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The Path of Names is a Junior Library Guild Selection

Yesterday I got the exciting news that THE PATH OF NAMES is a Junior Library Guild Selection for Spring 2013.

It happened like this:  I biked home from work yesterday.  Leaving my bike at the front door, I walked inside to grab the garage clicker and found a package from Scholastic waiting atop the baby detritus that we like to keep scattered around … well, everything, but most relevantly to this case, atop the living room couch.  I picked up the DHL package from the little nest of clean onesies where it lay.  “Hmm,” I thought.  “Too light (and too early) to be a copy of the actual book.  What could it be?”

Inside the DHL package I found another envelope from Scholastic.  And inside that envelope another smaller envelope.  And inside that envelope another envelope – no, wait.  Inside that envelope I found a letter from the Junior Library Guild telling me that THE PATH OF NAMES has been made a Junior Library Guild Selection for Spring 2013.   (Three months before its actual publication, which  is apparently how the JLG rolls.)

I’ve seen that designation on the cover of other books, but I never really knew what it meant.  After doing some exhaustive research on the topic (which included both reading the letter they sent me and googling the Junior Library Guild, I now consider myself something of an expert.  The way (I think) it works is the JLG reads books before publication, and then operates as a kind of early filter to help libraries decide which kids books to acquire.  According to the JLG website, over 95% of their selections go on to receive other awards and / or positive reviews.  As a statistics instructor, I can tell you that 95% is a pretty high percentage.  Higher than 93%, for instance.  (I did that in my head, if you were wondering.)

Not just that.  It also came with a cool little golden pin which has met with the approval of at least one of my fourteen-month-olds as well as my five-year-old.  My other fourteen-month-old has indicated no clear preference on the matter, preferring to hone his ability to climb up sheer surfaces where he might better injure himself.

I would post a picture of it, but my cell phone keeps crashing every time I try.  I’m pretty sure it’s jealous – when was the last time you heard of a Nokia cell phone getting a book selected by the Junior Library Guild?  (Or getting any other recognition, come to think of it.  Ha, in your face, Nokia cell phone.  You got burnt!)

But seriously, I’m thrilled to have my debut novel recognized like this.  Thank you Junior Library Guild!

For more information on the JLG check out their website at:  Junior Library Guild

Post script: two weeks later I’ve just gotten news that the other thing that comes with this recognition is the JLG buys a couple thousand copies of THE PATH OF NAMES.  Which makes me even happier about this, of course.  Not only does this mean I’m a little closer to earning back my advance for my publisher (always a good thing); it also means there will be thousands of copies of my book out there being sold to libraries.  I suppose this shouldn’t feel so surprising, but seriously…  thousands of copies of a book that I wrote will be in libraries!

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Answering the question: how did you come to write your novel?

I am getting super excited for the release of The Path of Names in May.  Last week I had my first conversation with my publicist at Scholastic, Lauren Felsenstein.  This was great, in part because now I get to use the phrase, ‘my publicist at Scholastic.’   It was also great, because she seemed smart and on the ball in all sorts of ways that I am totally not.

Among other things, Lauren asked me to come up with a few lines describing how I came to write The Path of Names.  At first, this didn’t seem like such a big deal.  However, the more I thought about it the more I wondered, ‘huh.  How did I come to write The Path of Names?’

The Path of Names Cover

I know some authors – you ask that question and they’ll say, “Oh that.  I was walking home from work one day and I remembered how my old next door neighbor used to always want to go on a witch hunt, and I never thought witch hunts were moral but I felt all this pressure to go along, anyway.  So last spring I decided to write Witch Hunt! about the ethical problems one boy faces when his neighbor invites him on a witch hunt.”

It wasn’t like that for me.  It may be that I just have trouble answering any question with a short answer.  In my day job as a teacher at a local university, it took me years to learn to answer yes / no questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  The real world is complicated, and I’m always wanting to give the whole story.

It’s not that I don’t remember writing it.  In fact, I remember very well.  I started writing the short story that became The Path of Names in July, 2001.  I was attending the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, a six week workshop where everyone writes one story / week.  One weekend, I drove back to Vancouver where my then-girlfriend, now wife was living.  She was reading a book about mazes.  It was the middle of summer, and at that time summer always reminded me of the summer camp where I’d spent 14 summers.

