Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Giveaways Galore!

These are exciting times as my debut short-story collection, Quiet Americans, nears its January 19, 2011, publication date. This week, we launched two giveaway opportunities, both of which will conclude on December 19 (the one-month marker to the release date).

If you’re on Goodreads, you can sign up to win one of three copies that will be offered to participants. (I do appreciate the Goodreads team managing this giveaway!)

But wait, there’s more! After all, we’re just post-Thanksgiving, en pleine Chanukah, and pre-Christmas.  The gift-giving spirit abounds! If you’re not on Goodreads, two lucky fans of our Facebook page, chosen at random, will also receive copies. So if you’re not yet on board with us at Facebook, now’s the time!

(I can tell what some of you might be thinking: Can I sign up for the Goodreads giveaway and be eligible for the Facebook fan page option, too? And the answer, dear friends, is YES!)

I’ll be happy to inscribe all giveaway copies. There’s just one little wrinkle: For now, giveaway books can be shipped only to U.S. mailing addresses. I’m very sorry about that!

Again, you have until December 19 to sign on…but why wait?

Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: It’s (Almost) Party Time!

Minor annoyances aside (for example, the arrival of my annual November cold meant that for several days I could not breathe through my nose), this past week was pretty great. Highlights included a weekend visit to an old friend I hadn’t seen in years (I brought along a review copy of my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, as a housegift), and the discovery, thanks to Tania Hershman/Twitter, that “For Services Rendered,” the story that opens Quiet Americans, has received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention.

As if that weren’t enough, this week has included a number of e-mail exchanges and phone calls to formalize not one, not two, but THREE book parties that are being planned to celebrate the publication of Quiet Americans (do I have amazing family and friends, or what?). Events will take place during the winter in New York and Washington, and in Boston in the spring.

So now, as I immerse myself in a new set of to-do items connected with party planning, I have some questions for all of you. In your view, what makes a book party successful? Care to comment with any brief descriptions of parties you’ve hosted and/or attended, and what made them memorable (hopefully, in a positive sense!)? Any tips for an author embarking on this for the first time? No advice is too “insignificant”: I welcome comments on Evite “vs.” Paperless Post as much as I crave suggestions on how to handle book promotion/sales. Thank you in advance for sharing!

Notes from Around the Web

  • Robert Lee Brewer’s interview with poet (and former Hebrew school teacher) Erika Meitner–and Meitner’s poem, “1944,” that Brewer included with the interview material–persuaded me to order a copy of Meitner’s latest book, Ideal Cities.
  • Speaking of poetry, I am very grateful for “Cut the Challah, but Slice it Slant: A Response to the ZEEK Poetry Manifesto.” Thank you, Zackary Sholem Berger!
  • Over on HTMLGIANT, “a literature blog that isn’t always about literature,” author Kyle Minor, raised as a self-described fundamentalist Christian, explains why he is “Jealous of the Jews.” Hint: Roth, Bellow, Malamud, Ozick, and at least one of the Singers have something to do with it.
  • Chanukah is coming! And the Jewish Literary Review prepares us with some poetry.
  • My latest pre-publication post about my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, takes this week’s anniversary of the Kristallnacht to reflect on that event in my own poetry and prose.
  • Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Kristallnacht in Poetry & Prose

    If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my comment earlier this week about the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and my link to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website article that explains:

    Kristallnacht — literally, “Night of Crystal,” is often referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.” The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938 throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops. Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom-broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence.

    Each of my father’s parents had left Germany by November 1938, but they’d each left alone (they met and married here in New York). When I think of the Kristallnacht, I don’t think first of the encyclopedia definitions. I think instead of my grandmother’s stories, which she likely heard in full only after the war—a realization that somehow came to me only after my grandmother had passed away and I couldn’t ask her anything else. These were stories about her parents, who remained back in Germany in their apartment that night, and about her favorite uncle, Michael, who was taken to Dachau during Kristallnacht. He died there.

