Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Afterlife of a Fictional Town

Ernest Hebert, award-winning author of the Darby Chronicles, a classic and enduring series of novels about a fictional town in New Hampshire and its hardscrabble cast of characters—both lovable and hard-to-love—published the final book in the series last year with UPNE. But Howard Elman’s Farewell shouldn’t have to be the end of Darby as we know it. Hebert explains the motivation behind his new web project (created in collaboration with the DALI Lab at Dartmouth College) and how Darby and its townsfolk will go on, well beyond the page, guiding new readers into that world for generations to come. 

by Ernest Hebert
author of the Darby Chronicles

Ernest Hebert's Guide to the Darby Chronicles began with the idea of imagery when I was writing the fiction. Every time I would write a scene I would run a little slide show in my head. Of course those mental images came out in words. Here's an example from page 30 of the UPNE edition of Live Free or Die: "Cooty's main chore was gathering firewood to stoke the small stove in his cabin."

Details about the stove and the cabin would bog down the story line. Same goes for just about every scene. When I write, my goal is to give readers just enough information to follow the action and let them use their own powers of visualization to fill in. Some of my mental images of Darby are clear and in great detail; others are murky; a few are abstract; and sometimes there's no picture at all. For example, I did not know what Cooty's wood-burning stove looked like when I wrote the lines I quoted above.

I always wanted to get these images out of my head onto paper, but I could never draw well enough. Then about fifteen years ago I discovered that I had a knack for drawing on the computer. Yippee! Around 2012 I came up with the idea of recreating Darby visually. I wanted not only to show the imagery that appears in the novels, but to go beyond into details that are not in the books.

Around the same time period that I was mulling over the idea of drawing images of Darby I looked at the John Milton Reading Room, a fabulous website conceived by Thomas Luxon, a colleague of mine at Dartmouth College. Inspired, I set out to create an everything-anybody-wants-to-know-about-Darby-and-then-some website. I began by drawing a map on Adobe Illustrator of the town of Darby. (By the way, a version of that map appears at the beginning of all seven of the Darby books, but only in the UPNE editions.)

I wrote an essay about every place name that appears on the map. Somehow in the alchemy way of creativity the essays led me to write poems, so that Ernest Hebert's Guide to the Darby Chronicles includes a collection of poems by yours truly, though often in the voice of Darby Characters. I never expected to write new fiction, but I felt moved to write a short story, "The Bulletin Board", which appears in the Blog category of my website.

In my drawing of Cooty Patterson's wood stove (see top of this post) the challenge was to create an object that would be original and in the context of Cooty's character. The stove would be aesthetic, somewhat practical, but a little dangerous and crazy, too. The stove would have to have a stew pot on a grill, because in the Darby Chronicles Cooty is famous for his stew, which he stocks with road kill and veggies from compost piles and dumpsters. Cooty also collects sticks which he hangs on the wall as art objects. Note the clock. Instead of XXII, I wrote "DOOM," which is a reference to Darby Doomsday, a video game that plays a role in Howard Elman's Farewell. I drew the enclosed image with my finger in the Procreate app on the iPad.

My aim for the future of Ernest Hebert’s Guide to the Darby Chronicles is to give my readers information about Darby, both visual and verbal, that is not in the books. And the characters? What they look like is best left to the imagination.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Watching the Debates? Here's How to Game the Presidential Election

It's like BINGO, but fundamentally better for the 21st century.

Now less than a year from the 2016 presidential election, the GOP candidates vying for the office still number more than a dozen, the Democrats have narrowed to three, and we've only scratched the surface on the calendar of debates—though there's been plenty of excitement so far.

Depending on your political bent, or even your level of tolerance for other candidates within your party of choice, sitting through a three-hour debate can be any combination of exasperating, inspiring, dispiriting, hilarious, at times educational.

Between all the competition to get a word in edgewise and the ding-dinging time limits on the candidates' statements and rebuttals, these performances too easily devolve into canned polemics, nifty soundbites, and the kind of political doublespeak that lets a politician say as much as possible without really saying a thing.

Authors David Mark and Chuck McCutcheon wrote the book on this very phenomenon. Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes collects dozens of examples of the jargon and blather of the players, both elected and those behind the news desk, who make a living out of  misguiding the electorate. (Check out our coverage last year on "How to Talk Like a Politician.")

So, there's no reason why you and your friends can't have a little fun at the expense of these smooth talkers.

In honor of the forthcoming release of the eBook, Doubletalk (on-sale February 2016), Mark and McCutcheon's election season supplement to their first book, we created BINGO cards (like the one you see at the top of this post)—six of them—which you should totally print out and put to good use, abiding by whatever house rules you invent (ahem), when the next debate is on.

(By the date of this post, the next one is the Democrats' turn: Sat., November 14, 9 pm EST, on CBS.)

Click on the following link to download PDFs of all 6 BINGO cards, and have fun. It's gonna be yuge:

Presidential LINGO Game (PDF)

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Inside Story of How Marc Solomon's WINNING MARRIAGE Won Big

by Tom Haushalter
UPNE Marketing Manager

“If I can sell gay marriage, I think I can sell a book.”

