Here at last: The title of my memoir. The mock up book cover. The Kickstarter opening shot.
Can the finished book be far behind?
I certainly hope not.
A bit of background
People have known me in various incarnations: Ph.D. in literature from New York University. Editor of The Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn. Dog blogger and dog book author. Blogger about Freud, family, and meat.
But for a good chunk of time — some 25 years, to be precise — I was a guidebook editor in New York (Random House, Simon & Schuster) and London (Rough Guides) and then a Tucson-based freelance travel writer. I wrote three of my own guidebooks, updated many others, and contributed travel stories to a lot of hooh hah magazines.
Though my career was far from as glamorous as those on the outside tend to think, I accumulated lots of exotic adventures, not to mention lots of travel publishing dirt.
I thought I could write a book that would fit nicely into — or possibly create — the humorous-travel-memoirs-by-women niche. I put together a proposal and wrote some sample chapters.
Over several years…
- One agent made me jump through various hoops — pay for a “book doctor,” rewrite the proposal and outline — and then decided at the last minute that she didn’t like the memoir’s persona. Um, that would be me.
- Another agent took the book on and then disappeared. He sent it out to seven editors and when they didn’t bite, he stopped taking my phone calls and returning my emails. I was convinced there must be a better reason for his lack of responsiveness than sheer rudeness. I sent my friend Martha, who lived near him on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, to his building to ask his doorman whether he had died or suffered a debilitating illness. He hadn’t.
- I brooded and sulked.
- I revived the project and got such a nice rejection from another agent — “not a topic we want to take on but I love your voice” — that I decided to write another book entirely, one about dogs. I pitched it directly to an editor I’d met at a travel writer’s conference and he said yes.
Thus my extended detour into the world of dog book writing and blogging, which slowed down as my dog did.
The genealogy/Freud book that wasn’t
That period also overlapped with the inception of my genealogy blog, Freud’s Butcher.
It was a bit of a fluke. I’d always known that one of my great uncles had sold meat to the Freud family. Until a friend googled the phrase “Freud’s butcher,” however, I didn’t realize that this great uncle’s butcher shop and the Freuds shared an address in Vienna, 19 Berggasse, for some 44 years.
That spurred me to take a fascinating — if often disturbing — journey into my family’s past, with the goal of writing a book about it. After several years of blogging and a trip to Vienna, I realized what I really wanted to do was re-create the butcher shop in situ — at the site that is now the Freud Museum and where the shop now serves as an art gallery. That project showed great promise for a bit, but fell apart for reasons I still don’t fully understand. I suspect I got caught up in Viennese Jewish — and museum — politics. If you’ve seen the film Woman in Gold, you know what I’m talking about; just substitute cold cuts for Klimt.
Which brought me back to my memoir.
What goes around…
It’s said you should let your writing sit for a while to get some distance from it. I don’t generally recommend a five-year breather. Nevertheless, when I reread the chapters I’d submitted to various agents over the past decade, I didn’t hate them. (The chapters, that is. I hated the agents. Except the one who inspired me to write a dog book.) And I realized that I had gained a perspective on the travel writing/publishing world that I couldn’t have achieved while I was still in it — not to mention a freedom to write what I liked without fear of repercussions. The industry has changed to the point that the world I set out to document is almost unrecognizable.
Last August I started writing the memoir in earnest — and in sequence. And last winter I decided I wanted to publish it myself, to have control over both the format and the profits. That would require a cash outlay, however, and I was already struggling to find the time and energy to write a book in between working on articles to pay the bills.
Hmmm… maybe I could crowdfund the project…
So here we are.
I’ll be detailing the process, including how the title and the cover design evolved and what it’s like to create a Kickstarter campaign (aside from terrifying). Stay tuned.