Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ruth the Riveter

Marilyn Delehant (L) and Ruth Johnson (my mom)
Goodyear plant, Havelock, NE 1945
My mom logged hundreds of hours in the B-29 bomber—but not in the way you might think. She was sixteen years old when she went to work in the Goodyear war plant located in Havelock, Nebraska. The year was 1945.

She lived on ‘H’ Street in Lincoln and took a bus to the factory for her 2pm to 10pm shift with her friend and co-worker, Marilyn Delehant. The normal shift ran from 3pm to 11pm, but because they were under the age of eighteen, they weren't allowed to work past 10pm. She remembers that about ninety percent of the workers in her plant were women.

This wasn't your ordinary after-school job for a teenage girl. This particular factory manufactured gas tanks for B-29 bombers—eleven rubberized, self-sealing tanks fitted side-by-side into each wing of the aircraft. The plant paid my mom extra because she was small enough to fit inside the tanks to do maintenance. She brought little fans into the tanks with her so she could keep cool as she worked—sanding rough patches of the layered rubber fabric that comprised the tanks, removing burrs, or affixing patches, as necessary.

She worked in the factory until her 17th birthday, August 14th, which also happened to be VJ Day. When news of the war’s end was announced, the factory workers abruptly stopped what they were doing and everyone flooded into Lincoln to celebrate. Everything shut down—businesses, buses  taxis, everything—and just as in cities across the United States, Lincoln found itself host to an enormous spontaneous block party. What an unbelievable way to celebrate a birthday!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Publishing Timeline: Why so long?

I was offered my first book deal in October 2013—one that will see my debut novel, HOVER, published in June 2015.

October 2013 to June 2015. Twenty months.

I am repeatedly asked, “Don’t you mean June 2014?” It’s a legitimate question. To understand this better—especially in a world where we’re used to instant everything—we must first calibrate our internal calendars to traditional publishing time . . . something akin to geologic time if you’re not familiar with it.

To bring a novel from its electronic form to a hard-covered, printed product takes far longer than one would expect. But a lot has to happen between the shaking of hands on a book deal to seeing a novel on the shelf—editorial revisions, copy edits, production of Advanced Bound Manuscripts (ABMs), hard cover art work, typesetting, production of Galleys, aka Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), sales team pitches to booksellers, ARCs to reviewers and magazines, and finally, production.

In my specific case, two more factors come into play. The biggest? My publisher wants to market HOVER as a “summer beach read.” Just like the retail industry, there are established “seasons” in publishing. Booksellers make their buying decisions based on the season. Some major retailers buy their stock nine months in advance of the season in which they intend to sell it. At the time of my book deal in October, many retailers had already purchased what they were going to sell in June.

Secondly, I’m a debut author, and this requires a little more lead time. Think of a locomotive in terms of publicity and platform—it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to get the locomotive out of the train house, on the tracks and in motion. But once the train’s at speed, everything is in place for the next novel.  In my case, book two is scheduled for release one year after the first. And, fingers crossed, this will be the pattern for many years to come.