bay Psalm Book recently sold at auction for $14-million. 
I paired her up with Noel Tuazon, who I’ve worked with many times. He was the illustrator of Elk’s Run, a book I edited, and he contributed to Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened. Also, he was the artist on the previously mentioned The Little Particle That Could. 
Together, they turned in a great story about a relatively unknown person who lived a truly remarkable life - which is really what this book is about, at the end of the day.
Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 will be released in October from Fulcrum Books. You can pre-order it on Amazon now.
Previous Design Posts:
Cover Process
Intro Pages
Previous Story Posts:
Harried Out The Land by Nick Bunker, Chris Piers, Jason Axtell, and Jason Hanley.
Thomas Morton, Merry Mount’s Lord of Misrule by E.J. Barnes.
Troublesome Sows by Virginia DeJohn Anderson and Mike Sgier
Garden in the Wilderness by Matt Boehm and Ellen T. Crenshaw
The Trial of Anne Hutchinson by Alexander Danner and Matt Rawson

I’ve mentioned it before, but this project is special to me. I absolutely love rooting around in history, trying to fill the gaps texts inevitably leave. It’s not uncommon for texts to write “around” women as opposed to fleshing out their daily lives. It was an absolute privilege to play even the smallest part in changing that for Elizabeth Glover.
Noel’s art is… yes. Yes is what happens when I run out of superlatives.
Jason is also being quite kind to me. We did connect on tumblr and had a great time playing around with each other’s writing, but I suspect this partnership had an awful lot to do with the fact that I’m something of a comic nerd (understatement) and am prone to writing long diatribes about the history of typing. I may or may not have hit on his typewriter. I do not recommend this as a strategy for getting work, by the way. His typewriter is really just that attractive.
But please, do give this a look when you can. It’s an incredibly cool project as a whole, and it’s also probably the only time I’ll ever see my name on the same page as Sarah Vowell’s.
It’s available for pre-order here.
Thanks!

colonialcomics:

Next up is a story that’s pretty special to me, “The Press’s Widow: Elizabeth Glover” by Erika Swyler and Noel Tuazon. Early on in this project I was researching the printing industry in colonial New England and came across the story of Elizabeth Glover, the woman who brought the first printing press to New England. That’s essentially all I knew about her, and I asked Erika Swyler if she was up to the task of finding more information. 

I met Erika via tumblr, when she asked me if I could look over a short story she wrote about the ups and downs of a woman’s life over 84 years. I loved it and asked her to review the story that became The Little Particle That Could

Erika did a great job filling in the seemingly monumental gaps in Elizabeth Glover’s life. She discovered that Glover came over with her husband, who died on the trip, leaving her with a collection of kids, two debtors, and a printing press. The story ended up touching upon a lot of aspects of colonial life, including the difficulties women faced in opening and running businesses, the need to increase social stature by through marriage, the importance of the printed word, the early days of Harvard University, and the printing of the first book in the America, the Bay Psalm Book, a risky venture made when money was tight and which was riddled with errors. An original copy of the Bay Psalm Book recently sold at auction for $14-million. 

I paired her up with Noel Tuazon, who I’ve worked with many times. He was the illustrator of Elk’s Run, a book I edited, and he contributed to Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened. Also, he was the artist on the previously mentioned The Little Particle That Could

Together, they turned in a great story about a relatively unknown person who lived a truly remarkable life - which is really what this book is about, at the end of the day.

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 will be released in October from Fulcrum Books. You can pre-order it on Amazon now.

Previous Design Posts:

Previous Story Posts:

I’ve mentioned it before, but this project is special to me. I absolutely love rooting around in history, trying to fill the gaps texts inevitably leave. It’s not uncommon for texts to write “around” women as opposed to fleshing out their daily lives. It was an absolute privilege to play even the smallest part in changing that for Elizabeth Glover.

Noel’s art is… yes. Yes is what happens when I run out of superlatives.

Jason is also being quite kind to me. We did connect on tumblr and had a great time playing around with each other’s writing, but I suspect this partnership had an awful lot to do with the fact that I’m something of a comic nerd (understatement) and am prone to writing long diatribes about the history of typing. I may or may not have hit on his typewriter. I do not recommend this as a strategy for getting work, by the way. His typewriter is really just that attractive.

But please, do give this a look when you can. It’s an incredibly cool project as a whole, and it’s also probably the only time I’ll ever see my name on the same page as Sarah Vowell’s.

It’s available for pre-order here.

Thanks!

evan-morgan-williams replied to your post: I can still make a tiny rage fist, so …

I broke my wrist last summer (at Tin House Writers Workshop!), and I posted a similar pic.

It appears houses in general are dangerous! Though techincally yours counts as an on the job injury, no? Alas, this is a wimpy injury in the form of tendinitis brought about by hammering, sawing, nailing, spackling, sanding, painting, mowing, raking, hedge clipping, lifting heavy objects, and all sorts of other things that would allow me to qualify for the Wife Carrying Competition, were I my own wife. Oh, and typing. In theory I’m just on 6 weeks of “take it easy and don’t do anything stupid.”

Clearly my doctor doesn’t know me at all.