#writering: publishing disasters

beth wareham is co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books as well as a longtime New York City based editor, writer, and publisher. #writering is a random blog about anything involved in writing, editing and publishing.

Harvey makes me think of disaster stories. I actually collect them. But only the publishing kind. Believe me, there are a lot of them and, from a group of people that wants you to think they know everything, these bumbles are especially hilarious. In fact, I have a whole network of highly placed publishing executives ready to offer up more, anonymously of course. And the publicists! Oh, if those horrible dirty cubicles could talk!

If those workspace walls could remember, they’d report episodes like this:

*A harried contract publicist writes down the wrong code and overnights several hundred ‘dumps’, a display rack for bookstores, to book reviewers and media, instead of a review copy of the book. The bill? Almost $20,000.

*After her book tour, a British princess turns in a bill for cowboy boots, a purchase she made to “fit in.”

*An author barricades himself into The Plaza Hotel, complete with handguns and a lot of whiskey, and refuses to come out. The publisher talked him out and he went on to die and have his ashes blasted from a cannon. The publisher sent a representative to the blasting ceremony.

*20,000 copies of a cookbook – the entire print run – are lost in the warehouse. The publisher refuses to print more. The books are never found.

*While reading from the podium, a Brooklyn novelist whips out her boob and begins breastfeeding in front of a deeply confused audience.

*In an industry where NO ONE is given more than economy airfare, a future governor of California turns in a bill for private jet rentals.

*A manuscript accusing the American military of a vast conspiracy goes missing. It is never found.

*Urban Publishing Legend: A highly sophisticated player and editor goes to the company Christmas party.  He parties hard and needs to heave. Seeing a purse behind a couch, he uses it. The next day, publishing pulsates with news of E___ throwing up in the boss’s handbag.

*An author locks the door during a radio interview and proceeds to mock her publicist who is trying to break down the door. The interview is national and you can hear the pounding in the background.

*The shortest publicists are ordered into purple gorilla suits for a promotion. Only the tall people come to work that day and we don’t fit.

*When a famous novelist cannot get his check, a publisher kicks a hole in the wall of her office, screaming at the top of her lungs. The damage from her flat sensible shoe is immense. The wall? Particle board.

*A famous self-help author is on tour in San Francisco. His media escort swings by her house so they can grab a sandwich before the next interview. When she walks into the living room with ham and cheese, the author can’t be found. He’s nude in her bed, calling her name.

*An editor-in-chief outs an employee at a company-wide marketing meeting. We watch, horrified, as only corporate workers bees can. Same editor-in-chief calls every Latino male “Juan,” for no apparent reason.

*An editor signs up a book by “USA Today” publisher. Only the “USA Today” is a tiny magazine on Long Island. Sales department is sad.

*An editor gets ready to publish a collection of gardening columns from the New York Times, without getting permission from the New York Times whose name is on the cover of the book. Publicity stops him. He gets mad at publicity.

*Author of a chocolate cookbook gets drunk and shows up at book signing. His name is spelled wrong on the poster announcing the event and he trashes the place. You know, like The Who in a hotel room….

*A company publishes a made-up book about a made-up event in the Middle East, pitches  it to the most successful news show in the country, which happens to be a part of the parent company. Story is found out to be a lie, news show must sideline reporter, and book must be recalled, spraying poo on all parties concerned.  It’s called synergy, people!

*The wrong version of JK Rowling is published as an ebook. Publisher retracts it and reissues. And that’s freakin’ JK Rowling. Imagine what they might do to you.

*Urban Publishing Legend: Acquiring editor of first JK Rowling books overpays by a few thousand and almost loses job.

*Three publishing executives collude to fix prices in the face of the 2007-2008 economic crash. They are caught, lie to a Federal judge, and are fined a total of $60,000,000.00 in an already sinking industry.  Personal character and morality leave the stage, a foreshadow of the Trump era. None of the publishers lose their jobs but their legal staff does! And so it goes, big fish still swim sluggishly in murky waters of their making, in their shrinking sea…

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#writering: Don the Bomb

#writering is a random blog blathering on about writers, books and publishing

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by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books, an Indy publisher.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a “literary gathering,” you do not know the wonder of a room of fashion victims trying to beat one another over the heads with words. I listened to two New York Times critics go down for the count over whether France was on the uptick, culturally-speaking, or not.  I got bored, wandered away, and there was Michi, describing a performance piece where monkey brains were consumed. (You should have been around when Art Garfunkel asked Michi out. What a to-do.) It was a party, Michi, and you just made my cheese spread and cracker look unappetizing.  Nothing has more “literary” pathology for study than one of these events. The war is always on and it’s all words.

