On January 9th at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO, Mentor Hannah Sheldon-Dean and Mentee Kenia Torres attended acclaimed author Courtney Maum’s book launch for Before and After the Book Deal (Catapult), an inside scoop on the publishing experience. Courtney didn’t begin with an orthodox reading from her new book, or an interview about her craft, she and Ryan Chapman kicked it off with a skit about an author’s naive expectations of publishing their first book, and had a packed house roaring with laughter. Following Courtney’s skit and reading, Hannah and Kenia represented Girls Write Now by speaking about their experience in the program.
Hannah Sheldon-Dean, mentor
Kenia and I love visiting bookstores together and often talk about the author events we’d like to attend, but on January 9th, we got to do something even more special: we spoke on behalf of Girls Write Now at the book launch for Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal, which took place at Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO. It was an extra-icy night and as we walked from the F train through the winding streets, we weren’t sure we were going the right way—until we glanced through an archway supporting the Manhattan Bridge and saw the bookstore glittering on the other side. Before we even got inside, the bright store against the cold night made things feel magical.
The event included a panel of published authors, agents, and editors giving their perspectives on the whole process of writing and publishing a book, from getting the first draft down to dealing with promotion after the book comes out. One of the things I enjoyed most about Courtney’s book is that includes LOTS of interviews and anecdotes with writers of all stripes; reading it made me feel like we’re all part of a big community of writers, all dealing with versions of the same anxieties and challenges. The event was the same way—it was thrilling to be in such a packed room of diverse writers and feel like everyone was genuinely rooting for each other. I also appreciated a word of advice from editor Jenn Baker, who said that even though publishing is very much a business, writers shouldn’t worry too much about crafting work that will sell. “You are an artist,” she said, “living under capitalism.” Figuring out how to make art in today’s world, she said, should be our primary concern, and I left feeling recommitted to doing exactly that.
Kenia Torres, mentee
Speaking at Courtney’s book launch was such an honor for both Hannah and me. Although it was a bit nerve racking for me at first, witnessing the audience being so supportive towards Courtney and the panel of published authors that were present at the event made it so easy to talk to them about my experience in Girls Write Now.
I’m pretty sure every writer’s big dream is to get published. To have an audience to which to present the work that they, for so long, crafted with love and pain and all those emotions that come with creating a piece of writing. After going through the whole rollercoaster that is writing a novel, or just any piece of writing for that matter, it’s often hard to imagine just how many more steps must be taken in order to see your book sitting on the shelves of the bookstores you frequent, next to all the authors you admire. As Courtney expresses in her book Before and After the Book Deal, the process can come off as intimidating and confusing which leaves many writers vulnerable to making mistakes that could be avoided.
Being a writer myself, I was intrigued at the process that had to be taken in order to publish a book. Although I haven’t published a book on my own yet, I feel as though I know the steps I should take when the time comes and I’m ready to do so thanks to this book.