I should probably call this entry, “More Steps Toward the Positive.” That would be more accurate. The posting yesterday of an author profile and book review in the Welles Park Bulldog by freelance journalist, Camille Whitworth (http://www.wellesparkbulldog.com/news/lincoln-square-featured-in-debut-novel), is not the first exciting press event to happen since The Farmer’s Story was released back in September of last year, but it is the most recent.
I’ve been quite fortunate over the last seven months. Mark Toti at J98 Radio down in St. Francois County was nice enough to do a radio interview with me. Melissa Gilliam wrote a very flattering article about me for Insider 573 Magazine that autumn (both of those links are on my Press Page). Uptown Update posted a kind review before the Borders book signing back in November (http://www.uptownupdate.com/2010/11/book-signing-at-borders-today.html). Now this mention in The Bulldog. In short, I’ve been lucky. Lucky but frustrated, of course, because other specific Chicago-media resources have eluded me. I stalked book critics at the Sun-Times, the Tribune, WBEZ, TimeOut Chicago…. I’ve chased a lot of I’m-a-needle-in-the-haystack-type outlets. So far, without success. But that’s the nature of needles in haystacks, and Husband has reminded me time and again that the race isn’t always to the swift, but to those who keep on running. Whomever originally said that, we don’t know, but I do recognize the truth it holds.
Husband had also urged me to look closer to home. To reach out to media outlets that are less behemoth and more local to our neighborhood.
“Send a copy to the guy at the Bulldog,” he said. “What can it hurt?”
“They don’t do book reviews,” I replied. “That guy has his hands full with the Aldermanic races and prep sports.”
Which is a huge disservice, of course, because Patrick Boylan, Jane Rickard and the team they’ve assembled there at the Bulldog does so much more than neighborhood politics and high school sports. For one thing, and maybe the most important thing to me, they fight the good fight against an established publishing machine. They produce this feisty, professional, neighborhood-based news source…swimming with sharks in a sea now brimming with on-line news outlets. In fact, as I did my own research about the Bulldog, it occurred to me that the Chicago newspaper scene has sort of returned to its roots. Which is very exciting!
A hundred years ago, Chicago had dozens of neighborhood dailies. No exaggeration. Check my facts through http://www.lib.niu.edu/index.html. Of course, that was the good old days when people’s news hunt left them with ink-stained fingertips. Now we’re all more likely to get carpal tunnel, but…you know…”the world has moved on.” * One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that news hounds need reporters on the ground that care about the zipcode they’re covering. And I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me sooner. I should be ashamed! My first gig as a journalist was a county-wide weekly in Southern Missouri! The Christian County Headliner (http://ccheadliner.com/) covers towns and hamlets with populations of just a few hundred to a couple thousand. It’s a community paper, and I’m proud editor Donna Osborn took a chance on me there. So why did I demure from sending a paperback to Patrick? It’s a perfect fit, really, since The Farmer’s Story is set in part in some of the neighborhoods the Bulldog covers. Even better, it’s a fit because Patrick and Jane tackle publishing their news source as unconventionally as I came to publishing the novel. Which is, guerilla style.
So why the months-long hesitation? I was skeptical they would take my effort seriously, I guess. It’s somewhat easier to accept rejection from a distant megalith than from the guy down the street who you might run into at the coffee shop. But, Husband was persistant, and I mailed a paperback and a letter in a couple months or so ago.
When I didn’t hear anything, I was not surprised. Almost no one else in Chicago had paid the book any mind (no one that didn’t know me personally, I mean), and there was a lot going on locally with election run-offs. I sent an email to Patrick weeks later sort of waving a flag in the air…hey! Did you get it? Any interest at all?
I was literally shocked into goosebumps when he wrote me back. It was sitting on his desk, he said, waiting for a reporter to pick it up to review. I resisted the urge to mail him cookies for not just throwing it in the garbage. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to buy a positive review (Don’t roll your eyes. My cookies are really that good.). So I took the uncomfortable position of trying to wait patiently. Lucky me, I didn’t have to wait long, and Ms. Whitworth reached out to me just a few days later to arrange an interview (more goosebumps!). We met, I blathered on at her for what must have seemed like hours, and she left to write her article. It is a very gracious, very supportive piece that does all the things I’d hoped for. She talks about the novel (but provided no spoilers), and about our neighborhood (which is the smart thing for the Bulldog). She made me sound tenacious, which is much more flattering than plain ol’ stubborn, and she included props to AuthorHouse. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome, or more grateful to her and to Patrick for giving me some space in the Bulldog’s archives. That Ms. Whitworth did the article is even more serendipitous. She’s a Texas-transplant to Chicago (and don’t groan about that. She’s a tough lady who may just belong up here) who came to journalism the long way ’round. Our narratives, and likewise the Bulldog’s, likewise Chicago publishing, seem to have a bit in common. I’m grateful I’ve met her.
If she’d hated it, if she’d panned the book and told people specifically to never read it, I would have still been happy and encouraged. No such thing as bad press, so they say, and at least I’d have gotten a response in a publication I respect.** Which is always a step in the right direction. A step toward positive. And I’m beyond fortunate to have another positive step about which I can be grateful.
Now that it’s all said and done and floating around the electronic universe, I think I’ll need to make those cookies after all.
*I’m quoting Roland Deschain, of course. Thank you, Stephen King.
**A side note, I’m not the only fan in The Bulldog’s club. On May 7, 2011, the Bulldog team garnered two Lisagor awards from the Chicago Headline Club.
Read about the kudos at http://www.wellesparkbulldog.com/news/bulldog-gobbles-two-lisagor-awards, and congratulations to each of them!