Posted on August 18th, 2011 by annakjarzab
Man, I haven’t checked in here in a while, huh? Is anyone still reading this? Bueller? Well, you know how it goes. LIFE, etc. Although I have been (and will continue to be) very active on my Tumblr, so if you like Harry Potter GIFs and pictures of other people’s bookshelves (design inspiration for the house I’ll probably never own, natch), go there.
(Side note: Wow, WordPress got fancy in my absence!)
So I mentioned editing my new book on Twitter last night and people started @ replying me, “Hey, you have a new book coming?” Which was weird to me because I felt like I announced that a while ago, but who cares about my announcements, right? I probably haven’t been talking about The Opposite of Hallelujah as much as I should. A lot of that is because we don’t have a cover yet, or jacket copy, or a set-in-stone pub date (lol, like pub dates are ever set in stone), or a pre-order link, or anything, really, that will convince you that it’s a real book that will be coming out eventually.
So here are some things that I know about the book:
- It will be called The Opposite of Hallelujah. This is not a title I’m 100% married to, but everybody else seems to like it, so it’s what we’re going with. I lifted it from a Jens Lekman song (also called “The Opposite of Hallelujah”), which is a very good song but also, if you were to read the book and then listen to the song, very appropriate thematically. Other titles for this book have included (but not been limited to!): Do Geese See God*, And So It Goes**, and Impossible Objects***.
- It will come out in Fall 2012. Probably October, but maybe not.
- It will be longer than All Unquiet Things, but FEEL shorter when you read it. At least, that’s been my experience.
And that’s it! Right now, if you’re curious, I’m in the middle of revising the book for my editor. This is almost entirely line edits, and mainly cutting. I mean it–I have erased entire scenes. I’ve been posting some cut passages on Tumblr, mostly Caro’s Tote Bags****. The book is just, at this point, too long (not unlike this blog post). It was 404 manuscript pages when I turned it in to my editor. All Unquiet Things, for comparison, was 313 manuscript pages; that ended up being 352 printed book pages (about 11% growth if my math is correct, which it probably isn’t). Books get longer when the paper isn’t 8.5×11 with very tiny margins. So a 404 pg manuscript would probably be about 450 pages typeset and bound. And that just feels too long. The book can be tightened, so I’m tightening it. I told my editor I could probably squeeze about 40 pages out of it, but right now I’m less than 100 pages from the end and I’ve only managed to cut around 20 pages. Obviously I’m going to have to go back and see what else I can chop.
Just to prove to you that I am indeed working on it, here is a blurry iPhone photo of my “workspace”:
Yup. That’s my bed.
*This is what I called this book all the way up until, like, 2009. I’ve been “working on it” intermittently since 2004, when I first got the idea for a book about a girl whose much older sister comes back home after being a nun for a while. “Do geese see God” is my third-favorite palindrome (after “A man, a plan, a canal–Panama” and, obviously, my own name), and I liked having the title of the book be a palindrome and the name of the main character’s sister (the nun)–Hannah–be a palindrome. So you can imagine how I laughed when I saw that #15 on Joelle Anthony’s list of 25 overused things in MG and YA fiction was “Main characters named Hannah and making a note of it being a palindrome.” Hannah is still the main character’s sister’s name (although I do not make a note of it being a palindrome–I don’t think), but Do Geese See God had to go for two reasons. First, it’s fine to call a WIP that, but once I decided I was going to publish it I knew that people probably weren’t going to be in to it. How is a sales rep supposed to sell in a book called Do Geese See God? They’re not. And secondly, it’s already the title of a Denzel Washington movie, so whatever.
**There was a time when the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five was going to be a call back throughout the book, for lots of thematic reasons, and “so it goes” is sort of a catchphrase that emerged from that book. Also, the Ingrid Michaelson song, “Soldier”, which I listened to a lot when I was writing this book, has the words “and so it goes” in the lyrics. However, I cut the Slaughterhouse Five references in favor of the much more relevant Escher motif that runs through the book, and thus the title made no sense. I wasn’t too attached to it, honestly.
***This would-be title emerges from the Escher motif, but my agent thought it sounded a little too much like Sharp Objects, the title of a Gillian Flynn novel. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the book; I mean, The Opposite of Hallelujah doesn’t necessarily tell you anything, either, but it’s more lovely and lyrical.
