Writing with My Best Friend-Publishing From a Solid Foundation

With our self-inflicted publishing/90th Birthday party too close on the horizon (81 Days, 11 hours, 5 minutes and a rapid descent of seconds, according to the count down website I found), it has become necessary to press ahead (groan) with a self-publishing option. First, a word about the kindness of strangers regarding the manuscript I had sent out.

Yes, they were rejections, but such lovely rejections. I embraced dearly departed Caroline See’s advice and wrote thank you emails to the publisher at one publishing house who had responded that they didn’t publish memoirs or biographies, and yet took the time to read the book, responding with some editorial comments. Wow. Didn’t expect that kind of compassionate contribution to the process. It really buoyed my faith in humanity.

She also recommended with our impending deadline, that we look into self-publishing, and recommended CreateSpace, an Amazon off-shoot company that provides editing and publishing services from soup to nuts. Having been through the template-learning process with Lulu.com, the re-formatting to the new template was pretty painless, and yesterday, we had a conversation with an editor to choose the publishing features we’ll use.

It was extremely helpful and instructive to learn how the process will go moving forward. We are on an aggressive timeline so will need to make decisions about photos and editing to be ready 8 weeks before Dec. 1st. So we will be rocking it from now until the first week in October.

There are discussions we are still having about the arc of the book, how to keep the narrative uncluttered, and ways to make the title of the book A View From The Wings tie to another image Jimmie had come across in the mid 90s by a professor from Harvard.  Last night at the end of a long week at work, I tried to listen and hear the importance of this imagery to him and understand how to make the connection tighter. We had a basic disagreement about how to do it, and anyone who knows us knows that disagreements are pretty far outside the boundaries of our experience. I think we’ve had one flat out fight back in the early 80s, consisting of irritation, not even harsh words. Our friend ,John Rubinstein, jokes that we are the most irritating people:

You two probably never fight because you are both so nice. (said with a slight exaggerated sibilancy on the word nice)

Jimmie and I have always agreed on things political, though this presidential election cycle has taxed our relationship a bit, Jimmie staunchly insisting on candidates other than the “I’m with her” candidate. It’s happened before when he voted for Ralph Nader. In fact it’s not the least bit unusual for him to be much further left than me. It’s something I’ve actually always loved about him. He keeps me politically honest.

We agree about the theatre. Usually our reviews of shows (of which we have seen hundreds together over the course of our married lives) are usually pretty aligned. Our taste in television rarely sparks discomfort. We look at each other when there’s too much blood, we reach for the mute button when there’s anything like torture on, or food porn, and we look at each other. So we’ve spent a lot of time looking at each other over recent years. Carl’s Junior commercials result in absolute facial fascination. And let me be clear, I’ve got no problem at all doing that; Jimmie  seems quite contented to gaze at me as necessary.

But an aesthetic difference about imagery was tougher for me to accept, and I found myself feeling worn down and a bit saddened last night, that as we headed into the publishing process that (gasp) we were at odds. I chalked it up to being overly tired and we kissed and made up before going to bed because, well, you know the adage…

This morning’s light brought the “big pour” of concrete in the building site across the street from us, and while I spun at the DTLA YAS class, my pal Ellen and I watched the relentless cement trucks lining up on Hope Street to empty their contents into the big hole. The cement cranes arched over each other like the graceful necks of dinosaurs grazing on the savanna, and when I returned from my class, I ran to the balcony to watch as their necks dipped and pecked, filling the spaces between the rebar grid. To the northwest corner of the pour, I could see men smoothing the pavement at ground level.

I am such a construction geek. I come to it legitimately. It’s a blood relationship to concrete, my grandfather having owned the largest concrete company in Northeastern PA. This morning, when I was walking home, I passed two construction workers, both Dads, with their four children under 8 in tow, walking eagerly down to where they could show them the activity across the street. It is magical to see the beginning of the process, to the end, so clearly demonstrated north west of us, with the now lighted spire of the tallest building on the west coast. I (of course) attended that big pour as well, which was probably four times the size of our little pour going on in the neighborhood.

