When summer and social distancing collide

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By: New York Times |

Published: March 23, 2020 5:51:57 am


Cactus league by novelist Emily Nemens.

For many first-time novelists, years of hard work (and often solitary time) culminate in seeing their book come into the world: going to festivals and bookstores to read sections aloud and connecting with readers face to face, inhabiting with others the worlds they built. But with social distancing guidelines, publishing a debut has changed in ways that authors couldn’t have foreseen just a few weeks ago. They tells us about their books, their plans to promote their work and their days during this unusual time.

Gabriel Bump
Everywhere You Don’t Belong

Describe your book in a sentence.

My book is a dark comedy about a young man, Claude McKay Love, coming of age on Chicago’s South
Side, trying to navigate universal teenager angst while dealing with societal pressures.

How are you spending your time now?

Now, my class at University at Buffalo has moved online. I also teach writing classes at Just Buffalo Literary Center. Until further notice, I’m hunkered down with my girlfriend, our dog and cat, video games, movies, writing projects and books.

What’s been on your mind?

Publishing and promoting a book is a stressful, maddening, exhausting, anxiety-inducing and wonderful process.

This book has taken up almost all my head space in the past few months. It was the most important thing to me. This crisis has brought me back to reality. I’m no longer afraid of bad reviews, empty readings or a lukewarm reception. I’m afraid for the world. I also feel a deeper appreciation for literature’s ability to transport us away from the present.

Emily Nemens,
The Cactus League

Describe your book in a sentence.

The Cactus League is a community novel that charts the path of Jason Goodyear, the Los Angeles Lions’ fantastic but flawed left fielder, as the Lions make their way through spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.
How are you spending your time now?
I’m trying to book podcast and radio interviews as much as I can, and I’m being pretty emphatic on social media about supporting not just my novel but all debut writers and independent bookstores (book events are a major driver of sales for them, too). I’m also spending a lot of time on triage at work — by day I run The Paris Review. Making sure my colleagues were safe and healthy and ready to go remote, and postponing our 400-person awards dinner and fund-raiser, also have kept me plenty busy.

What’s been on your mind?

I’d love to plug the new website bookshop.org. You can order online, but the sales are fulfilled by indies, based on your geography. It just launched — in the nick of time.

Hilary Leichter
Temporary

Describe your book in a sentence.

My novel, Temporary, is the story of a temporary worker, who is assigned a series of surreal and improbable jobs on her quest for permanence — she works as a pirate, an assassin, a ghost and even a bank robber.

How are you spending your time now?

Books Are Magic was set to host my book launch on Friday, March 13 (I know, I know). In the face of everything happening in the world, it became clear that the events around my book were kaput. And then, the writer and bookstore owner Emma Straub had me and my editor, Emily Gould, stop by the store yesterday to film a short Q and A, for Instagram. They even let me sing a couple of songs on my ukulele.
And yesterday evening, my husband, along with debut author Emma Copley Eisenberg, hosted a surprise digital book launch over Zoom. Whole families were able to attend. There were old friends from high school and college, and friends from Twitter and the writing world who I have still never met in real life.

Celia Laskey
Under the Rainbow

Describe your book in a sentence.

Under the Rainbow is about what happens when a queer task force is sent into the most homophobic town in America.

How are you spending your time now?

At home, anxious in old pajamas, which is basically my default setting! I’m spending a lot of time on Twitter and Instagram, trying to interact with people who are willing to amplify books coming out right now.

What has been on your mind?

I think certain themes from my novel could really resonate with people right now: being trapped in a place you don’t want to be (the most homophobic town in America, your tiny apartment), disruption of the status quo.
Currently, individual people are doing a lot to help. Next week, I’m going on the Debutiful podcast for what the host is calling a Virtual Book Tour episode that will work just like a tour event, with a short reading followed by questions about the book.

Juli Delgado Lopera
Fiebre Tropical

Describe your book in a sentence.

It’s a coming-of-age novel through bilingual, explosive language.

How are you spending your time now?

Yesterday, when I announced that I wasn’t going to do the event here and was canceling the rest of the California tour, some people started reaching out to me. Friends with different skills asking if I wanted do a live reading, to video myself and post it on different sites.

What’s been happening today is reimagining what it will look like, mainly through the internet. It’s not ideal, because I like seeing and hearing people, touching people, doing something live. The feeling is different. But it’s about the circumstances and accepting what you can’t control.

What’s been on your mind?

A lot of the queer community is talking about elders and HIV, how to really tap into resources for folks that actually need them. And having conversations about how the queer community went through something like this, and we have avenues of how to deal with this. People are asking for people’s Venmos, donating $50 or $100 to folks — some underground economy starting.

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