Alpha Turns One

I know that some (more seasoned) writers find it distasteful when authors talk about their books as their children. I am afraid I risk falling afoul of those people in this post! Frankly, it is hard for meĀ not to think of my first book in terms of a new baby. I am very clear on the differences between babies and books, having now brought both into the world; but for the sense of mystery and wonder, for the feelings of anxiety, elation and love, the arrival of my first book reminded me distinctly of the arrival of my first baby.

I had the idea for Alpha is for Anthropos for many years before it was finally produced last fall. In fact, long before publishing it, I created various homemade versions of the book for my young students. I printed out my Greek nursery rhymes, hole-punched the pages, and “bound” them in orange report covers with brads. As I composed new rhymes, I helped my students undo the brads and add new pages. Eventually, they had one page and one verse for each letter in the Greek alphabet.

I always knew what the title of the book would be. I would follow the convention of alphabet books whereby the title matches the first page of the book; A is for Apple led me to Alpha is for Anthropos. I also knew who the illustrator would be. That, too, was decided from the very moment I realized that pictures should accompany my verses. The illustrator was to be my sister, Lucy Bell Wait Jarka-Sellers, artist and classicist. I knew her illustrations should be in the style of Greek vase paintings. She agreed to do the artwork, but I had to be patient and wait until she could to take a year off from teaching to have time to draw all twenty-four pictures.

Maybe it was because the book had existed in my imagination for so many years, maybe it was because I collaborated on it so closely with the illustrator, the book designer and the printer; I am not sure of the reason, but when the book finally arrived, it was like a birth. How I worried that it would not come out right! How I marveled at the book when I first saw it! How carefully I handled it! How I carried it everywhere I went! How I took too many pictures of it!

The stress of being the author of a newborn book was intense. The book was done and yet there was suddenly so much to do! The one thousand copies of the book we had printed needed to find their way into the hands of one thousand appreciative readers. There were book events and signings to arrange and attend. There were emails to write and answer. No stone could be left unturned that might lead to publicity and sales. I spent the book’s first year working hard to promote it. I tweeted furiously and posted things on Facebook. I went around talking to everyone I could think of who might be interested. I followed up every lead I was given. The book began to take its first steps out into the world.

So now, on the eve of the first anniversary of the book’s publication, what conclusions can I draw? I guess I know as much about being an author as I knew about being a mother when my first child turned one. It is all still a great mystery to me.

madrid fountain

Baby picture of Alpha is for Anthropos.

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