Happy Pub Day

It’s here—that day all authors wait for which, when it finally dawns, is one of the most anticlimactic career events ever, no matter how many times you go through it. Pub day.

Books are a long haul. You get a kernel of an idea, do a little digging and try to decide whether this is a topic you want to live with for years. Then of course there’s the business end of the entire endeavor which, if you’re like me, can’t be ignored if you want to make a living: Can I sell this to a publisher and can that publisher sell it to readers? 

So the kernel sprouts and you decide that you do want to live with the idea until you don’t and then until you can’t live without the idea again. Then there are the proposals and the meetings and all the while you’re trying to keep researching and come up with a clear vision for this project that you’ve already told major publishing corporations you really do have a vision for. Then you get the deal. Relief. Deadlines. A schedule. Sort of. An end date? In a sense, sure. 

You write. You rewrite. You keep researching. You turn in the first draft, which is maybe the most anticlimactic of all the anticlimatices. (New word! It’s one of those vertices in life that you think you’ve reached but feel underwhelmed when you actually do.) You’re still so far from done and you know it. You wait for your editor. You already want to make changes the minute you hit “send” and your manuscript went out into the ether on its way to the publisher. That’s fine. Changes are coming.

Your changes. The editor’s changes. Changes from those trusted colleagues you allowed to see your ugly, ugly first draft. Revisions and more drafts follow. The end is so much closer and you know now that the time to really whip things into shape is shrinking fast.

A first look at your cover blows a little wind up your skirt and you get excited again. A cover! It’s real! Do you like it? they ask. You do! You really do! You’re not just saying that to avoid sounding like a moody, picky writer with no design experience. Everyone weighs in. Then polite “suggestions” from the real power-wielders at any publishing house: sales. They don’t like the cover. Am I OK with that? Absolutely. After all, there are bigger fish in this fry-daddy.

First pass pages! Am I done? No. The copy editor has seen it, maybe a proofer. Only make necessary changes… Necessary. Never do writers have more trouble defining such a two-cent word than when they are instructed to make only “necessary” changes.

Pencil marks. Post-its. Use this pencil, not that one. You finish…sort of. You mail it in. You’re done!

No, you’re not.

Promotional materials. Second pass pages and galleys. The book is in print…sort of. Ugh..I could invent a drinking game based on the number of times I used the word (insert favorite adjective here)…I can’t believe I….Can I still change…? Your editor is about to hop on a plane and pry the pages from your cold dead hands. Promotional materials again. Web sites. Meetings. Lists of people you hope will give this book a second look. Finally, there are no more changes to be made. The book is off to the printer.

But you’re still not done. Wrangling for press, emailing, tweeting. Yay! I got a piece in yadda-yadda magazine! Boo! Whozeewhatsit doesn’t want to have me on their show! Yay! Boo! Wine.

Then, finally, on a rainy Tuesday, the book is officially out in the world. Sort of. Actually there has already been press. People have already been tweeting pics of the book after purchasing it BEFORE the pub date from stores that ignore those sort of contractual restrictions. Emails from friends and people I haven’t heard from in a while are, by far, the best part of this day, and I will answer every single one.

However, I’m still not done. I have talks to give, traveling to do, presentations to prepare (clothes to buy…) I open my laptop and try to get back to work. The inter-web sink hole drags me down into the neuro-pacification that is KenKen and I wander over to…

Hang on. What’s that a picture of…? Who is that? She looks fascinating. She did what? When? Huh. You know what would be a great story…

And another kernel sprouts in the dark. Happy pub day.

daggyland:

You can hear my wife Denise Kiernan talking about her new book The Girls of Atomic City via this link from this interview which aired this morning on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Denise was interviewed along with two of the women she profiles in the book.

The article accompanying the audio link also includes a free chapter of the book.

* * *

Geez, I hope this post comes through okay. Been having problems. More stuff has been going on, too. Will post about it soon.

Thanks, baby! Homemade pizza for you later!

vintageblackglamour : 
 
  Melba Roy, NASA Mathmetician, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland in 1964. Ms. Roy, a 1950 graduate of Howard University, led a group of NASA mathmeticians known as “computers” who tracked the Echo satellites. The first time I shared Ms. Roy on VBG, my friend Chanda P  rescod-Weinstein, a former postdoc in astrophysics at NASA, helpfully explained what Ms. Roy did in the comment section. I am sharing Chanda’s comment again here: “By the way, since I am a physicist, I might as well explain a little bit about what she did: when we launch satellites into orbit, there are a lot of things to keep track of. We have to ensure that gravitational pull from other bodies, such as other satellites, the moon, etc. don’t perturb and destabilize the orbit. These are extremely hard calculations to do even today, even with a machine-computer. So, what she did was extremely intense, difficult work. The goal of the work, in addition to ensuring satellites remained in a stable orbit, was to know where everything was at all times. So they had to be able to calculate with a high level of accuracy. Anyway, that’s the story behind orbital element timetables”. Photo: NASA/Corbis.

vintageblackglamour:

