Monday, August 17, 2009

On "Slow Publishing"

You might know about the Slow Food movement. Last week I heard a Vermont Edition interview on Slow Money. Both refer to models that support the local economy, minimize environmental impact, operate on a human scale, stress diversity over monoculture, and respect the relationship side of transaction. As similar goals have informed the way I’ve brought out my book, this has led me to think about what one might call Slow Publishing. In previous posts I’ve written about local economics and environmental concerns. In the future I’ll start to grapple with scale, diversity, and relationship.

One little secret about Slow Publishing: it’s actually fast. Once you’ve got a manuscript and design ready to go, you can have a physical book within minutes. In traditional publishing, the process can take months. Or more. I remember how odd it was to learn that a book was slated for some far-off season in the future that felt a lifetime away.

Since one feature common to Slow Food, Money, and Publishing is local production, I want to draw attention to another local production, my husband, Tony Eprile’s excellent novel, The Persistence of Memory. It's the story of a young South African man who has a perfect memory--and as a result is always bumping into the people and institutions around him. Every time I read it or hear Tony read from it, I discover something new. The bulk of the book was written in a yurt in our meadow, a few hundred yards from the house.

Yes, I said a yurt. I'm posting both hardcover and softcover designs because I like them both and feel each reflects different aspects of the book.

Tony’s first book, Temporary Sojourner and Other South African Stories, is also quite lovely. Many who grew up in that era in South Africa have said, “Yes, that’s the way it was!” Unfortunately, the book is out of print. Wait a second—I now know a bit about getting a book into print! Must have a chat with this fellow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing and Therapy

On the subject of travels, I thought it time to talk a bit about the odyssey that led to my writing this book, that of training as a psychotherapist. My decision to become a clinician was complicated and in many ways misguided. But I found clinical work endlessly rewarding, fascinating, and surprising—in part through the many parallels between writing and therapy.

Interestingly, when I told people I was doing clinical work their response was, “That will help you so much as a writer. It will give you so much story material!” Actually, it turned out that being a writer helped me as a therapist. The tools I had developed over my writing career—verbal precision, modulations of tone, use of dramatic irony—allowed me to make powerful connections and interventions with my clients. In The Therapist's New Clothes, I explore the many ways in which writing and therapy intersect.

One of these tools is metaphor. As a clinician, I learned that much of a therapy session is conducted through metaphor. Longing for a father may be expressed through frustrations with a boyfriend ("He's just not there for me"). Similarly, a loss may be too painful for someone to address directly so we talk instead about appliances that are “always breaking down.”

I first really “got” metaphor through my uncle’s poems. I remember one I read when I was eleven or so about the end of a friendship called “The Broken Toy”, with a line about how whenever you try to fix it “the glue clings just to your fingers.” Who has not felt that way?

Here is a poem by my late uncle, James L. Weil, about writing that could well also speak for therapy:This broadside of the poem, printed on the occasion of a reading at the Sterling Library at Yale University in 1977, has been over my desk every place I've lived. (Click on it for an easier read.) At my J School reunion a classmate quoted this poem to me word for word. I had recited it to him and he remembered it all these years! I'll close with the sprightly image of the colophon for my uncle's publishing company, The Elizabeth Press: