I’m posting my book events in reverse-chronological order. I kicked off July with a visit to DIESEL in Brentwood. This reading was so gratifying for a number of reasons. My ultra-supportive mom came with wine, cheese and crackers and fruit, and was even super gracious when kids in the store ate all the fresh figs and didn’t buy my book. Friends from the two high schools I attended in LA turned out for the event. College friends from Santa Cruz and NY friends and cousins who had moved to LA were there to celebrate. My husband Bill and our two sons came with me from NY and made the whole experience feel like home. Also, I wasn’t nervous. Apparently, I’m only nervous once, when I’m a book launch virgin and after that I just know how to have fun.
The fun was doubled by having a post-reading conversation with the irresistible and witty Julia Fierro. We talked and spiraled around our psychologies, why we write, what I hope this book means and also publicly observed that the fig tree is getting too much shade but is full of small birds nonetheless.
Last Friday I had the privilege of having a reading and book signing in the gorgeous Eagle House Hotel, Phatsy Kline Lounge. The event was so warm, with a group of lovely friends and book lovers, who actually stepped out of the rare July sunshine to listen to scenes from PRACTICE DYING and drink some Friends With Benefits Humboldt Cider (so good!)
And the best part was doing this all in the company of my sister, Dana. She was such a fun and intelligent Q&A facilitator, even throwing in a big-sister curve-ball to keep me on my toes.
Authors, put Eureka CA on your book tours!
You won’t regret it.
A few weeks ago I met my friend Jena at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with both our one-year-olds. Before leaving the house I texted her, “I’m putting on some make-up in case you take my new author photo!”
Jena is a photographer and she took my last author photo for The Sign for Drowning.
I love how natural and relaxed the best pictures turned out. When truth-be-told, we were doling out snacks and milk bottles and babbling to two restless babies during the whole shoot.
These outtakes capture the mood perfectly.
My new novel, PRACTICE DYING, will be out in 8 short days!
Obtaining blurbs for your upcoming book can be an excruciating part of publishing. It’s up to the author to find the leads, have the contacts and make the requests. It’s a big favor to ask- the author whose recommendation you want, has to read the novel for starts. And then craft something useful and enticing to say about your book in a few short sentences. You write to authors you know, or have met once, or (yikes) have never met at all, and you ask really nicely. A few months ago, I went through this hard process, starting by choosing authors who’s work had some overlap with mine, traveled some similar territory, who it made sense to be associated with. Well, I have to admit, Leland is the least of these criteria. His work is darkly comedic- very comedic and satirical. But I kept coming back to him. His work has huge range, tells ridiculous, striving and poignant tales. He writes human beings- who you can see- sometimes naked- often tortured- very flawed. The more I thought about his work, the more I wondered if he’d blurb my book. I exchange work with Leland regularly in a monthly writing group we’re both in. And I also know him to be open, supportive and to the point.
From a writing retreat in a castle in Scotland, he recently sent me this moving and generous blurb. I am so grateful he did, and that I asked.
“Like the best novels, Rachel Stolzman Gullo’s PRACTICE DYING deals with life’s biggest questions, among them: how do we find the courage to live and love in the face of all our collective suffering? Full of surprise encounters leading to even more surprising developments, this is a novel for seekers, like twins Jamila and David, for whom every day is an urgent and beautiful quest for connection and enlightenment.”
—Leland Cheuk, author of THE MISADVENTURES OF SULLIVER PONG and LETTERS FROM DINOSAURS
Seven years ago, I finished the first draft of this novel. Since then, it’s been re-written three times. The decade its set in has changed, new characters were introduced, another country was added, whole plot-lines have gone and new ones emerged, the title changed and changed back, and the author has been changed as a result of this long endeavor. What has remained the same is the narrators, a pair of twins who have set off on seemingly opposite paths of enlightenment and suffering. Their discovery of how their natures go hand-in-hand might just mean they can finally find themselves and truly see each other.
It’s very appropriate and fitting with the themes of this book, that the publishing of it, required a lot of adaptation and a shift in my perspective. One of the reasons its publication took a long time was that I attempted to go the route that I was familiar with. I have an agent, I’ve been published by a big house. Shambhala would have been ideal for this novel with Buddhist characters, and its exploration of Dharma. They published my first novel, but they have since moved away from publishing novels. My own agent showed this novel around a bit, quite a few years ago. In hindsight, the book wasn’t ready, but the reactions it got, made me think it just wasn’t finding the right people. I went about trying to attract a new agent after my agent decided she wasn’t right for this book. That detour led me to an interested agent, who gave me some great editorial advice. I didn’t know I was willing to spend another year, but that’s just what I did. In a year, I completely re-wrote the book. It got much, much better. But actually, that agent decided to pass too. Time passes, opportunities change. I spent a bit of time corresponding with several more agents. And while this time went by (thankfully I was writing a third novel) the publishing industry was incrementally changing around me as well. I saw more and more of my friends and colleagues publishing with independent presses. Sending their books directly to these indie presses for consideration, not being represented by an agent. This is hardly new, but I began to see that many novelists moved about. Depending on the work, the book itself, it might make more sense going one way or another. I noticed more people I knew and more authors I’d always read, were publishing works under different presses. It makes a lot of sense. Not everything we write has the same weight, structure, subject, style, voice, size and shape. And there are places for all kinds of writing. Once I grasped the idea, that this novel might have it’s own path to follow and I could send it to independent presses- a new experience for me- I leapt t it, and within a couple of months, I received an acceptance from BINK Books, a fairly large independent press, based in California, whose mission is to publish books with female protagonists.
I’m so grateful and amazed that I can share this work, that this insane persistence to write this book and to figure out not just the characters’ paths-but the book’s path- paid off. Publication date is June 1!