The Whacky World Wide Web and A Book’s Launch

So a little less than one day in advance of the book launch of your debut story collection, you find yourself trolling the internet, Googling yourself (!) and the book’s title. This is how you discover that the interview you did with that gentleman from the news service that includes 500 small papers is out, and you sound a little like you might have something interesting to say. This is how you find your interview with the big city weekly alternative paper. This is how you stumble over a review of your book by one of the jazzier on-line book sites, a review that makes you more than a little pleased.

Here, too, you find the expected: a short-short creative nonfiction piece; a reprint (with permission) of the book’s title story from some years ago; reprints (without permission) of travel articles you wrote; an interview about creative nonfiction (two, actually); information on panels, readings, presentations; an interview with that artist who is interested in text and image; mentions and plugs by friends and students and colleagues. And the not-so-expected: the title of one of your stories in a strange aggregate list likely put up by someone with more than a little OCD; a very nasty comment about your smile on one of those rate-your-teacher sites; summaries of talks you gave at a festival, a conference, a workshop; mentions in blogs by people you don’t know but should; pictures that are not all that flattering from one event or another.

Most interesting, though, are those things absolutely surprising, weird, and sometimes wonderful:

Discovering that nearly 700 people are in the drawing for your book on Goodreads, and that close to 100 have added it to their shelves.

The name of your book on the list of 52 books a young woman—whom you don’t believe you’ve ever met—plans to read before the end of this year.

Your book on the list of “Top Pre-Orders” in the category of short story collections of a book dealer in Australia.

And this, perhaps your favorite of them all so far, found on a website called Bruv World:

“I’m reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I think she had some serious problems (Rand, not Atlas). Just reread The Great Gatsby by F. John Fitzgerald. It was disappointingly uneven in the writing, with bits of brilliance (Mr. Wolfsheim’s tufts of nostril hair) interspersed with sudden shifts from first the third person for the purpose of back-story dumps…Last month I read a new novel coming out by Patricia Ann McNair, Temple of Air. Stunningly good…Of course, the best places to find zombies is any discussion of American politics. I’ve heard the same suggested of Brit politics lately but who knows if that’s true or not.”

Indeed.

On Loneliness, Friends, Tweets, Circles, and THE BOOK

I heard on NPR the other day that you can buy yourself followers on Twitter. True story. There is speculation that some of our “popular” politicians are doing just that. Stuffing the ballot box, in a way. And you know, I’d be lying if I said I don’t look at the following/followers numbers when I hook up with a new TweetBud (I don’t know what the current, cool slang is for these people; forgive me,) as if it matters how many friends my friends have.

It is a version of the cafeteria, really. You know. You don’t want to be the only kid at one of those long tables, your tray of impossibly red spaghetti and carton of milk the only thing to keep you company. And you don’t really want to be at the table with the misfits, either: the girl who eats paste still at 14, the boy who has a patch over one of the lenses of his glasses to strengthen his lazy eye, the albino boy, the girl who wears a helmet all day long. (As an adult I’ve come to realize that these kids grow up to be the most interesting, by the way, but the stigma of being among the losers is hard to outgrow.) Where you want to sit is with the cool kids. And if you can’t get into that elite circle, then you want to at least be in a huge circle. A vivacious collection of friends and acquaintances who know things, do things, are things.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this social media stuff lately. Especially as I have just joined Google+ (why? because I was invited) and been blogging for a few months and I tweet, for godssakes. My brother Wesley McNair (poet laureate of Maine, you know. Yes, I am bragging.) talks about the internet being anti-poetry. And I guess I believe it is as well. A distraction. A place to write without nearly as much consideration or conviction or revision as one might put into a fully-realized poem, a short story, a novel. And yet, even as I know that, here I am on the internet, on all the sites, chattering with my “friends” and my “followers” and my “circles.”

