Friday, November 12, 2010

Back Issue Spotlight: Vol. 6, No. 2/ Cathy Day

The next story to be in the back issue spotlight is Cathy Day's "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES" from vol. 6, no. 2. I had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy for the current issue, which we excerpted on the blog over the summer. Cathy will also be reading as part of the Carr Reading Series on Tuesday, November, 16. The event, located in the Author's Corner of the Illini Bookstore, starts at 4:30 and is free and open to the public. It will be a great event and hopefully we'll see you there. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES."


You write a book. The manuscript is 241 pages long. Devotedly, you mother each of its 64,739 words, especially Fred, Helen, escape, snow, vaudeville, never, Indianapolis, time, bed, father, night.

How do you know this? These are the biggest words in your word cloud.
What the hell is a world cloud? A visualization of your word frequency.
Where do these clouds come from? That is a very good question.

How do you make one of these things? The same way you Obama-fied a picture of your cat -- you go to a website, upload a file, click "Go," and abracadabra! Your cat is red, white, and blue, and ordering you to CHILL instead of HOPE.

Why make a word cloud? Because you have just finished the 245th and final draft of the book. You've just had three martinis and you're feeling giddy, emailing your word cloud to all your friends -- until you realize that it's possible to extrapolate the entire plot of your book based solely on a 75-word cloud.

But this story isn't really about words, which is surprising, considering it's a story about a book and what happens once you've decided that it's time. You've done all the work, and so you wrap a scarf around its neck, kiss the book on the forehead, and push it into a cold, gray afternoon at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

The Big Push

Once upon a time, there lived an editor with the Midas touch. Every book he liked turned to gold. Back then, he had a twenty-something assistant who chewed sunflower seeds at her desk ("bird food," he called it). He dubbed her "Bird Brain," then "Birdie." At first he used these terms with endearment, but once she began moving up -- toward, then past him -- he used them sparingly, usually before contentious editorial meetings.

This morning, for example, when she walks into the window-walled conference room, he says, "It's not like the old days, is it Birdie? We used to sit in this room and argue about which book showed the most talent. Now we argue which book will sell." He waves his hand toward the marketing types who all stiffen in their chairs, as if he's just told an inappropriate joke.

She lets the Birdie crack go, as she always does. She isn't that girl anymore. Now, she's the one with the Midas touch. She's YOUR EDITOR, which is why your ambitious-but-as-yet-unknown-and-so-still-lowercased agent called her every Friday for six months to schedule a lunch, and she finally agreed for no other reason than his impending call was beginning to taint her Friday afternoons. When it's time, she makes her pitch to the crowded room. "This is the book we should push next summer." She observes the marketing types: the more YOUR EDITOR talks, they lean forward in their chairs, tapping their pens. When her former boss pitches his author, the marketing folks cross their arms like a gauntlet of high school principals. Even before the decision is made, YOUR EDITOR knows she has won.

To read the rest of "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 2 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

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