Melba Roy, NASA Mathmetician, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland in 1964. Ms. Roy, a 1950 graduate of Howard University, led a group of NASA mathmeticians known as “computers” who tracked the Echo satellites. The first time I shared Ms. Roy on VBG, my friend Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a former postdoc in astrophysics at NASA, helpfully explained what Ms. Roy did in the comment section. I am sharing Chanda’s comment again here: “By the way, since I am a physicist, I might as well explain a little bit about what she did: when we launch satellites into orbit, there are a lot of things to keep track of. We have to ensure that gravitational pull from other bodies, such as other satellites, the moon, etc. don’t perturb and destabilize the orbit. These are extremely hard calculations to do even today, even with a machine-computer. So, what she did was extremely intense, difficult work. The goal of the work, in addition to ensuring satellites remained in a stable orbit, was to know where everything was at all times. So they had to be able to calculate with a high level of accuracy. Anyway, that’s the story behind orbital element timetables”. Photo: NASA/Corbis.

LOVE LOVE LOVE this video about Caravaggio (one of my fave painters) as juicily described (better than I ever could) by my darling, Giulia Bernardini. Art fans take note: Giulia, an  M.A., instructor of art history and humanities, will be teaching Sensuality and Splendor in Rome, Italy, this summer. It is well worth your time and dime to join this one-week, on-site art seminar that will examine the High Renaissance and Baroque art in the Eternal City! I, for one, can tell you that Giulia’s knowledge, passion and personality are a RARE combination, best sampled in one of the greatest cities on the planet. For full details, visit wonderfeast.com

Little Big Crimes: Button Man, by Joseph D'Agnese

Mystery writer Robert Lopresti reviews “Button Man” by my husband, Joseph D’Agnese. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, this fantastic story set in NYC’s garment district, is in the March issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. What Lopresti says about Joe’s writing is not only true, but a good measure of what all solid mystery writing should be. Click through to read Lopresti’s review and visit his blog, “Little Big Crimes.”

Goodreads | Book giveaway for The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Thanks Touchstone Books and Joseph D’Agnese for setting up this giveaway of my upcoming book over at Goodreads.

The Next Big Thing—my turn in the hot seat

Recently, my husband, author Joseph D’Agnese,  “tagged” me in his “The Next Big Thing” blog post. “Next Big Thing” works like this: one writer answers some questions about her next book and then passes that blog post along to other writers she knows, “tagging” them. (See end of this post for my author picks.) Those writers then answer the same questions a week from now and so it continues, kind of like a chain letter, but without the threats of doom and dread.

So now, tag—I’m it. 

1) What is the title of your next book?

The Girls of Atomic City. Here’s a look at the cover:

image

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Years ago, while researching another project, I came across a fantastic black-and-white photograph by Ed Westcott. In the photo, two rows of young women sat on stools in front of large panels covered in knobs and dials. The caption next to the photo explained that these young women, many right out of high school in rural Tennessee, were working to help enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb…only they didn’t know that at the time. I was instantly hooked and began researching the town—Oak Ridge, TN—and tracking down people who had worked there during the war. 

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Narrative non-fiction, narrative history.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I would love to see Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone portray young women in an adaptation of this story. I was really mesmerized by Lawrence’s layered performance in Winter’s Bone.  

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Young women travel to a secret city in East Tennessee to work, unbeknownst to them, on the world’s first atomic bomb.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I took the traditional route, start to finish. The book was represented by my agent, Yfat Reiss Gendell, of Foundry Literary + Media, and will be published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster on March 5, 2013.

I am looking into self-pubbing some upcoming works that I think would have trouble finding a more traditional home. I love the increasing number of options that working writers have today. 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Oy, that question is almost impossible to answer. I often have several projects at different stages of completion at any one time. I might be reviewing copy edited pages of a completed book while I’m doing initial research for a new book and writing a first draft of my whatever project is in what I call “first position”. That, for me, is one of the hardest things about the writing life: managing several projects at once. This particular book has been in my life for nearly seven years, and I have done countless drafts. I also spent a lot of time outlining and revising that outline before I started writing. So, time to complete the first draft? Maybe 6 months? But that doesn’t reflect all the organizing and planning and interviews and outlining that preceded that, the most intense period of writing.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Also a tough question. I’ve heard publishing people who read the proposal and early drafts compare Girls of Atomic City to Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, which I took as a huge compliment. I can see why they would say that, though. Both are a look at significant moments in history through the eyes of the everyday folk who lived through them.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My curiosity is often the jumping off point for anything I write about and this story is no different. However, had I not found the surviving workers from Oak Ridge to be as inspiring as I did, I may not have kept with this project and seen it through. I loved doing those interviews, and found the women—and men—who lived through this experience to be remarkably fascinating.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book is divided both visually (thanks to typesetting) and thematically according to the two “worlds” of the Manhattan Project: those who knew a good bit about what was going on, and those who knew next to nothing. In this way, the reader “knows” more than the main characters, the women, as the book progresses.

And there you have it. Now, it is my pleasure to introduce and “tag” Kim Ruehl. Please check out her blog and see what she’s been working on. I hope you’ll be moved to support her work along the way!

