Tag Archives: Miriam Gershow

BEA Is Here!! Miriam Gershow Celebrates With A Guest Post

I am excited to say that I am on my way to Book Expo America/Book Blogger Con!! I will be in NY the next few days for all the book festivities and I am very excited. I will report back on what I hear, who I meet, and, most importantly, any books I pick up while I am there.

In honor of BEA and Book Blogger Con, Miriam Gershow (author of The Local News and friend to EDIWTB) has written a piece about the importance of book bloggers. I am honored to be posting it here on EDIWTB – thanks, Miriam!

********

Why Authors Need Book Bloggers – by Miriam Gershow

On May 28, in conjunction with BookExpo America’s (BEA) annual convention in New York City, some of the blogosphere’s most prolific book readers and reviewers are hosting an inaugural Book Blogger convention.  A couple years ago, this idea probably would’ve flummoxed me. Book bloggers, in my mind, seemed superfluous.  Weren’t there already more than enough book reviewers shouting in the online wilderness via Amazon and Goodreads and Shelfari and LibraryThing?  At what point did all the voices simply become noise? 

This, however, was before my debut novel, The Local News, was published.  Having now gone through paperback and hardcover publication, having watched the marketing and publicity wheels spin–or screech to a halt–I’ve done a one-eighty.  Book bloggers, I believe, are indispensable to authors, especially first-time authors. 

Why such a radical flip-flop?

When The Local News was released, I was lucky enough to have it reviewed in the holy grail of print publications: The New York Times.  My luck (and the hard work of my publicist) continued, as reviews appeared in Marie Claire and Ladies Home Journal and BUST magazine and The Portland Oregonian among others. 

And then…nothing.  The big quiet. 

One of the most surprising things about publishing a book is that after the initial fanfare and reviews and book readings are over–all told, about a month in my case–there is almost a deafening silence. 

My editor once told me that the only two things that sell a book are word of mouth and access.  Access was taken care of–my book was stocked in all the big bookstores and many of the little ones.  But suddenly it was my responsibility to keep the buzz going. 

I turned for the first time to book bloggers.  For my hardcover edition, not being all that familiar with the blogosphere, I hired TLC Book Tours to coordinate a 10-blog tour, which included book reviews, book giveaways, a handful of guest posts and a couple author interviews.  Here, I discovered the first benefit of going the blog route:

Book bloggers extend the publicity cycle of your book.  Via traditional media, it’s nearly impossible–especially as a first-time author–to land a print review after the first few weeks of publication.  Book stores can be reticent to schedule a reading if you’re too far past publication date.  But book bloggers aren’t bound by the same timeline. My blog tour was scheduled for four months after publication, stirring up new interest when other trails had gone cold.

Still, I went into the tour with some skepticism. The Local News is the story of Lydia Pasternak, whose older brother Danny goes missing when she is 15-years-old.  While critically praised, it is admittedly dark and supplies no easy answers.  I wondered who these bloggers were, what they really had to offer in terms of reaction or insight. Once the tour began, though, I came to see bloggers as a welcome complement to the traditional book critic. 

Book bloggers respond to books as readers, though readers with brands to protect.  Book critics–if a generalization can be made–judge the quality of writing.  You can wow a critic with your sentences or your structure, as well as with your story.  This is not necessarily the case with bloggers.  Yes, there many bloggers who appreciate good writing. But many look for an enjoyable–though not necessarily light or happy–read.  Their reviews tend toward how the book made them feel, how much they liked the story or liked the narrator or liked the ending.  Some may scoff at this, but theirs is a perspective that’s of value, in that it mirrors the vast majority of the reading public. 

And book bloggers cut through the noise of the internet simply by writing detailed, thoughtful, well-supported reviews.  The best of them lack any of the snark and mean-spiritedness that anonymous corners of the internet can breed.  They’ve cultivated their voices and their sensibilities, and have ready broadly and deeply.  They’ve amassed a readership of loyal followers.  They seem intent on maintaining the quality of their blogs, and this shows in the insightfulness of their reviews. In this sense, they’re not wildly different from the best of Amazon or Goodreads reviewers–those who write in-depth, deeply-felt, reasoned responses to books.    

With all this in mind, when my paperback came out this past February, I returned to the blogosphere, familiar enough now not to need a middleman.  This is particularly important in today’s publishing climate because:

Book bloggers offer a direct relationship with writers.  Writers today are expected to hustle.  You might be expected to foot the bill of your own tour (which I’ve done), or immerse yourself in the world of social networking (done), or contact booksellers directly (done), or snag every local speaking engagement you can (done). 