So what does all this have to do with self-publishing a book? I am well aware that our process of publishing this book has as much to do with the foundation of our marriage, our trust and respect of each other, the history of our dipping and pecking in the savannas together. As much if not more than the content or caliber of the actual book. I know that our foundation is solid, well-cured and will withstand whatever small editorial disagreements we have. We are both energized by the process, looking through pictures to include in the book, and examining the structure of the book.  It is an accelerated process by virtue of the construction deadlines I’ve imposed on it. But I promise there won’t be any pictures of concrete pours in the final product!img_6943



Facciama Una Passeggiata Downtown!

IMG_3761Tonight after work, we decided to go for a spontaneous evening out. We deserved it, right? It’d been a long couple of weeks – my head so full of details/questions/lists/ it makes me a little tired. March 9th was National Napping Day, too; could that explain why I wanted just lay my head down on my desk for a quick power nap?

The Farmer’s and Merchants’ National Bank sits across Main St. from Ledlow’s.

We are creatures of habit, my husband and I, but I decided tonight we’d go find another restaurant beside CPK, so we jumped in the car and drove up into the heart of the banking district of downtown LA. We were gravitating towards Pete’s but arrived at the corner of 4th and Main to discover it was gone. In it’s place, was a new, relatively empty (at 7pm) restaurant called Ledlow’s.

We sat at an outside patio table, in the still stultifying heat, and ordered our dinner. We watched as dozens of downtown denizens walked past the restaurant. They were walking their dogs, or just taking a walk.

Did you ever think we’d be hipsters again? I asked my husband.

Our after dinner coffee at Ledlow’s

I remembered the lovely Italian custom of La Passeggiata, where families go out together to take a stroll between work and dinner, usually in the town’s square. When I went to Sicily, in the quaint town of Gibbelina, it was a nightly occurrence. At 7:00PM or so, the streets and main square filled with hundreds of people walking and talking and laughing with their neighbors. There is really nothing quite like it here in the ol’ US of A. Maybe I’ll wander out in the street on Sunday and see what the tail end of the LA Marathon looks like. Even so, Americans are so busy – so destination conscious. We rarely stroll anywhere.

Earlier today, on campus, I was power walking toward my committee meeting, at about 9:45; as I walked past Bovard Auditorium, the Norris Theatre off to my left, I watched a mid-sized black dog tearing around the grass chasing a squirrel. At first I thought the dog was a stray, but then I saw his owner, a student, or young faculty member, carrying the leash in his hand and watching as his dog chased the squirrel. The dog was a consistent 18″ away from the squirrel, as it darted desperately around the base of the campus trees, looping around the little grove of trees. For some reason, the squirrel never ran up the tree, but continued to just barely elude the dog about a foot above the ground. Suddenly, the dog overtook the squirrel, chomping it’s mouth around its body. I was more than 75 yards away but still heard the squirrel scream. It was horrible. As I turned the corner out of view, my last image was the dog’s nose tucked between the roots of a tree, the dog’s owner looking chagrined. I bet he’ll use the leash next time.

Anyway, the tragedies of squirrel deaths behind me, I embraced the spirit of the Passeggiata all through dinner, as we watched people go by — now an affectionate couple, his arm wrapped protectively in a chokehold around her neck; now a couple with their Irish Wolfhound loping across the street without a leash; here’s a woman with a tiny top hat attached to the side of her head at a rakish angle. It was really good people watching. We had a blast.

By the time we went outside to get the car, Ledlow’s was really hopping, the bar about 3 people deep. The food was great – the Branzino prepared perfectly, crispy skin over perfectly cooked fish, resting on a bed of spinach and roasted baby tomatoes. Jimmie’s hamburger and fries looked delish, too, if you like that sort of thing. We ordered the Devilish Chocolate Cake, but unfortunately, it was from a menu of a previous night, so we skipped dessert. The manager, feeling badly that we had ordered something not available, brought us a cup of vanilla ice cream to make us feel better. It worked.

My darling husband as we waited for our car, the lit intersection of 4th and Main behind him.

Over this weekend as it heats up, maybe the early evening hours will bring folks out to the streets and we can all take a Passeggiata in downtown LA. Won’t you join us?

Just bring your leash.