Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Ramble: Invisible Ink

(Continuing my series of monthly posts in which I write for an hour about more or less whatever is in my brain at the time.)

This has been a very good month--"an epoch in my life," as Anne Shirley would say--thanks to Second Sight and several other events. Trent Reedy's wonderful, world-changing Words in the Dust, previously featured here, has been named as the next book in Al Roker's Book Club for Kids on "The Today Show." You can read an excerpt of the book here if you haven't already seen it. (The campaign from that blog post raised $300 for Women for Afghan Women, by the way, and Trent and I both thank you for your support.)

And then Erin McCahan's I Now Pronounce You Someone Else was named as a finalist in two categories in the Romance Writers of America Awards: Best Young Adult Romance and Best First Novel (where it's competing against big old mean grown-up books too!). This really is a terrific recognition for a totally swoonworthy romance about what happens when you realize life can't always be lived as a totally swoonworthy romance. Plus other nice recognitions for Operation Yes and Eighth Grade Superzero and Marcelo in the Real World . . .

And then, yes, Second Sight came out at last, and was greeted with an ice-cream cake from my lovely boyfriend, many kind e-mails from people who have received it, and a ginormous sigh of relief from me. (Though the typo count is now up to four--grrr, arrgh.) Also a new kind of tension, though. I was talking with a writer at the wonderful Whispering Pines conference this past weekend about what it feels like to be an author; and having gotten over my terror at the book's initial release (or perhaps it's just mutated into this), the thing that keeps giving me pause now is that I like being invisible, often, and books are the opposite of invisibility. They are a claim staked, a space claimed (even if that space is just 5.5" x 8.5" x ~.8" in volume), principles declared, a flag planted, making oneself present in rooms where one has never been.

And this scares me for a very specific reason. . . . There's a talk in the book called "Morals, Muddles, and Making It Through," where I describe what happened when my best friends in fourth grade grew up much quicker than I did in fifth grade. I felt left behind, isolated, bewildered, all alone in a social world that suddenly seemed to be full of jokes I didn't get, focused on interests I didn't share. And I responded by doing my very best turtle imitation, avoiding anywhere I'd have to engage in social interaction, hiding in the library whenever I could (or the bathroom or a back bedroom if I had to go to a party--preferably a bedroom with a bookshelf). I don't have an Invisibility Cloak, but I long ago learned all the tricks available to Muggles for the same purpose: Know where your exits are at all times; don't look at the thing you're trying to avoid, because attention draws attention; wait for a burst of laughter, a noisy conversation, something to distract everyone, or better yet, leave the room at the same time as someone else, if the someone's bound for the bathroom or some such; move quickly and quietly, head down, eyes on your destination; don't look back. And then the deep breath once you're out, the return to the safety and lack of pressure of being alone. While I'm now a much more comfortably social person, someone who doesn't mind public speaking and can navigate a cocktail party pretty decently, my years of playing ghost gave me a taste for the freedom of invisibility . . . which is its own cage as well, I suppose, freedom being just another word for nothing left to lose and all that. But I was also thinking earlier this evening that one of the reasons I love New York is that it provides invisibility via sheer numbers: There are so many things to see and people to watch that it's very easy to hide in plain sight, all of us Purloined Letters of our own stories. . . .

(I really am rambling all over tonight; I feel almost lightheaded from tiredness but I want to try to finish this.) Anyway, again, putting out a book is the opposite of invisibility. And visibility carries responsibility, and I like to travel light, for fear of getting something wrong or hurting someone somehow or just because of everything I'm carrying already. (If a book is published and no one reads it, it still makes a sound, through its influence on the author and its physical existence if nothing else; and when people are reading it, then goodness--who knows how far that whisper might travel?) Maybe eventually I'll get used enough to this that I'll stop thinking "Oh, my, someone else is reading this now," with a little hitch of my heart, at every kind message or book sale. Do know I'm very grateful to every person who causes my heart to hitch.

(This has NOT been a passive-aggressive plea for compliments, by the way, should it come off that way; I meant the rumination on invisibility sincerely, and there's more to say on it later. Maybe April. Writers: Do you like being invisible? Or is what you love about writing the opportunity to plant your flag?)

For the record, if anyone wants to offer me a $500,000 advance, a la Barry Eisler, or a cool $2 million like Amanda Hocking, I'll take it. I'm liking self-publishing, but I'd be happy to sell out to the Man for the right price--especially when, heck, I am the Man, albeit in another market. And given the choice between true invisibility and flight, I'd go with flight, all the way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Quote File: Secrets

"Most of us live in a condition of secrecy: secret desires, secret appetites, secret hatreds and relationship with the institutions which is extremely intense and uncomfortable. These are, to me, a part of the ordinary human condition. So I don’t think I'm writing about abnormal things. ... Artists, in my experience, have very little center. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception." — John Le Carre

"Most writers are secretly worried that they're not really writers. That it's all been happenstance, something came together randomly, the letters came together, and they won't coalesce ever again." — Nicholson Baker

"My story is important not because it is mine. . . but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track . . . of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity . . . that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally . . . to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually. I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human." — Frederick Buehner