Enter the man above. When he walks in a room, even those that have not stopped taking for decades shut up.  The very definition of “walk softly and carry a big stick”, “don’t open your mouth unless you have something to say,” and “outsider artist” ooze from this man.  He’s not your plaything or your patsy; he doesn’t perform for the mob. He’s in a leather bomber amongst the bad tweed and sensible shoes. He works his way across the room and all the posers and nattering nabobs part. They know the King of the Jungle when they see him.

Random facts:

*Don DeLillo has never gone online. He sees it as a complete assault on his individuality and his life: He does not know there are ebooks of his work. He may know now, but he didn’t for years.

*He was obsessed with the image of a man falling through space many years before he wrote Falling Man. (He wrote that book using a simple chronology, didn’t like it, and rewrote it starting in the future and backtracking to 9/11. Don’t try that at home, kids.)

*When Underworld was first published, critics received no additional information about the book. How could you capture the 20th Century with a press release? The book, however, is the finest novel about that most violent 100 years in human history.  The last word of the book is very famous.

*His editor and publicist almost came to blows over what kind of condiments Don liked on his sandwich. Silly? You bet. But that’s how ridiculous it gets around this great American novelist. Everyone wants to please him because he is great. Oblivious to all of these machinations, Don DeLillo lives in a part of the atmosphere where we can’t get.

*DeLillo is obsessed with the 1951 MLB playoffs when outfielder Andy Pafko ran to the left field wall and watched Bobby Thomson’s 3-run homer fly over his head. DeLillo opened Underworld with this scene, wrote about the event for Harpers Magazine, and published a novella entitled Pafko at the Wall in 2001.

If you haven’t read the great man’s books, I humbly offer my reading list: White Noise (the first book I read and simply the best with its “airborne toxic event”); Libra, a novel imaging Lee Harvey Oswald on his journey toward a world-shattering act; Falling Man, his novel of 9/11; and finally, a sweeping look at the 20th Century, Underworld.

“A writer’s writer” does not describe him. DeLillo is a law onto himself and will remain so forever.  DeLillo is the consummate individual, a term I think he would like.

Do right by Don DeLillo. Turn off all the gadgets that allow you to read this and sit down with one of his books. Don’t read criticism or look to the opinions of others. Don’t natter with nabobs about him, ever. This read is for you, the one thing that cannot be replicated. Let your particular arrangement of molecules collide with DeLillo’s story and see what comes about.

Because all truth must reside in one individual before it spreads, DeLillo wants you to step up, quit bullshitting and walk the walk. He wants you to read and think, activities in short supply these days. (See references to “the base” in mainstream reporting…)

Yup. That guy is the real damn deal and he’s not letting anyone off the hook. Think for yourself, folks. Read. Stop acting like cows. We are individuals responsible for ourselves and our actions. Anything else is just nattering and nonsense, a series of “literary gatherings” filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Ask DeLillo, he knows.

 

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#writering: Meeting Jeannette Walls

#writering is a periodic posting of blather about writers, books and publishing by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books.

 

Jeannette Walls

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I met Jeannette a long time ago (a decade ago!) in a tiny room in the center of an airless midtown tower. She was with a young colleague signing stacks of her first memoir, The Glass Castle which would remain on the bestseller list for 7 years.  A childhood remembered, it is by turns delightful and horrifying as her family bounced from desert shack to a dilapidated mountain shanty.  Jeannette and her siblings slept in cardboard boxes rather than beds. Her father – often drunk – and her mother –  depressed and refusing to get out of bed – seemed unable to care for their children. And just when you believe you can’t take it any more, Jeannette takes you to her father’s boyhood home, examines his mother, and this hell makes more sense. Jeannette’s love for her family is unwavering, even to this day. All of Jeannette’s childhood is bearable to us because it was bearable to her: She emerged full of human grace.

Somehow in that sad little book-filled room, Jeannette looked like she does in the photograph above, a yearling at the edge of a field, sun back-lighting her . Maybe it’s that  mane-like hair. Or it’s the eyes that have that equine ability to be look deep while scanning the perimeter for potential predators.  She gave an impression of being vulnerable and she was very kind. Her gaze was direct and strong: In retrospect I’d even describe it as unbroken. In fact her third book was called Half-Broke Horses.

I remember thinking, she’s no gossip reporter.  She’s already a writer, a philosopher, something quiet, dignified, not reporting on Beyonce or Justin Timberlake. I don’t know how long she kept at that job, but I can’t think of a more improbable pairing. I see Jeannette in that sunny pasture walking among her horses, blending into the sunlight.

I am hoping the movie version of Glass Castle remains true to the book; the trailer makes it appear like happy Hollywood malarky. It’s the darkness of that book that makes the story so amazing: Those two deeply flawed parents raised remarkable children.

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