—Denise

The Next Big Thing—my turn in the hot seat

Recently, my husband, author Joseph D’Agnese,  “tagged” me in his “The Next Big Thing” blog post. “Next Big Thing” works like this: one writer answers some questions about her next book and then passes that blog post along to other writers she knows, “tagging” them. (See end of this post for my author picks.) Those writers then answer the same questions a week from now and so it continues, kind of like a chain letter, but without the threats of doom and dread.

So now, tag—I’m it. 

1) What is the title of your next book?

The Girls of Atomic City. Here’s a look at the cover:

image

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Years ago, while researching another project, I came across a fantastic black-and-white photograph by Ed Westcott. In the photo, two rows of young women sat on stools in front of large panels covered in knobs and dials. The caption next to the photo explained that these young women, many right out of high school in rural Tennessee, were working to help enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb…only they didn’t know that at the time. I was instantly hooked and began researching the town—Oak Ridge, TN—and tracking down people who had worked there during the war. 

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Narrative non-fiction, narrative history.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I would love to see Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone portray young women in an adaptation of this story. I was really mesmerized by Lawrence’s layered performance in Winter’s Bone.  

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Young women travel to a secret city in East Tennessee to work, unbeknownst to them, on the world’s first atomic bomb.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I took the traditional route, start to finish. The book was represented by my agent, Yfat Reiss Gendell, of Foundry Literary + Media, and will be published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster on March 5, 2013.

I am looking into self-pubbing some upcoming works that I think would have trouble finding a more traditional home. I love the increasing number of options that working writers have today. 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Oy, that question is almost impossible to answer. I often have several projects at different stages of completion at any one time. I might be reviewing copy edited pages of a completed book while I’m doing initial research for a new book and writing a first draft of my whatever project is in what I call “first position”. That, for me, is one of the hardest things about the writing life: managing several projects at once. This particular book has been in my life for nearly seven years, and I have done countless drafts. I also spent a lot of time outlining and revising that outline before I started writing. So, time to complete the first draft? Maybe 6 months? But that doesn’t reflect all the organizing and planning and interviews and outlining that preceded that, the most intense period of writing.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Also a tough question. I’ve heard publishing people who read the proposal and early drafts compare Girls of Atomic City to Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, which I took as a huge compliment. I can see why they would say that, though. Both are a look at significant moments in history through the eyes of the everyday folk who lived through them.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My curiosity is often the jumping off point for anything I write about and this story is no different. However, had I not found the surviving workers from Oak Ridge to be as inspiring as I did, I may not have kept with this project and seen it through. I loved doing those interviews, and found the women—and men—who lived through this experience to be remarkably fascinating.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book is divided both visually (thanks to typesetting) and thematically according to the two “worlds” of the Manhattan Project: those who knew a good bit about what was going on, and those who knew next to nothing. In this way, the reader “knows” more than the main characters, the women, as the book progresses.

And there you have it. Now, it is my pleasure to introduce and “tag” Kim Ruehl. Please check out her blog and see what she’s been working on. I hope you’ll be moved to support her work along the way!

—Denise

Manhattan Project National Park Round-Up

“This is a major chapter of American and world history. We should preserve what’s left.”

—Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation

As the 112th Congress prepares to wrap up, supporters of an effort to preserve sites associated with the Manhattan Project—in Los Alamos, NM, Hanford, WA, and Oak Ridge, TN— are hoping for another vote on a measure to create a national park that would commemorate work done at all three sites. 

The New York Times, Boston Globe, and International Business Times have recently weighed in. Read more at the links below.

New York Times 

Boston Globe

International Business Times

Andrew Jackson's proclamation for Congress. Via National Archives.

todaysdocument:

congressarchives:

On December 10, 1832, just weeks after South Carolina nullified the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent this proclamation to Congress, arguing that states did not have the right to nullify federal law.

President Andrew Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding the Nullification Crisis, 12/10/1832, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 595383)

Denise and Joe on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks"

Had a ball, as usual, talking with Mike Collins at WFAE in Charlotte, NC, this past Friday. From Thanksgiving to the origin of America’s name, we covered a lot in our hour-long chat. The mp3 should be available soon at the link above. 

Manhattan Project Round-Up

A lot of interesting and diverse articles about the Manhattan Project have popped up in my browser in the last week or so. Here are the ones that I think are the most interesting:

Manhattan Project Mystery

Cameron Reed at the American Physical Society has a new take on an old document: A handwritten note from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Vannevar Bush.

Inside the Centre Review

A new book by Ray Monk on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer is reviewd byThe Telegraph.


Science Around Us
In Honor of Veteran’s Day, the Da Vinci Science Center posted resources and a video about the Manhattan Project, including links to quizzes and original documents.

Manhattan Project National Park
Gregory McNamee at the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog gives his take on the proposed National Park sites in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford.

Ed Westcott’s Secret City Photos
Last, but certainly not least, here is a nice feature on photographer Ed Westcott’s work during World War II by Chris Barrett at Metropulse.