Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Author Interview - The Dog Walked Down the Street: An Outspoken Guide for Writers Who Want to Publish by Sal Glynn

Describe you book in five words or less

Writing and business of books

How did the idea for your book come to you?

In August 2005, I was a presenter at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference with Cypress House publisher Cynthia Frank. We were comparing notes on the students over dinner and trying to figure out how come they asked the same questions and had the same problems. An appreciative client had made a 20-page chapbook from my e-mailed harangues for the conference as a bit of postmodern promotion. Cynthia asked if I had thought of turning the chapbook into something more substantial. The conversation ended with a contract and my promise to send in the finished manuscript by November 15 for release the following spring.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? What's the easiest?

The hardest part is finding the time. I write best when the rent is paid and I can turn off the telephone without the worry of missing a client. Even with these elements in place, the first draft is the most daunting, putting things where they belong, and finding the language. The easiest is the successive drafts. This is where the extraneous is thrown out or new material added for clarity. You get to know the book through the drafts, and there are always surprises.

What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?

As much as I enjoy talking about writing and working as an editor, my main allegiance is to the novel. The lines of strong story dissipate the boundaries of class, gender, politics, and time. Currently I have SLOW DOWN FAST, a novel about capturing lost memory, looking for agent representation. Others are in the note-taking stage.

Why did you choose to write for specific genre?

Book publishing is a strange and scary business from the outside, and from the inside too. In order for the book to remain vibrant, writers must be encouraged and anyone in the trade should do their bit. THE DOG WALKED is my bit.

What's it like hearing that readers are eagerly waiting your book's release date?

Glorious. You write alone in a room, maybe send out portions to friends and colleagues, but the real test is from someone you’ve never met who intends on paying retail for the book.

What is one question that you've always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

This does not come up and it should: What is your favorite book, fiction or nonfiction or anywhere between? Depending on the day, the answer could be silly (PINHEAD’S PROGRESS by Bill Griffith) or serious like William Faulkner’s reply to his three favorite books: ANNA KARENINA, ANNA KARENINA, ANNA KARENINA. I’ll go for the honest and say THE POEMS OF CATULLUS, translated by Charles Martin and published by Abattoir Editions. Set in Joanna and Romulus and printed from the lead type on Rives paper, I keep returning to this book as the perfect marriage between text and production.

What was your road to publications like?

Once a manuscript is sent to the publisher, the best a writer can do is forget. You’ve done your job. The pages take their place in line behind the daily emergencies of squabbles with printers, writers not as cool as you, and office flu epidemics.

When the edited text appeared, my blood pressure went up and stayed there. Where did those contractions come from? What about the dippy formatting, quotes shoved into italic, sentences combined and truncated? The editor was wrong, I was an idiot, the world was a horrible place, and I had no right to a pen, never mind a word processor. How much of a disaster had I gotten myself into?

The in-house editor had actually used a very light hand. I corrected my mistakes, especially the convoluted sentences knocking around the furniture like a child’s balloon freed from its knot. As I fretted with the text, the publisher addressed the cover design. One rule I follow is never get involved in arguments over the cover.

Cynthia Frank called two months later, in March. THE DOG had developed a limp while still in the kennel. Her designer had cataracts and was scheduled for surgery. Other books were already late going to press. He had one eye done, recuperated, and then had the other worked on. By the end of April his vision was better than before.

When the galleys arrived in a fresh white box, I praised the designer’s surgically cleared eyes. THE DOG was set in Bembo, a classic typeface from Monotype. A line of Bembo has a friendly rhythm without being obtrusive, and having THE DOG in this typeface was double cool. I burned a pot of coffee and marked the pages. Design questions were asked and changes suggested along with only a few unreasonable demands.

When the final galleys came, so much time elapsed since the last set, I had forgotten I was the writer and could enjoy the process. Missing antecedents were inserted, italics added to make a passage clearer, and Cynthia’s polite queries answered with a minimum of beard pulling. What I liked about the original idea of the book was on the pages, a hybrid of commonplace book and book-midwife-in-a-box. The typography invited the reader to take only what they needed and leave the rest.

Describe your book in five words or less.

Sal Glynn was born in Seattle and educated in Canada. He lived in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver for a bunch of years, and has worked as a cook in a childcare center, bookstore clerk, warehouseman, offset printer, janitor, and brokerage messenger.

He moved to Covelo, California in the late 1980s, where he began in publishing with Carolyn and James Robertson at the Yolla Bolly Press, a fine press and book packager. He set lead type by hand and did production work on trade books while learning the craft of editing. After a year in outer bucolia, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became managing editor for Ten Speed Press in Berkeley, where he edited Buck Peterson’s Complete Guide to Deer Hunting (200,000 copies sold) and How to Shit in the Woods (1.5 million copies sold).

Sal currently lives in San Francisco, where has edited and otherwise produced more than 300 books of fiction, humor, self-help, cookery, management, and social issues for publishers on both coasts. He has taught classes on publishing for Media Alliance and the Learning Annex, lectured at the Bay Area Editor’s Forum, and volunteered with the creative writing workshop at Francisco Middle School. Sal has also been on faculty at the Big Sur Fiction Writer’s Workshop and the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference, and is a former contributor to FOCUS: Fine Art Photography Magazine. His book, The Dog Walked Down the Street: An Outspoken Guide for Writers Who Want to Publish, won the 2007 IPPY award for excellence in publishing, the gold medal for writing/publishing.

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