That was one of the first things Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won, said to the UPNE sales and marketing team when we gathered for lunch in Boston several months before his book's November 2014 publication in our ForeEdge imprint. Although a debut author—of a chronicle of his life's work waging the then-unfinished legal battle for marriage equality in America—Marc came to lunch with questions about book promotion that seemed to be searching for parallels to the grueling public relations campaign he'd been directing (with Freedom to Marry) for years. In other words, this wasn't Marc's first time to the rodeo.

We were all keenly aware of the possibilities surrounding his book, as marriage equality had ascended to being the most important social movement of its time. The end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), struck down the year prior, made way for several states to begin allowing same-sex unions, and there was an air of inevitability that the Supreme Court would soon hear a case to decide, once and for all, if all Americans, in any state, were free to marry whomever they choose. We weren't worried about establishing a news hook.

But the many uncertainties baked into our plans for Winning Marriage—how soon will SCOTUS take action? And what if they make the wrong decision?—lent elements of surprise that don't accompany every book you get to publish. From that first lunch date through the hardcover's November release, through reviews and a sprawling national tour, through an historic decision and an uncannily timed paperback edition, this book and its tireless, magnificent author found ways to blow away everyone at UPNE. Here are the highlights of our continuous surprise:

They all approve this message

Authors can be fond of loading their blurb/endorsement wish lists with A-listers they’re not sure how to contact, any of whom would be great to have. Marc Solomon furnished us with a list of endorsers that included legendary journalist Bob Woodward, former U.S. congressman Barney Frank, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Wicked author Gregory Maguire, Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti—to name a few! Our success rate on those blurbs was 100 percent. (Oh, and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick wrote the foreword.)

A deluge of media

Marc takes his seat on NBC's Meet the Press.
Here’s another embarrassment of riches. The media coverage for Winning Marriage was like turning on a fire hose. From reviews and stories in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, U.S. News & World Report, Slate, and Politico, to excerpts in the Advocate and New Republic, and a sit-down with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press—the sheer volume of exposure wasn’t just a boon for the book. Given the timing of its release, the book became the media’s most reliable source for illustrating how far the marriage equality movement had come—and how far it had still to go.

Where in the world isn't Marc Solomon?

As the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, Marc was never one to sit back and watch the returns come in. True to his word, he sold his book like he sold gay marriage—not that the two weren’t one and the same! At some point, I’ll admit, I lost track of where in America Marc was on a given day, or where he’d be the next. From bookstore readings in Boston to house parties in Los Angeles to college classroom visits in Chicago and St. Louis, he spanned the country over the course of several months.

Countless people, from all walks of life, shared their own stories as part of this movement. Reflecting on the warm reception of his book, Marc says, “I especially loved hearing from younger people, in their 20s and early 30s, who weren’t necessarily paying attention to the early marriage battle in Massachusetts [in 2003], who didn’t realize how intense and focused the fight was even then.”

The Decision and the Revision

By now we all know how the story ends. On June 26, 2015, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ended the nationwide ban on same-sex marriages. Victory celebrations ensued. There was only one problem. The story, as told in Marc Solomon’s book, was incomplete. It needed the final chapter!

We were preparing for this, though. And Marc was probably the most adamant that the paperback edition of Winning Marriage, due out in early fall of 2015, be revised to include an afterword on the historic SCOTUS decision. I do not exaggerate when I say that on the day the decision was handed down, Marc began writing that last chapter. And he turned it in for editing a few days later—the deadline loomed that closely.

Now we can confidently say that the Winning Marriage paperback is the whole story.

“The playbook for progressive causes”

Marc Solomon with the amazing Freedom to Marry team
Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising aspect to the publication of Winning Marriage is its value to other ascendant social justice causes. Publishers Weekly, for one, saw it all along, in its review calling the book “a manual for how to craft a successful political movement in the future.” Later, it was U.S. News & World Report deeming it “the playbook for progressive causes.” Consequently, in recent weeks, Marc has been sought-after as a speaker for a range of organizations, including the Rockefeller Family Fund working on women’s workplace equality, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Nature Conservancy combatting climate change, as well as litigators for reproductive freedom and organizers for criminal justice reform, hunger alleviation, and economic inequality.

As Winning Marriage becomes enshrined as not only the definitive story of the marriage equality movement in America, but as a guide for any movement to come (see these applicable lessons that Marc learned), Marc Solomon has himself moved on to the next chapter in his career, recently joining the team at Civitas Public Affairs Group, a firm that consults with an array of advocacy campaigns. I believe they know full well the indomitable force for good they’ve gained in Marc.


This post goes up in honor of University Press Week 2015 (Nov. 8-14), and today other fine UPs are sharing their favorite "surprises" from the past year. So follow the links to the press blogs below and keep reading!

University Press of Florida
University of Michigan Press
University Press of Mississippi
University Press of Kansas
University Press of Kentucky
University of Nebraska Press
University of California Press

#ReadUP #UPWeek