Friday, 3 December 2010

Author Dorothee Kocks writes:

Writers often daydream about their first publishing contract, and in the States, that dream involves a trip to New York, a ride up some swanky elevator, and a welcome into the community of real writers: no longer an apprentice. 

My moment came in my own foyer. A manila envelope with New Zealand stamps announced that the Rosa Mira Books contract had come and I tore it open, expecting a sheaf of papers to sign, date, return. I had places to go and did not expect to pause but then the papers were sheathed in a pale green sleeve, the color of spring. And inside, a fine ribbon wrapped the document and I could feel publisher Penelope Todd reaching across the miles to say: here you are.

Now I am being contacted by newspaper editors who’ve received a review copy, not via email but by post: in a box with Christine Buess’s lovely cover design and inside, petals from Pen’s garden. A slip of paper gives the online address to receive the book.

What astonishes me most about the ebook revolution is how deeply personal it is. One expects machine worlds to be cold and distant and yet the opposite has been true as The Glass Harmonica has journeyed toward publication. Of course part of this is due to Pen’s personality but that is my point: we are fully here, on the e-frontier. We meet each other not face to face but somehow intimately. Publishing for the last 100 years or so required layers of bureaucracy: from the writer through agents to editors and publishers, then marketing departments and production houses and distribution centers and pulp paper mills. Now small gardens are springing up.

As the first Rosa Mira author, I find myself linked hand to hand with a public relations campaign that is refreshingly not about bamboozling but about finding neighbors in the book world, people who like the same kinds of places. The whole process feels local even as it is so effortlessly global. Here in Utah, I just returned from a walk with my dog and we navigated icy sidewalks and watched a father help his daughter on her bike negotiate a crust of snow. In Dunedin, Pen switches on her camera during our phone call over Skype and the flood of summer bird song enters my study. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Germany, a book trailer seems in the offing as the music museum there houses one of the last surviving 18th century glass harmonicas.

The next step is for the intimate experience of reading to become electronic. I loathed the idea once. I love my paperbacks. I read in the bathtub. But now I have a reading device. I turn the page, and I am carried away. In the end, words are the technology and the magic together, and all else is just details. I hope to meet you here, on the even electronic plain. I'm at

(Photo by James Rendek)


Vespersparrow said...

Congratulations, Pen and Dorothee, for your shared new venture. And it is exciting and odd and beautiful in its own way. We're standing where the monks who illuminated manuscripts stood when Gutenberg made books possible, eventually, for the masses. Can you imagine the shock and outrage--what's going to happen to our beautiful artwork? And how in the world will people learn to read? It was not seamless. But this is a brave new world, you two Mirandas, and all the other Mirandas setting forth. Wonderful, Penelope. Best wishes, Dorothee.

Penelope said...

Thank you, Vespersparrow. Your thoughtful encouragement is welcomed. I'm reading Jean Houston's Jump Time and she makes just such wise (and validating) observations about the strange time we're in.