Friday, May 18, 2012
So. About the book. I have muttered about it coyly a couple of times but now that the contract with Abrams is signed I think it's fair to explain the process and then to shut up about it until its release date nears, which is Fall 2013. I know! That's forever!
The manuscript - known as the MS in writing circles - is due this fall. And not only the manuscript, but all the images, too, as this will be a hardcover with lots of my own pictures. I am taking thousands of pictures. I already have thousands. Suppressed eek.
So here's how it happened (and if you are thinking about writing a book and have questions, ask me. I knew nothing in the beginning and asked a lot of what seemed like very dumb questions - of writers, authors, editors. People were very patient, and very kind):
The idea for a book based on 66 Square Feet has been percolating for a while. I wanted to write something about New York and food and flowers, and about living well in this small space; a book that was also beautiful to look at. People have many preconceptions about New York City, and I really wanted to share the intimate and domestic and green side of living in the impersonal steel and concrete jungle. We will not be in 66 Square Feet forever, and this will be, I hope, a love letter to living in a small space in an enormous city.
I did not want to write a How To. I think there are plenty of very good How To garden books out there. If anything this will be about living well, wherever you are, by paying attention to the details around you. While I read a lot of novels, some of my most treasured books have glossy, thick pages whose photographs I want to lick. I am hoping to write that kind of book. They are useful as resources, but they are beautiful as objects in their own right. Our tiny apartment would not be the same without them. As paper books become marginalised by digital readers, I think that books as objects are becoming more important. A thing we can touch and turn and look at for pure pleasure, forever. So I wrote some sample chapters. A highly seasonal approach to living, gardening and cooking in this big bad city.
Fast forward about a year, with much waiting around for another publisher to make an offer, which I eventually turned down (very nice people people but other issues involved). Then the lovely Stephen Orr, author of Tomorrow's Gardens, and the garden director of Martha Stewart Living, introduced me to his agent, Carla Glasser. Carla really got the ball rolling. Early this year I found myself in some meetings with the big boys; except, they were all girls! Big conferenceroomsful of editors and directors. Heady stuff. I received two offers from two very good houses, a position I had hardly imagined being in, and had to choose. At the same time yet another publisher asked me to write a book about container gardening and a fourth was talking seriously about another book idea I had. I was, for a spell, overwhelmed. Then I slapped myself and calmed down. One thing at a time.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang is a division of Abrams Books, and talking with them felt very natural. We seemed to be - pardon me - on the same page about what the book could and should be, and how it should look, and how to get there. Sitting at the same table was a director who, as an editor, had worked on the book I would save if this apartment were to go up in flames: Roger Verge's Entertaining in the French Style. A gorgeous book of menus and drinks and flowers (I would also save Elizabeth David. And the cat). And I also met Dervla Kelly, my editor-to-be.
My challenge now - apart from trying to stay calm, because trust me, I am not - is to pay attention to the blog while I write and photograph for the book; taking care not to repeat myself, so that the book is nice and fresh. I am paying close attention to each month, as each chapter will be a month's exploration of the edible and botanical city (with a little foraging thrown in for seasoning), before returning to the terrace and roof farm, and landing up around the dinner table, with menus and a picnic or two. Central Park or East River? Dead Horse Bay (see the Frenchman's most recent post)? You tell me. Where would you like to go?
So, that's it. You won't hear any more about it until it's Time. But I've kept my lips zipped for so long it is helpful to have exhaled.