Today – September 17, 2019 -- my novel WHEN I GOT OUT is being published by The Story Plant, and I couldn’t be happier.

For a writer, a “pub date” is a major event, and it got me thinking about my past. My first job out of college was as an Editorial Assistant at a New York book publisher in the East Village. It was a memorable, invaluable, painful experience. Can we all agree? First jobs suck.

But I learned many things about the inner workings of a book publisher and how a book gets made. I learned about proofreading and copyediting … reading and editing manuscripts .. acquistions and “sub” rights … book publicity and promotion … dealing with authors, agents, editors, etc. … pointless cutthroat office politics.

I also learned how dull office work can be (especially coming off of a college lifestyle of freedom and brilliant, stimulating classes) … how underpaid book publishing employees are … how hard commuting in NYC can be … how much I love books, especially a well-produced art book … and maybe how to grow up a little.

One of my jobs was assisting the Managing Editor (not like a newspaper’s managing editor who is in charge of the whole operation, but the person who was the production liaison for all the book editors) in maintaining the schedule of publications: the holy “pub sched.” It was an unwieldy, tree-like metal contraption with large, vertical leaves – one for each month – and cardboard strips – one for each book – that you could change and edit as the information for each book changed. Everybody in the company relied on accurate information from the pub sched because everything revolved around the “pub date.”

Every two weeks, before each main Editorial Meeting, I had to remove the metal leaves from the pub sched, carry them down to the one large, flat copying machine in the company, and make copies of the pub sched for everybody. I remember it was a lot of cutting and pasting, and then more copying: grunt work I hated. (Of course I didn’t realize then that I wasn’t good for much else. But I was young and arrogant, with a lot to learn.)

I didn’t know it then, but I learned a lot in that first job, and not all of it “negative learning,” i.e., learning what you don’t want. I learned hard lessons on toughing out difficult situations, working through emotions, the importance of details, the value of endurance, staying on task, finishing things.

Of course, some things are different now. No more metal pub scheds. Almost everything about the book business is different now except maybe for reading itself. But some things are still the same: books have pub dates, and mine is today.

WHEN I GOT OUT … published by The Story Plant on September 17, 2019.

I worked my ass off on this one: harder, in some ways, than on WHAT IT WAS LIKE, if that were possible. I can’t imagine that the stakes for me could have been any higher, but maybe they were.

All in all, I’m pretty happy: second novel, second grandson. Sometimes I didn’t think I’d even get here. Throughout WHEN I GOT OUT, every so often, Larry has a “Moment of Grace and Thanks.” Today is one of mine. My micro-life is fine.

As for the rest of the world? …. That’s for another blog and everything else that Larry goes through in WHEN I GOT OUT.

Meanwhile, some happy music:

Enya – “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

The Quartet from FIDELIO – with Lucia Popp, Gundula Janowitz, Manfred Jungwirth, and Adolf Dallapozza, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, from Vienna, 1978 – Beethoven does Mozart.

Yuja Wang plays “RHAPSODY IN BLUE” with the Camerata Salzburg, conducted by Lionel Bringuier – And George Gershwin was only 26 when he wrote it!

Al Green – “Sha-La-La”

Tommy Emmanuel – “Guitar Boogie”

Art Tatum live – “God is in the house.”

The Highwomen (Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby) cover Fleetwood Mac’s THE CHAIN live

Frank Sinatra – “You Make Me Feel So Young” live – This makes me think of my Dad.

James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti – “It’s A Man’s World”

The Chips – “Rubber Biscuit” – my grandson loves this one

Van Morrison – “Caravan” – my favorite song


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Peter Robinson