"Literature, like magic, has always been about the handling of secrets, about the pain, the destruction, and the marvelous liberation that can result when they are revealed. If a writer doesn't give away secrets, his own or those of the people he loves, if he doesn't court disapproval, reproach and general wrath, whether of friends, family or party apparatchiks... the result is pallid, inanimate, a lump of earth." — Michael Chabon

"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once." — Stephen King

"It's hard to explain how much one can love writing. If people knew how happy it can make you, we would all be writing all the time. It's the greatest secret of the world." — Andrea Barrett

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein." — Zora Neale Hurston

"Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." — Lord Acton

"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity." — Louis Pasteur

"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." — Jean Giraudoux

"It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages." — William Carlos Williams

"The secret of joy in work is contained in one word — excellence. To know how to do something is to enjoy it." — Pearl S. Buck

"In the midst of all the doubts which have been discussed for four thousand years in four thousand ways, the safest course is to do nothing against one's conscience. With this secret we can enjoy life and have no fear of death." — Voltaire

"Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company." — Rachel Naomi Remen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And More Fun Interviews!

The Cheryl B. Klein Media Blitzkrieg continues with:

One fun fact about the book that has not yet come up in any interviews:  I'm Cheryl B. Klein on the book because there's another Cheryl Klein who's a writer, blogger, and editor:  the West Coast director of Poets and Writers, who has already published two novels under our joint name sans middle initial. My website is; hers is I blog here; she blogs at I love New York; she loves L.A. We both run, wear glasses and love Sondheim and carbs, and I'm convinced that if we ever met in person, the universe would explode a la matter and antimatter. OTOH, I kind of wish she would write a book for me, simply for the mindblowingness of it all.

All Aflutter

This has been a good and busy week, and promises only to get more so. Some quick things, first non-booky (for a change) and then all-booky:

  • I finished "Downton Abbey," and oh my goodness: What period, characterful, conspiracyful, Englishy goodness! Someday I aspire to wear dresses like Lady Sybil and bite off words like the Dowager Duchess. (And more immediately to write a blog post comparing the series to "Mad Men" for all the things they have in common: a large ensemble cast; of multiple social classes, with the attendant conflicts and resentments; on the cusp of (or even in the midst of) gigantic, sweeping societal changes they don't quite grasp, even as they inadvertently bring them about; also on the cusp of a war whose seriousness they cannot possibly foresee; with many buried secrets revealed over time, and liaisons right and left; all while wearing teeth-gnashingly envy-inducing* clothes (though really I suppose I should remember: corsets).)
  • * This phrase courtesy of Joanna Pearson's The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills, out in July. You read/edit a book enough times, its phrases naturally leap into your brain and writing. . . .
  • I'll be teaching a Master Class on Plot at the Kansas SCBWI conference the first weekend in May. There are, I think, exactly six spots left as of this writing, so book quickly if you're interested!
  • My other upcoming appearances: the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Novel Revision Retreat in June, and Lit Day at LeakyCon 2011 in July. The Lit Day lineup is insane -- insane! -- and features Arthur's first appearance/speech at a Harry Potter fan convention ever, so it's well worth attending if you can make your way there.
  • And I loved, loved, loved the new "Jane Eyre" adaptation, partly for the fabulous period clothes and design, yes, but mostly because Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender bring terrific passion and intelligence to the roles of Jane and Rochester, and make Charlotte Bronte's sometimes unwieldy or ethereal dialogue sound perfectly natural in their mouths, sweeping us viewers up in their passions as well. When I reviewed the Keira Knightley "Pride and Prejudice," I contrasted what I called Romantic and Rationalist romances, and faulted that P&P for shooting a Rationalist romance as if it were a Romantic one. Well, "Jane Eyre" is a Romantic romance par excellence (and the film gives that all the brooding atmosphere it warrants, to delicious effect) -- but I had forgotten, till I saw this adaptation, how much it is a Rationalist romance too, how much its unique intensity derives from Jane's absolute control over herself, and how much hotter the love burns for it. I want to see it again already; get your own taste on the movie page here.
Now the Second Sight stuff:
  • When I go home to Kansas City for the Kansas SCBWI conference, I'll also have a public book party in Belton, Missouri, on Thursday, May 5th; e-mail me at asterisk.bks at gmail dot com if you're interested in attending.
  • Jennifer Bertman interviewed me for the Creative Spaces feature on her website, where I talk about my writing process, my workspace, and the regrettable lack of a magic bullet for making someone a good writer.
  • Donna at the First Novels Club and Kate Coombs at Book Aunt each reviewed Second Sight and said some kind things.
  • Apparently people have started to receive their books! I hope you enjoy them. If you find typos (sigh), please e-mail me with them at asterisk.bks at gmail dot com. (I've found two, which I regret, but so it goes.) Also, if you had trouble ordering via earlier, there's now a direct-order phone number available on the order page, and copies should be available to ship from within the week.
  • And to end on a yummy note, James, my darling boyfriend, got me a cake to celebrate the publication of the book; here I am with it in my office.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy (and Scary) Book Day to Me!

