Sunday, June 27, 2010

Team Gabi

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone
Who do I consider part of my publishing team? If it takes a village to educate a child, it takes a major metropolis to turn my words into a published work.
I should probably go even further back in the creative process. There are no stories to tell if there are no friends, family, colleagues, strangers and crazies to populate my imagination. I feel compelled to reiterate that I write fiction and all my characters are pure products of my imagination and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead is mere coincidence. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have inadvertently fallen out of a second story window while role-playing victim fleeing knife wielding (okay, so spatula wielding) psycho. I’m equally sure that the positions of the dead bodies in anything I’ve written have absolutely nothing to do with the creative process class students who may have, accidentally, turned a movement exercise into individual Camille death scene performances. And since I can say, with all honesty, that no one I’ve ever met has agreed to ride in the trunk of a car while I race down the freeway so I know what the rolling body, screaming for help, scratching to get out sounds like, if someone were to have that experience and describe it to me (or better still tape it), they may in fact become one of the imaginary friends that are the foundation of my publication team.

Next, comes the writing. That’s me. Except when I blame my parents. So I’m adding them to my publication team roster because they rarely assert that I am adopted when they take a hit for my salty language, my promiscuous imagination or my insistence on body drop field trips.

I have a regular critique group. They listen carefully to my perfectly written pages and then, without mercy, rip me to shreds. They say nice things, too, to keep me from going postal but I mostly hear the 'what the heck was she thinking' comments. I would never admit it to them, but their harshness and incivility have made me a much better writer. Without them, my work wouldn’t be publishable. It wouldn’t be readable. It might not even be written since they are big on kicking my butt when I start to slack. I’ll need team shirts for the evil, evil critique group. It will make it easier to target them in a crowd.

Next up are the editors. Editors come in two flavors – content and copy edit. The content editors are there to take the blinders off. After working and reworking a book, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. After all the tinkering, does the plot timeline still work or does it seem like I’ve changed the setting to Alaska and its endless summer day. Do they characters make sense or are they starting to show signs of a desperate need for an intervention? Am I, the writer, the only one who thinks I’m funny? Yes, the content editor is like a second brain. One that hasn’t been tainted by personal investment and isn’t dissuaded by the idea of going back to the drawing board for an entire section that doesn’t work if that’s what needs to happen to finish with a good book. The copy editors are your basic OCD run amoks. Every period, every capitalization, even margin size comes under their nose pressed to the page scrutiny. They must get tennis match spectator neck fatigue going back and forth between my pages and the style manual. I do not envy them their lot in life. They are vital to the look, feel and anal retentive perfection of a published book. They keep the number of emails from readers picking up on my spelling and grammar mistakes to a minimum. Bless them, every one.

A mythical member of the publishing team, one I’ve never met in person, is the cover artist. I envision these people as elfin creatures who dance in the woods under a full moon and sprinkle fairy dust in rainbow colors to turn my books into visual art. How, for example, did the artist for Doggone draw my dog Koko on the cover without ever having met her, seen a photo of her or even heard a description? If I could draw, that is what I would draw. I never talked to him or her but they somehow saw into my mind. Ooh. That’s a little creepy now that I think about it.

There are publicists and web designers and marketing specialists that could be part of my publication team. They should be part of my publication team. Live and learn.

The final, vital, members of my publication team are the booksellers. I love the big chains and they’ve done right by me but it’s the independent book stores that warm my heart. They hand sell my book. They do so with pride in me and their store. They put their reputation, well and long earned, on the line to support my success. They invite me to sign and then ask their friends to come. There is no publish without them.

For the same reason, there is no publication team without the readers. The people who take the time to send me emails that ask when Horsewhipped is coming out inspire me. The conference attendees who wait in line for a signature and a few seconds of my time lift me. The reader who tells her friends you’ve got to read this and hands them my book makes me. I’m nowhere without the readers. None of us are.

Last but not least, Koko is the team Gabi mascot, source of inspiration and general dog’s body. But she won’t wear a team jacket. The cat that lives on the corner mocks.

Thank you, all of you who are reading this, for being members of my team. You honor me.



Meredith Cole said...

I think when people imagine a writer's life, they imagine us writing the book alone in a room... Well, we really have to do that. But you've eloquently highlighted all the people that make the publishing process possible, and help to take our books to the next level. I don't have a dog mascot, so I may have to borrow Koko. She's adorable!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Major metrpolitan area indeed! It's astonishing how many people it takes! Thanks for singling them all out (plus Koko!).

Off to plane to San Diego! Turns out my team has a pilot aand flight crew.

Gabi said...

Koko's happy to work like a dog so just let me know when you feel like having your arm pulled off during a "walk" that turns into a three hour Gilligan tour.

Gabi said...

A pilot and a flight crew? Cool except for the polyester uniforms and no peanuts. I wish I were in San Diego waiting for you to sign my copy of A Night of Long Knives -- which by the way you shouldn't put in your carry-on luggage.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Wish you were too! Reading was fun, as always. Lovely store! I only have carry on luggage since I'm terrifed it will be lost and never catch back up to me and I will hace to wash out my undies and socks every night and hang it over the lamp in an oddly illicit way.

Shane Gericke said...

Rebecca, wow! Take a picture of the undies over the lamp; you could use it for your next book cover!

Shane Gericke said...

And Gabi, a very nice description of all the various people on our publishing teams. Especially the parents who don't like swearing or sex in their books :-)

Anonymous said...

Gabi, Next time I visit with a rental car I'll let YOU ride duct-taped in the trunk for the full research experience. Rationale for adjusting your research project: 1) Your car doesn't have a proper trunk. 2) If I rode in a trunk you would have a nasty cleanup. As my lawyer, I'll need to also have you write some legalese to share with the nice police officer if we get pulled over or a neighbor calls the police when I'm duct taping you outside in the visitor parking!

Gabi said...

After having a business trip unexpectedly extended by a week, I washed my underclothes in the sink and hung them on the back of the bathroom door. The next morning, I flew to the next city without them. I've never gone back to that very nice London hotel. Next time, I'll use the more obvious lamp drying method.

I will not take pictures for Shane.

Gabi said...

You're right. We'll have to rent or borrow a car but it won't be the same unless your the duct tapee. Sorry and thanks so much for volunteering.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the pup doing her thing. Nice piece as always.