****”Caro’s Tote Bag” is a term I have coined to describe a passage that explains something incredibly minor in absurdly minute detail and in no way enriches the story. The original Caro’s Tote Bag was a paragraph in The Opposite of Hallelujah in which, I kid you not, my main character/narrator Caro spent an entire LONG paragraph explaining the fact that she carried her books to school in a tote bag that her mother, who works in marketing at a university press, brought back from a conference, but that Caro always carries it with the logo facing herself so nobody sees how lame the bag is. Alex, understandably, was like, “Maybe you could cut this?” I did cut it, but there are lots and lots of Caro’s Tote Bags in The Opposite of Hallelujah. There was a whole paragraph where she compares her relationship with her parents to American Gladiators. Now, I like an American Gladiators simile as much as the next person, but my editor, rightly, drew a big old slash through the whole paragraph. But I’ve immortalized it on Tumblr so that you can enjoy it. You’re welcome.
Posted on November 11th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab
For the past couple of days I’ve been giving my little sister Fish* a hand by helping her revise her college application essay. She’s seventeen and applying to a bunch of different schools and programs, but what she most wants to do is go to film school. She spent several weeks this summer at the New York Film Academy, learning the mechanics of film making, and in the process she got to try her hand at writing, directing, editing, and camera work. There is a creative streak that runs through my family, and Fish has such a sharp mind–she is going to be a great film maker one day.
I’ve been editing my brother’s college essays for years, and as smart and educated as my brother is, writing is not necessarily his greatest strength. It’s funny, because I remember the way his essays read during his freshman year, and last quarter, four years later, I helped him out on several final papers. The changes in the execution of his compositions are staggering. He barely needs my help anymore, he’s in complete command of language as a way to exposit and argue and convince. I expected reading Fish’s essay would be like reading JJ’s freshman year papers, but that kid knows what she wants to say and she knows exactly how to say it. I made almost no changes, only smoothed out the language in places and pointed out a mixed metaphor. I’m super impressed with her, and I told her that she’s a very good writer, which is not a compliment I bestow frivolously. I’m really excited for the work she’s going to do in school, and afterwards, and as adorable as she was when she was little I’m so glad she’s finally grown up, that we can talk about things like art and writing and creativity, that we can help each other with our projects (she is always one of my first readers, and I value her opinion very highly).
It occurs to me now how incredibly lucky I am to have the family I do, to have been raised the way I was, to have the support of my parents and siblings. I’m somewhat of a strange person, so it’s no surprise that there is this theme flowing like an underground stream through of almost all of my fiction, this idea of how important it is to know and be known by others. To be seen for who you truly are, to be accepted for and because of who you are. It feels so absolutely necessary to happiness.
My friend Cambria has this theory about how some people are what she calls “specific,” that they are perhaps a bit too idiosyncratic to be understood, to be known in the sense that I just used it above, by most of the people they meet. For a long time, she used to label other people we knew this way and put us in the other category, the category of people that are more generally palatable.
But about two years ago we were having one of our typically bizarre conversations, who knows what about, and I turned to her and said, “You know what? I think we’re specific, too.” I don’t mean that in a condescending, angsty way–we’re so misunderstood, wah!–but my entire point was that when you have an outsized personality, you sometimes feel too weird for most people, like even though they’re laughing at your jokes and nodding along with what you’re saying they also secretly think you’re insane. And that’s cool in its own way, but it can also be pretty lonely. But then I think of my own life, and the fact that I need two hands to count the people who really know me, and I remember how lucky I am. Plus, I’m getting the chance to be heard by people outside my immediate circle of friends and family by having my books published, and writing a book, at least for me, is an act of reaching out. It’s pretty much the most awesome opportunity ever and boy am I grateful for it.
It’s important for me to remember all this, to write it down where somebody can read it, because tonight I finished my first revision of MB and I ended up feeling like a total hack, like I was just wasting my and everybody else’s time. This happens to all writers, I’m pretty sure–it’s our secret fear that we’re talentless frauds. But the truth is that there are hits and there are misses, that writing gets better over time if you work at it, and that if the things that you write are important and worthwhile and meaningful to you, if they’re honest, then it’s never a waste. I write for a lot of reasons, but I think at the very core of it I write so that people can know who I am as a person, how I feel and what I think. Fiction gives me the opportunity to do that in a way that is largely not deliberate, choreographed, or over thought. That’s why I love it so much.
*Not her real name, but one of a billion of her nicknames. Just in case you think my parents are monsters who would name their child “Fish.”