Simple enough, right? Maze + Summer Camp = The Path of Names

Okay, but that doesn’t say anything about my grandfather.  At some point, a few years before — after I’d been attending the summer camp for a few years — I discovered my grandfather had visited the same summer camp half a century before.  That image stayed with me for years:  a teenaged yeshiva drop out from the Lower East Side visiting rural Pennsylvania in the early 1940s – standing in the same field where his suburban descendants would play Frisbee and knot friendship bracelets half a century later.  What would they make of each other – teenagers from these two very different mileus?  How could they meet?  Those questions were in the back of my mind as I wrote the short story that turned into THE PATH OF NAMES.

And, hey, I should also mention I didn’t look at the short story for eight years.  Really.  Not once.  I went to graduate school.  I wrote a totally different novel.  Then another one.  I got married and had a baby daughter.  After my daughter was born, I started thinking about middle grade novels, and how I wanted to write a middle grade novel that had a strong female protagonist.   I wanted her to be smart and capable and obsessed by her own idiosyncratic obsessions, and I wanted the conflict not to be defined by her sexuality or relationship with a male character, but rather by her strength of will and intelligence.  So, really, that’s how I came to write The Path of Names.

But wait, I should also mention how I’ve always loved the little bits of Jewish magic and folktales I’ve come across in various places.  My impression is that in the last few generations, Jews have moved away from a lot of the folk tales we used to tell.  Still, over the years, I’ve come across little glints of stories about wonder rabbis calling down lightning on their enemies and exorcising disembodied spirits and so on.  (This may also be a good place for me to note how much I love the phrase “wonder rabbi.”  Like a super hero / rabbi hybrid.)  Anyway, I always wanted to write a contemporary fantasy novel drawing from these old Jewish folk tales.  Once I started working on a fantasy novel set in a Jewish summer camp, it seemed obvious that this was my chance.

And that’s how I came to write The Path of Names.

 

 

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A picture is worth a thousand… somethings

I’ve been thinking a lot about graphics and images lately.

(Okay.  That’s almost, if not entirely, a lie.  The truth is, I’ve been thinking a lot about how great it would be if I was able to sleep four hours in a row, and (on a related note) how I wish the babies in my life were somehow immune from cold /flu season.)  But in some alternate reality where I’m exclusively focused on writing, I have been thinking a lot about pictures.

First, a few weeks ago I had a photo session with my friend (and very talented photographer) John Goldsmith, with the aim of getting a good photo for the book jacket.  I’ve posted a few of my more favorite ones above, plus I added one to my welcome page.  The first one on the left above is the one I’m using for my author photo on the book jacket.

Around the same time, my editor shared a preliminary image of the cover we’re going to use for The Path of Names.  It’s pretty great – I can’t wait to see the final version (at which point I will be able to post it here, as well.)

I’ve also been thinking about pictures for use in The Path of Names.  There’s this scene in The Path of Names when the main character looks up the Wikipedia entry for a Chasidic rebbe.  In the text of the novel, I mention that at the top of the Wikipedia entry there’s a picture of the rebbe.  Not long after my own photo session, Cheryl Klein, my editor at Arthur A. Levine, wrote me and suggested that it would be cool to have a picture of the rebbe in the novel, along with the Wikipedia entry.  As usual, she’s right – it would be cool.  The problem, of course, is that the Wikipedia entry is fictional and the rebbe in question never existed.  We played with the idea of using the picture of a real Chasidic rebbe, and quickly rejected it, as certain to offend any followers or descendants of said rebbe.

Then I thought about using a photo of one of my own ancestors.  My great grandfather, for instance, was an orthodox Jewish rabbi in 1930s New York City – just like the rebbe in the novel.  Perfect, you might think.  We have pictures of him, and he certainly looks the part.  The problem is, he was most definitely not a Chasid, nor was he a big fan of Chasidim.  A brief straw poll of my family came to the consensus it would be weird to posthumously have him stand in for a Chasidic rebbe.  One of my great uncles actually made the switch to Chasidim before immigrating to Israel in the 1920s, but no one thought his ultra-orthodox descendants would be real hot about seeing his image used as a stand-in for a fictional Chasidic rebbe.

After another back and forth with my editor, she got back to me and let me know that her boss had actually managed to dig up a photo of one of his ancestors.  She e-mailed me the photo, and it’s perfect for the fictional rebbe.

I’ve also been thinking about images after seeing the first typeset version of THE PATH OF NAMES.  It’s really fun — there are a variety of visual flourishes that surprised me.  For instance, each chapter heading incorporates a little symbol of a maze (on account of a hedge maze playing a major role in the book.)

All this has got me thinking about how visual we are as a species.  How important the novel’s cover is as a way of convincing the reader to pick up the book in the first place.  How the main job of the author photo is probably just to convince the reader that you’d be a good person to spend time with while the reading the novel.