Mostly because of the book. I want people to know about my collection of stories, The Temple of Air, and so I reach out this way. Yet this isn’t just about my book, it is about THE BOOK. (No, not the bible, silly.) THE BOOK. The thing that holds words and stories and lives and wisdom and dreams and fantasies. I turn to these media now to stump for THE BOOK. For writers. For publications. For the on-going struggle of sharing our work and our ideas. Yesterday The Guardian had a piece about publishing houses making record profits these days, partly due to the ease of ebooks. And we were all worried, remember? What will happen to the future of the book without Borders, without “real” books, without pages and dust jackets and paper cuts? Who would have guessed that maybe, just maybe, people are actually reading more…

Yes, all of this attention I have been paying to social media lately has much to do with THE BOOK. But here’s another thing. It is also about friendship. I am one with many friends, but rather few close ones. The closest are a couple of women in Mount Carroll where I have my house; Anne-Marie Oomen, the fabulous Michigan writer; Dennis McFadden, the wonderful upstate New York writer; Jana and Gail; my niece; my husband; a handful of colleagues at Columbia. I don’t call any of these people very often; we don’t chat on the phone like I used to with my high school girlfriends or boyfriends. Like I used to with my mother every day before she died. Like I did with my brother Roger before he did (one year ago today.) We send emails and thumbs-up over Facebook; we try to get together for dinner or drinks now and again.

And still, this matters. And so do my new “friends.” I know that I cannot consider people I only know through Facebook (Maxine Hong Kingston–who sent me a music video her son made, Alan Heathcock–who allowed me to interview him for my blog, Melissa Luznicky-Garrett–who is doing all she can to support independent publishers and authors) my true friends, but I am grateful for their Facebook friendship nonetheless. We share ideas and gripes, we share good news and political grievances. I am grateful, too, that through these social networks I am able to keep “talking” with people I’ve met for just a few days: Lucricia, Rachel, Chuck, Kathie. In the past when you met someone at a conference, say, or a reading in another state and you said “let’s keep in touch,” maybe you would. The occasional letter, perhaps; but usually these people who often meant so much for a brief period of time would just slip away, out of your life. It still happens, yes, but it doesn’t always have to, and sometimes it takes a little longer than it used to.

And maybe I am thinking about this because this is the anniversary of my brother Roger’s passing. I feel very lonely in that place I held in my heart for him and him alone. As my book launch comes up and I try on the dress I bought especially for it, I remember how he would whistle at me when he liked what I was wearing, would simply say “yeah, cool,” to let me know he didn’t without flat out insulting me. I know he would be proud of this phase in my life; that he would be passing out postcards for the book from the front seat of his cab. That he would be there to give me rides to bookstores and bars for my readings, to the airport when I was lucky enough to get gigs a flight away.

We–those of us still here–sometimes keep our loneliness at bay with these distractions, just as we can keep our real work away. But sometimes, too, these distractions–our followers, our friends, our circles–can remind us that there are still interesting, kind, people out there who are delighted and disappointed with life just as we are, who are filled with wonder and compassion and spirit and even rage when necessary. As I grow older, my closest real circle loses members now and then, and they cannot be replaced. Mom, Roger, Robyn, my Uncle Miller. But I’ve reconnected with people from my past (Gayle, Dale, Helen, my cousins) through this wide web, and I am glad for that. Things shift and tilt and there are empty spots that cannot be filled; and yet, life goes on. A cliché of the worst kind, but true, too. I am glad of the ever widening circles I find as my life goes on, and I thank you for your part.

A Small Place of Enchantment ~ Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s View From the Keyboard

“I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.”  ~ Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Today, August 8, is the anniversary of the birth of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and so it is in celebration of her life and work that I offer you this glimpse (image from the Florida Artist Hall of Fame website) into her writing space.

A small place of enchantment. I have been working in various corners and chairs in our apartment this summer, without any particular writing space. My writing room is inadequate: too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. Is this why I’ve written little fiction this past month? No small place of enchantment to return to? Some would say that the enchanted place is the writing itself, and I’d usually agree. But I am one of those folks who likes my space to be just right…

Really, though, it is probably this business of the book that keeps me from sinking fully into my next fiction project. Blogging, tweeting, calling in markers, contacting publicity folks, inviting the world to the book launch of The Temple of Air. I’ve had other writing assignments along the way and have carried them out, but my mind, and my work at the keyboard, always goes back to the book. For now, this will have to enchant me, for this is the place I must return to.

Still accepting submissions for View From the Keyboard. Guidelines here. Thanks for reading. -PMc←

And the Winner Is… Book Giveaway Part 3

We have a winner! JoAnne Ruvoli is an avid reader and a huge fan of short fiction (see, publishing world? These people are out there!) and also very clever. She got 9 out of 9 right, proving that the test, while by no means easy, was not impossible.