But in terms of old versus new media, one welcomes a direct relationship to writers and one doesn’t.  As much as I knock on the door of People, it’s not going to increase their likelihood of including my book in their New in Paperback column.  But book bloggers, for the most part, invite and respond to author contact.  If you have to hustle, it makes sense to hustle with an eager audience.

First, I contacted all the bloggers who’d favorably reviewed the hardcover edition, asking if they’d mention the paperback release.  My publisher supplied giveaway copies.  The response was nearly instantaneous and the vast majority agreed to help. Many were delighted I had read their blog and noticed the review.  The result: for a month after paperback publication, a dozen blogs took turns helping spread the word.

Secondly, I contacted a dozen new bloggers and asked if they would review the paperback edition.  Again, this came during the big quiet after the paperback release.  And again, the vast majority enthusiastically agreed.  Reviews will be coming out in the next month or two, well past the time when traditional media has grown silent.

Some might argue that such author/blogger contact will compromise the integrity of reviews.  To that I say, I paid to have blogs review my book via my blog tour, and even then opinions were mixed.

Okay, this is all well and good, you might be thinking, but about the numbers?  My husband, an MBA and businessman, is only interested in the bottom line.  How much, he wants to know, does blog attention affect sales? To that, I honestly say, I’m not sure yet.  I don’t know if or by how much
blog reviews increase book sales.  But I do know that when a book is talked about in the blogosphere–especially by the insatiable bloggers with their insatiable readership–it keeps that book alive in the public consciousness. And I also know this:

Book bloggers are good for the writer’s soul.  It is very easy to believe–in the age of Avatar and Wiis and HDTV and YouTube and bookstore closures and book page shrinkage–that books are at best, a cultural afterthought, and at worst, on their deathbed.  To fight off feelings of hopelessness or irrelevance, I look to the blogs. I look to Everyday I Write the Book or Book Lady’s Blog or Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’? among others, and I see people who are still passionate about books, people who consume them voraciously, people who moon over them and debate them and dissect them, people who day in, day out, devote their time to reading them and writing about them.  They remind me that what I’m doing means something, that what I’m doing matters.  And for that fact alone–even if they offered nothing else–they are worth their weight in books.

Winner of THE LOCAL NEWS

Congratulations to the winner of the paperback copy of The Local News, by Miriam Gershow. Random.org picked Sandy Jay – enjoy the book!

Giveaway: Miriam Gershow, THE LOCAL NEWS

Gershow Last June, the EDIWTB online book club read The Local News, by Miriam Gershow. It's the story of Lydia, a girl in high school in Michigan whose popular, cruel brother disappears during his senior year. Here is my review and the book club discussion, and also Miriam Gershow's guest post about why she set The Local News in high school.

The Local News just came out in paperback, and Miriam Gershow has generously offered to give away a copy of the paperback version. I really enjoyed this book – in my review, I wote that "I was simply blown away at times by Gershow's writing talent, rereading phrases and passages that were beautifully expressive and also dead-on accurate."

If you'd like to win the copy of The Local News, leave me a comment below (and be sure to leave your email address). Random.org will pick a winner next Friday, March 19.

Guest Post By Miriam Gershow, Author of THE LOCAL NEWS

Miriam Gershow, whose The Local News was discussed on Monday as EDIWTB's June book club, has written a guest post for EDIWTB today about why high school is a natural setting for her works. I was particularly excited to read this post, because of my own fascination with books set in high school. Thanks, Miriam!

Just like my narrator Lydia Pasternak in The Local News, this past August I had the opportunity to attend my high school reunion. In my case, it was a twenty year reunion, while Lydia faced her tenth.  In both of our cases, we met the idea with deep, deep ambivalence.

By all accounts, I’m a successful grown-up.  I wrote a novel.  I have a community of beloved friends.  I married a lovely man.  We have an extremely spoiled cat and a baby on the way.  I’m surrounded by all sorts of the adult accoutrements that signal having one’s life more or less together: a rotating spice rack, a semi-attached garage, a knife block, a mortgage.  So you would think the prospect of a high school reunion would fill me with glee or at least benign curiosity. 

But unlike Lydia, I skipped my reunion.  Just like I skipped the five year and the ten year reunions before that.  In fact, proverbial wild horses couldn’t have dragged me back to the crowded suburban Detroit bar where dozens upon dozens of my former classmates gathered.

Why?

Short answer: High school was hard. 

