Tag: Publishing

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I’m thrilled to finally be able to share the news that I have another book in the works. My new contract with HarperCollins Canada arrived, fully executed, in the mail today. :)

I’m not writing a novel this time. This book will be creative non-fiction. (“A true story, well told” is the best definition I’ve read to describe creative non-fiction.) The working title is The Red, Forgiving Earth, and it will chronicle one year I spent living in Tanzania with my family.

Back in April I published a short memoir in Chatelaine about the experience of throwing over our lives and moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. My agent called a few days after the piece appeared and asked me if I thought there was book potential in this story. After a fair bit of thought, a few conversations with Craig, and a number of back and forth drafts with my agent, I had a polished proposal. HarperCollins bought the book, based on the proposal — which is generally how it’s done with non-fiction — and so here I am.

I have a deadline of June 1, 2016, to complete a draft. Because I had to produce a detailed proposal I have an excellent outline of the book and I’m in good shape to move forward with it. The publication date has not been confirmed.

But I’ll be buried in the manuscript for the next five months, so apologies in advance for not being social. 😉

xo

ARCAnd here it is, my book, Where the Air Is Sweet. This version is the ARC, the Advanced Reading Copy (sometimes called a galley).  It is the pre-published book. It is typeset, bound and looks almost exactly as the final will look, minus the flaps and fancy paper. The ARC is created so that we have something to send to booksellers and reviewers months in advance of the publication date.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the cover. I loved it when I saw it on a monitor but I love it even more in print. The colours are muted, elegant, and the image is both inviting and disorienting.

Reading a novel, like writing a novel, is an act of creation. The reader brings herself (her perceptions, experiences, beliefs) to the words on the page, to the story in the book, and in the union of reader and novel something new is created. And that is why a novel is always alive, fluid, rich with potential.

My first real taste of this experience was seeing how the designer interpreted and then expressed my novel. I love what she sees. I couldn’t have imagined it the way she did. But I couldn’t love it more.

I stared at the ARC of my novel for a few days, held it, admired it. I was thrilled, obviously, but I was also afraid. I didn’t want to look too closely. I was afraid if I did I would find mistakes. (A familiar sensation for anyone who works in publishing.)

The thing is, it says, right on the cover “uncorrected proof.”  We can still fix mistakes. This is our last chance to catch them, in fact. So I needed to read it. And I did.

I found a few small typos. I also found some sections I might have, in hindsight, approached differently. The typos can be fixed. The rest will remain as is. Depending on the reading I have a different opinion anyways on how to handle a scene, a line. That’s why we let books go. That’s why we stop editing. I expect, despite this reading, some typos will get through to the final. This is the nature of books, of writing, of human beings: imperfection.

There is a tradition in Islamic art, in intricate rugs, portraits, mosaics to leave a deliberate flaw. This is a statement by the artist, a testament to the imperfection of human beings as compared to the perfection of God. I didn’t worry about adding a deliberate error. I’m 100 per cent positive one (or more) will get through without any effort on my part. :)

But this tradition reminds me that flaws are not only okay, they speak to what we are.

And on that note, I will quote a line from the magnificent Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I have finished.

I just sent the latest draft of my novel, Where the Air is Sweet, to my editor.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said “I’m finished” with respect to this book. Let’s see. Here’s a rundown of finishes of Where the Air is Sweet:

  • I finished the first rough draft in the spring of 2010.
  • I finished my first polished draft (which I could send to a prospective agent) a few months later in June 2010.
  • I made some changes at my agent’s behest, completing the draft in January 2011.
  • My first major structural edit was completed by August 2011.
  • In January 2012 I completed another draft that incorporated smaller fixes.
  • In January 2013 I finished the second structural edit.

Now, I had no fantasies that I wouldn’t work on the book after acquiring an agent and then a publisher. I knew that I had taken it as far as I could on my own but that it still had a ways to go before it was finished. I work as a newspaper editor in my other life and so I understand and have enormous respect for the editing process. That said, I don’t think I really understood the road I was embarking on when I decided I wanted to publish a novel.

I feel like a boxer who is being trained for years for a big fight. I feel that I keep getting better, the book does but I do too, more refined in my writing skills.

Anyways, I’m digressing from my theme of finishing. I think what I’m getting from this process is that we can get so caught up in finishing that we miss the experience. And if we aren’t present in the moment we cannot, at least I cannot, create.

Me, writing.

Me, writing. Pic surreptitiously snapped by my iPhone wielding 6-year-old.

When I embarked on writing my first novel I didn’t know if I would get anywhere, if I would even complete a novel, let alone publish one. I knew only that I wanted to write it, that I had reached a point at which if I didn’t write it, a kind of bitterness or frustration at all of my life would set in. And only when I accepted this fact — that the purpose of what I was doing was not a finished product but the honouring of an impulse, a desire — did I free myself to create.

And while I did complete a novel and sell it, I learned something that I believe was at least as, if not more, valuable: I love the act of writing a book, the process of creating it. I love writing.

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