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The Beat Goes On — copy edits (almost) in

Today I will send my copy edited version of The Path of Names back to Cheryl Klein (my wonderful editor at Arthur A. Levine).  This is now the third cycle of edits we’ve been through.  The first was a sort of ‘big idea’ round where Cheryl raised big questions (e.g.  can you make Dahlia more vulnerable, earlier?) and I tried to revise the manuscript accordingly.  The second was the ‘line edit’ version, where Cheryl raised medium sized questions (e.g. what’s Dahlia feeling when she discovers ___?).  And now, I’m just about to respond to the copy edit version, where Cheryl and two other editors at Arthur A. Levine raised small – medium sized questions (e.g. maybe this line would read better like this.  Oh, and can you tell us more about what Dahlia’s feeling when she’s hanging out with her friends in this scene?)

One of the fun things about the copy edit version is the concept of ‘stet’ (latin for ‘let it stand.’)  As the author, if I want to restore a change the editors have made, I make the text the way I want it, and then scribble ‘stet’ in the margin.  Well, okay, actually I do the track changes, insert comment, and write ‘stet’ but you get the idea.  Usually my editors are right, but it’s nice to have the option, especially when you have my predilection for sentence fragments.

I’ve been trying to convince my family that we should bring the concept of ‘stet’ into our family life.  As in, ‘stet the fact that we’ll barbecue for dinner tonight.’  (This is a joke.  I would never dare to suggest that I be given that kind of control to anyone in my family, with the possible exception of our seven-month-old twins, and that’s only because they don’t speak English.  Or Latin, as far as I know.)

My next job vis a vis my novel is to edit the ‘flap copy.’  This is the stuff on the book flap – the novel teaser / summary and the about-the-author.  Once I take a look, I’ll post that here, too.

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Podcast of “Origin”

A podcast of my story, “Origin” is up at escapepod.org.  It was actually posted last week, when I was still immersed in the line edit for The Path of Names, so I didn’t realize it until now.  (The way the editorial process has worked for me, the line edit is the kind of intermediate edit that happened after my editor had done her big picture edit, but before the copy edit process.  The copy edit process is just starting now, and will (I think) focus on typos and such.)  At some point I will post more on the editing process — it has been an enormous eye opener, completely changing my perspective on the phrase ‘final draft.’

Anyway, it is super fun to hear Veronica Giguere read my story.  She has an amazing way of projecting character when she reads the story — it’s especially impressive to hear the way she alters her voice for each character’s dialogue.

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Under the Needle’s Eye – Clarion West 2001 E-anthology

In the summer of 2001 I spent six weeks at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle.  At the time I thought it was a really intense six weeks – each week we read and critiqued around 20 short stories and wrote one of our own.  (In retrospect, of course, all previous ‘intense’ experiences pale compared to having baby twins in the home.)

The writing was fun and productive for me. I ended up publishing two of the six stories I wrote that summer, and a third story ended up evolving into my debut novel, The Path of Names (forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine in 2013).

Ultimately as important as the writing itself was the community of writers who I met there.  (And, no, I can’t believe I allowed myself to post such a convoluted sentence, either – how can I call myself a writer?)

So why has this community of writers been so important to me?

It’s not just the critiques that I’ve continued to get and give to some of my Clarion compadres – although those have been enormously helpful (to me).  It’s not just the amount I’ve learned from my Clarion friends about e publishing and so on.  It’s just not the pleasure of reading their new work and thinking, ‘ha, I knew them back when they were nobody, nobody I tell you!’  (Okay, possibly I’ve been spending too much time thinking about supervillains lately…)   It’s not even the pleasure of playing really bad basketball when we periodically cross paths at conventions (although that is a pleasure).

I think that being in touch with lots of writers, makes you believe that you can be a writer.  It reminds you that writing is a real possibility, that it can be a real job, that it is real work, despite the skepticism of pretty much everyone else you know.   A community makes a difference.  I think I would still be writing now anyway.  But I know that having a community of friends and colleagues who are writing and publishing, who are finding some success with their creative work, has made it all seem more hopeful.

All of this is preface to saying, we’ve published an e-book together.   Led by the uncannily energetic Emily Mah Tippetts and Raymund Eich, a number of my Clarion colleagues and myself have published an e-anthology, Under the Needle’s Eye.  It’s free for two days.  Even if you miss the two day free period, it’s worth a gander.  Check it out at: amazon

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The Path of Names to be published by Arthur A. Levine

I’m thrilled to announce that my middle grade fantasy novel, THE PATH OF NAMES, will be published in June, 2013 by Arthur A. Levine (an imprint of Scholastic Inc).   THE PATH OF NAMES is a kind of fantastical mixture of ghost story, murder mystery and coming of age story.  It’s set in a Jewish summer camp, a setting which is close to my heart, having spent an improbably large number of summers at summer camp in my youth.