    When I look at my writing, it’s a bit surprising even to me how many times Kristallnacht appears. For starters, it’s mentioned in at least two of my published poems to date: “Pünktlichkeit” and “Mannheim.”

    In my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, Kristallnacht also appears more than once, starting with its presence in the first story, “For Services Rendered,” where it is referenced but not specifically named: “But after November 9th—after nine of Berlin’s twelve synagogues were torched and children from the Jewish orphanages made homeless and more than one thousand Jewish men sent away from the city—well, so much had changed.” (It’s also alluded to in a remembered conversation between two of the main characters, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the story, I won’t reprint the passage here.)

    Such references stem from what others have recorded, from researching/rechecking historical facts. But in another of the book’s stories—”Homecomings”—the depiction of Kristallnacht emerges from the more personal knowledge of what happened to my great-grandparents and their brother-in-law.

    And for that, you’ll have to wait. Just a little longer.

    Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: “The fictional parts of the book are true; if they didn’t happen to us, they happened to someone else.”

    Last week, I spent my Tuesday lunch hour at my office desk, immersed in the latest Twitter Book Club session administered by the Jewish Book Council. The novel under discussion was The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer, one of my favorite recent reads. There are many reasons why I became interested in Orringer’s novel even before I read it; one of them is the fact that the novel emerged in part from Orringer’s family history. That is to say, from grandparent history.

    When I discover that a particular work of fiction is rooted at least in part in the Nazi era-influenced experiences of an author’s grandparents, I can’t help but be interested. I’ve long been familiar with creative work by the children of Holocaust survivors and refugees from the Reich. The grandchildren are another story. With a 1969 birthdate, I am among the elders of this cohort. For the most part, the grandchildren’s work is just beginning to reach readers. (This is a point that I expect to discuss during a panel on 21st-century Jewish-American fiction at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in February.)

    As usually happens with the JBC chats, the author participated and answered reader questions last week. (You can read the full transcript here.) And in one of Orringer’s statements, I found an excellent insight that will help me respond to questions, when they come, about my own forthcoming collection, Quiet Americans:

    “My grandmother says, ‘The fictional parts of the book are true; if they didn’t happen to us, they happened to someone else.'”

    How do I know this will help me? Well, a few days after the chat, a friend read my collection’s opening story online, then asked me via e-mail whether any of it was drawn from my own family’s experience. I pointed my friend to a brief essay I’ve written explaining the story’s background.

    Mentally, I also heard the words of Julie Orringer’s grandmother, echoing.

    Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Event Announcements!

    Some nice news this week. Let’s start with this: The first “official” event for my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, has been confirmed! If you’re going to be in the Washington, D.C., area on Sunday, February 6, 2011, please consider yourself invited to come by the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (near Dupont Circle in the District) for a reading and discussion. The event will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and it will be free of charge. Bonus: Refreshments will be served (the event coordinator is a very kind and gracious person!).

    I approached the NMAJMH for several reasons. First, it’s a museum I’ve been curious to visit myself. My paternal grandfather served in World War II, and (here’s reason #2) his military experience as a Jewish serviceman inspired one of the stories in Quiet Americans. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty likely that I’ll read from that story, “Lebensraum,” that afternoon. (I’d love to situate it alongside some other Jewish-American military-themed fiction, so please share any tips you may have in comments. Already on my list: Philip Roth’s “Defender of the Faith” and Rachel Kadish’s “The Argument”.)

    I also wanted to maximize the event potential inherent in a trip to D.C. That’s where the next Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference will be held, from February 2-5. I haven’t been to an AWP conference in a couple of years, but D.C. is relatively nearby, and having two panel proposals accepted sealed the deal. (Here go some more of those vacation days I’ve banked up at the day job!)

    Speaking of those AWP panels, this week I learned exactly when and where each one will be taking place. Please visit my updated “News & Events” page for details. Those of you who are planning to come to AWP, I hope that you’ll have time to stop by one or both!