Longer answer:  It was achingly, crushingly hard.  I spent four years not knowing how to control my frizzy hair or my acne, nursing unbearable crushes on the most inopportune of boys, and walking the halls with slumped shoulders, hoping that no one would pay too much attention to my boobs (while secretly hoping everyone would pay attention to my boobs).  To say I didn’t fit in would be a radical understatement. I was brainy without being a star student, loud without being particularly charming. I had no business near either a curling iron or eye-shadow, both of which I abused regularly.  I was the girl who always had the visible line of foundation demarcating her jaw from her neck.  I was the girl who wore the off-brand imitations of fashionable clothing several seasons too late.  I was the girl who drank lots of wine coolers at parties because I thought being drunk made me at least ten times funnier and cuter.

And even as I approach 40, with above-mentioned career and friends and home and partner, I still can’t entirely shake that poor girl.  Some part of me remains convinced I’m still that gangly, ill-fitting, awkward teenager.  And that part of me runs wildly in the opposite direction when a reunion is mentioned. 

Interestingly, that part of me also regularly returns to those same–or roughly similar–high school hallways in my fiction writing.  The high school experience left such an indelible imprint on me, I now have an insatiable curiosity about the social jockeying, the thrumming insecurities, and the high drama that is so peculiar to those four years. 

The characters in my fiction are often teenagers.  I’ve never been a young adult writer, but I have returned again and again to young adult characters in my work.  One of my favorite early stories, Little Girl, looks at the burgeoning sexuality and the early stirrings of rebellion in a high school girl.  The Local News is rife with the shifting politics and strange insularity and group hysteria of high school life. 

On the most personal level, I return again and again to this setting to try to better understand and make peace with the gangly girl trapped inside of me.  On a more practical and writerly level, high school simply makes for great source material. 
The factors that make it so traumatic in reality–you’re trapped in a building with hundreds of other hormone-laden, erratic teenagers, you have no clear escape, you can’t imagine it ever ending–make it such a potent backdrop for fiction.  Teenagers are wonderful to write because they are so emotionally labile, but without all the sophisticated coping mechanisms that adults adopt to mask those emotions.  This makes for great drama.  The stakes are always high in high school.  The conflicts are ever-present.  You don’t even have to scratch the surface; the conflicts are the surface, whether those have to do with popularity, status, drugs, bullying, peer pressure or sex, just to name a few. 

I have real compassion toward my high school characters.  I developed great love for Lydia and all of her Franklin High classmates.  I vividly–maybe too vividly–remember what it was like to be 15, with little hope of things ever changing.  Over and over, I try to write my way back into that experience and out the other side of it.  Maybe I succeeded with The Local News because I’ve gotten the subject out of my system for now; my current project is a novel that has almost nothing to do with high school.  Maybe this means come my 25-year reunion, I’ll be ready to show my face.  I doubt it, but perhaps I’ll lock away the eye shadow and the curling iron just to be safe.

June Book Club: THE LOCAL NEWS by Miriam Gershow

EDIWTB was lucky to be chosen as one stop of the TLC Blog Tour for Miriam Gershow’s debut novel, The Local News, which is also the June EDIWTB book club selection. The tour is kicking off here on this blog today, and will be hosted by many other great book bloggers later this summer, including Lisa of Books on the Brain and Stephanie’s Written Word. Click here for the full schedule.

Local-news The Local News is about Lydia Pasternak, a 16-year old high school student whose older brother Danny disappeared at the start of his senior year. While her parents sleepwalk through their grief, oblivious to their daughter, Lydia tries to come to terms with the disappearance of a brother about whom she was deepy ambivalent. Although the two were once close, Danny’s jock-like, often brutish behavior contrasted with Lydia’s brainy, antisocial personality, and he was a rather negative, menacing presence in lher ife as she entered high school. His disappearance causes shifts in Lydia’s status – for lack of a better word – at school, as she turns into an object of attention and often-unwanted sympathy from those who knew her brother (but who had ignored her in the past).

I really, really enjoyed this book. Although it is told rather simply from Lydia’s perspective, I think it’s a complicated book. There’s a lot going on – the mystery of what happened to Danny, the effect of his disappearance on his family, Lydia’s search for identity in a household in which she is practically invisible, the question of whether one is obligated to love their family members. Gershow’s explorations of the ways in which public and private grief intersect – who is truly allowed to mourn the loss of this boy? who really knew him? – and her meticulous analyses of the politics of high schools and small communities were very compelling. She is an excellent writer. She is incredibly observant and eloquent in describing mannerisms and emotions, and she developed her characters beautifully.