I keep rereading the publication announcement (see below) just for the pleasure of seeing myself described as “debut author Ari Goelman.”

Children’s – Middle Grade Debut author Ari Goelman’s THE PATH OF NAMES, about an aspiring magician at a Jewish summer camp who must solve a 72-year-old supernatural murder mystery, to Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine Books, for publication in 2013, by Lindsay Ribar at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

As you’d expect, immediately upon signing this deal, I have quit my day job, purchased a small island off the Bahamas, and dedicated myself to splitting my time between writing and building sand castles with my children.  Okay, that’s not exactly true.  I will be keeping my day job for the foreseeable future.  But I am enormously excited to be working with a fantastic editor (the aforementioned Cheryl Klein) on a real book which I will someday hold in my hands.  Or see on my e-reader screen.  If I someday get an e-reader.

In fact it’s been a real eye opening experience.  First I brought what I thought was a finished novel to my awesome agent Lindsay Ribar at Sanford J. Greenburger.  Who wasn’t my agent at the time, but nonetheless had all sorts of perceptive comments, leading to another 4-6 months of work on my part, before we came up with a draft we were both satisfied with.  Then, once Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine decided to publish the novel, Cheryl and I had a few conversations, following which she sent me a 17 page e-mail, with a completely different set of equally insightful suggestions.  Cheryl has an amazing ability to see what I was trying to do, and suggest how I could do it better.

All this to say, I am very happy with the manuscript that we are currently working on.  And, hey, as of next summer I will finally have an excuse to go back to summer camp, as I plan to do readings at any summer camp I can in the summer of 2013.

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“Origin” to be podcast on Escape Pod! + Pick your favorite Ari Goelman Story

My superhero short story, “Origin,” is going to be podcast on Escape Pod.   “Origin” was originally published on Strange Horizons in August, 2009.  Selling it to the Escape Pod podcast is very exciting for a few reasons:

  1. I found that my last story which Escape Pod pocast (Private Detective Molly) got a lot more readers / listeners than it did when it was just posted online.  This is judging by the quantity of comments which came up — I guess it could just be that people who read things online are less likely to post comments than people who listen to podcasts, but that seems pretty unlikely.
  2. I can’t wait to hear the voices they have for the superheroes in the story.
  3. It so happens, that one of the middle grade projects I’m working on is a series set in (more or less) the same super hero world, although the series is told from the viewpoint of a character who is some years away from being born when “Origin” takes place.  In fact, that series originated in part from my friend Gretchen saying <spoiler alert> that she didn’t really believe the reconciliation which takes place in the end of “Origin.”  So, it’s exciting to get the story out there again.

On an unrelated point – some Clarion West friends and I are going to put out a small e-anthology, with each of us contributing one story.  The idea is we’ll each contribute one of our own stories that has been printed somewhere else (to which we possess the reprint rights).  Then one of my more technologically handy peers will put them together in an e-anthology which will be sold online in the usual places.   It’s a kind of way of dipping our collective toes into the e-publishing world, without compromising our rights to sell any of our nascent novels in the more traditional publishing world.

The folks involved include:  Ben RosenbaumEm Tippets, Raymund Eich, and other folks who were at Clarion West with us in the summer of 2001.

So if you’ve read more than one of my stories, tell me what your favorite is.  I anticipate a raging debate that will soon spill off this blog onto main stream media websites and from there to the crucible of fame in America today.  By which, of course, I mean This American Life will do an episode about me.

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New Story in Shimmer Magazine!

(“New” in the very provisional sense that is the publishing schedule, meaning I wrote “Made of Mud” a few years ago and sold it last year.)

Available in the newest, very excellent,  Shimmer Magazine

It’s funny.  I just finished revising a middle grade novel about a preteen super genius.  As I read through the manuscript, I kept thinking that in part what I’ve written is a fantasy of what I wish middle school was like for me.  This story, “Made of Mud,” is a little closer to the way I remember the real thing.

 

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New Story Up on Daily SF

My latest story is today’s featured story at the Daily SF website.

“Everyone Gets Scared”    is my one and only addition to zombie literature.   As one of the members of my writing group pointed out, it’s also not actually a zombie story, in that there are no zombies in the story.   I think it might also be about homelessness in Vancouver — I picture the main character sleeping in Sunset Park, a few blocks south of Vancouver’s main business district.

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