Today, March 11, is the official publication day of Second Sight! (And there was much rejoicing in the land.) Books are in the fulfillment warehouse and will start shipping out today, and I have many books in my apartment as well, should you like one hand-delivered in New York. (Would you like to know how to order one? Allow me to oblige you.) There have also been several more kind reviews lately, from Chris Eboch here and the King of Elfland's Second Cousin here; and the book has a Goodreads page as well, where it currently stands at five stars. (Based half on my own review, I admit. But also half on Martha Brockenbrough's.) If you get the book and you use Goodreads or another service, or Amazon, I very much appreciate any and all reviews.

I will be honest: There is also much terror in the land, or at least in my apartment, at seeing the scope of this project I've undertaken made real. So many books with my thoughts in them! That must be sold to recoup an investment! That will be read by others! That will be judged by others! And who knows how any of that will go? I am trying to take deep breaths, to calm down and remember publishing, reading, writing, is always a long game, not a short one, that Second Sight is just out today, that I am really proud of the book even if copies malinger here forever; that it is my true thing, as true as I could make it at the time, and that's all that a writer can do. And all of that is also true, and I am mostly succeeding at talking myself down. But for any of my authors or friends who have ever felt disturbed at my seemingly irrational calm in the face of your feeling of seemingly absolutely justifiable anxiety: I get it now.

So, today is about deep breaths and terror, but also remembering how far the book has come, and how much I like it, and that wonder of making that "Sunday in the Park with George" expresses so well: Look, I made a book -- where there never was a book. (And therefore, also, for both halves of the emotional spectrum: Today should obviously be about chocolate.) Thank you all for listening, and for your support.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

La La La

I've always loved the rejected epigraphs for Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, one of which is:

"Ooh, look at me, I'm Dave! I'm writing a book!
With all my thoughts in it! La la la!"
-- Toph Eggers (the author's little brother)

With all due respect to both Mr. Eggerses:

Here I am! I'm Cheryl! And I wrote a book! With all my thoughts in it!

And I am happy. That is all.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

SECOND SIGHT Now Available for Preorder! + Anticipation + Next Kidlit Drink Night

Oh my blog, how I've missed you! But in the weeks since I last posted, I finished editing or reviewed the copyediting on two and a half novels; went to D.C. and came back again; worked at the aforementioned Park Slope United Methodist Book Sale (which was tremendously successful; thanks very much to any of you who checked it out); read a bunch of manuscripts and completed other work tasks; recorded a podcast; scheduled the next Kidlit Drink Night*; finished four Q&As for various blogs and other media related to Second Sight, including a brief stint as Guest Editor at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood here; updated my website with lots of other Second Sight-related stuff . . .

And now you can preorder my book!** Hooray!

The book should finish printing tomorrow and be in its various warehouses, and my very own hands, by the end of the week. Thanks to my job as an editor, I've experienced that magic moment where you hold a book you're proud of for the first time -- one you thought about and labored over and spent hours, days, months bringing to fruition -- many, many times (far more than most authors, in fact, though certainly not with the same depth of emotion). And I've experienced the euphoria and terror that comes with it, too. . . . When we get an advance copy for manufacturing approval in, it's not uncommon for me to dart all over the office saying "See? SEE? Doesn't this look beautiful?" and displaying it to all and sundry, at the same time feeling a little terrified that this is it, it's real, it can't be changed anymore, now other people are going to read and judge it, will they like it, did I do the best I could by the author, what if there's a typo, etc., etc.**

Right now, I imagine getting my own book is going to turn both the joy and the anxiety up to 12 on the dial -- never mind 11. Judging from my behavior at seeing just the proofs, I am probably going to be squeeing AND jittering with nerves well into next week. Thank you for forbearing with me in the meantime. And if you buy the book: Thank you very much for that too!

* Kidlit Drink Night: March 21, 6:30 p.m., at the Village Pourhouse at 366 West 46th St., between 8th and 9th Avenues. We have an honest-to-Ursula open bar from 6:30-7:30, with free house wine, Bud Light, and well cocktails, so come early and enjoy. Our thanks to LaFabuliste for getting us the open-bar connection here.
** If you have any problems ordering it through, do, please, really, let me know. They're a lovely company, but a small one, and so their servers occasionally hiccup on an order or with certain web browsers (particularly Internet Explorer 8). Bug reports let me know how they're doing and pass that information on for their use, so I appreciate it.
*** The most extreme time this happened was the first time I saw a bound and jacketed copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where the combination of the intensity with which we worked on the book, the secrecy in which it had been shrouded, the expectations placed on it, all the personal emotion I'd invested in it, and the awesomeness and physical beauty of the book itself made me first shriek (softly; this was still secret) and then hyperventilate for about two minutes before I could actually examine it properly.****
**** A proper editorial advance-copy examination consists of: Open book, smell it, relish "new book smell"; close it and make sure the text block is squared off; see that the jacket is wrapping correctly around the case cover, and the case cover is properly centered on the book block; make sure the foil is printing distinctly on the spine or case cover; examine the jacket closely to be sure it's cut right and all of its effects are printing correctly; go through the text page by page to ensure all the pages have also been cut correctly and every one is in the right place and printed with the right density; close it again with (hopefully) sigh of relief.