Monday, November 2, 2009
publishing the unpublishable
YOU. WILL. NEVER. SELL. THIS. BOOK.
That strident statement came in a meeting with a potential agent. It seems that I've often been searching for the right agent—one who gets me, my projects, is supportive and involved. But this was not the one. She had been an editor at a major house, and was now agenting, along with editing anthologies of women writers, with the mutual friend who introduced us. As I pulled out my books to show her (Cheerleader, Beauty Queen, Prom Night), it wasn't hard to tell she thought I was a lightweight. We went through my pile of proposals, which she tried not to scoff at. But when I got to FLOW, which I saved for last, her reaction was immediate and intense: Put that in the back of a drawer and forget about it. No one will EVER touch it.
I actually put together FLOW's first incarnation when working at HarperCollins, back when I was in their trade promotional design department. It was called hormoneHELL and was a weekly journal filled with menstrual facts (many of which ended up in FLOW), plus stickers to highlight physical and emotional swings. I designed stickers for "bloated," "cranky," "swollen (type over 2 pink circles)," "anxious," "craving," and many more and put together a comp only to find some GUY named Vinnie had the same idea—Chronicle Books packaged and it was already out there. I was crushed. I mean really, truly heartbroken. So I wrote CHUNKS (with my super cool friend Kevin), and started on my writing path.
Time went on, and FLOW evolved into something else. And still, agents, editors, publishers continued to say no. To be honest, many people have said no to many of my projects—it's not like FLOW was my only source of rejection. But this was the one project, the one idea, the one concept that I kept coming back to. I sort of knew I was meant to do this. Not in a psychic way— no one read tarot cards or my chart and proclaimed me Menstrual Information Queen. But, as I continued to put projects together, I learned the ins and outs of publishing, of working with images and words, of researching cultural history and spinning it through the various lenses I was focusing on.
I keep sending FLOW out into the universe until the time was right for it to be. Then St. Martin's bravely said yes. And here we are, on the verge.
Is the time right? Are people ready to be talking about this? Women (and some men, like Vinnie and Harry Finley of the Museum of Menstruation) have been chipping away at the cone of silence that surrounds menstruation for years. I'm hoping FLOW will act like a kick ass jackhammer.
Day 32 is shameless self promotion.