Things you forget about making a book

Your book was published this week. Something you created made it out into the world, and your creative work with it is finished. (Book promotion is a different story.) There’s nothing more to write for this particular book, which makes you wistful, nostalgic even. Your book was not finished. And now, it is. One book complete, and another (and another) wait to be written. You try to remember what writing this particular book was like, but your memories have already dissipated. You realize how little you remember. You realize how much you’ve already forgotten. This thought stays with you awhile.

There’s so much you forget about making a book. There’s so little you remember.

Perhaps, there’s a reason for this forgetting. Perhaps, if you remembered everything required to write this book, you would run for the hills or the mountains or the forest or the streams instead of writing another book. Perhaps, if you remembered, you wouldn’t write the next book, the next essay, the next poem, the next paragraph, the next line, or the next word. If you remembered what making a book required, maybe you would give up on writing. Maybe you might not want to create anything. But, if you forget, maybe you can write another book because you’ve forgotten the agony of a book’s beginning and the harrowing and continuing doubts about its potential.

Here are the all of the things you forget about making a book once it’s published:

You forget that a book is made word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and chapter by chapter. You build a book piece by painstaking piece. Only you. It’s yours to build. It’s yours to protect and harbor. It’s yours, it’s yours, it’s yours(more…)

Release Day!

This morning at 5:15 am, I looked at my phone with bleary eyes. I wanted to check my email before I left my house to catch a plane. And resting in my inbox was an email from my press letting me know that Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces was released. I blinked a few times to make sure that my overactive imagination wasn’t playing a trick on me. I looked at my phone again, and the email was real. What a lovely thing to happen on a regular Tuesday in June.

So, today is release day for my third book, and I’m having a hard time containing my excitement. No one at the Atlanta airport seems to appreciate my inability to stop smiling. Grace Period is a different book than my previous ones because it’s memoir, not monograph. But, it’s also not a traditional memoir. The story of my transition out of academia appears in fragments, or pieces, rather than a story with a clear beginning or end. I wanted to document how it felt for my life to veer off the path I expected and onto different paths that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine four years ago.

Here’s the description:

How do you build a life after failed dreams and missed opportunities? Kelly J. Baker finished her PhD in religion and imagined that she would end up in the tenure-track job for which she trained. She had done everything right: written a provocative and well-researched book, given presentations at national conferences, published articles, and created and taught a number of popular classes. Doing everything right, however, doesn’t guarantee anything if the career you trained for is no longer sustainable. The economic depression in 2008 gutted the job market for tenure-track jobs in the humanities, so she couldn’t find her dream job and worked instead as an adjunct and later a full-time lecturer.

But after five years of job rejections and a new baby on the way, she decided to take a year off to figure out if the career she trained for was actually the life she wanted. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces are the essays that she wrote to make sense of how her life went off-track. Expanding on her popular Chronicle Vitae column of the same name, she documents her transition out of academia and the emotional turmoil of rebuilding a life beyond what she had prepared for. Instead of telling an easy story about her exit from the academy into a brand-new post-academic career, Baker resists smoothing over the hard reality of transitions, the importance of waiting and anticipation, and the realization that the lives we imagine for ourselves are tenuous at best and often are impossible to achieve.

I hope you all enjoy it. And please let me know what you think as you read it.

Cover Reveal for Grace Period!

For those of you who didn’t know, I wrote another book. It’s an essay collection, but also a memoir, about my transition out of academia and all the transitions that followed. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces is coming soon from killing the buddha e-books. (It will be available from Amazon and Apple, and I’ll let you know as soon as it is released).

Today, I wanted to share with you the lovely cover that Gordon Haber created. The photo is one that Chris took of my favorite water tower in our hometown of Marianna, Florida. You might recognize the image as it is featured here at Cold Takes in black and white, and I’m so happy it was incorporated into the cover. So, check it out and let me know what you think!

Crafting a pitch

I receive a lot of pitches for guest submissions at Women in Higher Education, not as many as editors of larger publications, but enough that I see a variety of pitches, both good and not-so-good, from many different types of writers. WiHE mainly publishes articles from a regular group of writers, but I also accept guest submissions from journalists of higher ed, freelance writers, and practitioners within in higher ed. Now that I’m nine issues into my tenure as editor of WiHE and in my fourth year as a freelance writer, it’s become more and more clear that pitching is hard skill to master.

When a writer is pitching a potential article for a publication, it is a delicate balance of telling the editor what the article is about, why it matters for this particular publication, and why the writer is the most qualified to write said article before writing the whole darn articleA good pitch is able to do all of these things in a few paragraphs, which can seem pretty daunting. Pitching is still a craft that I’m learning. My pitches for potential articles still fall flat sometimes, and even some of my best pitches get rejected because they don’t quite fit what an editor is looking for at that exact moment for their publication. That’s how pitching works for all of us, even the most seasoned writers. Being able to craft a clear and concise pitch helps you get ahead by showing an editor that you are serious about the article you want to write.

So, here’s my advice on what kinds of pitches work, and don’t work, for me as an editor. I do offer these tips with the caveat that what might work for me might not work for other editors, but hopefully, this advice gives you an idea of what the process requires. (more…)

In-between projects

I’ve been seriously grumpy lately. There are many reasons for my grumpiness, but one of the main culprits is that I haven’t been writing as much as I want to. Yes, I write a column and articles for Women in Higher Education. Yes, I wrote a lecture on the artifacts of white supremacy that I gave at the College of Charleston. Yes, I wrote up a survey about why you should all move to Florida like I did.

And yet, I feel like I’m still writing less than I want to.

What occurred to me today is that I’m writing less because I’m currently stuck in-between two projects. Months ago, I finished all the writing I had to complete for my forthcoming Grace Period (Killing the Buddha press), a collection of essays about my slow transition out of academia, the loss of dreams, and the long process of  learning how to manage where I happened to land. I’ve only been editing what needs to be edited. Now, the soon-to-be book is in the hands of my excellent copy editor while I worry about everything else that needs to be finished and my strategies for book promotion. (more…)