Hey, I got a last-minute invitation to appear on tonight’s installment of Fuhmentaboudit, on the Heritage Radio Network. It’s easy to “tune in” and listen, so I hope you’ll check it out, either live or via podcast.
I spent my weekend on the road, taking the Acela from Penn Station up to Boston on Saturday.
I stayed with friends Friday and Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, I demoed shrubmaking and signed books at the Boston Shaker in Somerville. The weather was nice, and so there was a good amount of foot traffic past the store. We served shrub cocktails using Privateer rum and moved a fair amount of books. Successful day.
I ended the day at The Hawthorne, attached to the Commonwealth Hotel near the Fenway, and owned by Jackson Cannon, formerly of the Commonwealth’s other bar, Eastern Standard. The Hawthorne is a lovely place, very calming and comfortable, and with a stellar list of cocktails, beers, and wines.
Sunday, I took the Amtrak to Providence. I made my way up to Stock about an hour before the demo was to begin, and I walked that stretch of Hope Street for a few minutes. I used to live in Stock’s neighborhood, and so it felt a little like Old Home Week. The weather, again, was conducive to foot traffic, and we had a lot of people stop by.
At both the Shaker and Stock, I was delighted to sell copies of the book to people who had never previously tasted shrubs. Talking to these folks and then signing books for them were quite fun, and it’s really gratifying to know that the book is reaching new audiences for shrubs.
Here’s a tip I probably shouldn’t share, regarding taking the Amtrak from Penn. At present, Amtrak does a really stupid thing to its riders at Penn and a few other stations. When a Northeast Regional or an Acela Express arrives at Penn, Amtrak announces the track number and then makes everyone line up to go down to the platform level to board the train. So what always happens is, Amtrak announces the track, and a giant knot of people surges toward the escalator down to the platform. I avoid this mess these days by asking for a red-cap, a porter who helps with baggage and gets passengers down to the platform level before the official announcement. So by the time the knot of people has surged down the escalator, I’m seated and ready to roll.
When I was a child, I loved books. I still do, but when I was a child, I was endlessly fascinated with them. I would pick up a book and study it closely, examining the slip jacket; the corners of the cover, where the paper folds over the boards; the point where the body of the book is glued into the hardcover; the little fabric strip at the top, where the spine is glued in. I was fascinated with books as objects, and not just as storehouses of literature or information.
I used to daydream as a child, wondering how books came to be. Who wrote them? How? What happened after that? How did an author’s words become this physical object I’m holding?
When I went to college, I majored in education, but I never pursued it as a career. I entered publishing instead, working first as a proofreader, then as a page-layout tech, and then finally as a copy editor.
Twice, I had the chance to travel offsite to a nearby printing facility to see books being produced. I saw giant rolls of paper; I saw machines making metal plates for the presses; I saw large sheets of paper roll across the plates to collect the ink, and then those sheets folded into signatures. I saw the signatures folded up and collected together and bound up in a certain way, and then inserted into their covers and glued to make a book.
Meanwhile, at the office, I learned how editors acquired and developed new projects, shepherding authors through the writing process to produce a complete manuscript, and then, in my role on the backend, I saw how the manuscript became a fully designed, full laid-out book, ready to go to press.
I even know a thing or two about how indexes are written.
As a child, I daydreamed about how books come into being, and as an adult, I had the chance to see it happen, and to help authors in my own small way to see their words take physical form as a printed book. Even that small part felt like fulfilling a childhood dream; even just the part about seeing the physical processes of printing and binding books was weirdly thrilling to me.
Now, here I am, with one of my own out there, and I cannot explain how much joy I felt to come home on Friday and see these.
I came across an unusual article in the purpose of researching Shrubs. It ended up having no bearing whatsoever on the final manuscript, but I was fascinated enough by the piece that I OCR’d it, and cleaned up the inevitable typos.
Here, from the December 26, 1893, issue of the New York Sun, is an article about the various drinking establishments of Lower Manhattan, from the Battery up to about 28th Street. Be aware, some of the ethnic attitudes expressed in this piece are very much of their time. You’ll also note peculiarities of style and spelling; those are all in the original.
I recently spoke with Kara Newman at Tasting Table about shrubs. You can and should read that here.
I also recently spoke with Paul Clarke at Imbibe magazine. Paul was doing a photo feature on shrubs, and the piece included a quote from me and a couple of my recipes. You can’t find it online, but here’s a supplemental piece on the website.
We’re currently firming up other media appearances, a radio appearance or two, and possibly some in-person events, if you want to see my mug live and up close. More to come.
I seem to have forgotten to mention it here, but Carrie Allen of the Washington Post called me up recently to discuss the past, present, and future of shrubs. We talked a bit about the book (she enjoys it! neener neener, she’s seen it and you haven’t!) and discussed why shrubs are good to drink, either as a non-boozy treat or as a boozy one.
The conversation was fun, and her piece, which ran last week, captures my voice well, so I’m really delighted with it. Check it out here!
One I’m particularly happy with…
If you’re considering writing a cocktail book, you’ve probably already started doing some research about how the process usually works. You probably already know, for example, that you should start by writing a book proposal. You then take the proposal to an agent (or two or three or ten) and shop it around. The agent, if he or she loves your proposal, will take it to a publisher (or three or ten) and negotiate your advance and residuals and so on. You’ll sign a contract, and then, at some point in this crazy process, you’ll have to sit down and actually write the thing. You’ll get a little money and eventually, you’ll see your book listed at Amazon and Powell’s.
That’s how it goes, say the experts. But let me tell you a funny story….
Incidentally, I have a LOT more to say about this entire process to date, so expect to see more, either here or at SE.
So a few months ago, I announced my first book and shared the cover. Here’s the cover I shared.
Well, hey, that looks great, doesn’t it? But it’s not the final cover. This is:
You’ll notice a few differences here, I think, some subtle and some not so much. First, check out the format differences. The first cover is square, the second one is rectangular. Why? The book was originally going to be a paperback original, in a 7 X 7 size. Now, it’s hardcover — the type of hardcover where there’s no slipcover, just the art printed directly on the cover.
You’ll note that the image is different. Instead of peaches and raspberries, we have apples and cranberries. Why? The release date has changed: October instead of July. The format, the cover, and the release date all changed for an important reason: we’re targeting the holiday-shopping season, which is exciting because it means we all think this book could be something.
Well, I know it’s something anyway. I’ve written it and I’m proud of it. I’ve seen Jen’s beautiful photos, and she and I are both proud of those, too.
SHRUBS is available for pre-order on various internet outlets: Amazon, Powell’s, and even directly from the publisher. Pre-orders are important, because they help the publisher gauge demand for the book and determine how many to print, so if you can pre-order, you’ll be helping me out quite a bit.