While I wanted to learn what happened to Danny, of course, this isn’t really a mystery, nor is it a grisly tale. It’s a sad story, to be sure, but there are many universal themes raised in the book that make it more of a coming-of-age book than anything else. The postscript of the book takes place 12 years after Danny’s disappearance, at Lydia’s high school reunion, and provides some interesting perspective on the main events and characters in the book. I found myself reading this section very closely, absorbing every detail with great interest as I learned what had happened to Lydia in the intervening years.

I was simply blown away at times by Gershow’s writing talent, rereading phrases and passages that were beautifully expressive and also dead-on accurate. I am very much looking forward to Gershow’s future books.

Gershow has agreed to answer questions about the book in a later post, and will also be guest-blogging on EDIWTB later this week. So please feel free to include any questions for Gershow in your comments below, so that she can address them later. (My questions are: 1) I found the character of Bayard to be a bit underdeveloped, compared to the others in the book. What do you consider his role to be, and why couldn’t it have been played by David Nelson? Was his indifference his most important feature?  2) I’d love to hear about how you were inspired to write this book. Is there a real-life story that got the plot going in your mind?).

Looking forward to the discussion!

EDIWTB June Book Club: THE LOCAL NEWS by Miriam Gershow

I am happy to announce – very far in advance – the June EDIWTB book club pick: The Local News by Miriam Gershow. I wrote about The Local News in February, and I was excited when I was approached by TLC Book Tours to participate in a blog book tour for it this summer.

First, a little bit about the book. From Amazon:

Local-news Bright, precocious but socially awkward Lydia Pasternak reports on the aftermath of her older brother's disappearance in Gershow's accomplished debut. Danny was everything Lydia wasn't: at ease with their parents, popular in school, physically imposing, beloved by the opposite sex. Danny went from being Lydia's playmate in their youth to her tormentor in high school, so his disappearance leaves Lydia with some very mixed feelings, one of which is relief. As time goes on and the weekend search parties prove more and more fruitless, Lydia struggles with the fact that her geeky best friend, David, has feelings for her; she also obsesses over the private investigator hired by the family and allows herself to be sucked into the social world Danny once dominated. Lydias perspective gives this Lovely Bones–esque story line an unflinching quality as she details the emotional damage that reverberates even through her 10-year high school reunion. Gershows psychologically acute grasp of the mundane, ugly details that accompany tragedy, combined with an understanding of the tragicomedy of high school, make for a stark and merciless narrative, leavened by Lydia's wry insights.

I've been wanting to read this book ever since I learned about it.

So here's the deal. I have 12 copies of The Local News to give away to EDIWTB reader who want to participate in the online book club, which will take place here on Monday June 15th. So I will do a giveaway for the 12 copies. If you are interested in participating, please leave me a comment here with your email address. I will do a random drawing a week from today – Thursday May 1. If you want to participate but you don't get one of the 12 copies, then I hope you will buy a copy or find it at your local library and support Miriam Gershow and her first book!

Click here to read an exceprt from the book, and visit Miriam Gershow's website. And please enter the giveaway if you want to participate!

THE LOCAL NEWS by Miriam Gershow

Another book set in high school. Are we all obsessed, or is it just me?

I read about The Local News, by Miriam Gershow, in Marie Claire this month. Here's the short blurb:

Gershow You'd think a 15-year-old girl would be devastated if her older brother suddenly disappeared without a trace. Not Lydia Pasternak. She never really liked her bro, a dumb jock who picked on her and called her Titless Wonder. Lydia's almost glad he's gone, especially since his disappearance has made the nerdy brainiac newly popular. Beneath this darkly humorous tale of loss is a keen look at the painfully stratified world of high school, and a reminder that just because we're supposed to feel sad doesn't mean we always do.

Janet Maslin at The New York Times also reviewed The Local News. She wrote:

[T]his story is full of insightful, implicit hindsight as it illustrates how the trauma involving Danny will shape Lydia’s adulthood and forever stunt her ability to get along with others. Ms. Gershow captures the awkward, cringe-worthy friendship between Lydia and David, a good-hearted but charmless classmate who shares her interest in parsing African politics and is as old-shoe familiar to Lydia as he is nerdy. Lydia depends on him without exactly liking him. What she doesn’t realize is that she will never have such a fond, easy friendship again.

I saw some good posts about The Local News on Goodreads, but I am assuming it's not kosher to quote them here because it's a closed community (book bloggers – am I right?).

Has anyone out there read this yet? I'm definitely intrigued.