Correspondence

October 29, 2011

I’m reading David McCullough’s new book, “A Greater Journey,” about Americans in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. http://www.amazon.com/Greater-Journey-Americans-Paris/dp/1416571760. It’s charming, informative, well written, but the book could not have been done without a treasure trove of correspondence and journals. These are all quoted at length. And that set me to wondering, yet again, about what we are leaving behind for historians to plumb when they begin their search for our times.
How many of us still correspond, at length, with friends and family? How many of us still print out our photographs?

Even among my writer friends, the art and practice of corresponding—at leisure and at length—has stopped, nearly entirely. Two journalist friends in London, devoted letter writers just a decade ago, now only send much shorter, less contemplative, far less descriptive emails. Like mine, they are mostly hurriedly written, between other obligations. Only a cousin, who lives a relatively secluded writer’s life on Gabriola Island in Canada, still writes me long, descriptive narratives which he writes off-line and then pastes into an email. They seem generic, catch up emails, personalized in a paragraph or two at the beginning or end. They are still pleasurable to read, of course, but who will save them for posterity?

I have written in this blog about postcards and this practice has also nearly ended. Why not just dash off an email or post, together with photographs, to Facebook while traveling? And what, then, will happen to that record? Eventually? It all becomes ephemera. It already is ephemera.

I was reminded this week of how rapidly technology changes, frustrating attempts to access what we wrote just a few years ago. With the success of my new e-book, “Water Baby; Five Novellas,” http://www.amazon.com/Water-Baby-Five-Novellas-ebook/dp/B005RFUYB8, I have decided to update and revise “Searching for Fritzi,” and to re-release it as an e-book. I contacted the designer to find out if he still had a file of the text and the cover. He found the cover, excellent, now for the text. No such luck. I rummaged through my boxes and found my stored floppies but, of course, have no floppy drive in my new computer and, even if I could get the floppy read somewhere—and I am sure I could—how would I convert it from Ami Pro to Word?

All for the best, of course, in the end. I opened a new file and set to work, revising and updating, as promised. It’s been a very interesting and challenging exercise. And once online as an e-book, “Searching for Frtizi” will live in the cloud for all eternity, solace indeed.

Platforming

October 18, 2011

I remember Vice President Al Gore talking about the “information highway,” but when was that exactly? And when did we start blogging and what is the etymology of the word “blog?” (According to the instantaneous online dictionary, it’s a conflation of web and log, a weblog, first known use, 1999.) I have a blog: I am writing on my blog as I write. My blog, hosted by the Authors Guild, is a public/private space where I can ruminate about writing and the writing life. When I ask my students if they have a blog, usually about a half dozen hands go up. Everyone and anyone can blog; a great leveling. And excellent writing practice, too. Journalists adore their blogs because they now have ample space to say what they had wanted to say in the first place in print. This blog upon which, or within which, I write is capacious enough to accommodate all my meandering thoughts with no one to censor, limit, or edit, alas. I exert a writer’s discipline: these are small essays in which I can keep the writing muscle supple.

Now that my first e-book, “Water Baby; Five Novellas,” has been published, however, this blog has become a sales tool. It feeds to my Amazon Author’s Page. And my Facebook Carol Bergman: Writer page feeds to my Twitter account, which I am advised to update regularly. So much feeding; I am sated. What happened to the cozy launch readings at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village? They now seem quaint.

Publishing an E-Book

October 3, 2011

My favorite fictional form is the novella, popular in Europe, but not in the US. My agent likes/admires my novellas, but can’t sell them. I’ve placed a couple in literary magazines and even won a prize for “Water Baby,” but none of that makes any (marketing) difference. My first collection, “Sitting for Klimt,” did well as an iUniverse/Barnes & Noble co-publishing print-on-demand venture and is permanently on the shelf at the Neue Galerie where, so long as Klimt’s portrait of my protagonist, Adele Bloch-Bauer, is on display, my book will live with her in the same building. I hope. Of course, it might get pulled off the shelf, but it will never go out of print.

I have just published my second collection of novellas, “Water Baby” as an e-book, an experiment. My daughter designed the cover and my cousin donated the cover image. It takes a village. I’m pleased with the collection as a literary endeavor and enjoying the congratulations and praise from other writers who understand the effort it takes to draft and polish a work before publication. The technical challenges of getting the book online have been daunting for me, however. They are similar, I’ve decided, to launching a website, as opposed to preparing a manuscript for print publication. I’ve uploaded, there are numerous formatting errors, and now I can go back in and tweak if only I could figure out how to do that. Truly, I wish my daughter, a graphic designer, would have had time to help me out, but she didn’t, so I did it all on my own. It was—and still is—thrilling as well as frustrating. All so fast, a friend in the UK wrote, even though the book took me five years to compile, send out to readers, revise. Many long hours of work. Yet, it took only minutes to get it “published,” and went “live” before I understood what I’d done wrong with the upload. I had dreams about correcting/editing and thought about nothing else during my lap swim this morning, but when I went back onto the site, it wasn’t available for editing. And it was only when I was swimming that I realized why the cover hadn’t appeared in front of the text: It’s all one document and though I’d uploaded the cover, that was just for the data base, and I’d left it out of the text, and so on.

You can see, dear reader, how the publishing an e-book process might become obsessive and obliterate all creative thought. Luckily I am taking a play writing workshop this term to relax and my NYU class meets on Wednesday and Thursday I’ll be flying to California for a few days on family business. I’ll take my Kindle, of course, and leave Hayden Herrera’s large, hardcover biography of Arshile Gorky by my bedside.

Archives