So without further ado, original quotes first, then their answers:

 

 

 

 

  1. “The others present, including the landlord, he regarded with the boredom of long habit and with a shade of lofty disdain, as if he considered them too much his inferiors in rank and education to speak to.”

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  1. “Way up beyond the white pines, out of sight, was the open, hilly land full of bristly mosses, ground birds, deer, and wild turkeys, even.”

AMERICAN SALVAGE by Bonnie Jo Campbell

  1. “Pulses were beating in his eyes, veiling their sight, and he felt the fever of his cheeks.”

ULYSSES by James Joyce

  1. “The flowers came up to his waist.”

CARAVAN THIEVES by Gerard Woodward

  1. “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. “Ran away.”

STORM WARNING by Vanessa Gebbie

  1. “I shake my head quite a lot.”

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger

  1. “I had planted them too far down in the earth.”

THE BLUEST EYE by Toni Morrison

  1. “After which they are sent down to the Embryo Store.”

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Well done, JoAnne; congratulations! JoAnne will receive an autographed copy of THE TEMPLE OF AIR (I know, shameless, right?) for her fine and astute work. Thanks to all who attempted to find the answers. And thanks again for reading!

YOU ALREADY MAY HAVE WON! ~ Book Giveaway

My book, The Temple of Air, is slated to be launched at Women and Children First on September 9, 2011. I thought I’d share my excitement with you by putting together a little contest to honor this occasion. The prize? An autographed copy of The Temple of Air. (Hey, it’s my blog after all!)

Below is a compilation of the ninth full sentences on the ninth page of the editions that I have on my shelves of nine books. That sounds more complicated than it needs to be. Let me try again: 9/9. Ninth full sentence on page nine. (Also, in case you didn’t make the connection, the date of my book launch.)

Your challenge:

  • In the order I have the quotes below, name each book by its full title.
  • Provide each author’s full name in the same order.
  • Submit your response by 6 PM CST, August 4, 2011 to templeofair@gmail.com.
  • Post this in your response: “I agree to let Patricia Ann McNair use my name and any part of my answers in her blog.”
  • The first completely correct response (all books, all titles, all authors) will receive The Temple of Air.
  • Answers received after the deadline will not be considered.
  • No one I am married to or who shares my last name can participate in this challenge.
  • In the case of a tie—well, I’ll deal with that if it comes up.
  • If no one has all the correct answers, I will consider awarding the participant who comes the closest. So even if you don’t know for certain, guesses may serve you well.
  • And yes, editions do vary. As I said, I am using the ones I have on my shelf. And page 9 means the page with a “9” on it. Not a Roman numeral. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. I am not trying to trick you.
  • Make sure I have a way to contact you (email is best) so that I can let you know if you are the lucky winner.

Cool? Cool.

Here goes:

  1. “The others present, including the landlord, he regarded with the boredom of long habit and with a shade of lofty disdain, as if he considered them too much his inferiors in rank and education to speak to.”
  2. “Way up beyond the white pines, out of sight, was the open, hilly land full of bristly mosses, ground birds, deer, and wild turkeys, even.”
  3. “Pulses were beating in his eyes, veiling their sight, and he felt the fever of his cheeks.”
  4. “The flowers came up to his waist.”
  5. “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”
  6. “Ran away.”
  7. “I shake my head quite a lot.”
  8. “I had planted them too far down in the earth.”
  9. “After which they are sent down to the Embryo Store.”

Some hints:

All fiction.

Published: 1866, 2009, 1934 (1922 UK), 2009, 1925, 2010, 1951, 1970, 1932

Man, woman, man, man, man, woman, man, woman, man

Some authors quoted from here may have written for this blog.

Novel, collection, novel, collection, novel, collection, novel, novel, novel

And more hints because I’ve been told the quiz is too hard ~ some words from some of these book titles in no particular order: Great·American·In·Crime·Brave·Thieves·Eye·Storm

The rest is up to you. Looking forward to reading your answers.

