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28 October 2016

Book Launch. Acceptance And Awareness

By: Jon Katz
Book Launch

Book Launch. Maria and Rosemary in Lebanon.

For many years, when I started work on a new hardcover book, I would go to a "book launch"  trip, meeting, and lunch, always in New York City. If I happened to live far away, my publisher would fly me in and put me up in a sweet hotel. First, I would be invited to the office of the publishing house, in a monumental tower right in the heart of Manhattan.

There, I would be taken around the editorial offices, to meet with my editor, his or her assistants, and the other  editors on the floor.

There was always a conference room, and it was full of people trying to assure me that I was important, and that my book was the most important thing in their lives. I knew this wasn't really true, but I was always grateful for the effort.

The publicity and marketing people would come in to meet me, they had all of these thoughts and ideas about the selling of my book. It would be a big book, they would always say, a smash, a sure-fire best seller.

I would talk about my book, my ideas for it, and they would tell me their ideas for promoting and selling it.  The meetings were always warm and courteous, I was treated with great respect, they seemed to actually love authors.

Then we would go to a restaurant nearby, usually a four-star French or Italian restaurant with the kind of food I never got to eat. There was usually some wine and some Scotch and we were all happy campers by 3 p.m., when the book launch would finally break up.

I would leave with a folder filled with editor's notes and ideas.

The launch was important to me, an important chance to talk about my new book project, hear my editor's thoughts about it,  get to know the people who would be working on the book. We were all usually on the same page, as it were.

It was apparent to me that the editors wished me to feel important, and succeeded. In publishing, there was this idea that the enthusiasm of the editors was a key factor in the success of a book, and everyone seemed to want me to know they were enthusiastic. For writers, who often have hungry and delicate egos, this was important, a kind of nourishment and enthusiasm that lasted a long while.

Writers work alone, day after day, often for years

I always left those launch days feeling excited and creative, there was always some wind at my back when I went off to write.


Things change, of course, as they always do in the lives of almost everyone, especially since the Great Recession. That publishing world is gone, there are no launch lunches, meetings, or invitations to New York, if I speak directly to the publicity and marketing people at all over the next year, I'll be surprised, and my very good editor and I communicate mostly through e-mail.  I doubt we will lunch anytime soon.

I have a very fine editor, but like most authors these days, I also have a second editor, a free-lance editor, who works with me on my books, the big publishing houses don't have the time or staff to edit too closely any longer.

This change is not unique to me or to writers, there is an epochal change in the way people are treated by the corporations who pay them.  But I still get to write book, which I love doing. I love being a writer, I have spent my life doing work I love.

When my new book contract was sealed recently, Maria and I went to the Round House Cafe for an egg sandwich, the opposite end of the restaurant chain from those New York City restaurants. Maria is very enthusiastic about my work, and so is a man named Charlie who lives in Cleveland, and compares me to Tolstoy.

This morning, Maria and drove to the small town of Lebanon, New York to meet with Rosemary Ahern, my freelance editor. We had a book launch celebration in a cafe along Route 22, I celebrated with a rare (for me)  lox and cream cheese oat bran bagel. Maria had a veggie and cheese burrito, so did Rosemary.

Red came along, he slept in the back seat.

I brought Rosemary a galley of my next book "Talking To Animals," which she helped edit with me, and she told me the introduction to my next book, The Lessons Of Bedlam Farm was wonderful. I talked some about E.B. White, whose book One Man's Meat  has always been an inspiration for my idea of writing about life on a farm, especially in tense times.

We are friends now, Rosemary and Maria and I, and the launch had the feeling of intimacy, not business. We talked about the book a bit, but mostly about our lives,  Rosemary left New York publishing to go live and work in a small town in Columbia County, N.Y., a couple of hours from me. The cafe is a central meeting spot. We have so much in common.

And you know what? It was a sweet launch, a good launch, I wouldn't have any other launch. It offered a prism on my life, then and now, before and after. I am happier than I have ever been, am writing and taking photographs, and living a life of meaning and connection.

I am closer to being the person I always wanted to be than ever before.

I don't need all those meetings and discussions, I don't need to go to New York City, I don't need a fancy meal at an expensive restaurant. That world has changed, but my world has changed even more. My farm is my inspiration, there were donkeys braying to me at the pasture fence when I returned.

I felt nothing but gratitude and excitement.

Change is life, in so many ways, and we measure our lives by how we adapt to it. Here I am, starting work on my 20th book, living in love and meaning, sitting in this cafe for more than two hours with two people I love and trust, and they are the wind at my back.

I am nothing but lucky.

Posted in General

The Peanut Gallery: Give Us A Treat

By: Jon Katz
The Peanut Gallery

The Peanut Gallery

When I clean the manure and hay out of the barn stalls, I often  have an audience, as attentive to me as any teenager on Snapchat. These three are eternai optimists, they expect every single pocket will hold a cookie or an apple, they never tire of watching me, sending me their secret signals: give us a treat, give us a treat.

More often that I might care to admit, they succeed, and I open the can in the barn and give them a chunk of alfalfa or an oat cookie or a small piece of peppermint. They know what they are doing, and they know who they are dealing with.

Posted in General

Last Goodbye In The Forest

By: Jon Katz
Last Goodbyes In The Forest

Last Goodbyes In The Forest

Three days ago, I took this photo in the forest where we walk, I saw the beautiful mixing of colors at the crown of these proud trees, high up in the sky. This morning, all of the leaves were gone, it was a last goodbye to one season of the forest, hello to another. Way up there, at their crowns, the trees get the light and strength to grow and live. This cycle will halt now, and the trees will do what we do, pull inward and respond to the cycles of our mother, the earth. I was grateful for this last goodbye for this season of color, and light, and regeneration.

Posted in General

Last Goodbye, One Season To Another

By: Jon Katz
Last Goodbye

Last Goodbye

Saying goodbye to our front porch sunflower, kind of a last goodbye. I'm saying farewell to the season of color and light, and preparing for a different season, starting with the November grays and the winter pasture. There is beauty everywhere if you look for it, photography has taught me that,and in the sunflower's last goodbye I see the power of the natural world, and the beauty in life, death and the spaces in between. Flowers know how to die.

Posted in General
27 October 2016

Red And Madeline: First Day

By: Jon Katz
First Day

First Day

I've had three dogs who did therapy work – Izzy, Lenore, and Red. Lenore's hospice career was cut short when patient's food began disappearing from trays. She was, of course, a Lab, and her appetite sometimes was bigger than her great heart.

Izzy and Red had the gift, and I never fully understood it, even as  I wondered at it. Madeline has just arrived at the Mansion, and I can only imagine how big a transition that must be for her. She was poised, calm and cheerful, a brave and grounded human being.

She sounded like the tough, seasoned Brooklyn native that she is.

If she showed any emotion at all, it was when Red came up to her and put his head in  her lap and looked up to her, I could see by the way she touched and held him how much that meant to her. At 94, Madeline is very much alive and in the world, and we'll get her over to Bedlam Farm as soon as there is a nice and warm day.

Red will check in regularly.

Posted in General