A Place on the Shelf ~ On Personal Libraries and a Civil Union

We were at a party on Saturday, celebrating the civil union of two friends, Kathie and Nikki, (congratulations, you two!) and wandering around their lovely condo, checking things out. As you do. These women are well-educated, highly accomplished, world-loving, and talented, so you can imagine the cool things they had in their pad. Real art. A classy pot rack hovering over their kitchen island. Two offices with good computers and comfortable chairs. Cat toys. A huge map of Paris over their guest futon. And books. No surprise here. I know Kathie better than I do Nikki, and I know she is a writer herself (Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, ed. Kathie Bergquist) and teaches writing and does publicity for the very wonderful Women and Children First, and I know she loves to cook. So a bookcase in the dining room stuffed with luscious-looking cookbooks. Shelves everywhere else stuffed with everything else. And I don’t know if it is Kathie or Nikki who is the conscientious one, the organized one (can there be two of these in any relationship?) but the books on the shelves are alphabetized by author. Probably Kathie, come to think of it, all of that early bookstore training.

I have always admired folks who keep their books in such good order. It is beyond me. I pull my books out of their spots, put new ones in there, stack them perilously on the bedside table, shove extras on top of the not-quite-neat rows. Okay, there is some organization among our books. The small Shakespeare Penguin Classics all on the same shelf. The travel books are all on the same bookcase—except for the overflow and the ones I have yanked out recently in order to consider our upcoming trip to Utah, our plans for Philip’s birthday-of-significance trip (any suggestions? We’re thinking Spain, maybe, where we went for his 40th, my 50th. Or maybe somewhere closer and warm. South Beach? Key West? Kathie’s map of Paris made us yearn for that city.) The cookbooks are in the kitchen (although we rarely use these anymore. Note to self: have more dinner parties.) I can’t tell you the wasted minutes I spend hunting for the book I thought I was looking for: My Brother Running, American Salvage, American Skin, Tender is the Night, Symptoms and Early Warning Signs (I’m a bit of a hypochondriac.) But the upside of this is all of the titles I find that I’d forgotten about. The happy discoveries. A script from high school: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. A pocket-sized Spanish dictionary. A Kenyon Review from 1988. Hard Candy.

But this isn’t about my books. It is about my book. Singular. The forthcoming collection The Temple of Air. My debut. If you have read this website at all (and pardon my arrogance for assuming you might have) you know that I have my first book of short stories coming out in September. And this post is really about that. The book. And finding the book on Kathie’s shelf. Among all those others.

Okay, this is no real surprise. I gave Kathie an advance readers’ copy when we began sharing ideas about my having the book launch at Women and Children First. So unless she threw it away (and I can’t imagine Kathie being the sort of person who would do such a blasphemous thing to a book) The Temple of Air would, in all likelihood, be on her shelf. Still. This is the first time that I have come across my book on someone else’s bookshelf. In its rightful alphabetic place, shelved next to John McNally’s Troublemakers. (Sorry I can’t recall now who was to my left; I was very pleased to be rubbing covers with Mr. McNally.)

And this caused me great joy. Delight. I felt like a real writer, my book in the library of a pair of real readers. I can only imagine how very good it will feel when I see my book on the shelves of bookstores! But perhaps this is better. Someone owns this book. It is not waiting to be bought or returned. It has found a home. Among its kind. Books someone cares about.

And speaking of this caring about thing—I think this discovery of my book in the home of Kathie and Nikki was made all the more special because I found it on a day of celebration. A day when there was a whole lot of love in their condo, all directed at the happy couple. And what better place for my book to be than in a home filled with love, good food, smart conversation, dreams and stories, and words that matter. Words like “Civil Union.” Like “I do.” Like “Once Upon a Time,” and like “Happily Ever After.”

Happy new home, Book. Happy new life, Kathie and Nikki.

“The Bones of the Book Glimmer…” ~ A Review from TNB

I have just found out that The Temple of Air was reviewed in The Nervous Breakdown. Such a stellar review. So thoughtful and positive. A great way to have my review cherry popped.

Here’s a snippet of what the reviewer, Leah Tallon, wrote: “The bones of the book glimmer in the spirit of Winesburg, Ohio. McNair’s sentences are free flowing and emotionally charged, electric power lines running straight to your brain. Each word is honest and relatable.”

Not bad, eh?

I would encourage you to read the review in its entirety if you are willing, and I also remind you that while the book will be officially launched at Women and Children First in Chicago on September 9, 2011, advanced orders are being taken at Elephant Rock Books.