Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My 5th Annual Book Report

NaNoWriMo is imminent once more, and I figure now is a perfectly auspicious time for me to take stock of how I’m doing thus far with my publishing endeavors and to ask my friends which of my in-progress or in-my-head projects I should tackle exclusively for the month of November, which I do annually. The non-self-publishing industry has not yet taken notice of me, but it cannot do this forever, because I’m putting out an average of a book a year until 2095. I don’t know what my numbers will be then, but these are my numbers to date, in order of copies sold, completion percentage, and development stage in my brain, respectively:

Published (5):

54 Runners, 54 Stories: The Tale of the 2012 200k JRunners Relay Race: 78 copies sold. I’m very proud of this one, my current bestseller. I targeted an entire very-niche market, and sold it to nearly all of them. A sequel will be written, but it likely requires a full relay to be deserving of that. It seems promising. May we return speedily to those days, Amen.

The Year of Bad Behavior: Bearing Witness to the Uncouthiest of Humanity: 71 copies sold. The things that people moan and groan about concerning their fellow man, especially on Facebook, are all covered here. Every time I revisit the manuscript, it feels so current. Proud of this one too.

Bush II, Book I: 64 copies sold. The world has found this book. It exists somewhere that’s getting attention. Kindle versions are constantly finding themselves into strangers’ hands. Every time 9/11 approaches, I get a spike in sales.

A Conversation on The Way: 64 copies sold. Reviewed on 3 blogger sites, featured at the YU Seforim Sale, and nicely received. I especially enjoy the artwork by Dena Szpilzinger, the first hired professional of my writing career. I’m hoping to able to afford other services, like editing, though I am grateful to my volunteers.

Extracts From Noah’s Diary: 54 copies sold. Mark Twain wrote Extracts from Adam’s Diary, then followed up later with Eve’s Diary, then did not follow up any further, save for some parodies of Methuselah’s entries. This is where I came in; a sequel 100 years overdue. So big, it’s biblical. I was successful in having it reviewed by a small handful of book sites. I worked hard on the jokes, and strenuously on the research. It’s actually a giant d’var torah, and I feel my newest baby deserves a lot of attention. It is my first book ever to grace the New York Public Library’s shelves. I made it to Valhalla.

In progress (12):

Bush II, Book II: Manuscript 47% complete. I haven’t tackled this in a while, but it’s time to return. The attention the first book is getting warrants this. Also, I really didn’t think I wouldn’t get the sequel out before Obama’s tenure was complete. Trump, Book I would be a nutball projects to tackle, even though it’ll be over soon.

The Year of Bad Behavior II: More Scalawags, Dirtbags, Bullyrags, and Lollygags: Manuscript 30% complete. I also must return to this as well. The format differs from its prequel – grievances are ordered by category, rather than written as diary entries – and I think I’ll have an interesting product when complete. NJTransit’s stupidities, on their own, warrant a complete spin-off.

Zaidy's War: 20% complete. My maternal grandfather's memoirs, which I recorded in notebooks and on VHSes. This was my NaNoWriMo last year, and I’ve been working on it since. The work is long, but it’s steady. There’s still lots of research to do, and lots of translation to perform, but the work goes on. Zaidy passed away almost four years ago, and it’s important for his story to see the light of day. This is the project I’m most focused on.

A Conversation on the Conversation: Manuscript 20% complete. The first book is begging for a sequel, but it’s going to take lots of work. The quasi-fictional idea is that the original becomes a best-seller, and I’m invited to a talk show to discuss. This is the hard part. I and my interviewer pore over the original manuscript point for point, and I also will include rebuttals to my arguments that I received (in real life) from readers. It’s daunting, big big, but I’ll get it done somehow.

The Haggadah Project #1: 10% complete. There’s a certain pop-culture phenomenon we’re all familiar with, that some of us use more than others, whose adaptation into Hagadah form suddenly obsessed me last year, which I started noodling with, which I can crank out in a month if I remain dedicated to it, which might have the widest appeal, which borrows a bit from the Harry Potter Haggadah published last year, which I’m highly inclined to tackle for November, because I can crank it out that quickly, potentially. I hope I’ve remained cryptic enough for no one to steal my idea.

Forty Runners Less one: Stories and Glories From the 2013 200k JRunners 200k Relay Race: Manuscript: 10% complete. I collected the runner stories and also conducting interviews when needed. I also collected stories for the 2014 version of the race, and actually got 25% of the pack’s write-ups. Same for 2015, but with a drastically dwindled amount, and for 2016, with even smaller numbers, and for 2017, with almost nothing. It looks like the runners are more eager to contribute, as mentioned above, when the relay is a full one. I think I have to pull that off before I pull a book sequel off, in which all past year’s entries that I have on file will be included. I’ll target the same niche group as the original, and hopefully attract more runners to the great race.

The Man Who Read 1,001 Books Before He Died: 6.2% complete. You know those popular 1,001 xxx to xxx Before You Die books? Specifically, the Books to Read one? I thought it would be a neat trick to actually read those 1,001 books and write about the experience. This was what I NaNoWriMoed three years ago, and I’ve been fully immersed since. Whether you measure my status by the number of books I’m up to (62) or the pace at which I’ll read them (I’m scheduled to finish in August 2061. I should live so long!), the number is 6.2%. I’ve got a long way to go, but the progress will be steady. There is no question it’ll be the largest work I’ll ever put out. Not even two years in, it stands at 67,000 words/238 pages.

Mordechai’s Pamphlet: 3% complete. My paternal grandfather’s memoirs. The man for whom I am named recorded his thoughts about losing his wife and three children in WWII, surfacing from the ashes with his faith intact, marrying my grandmother, rebuilding a home with six children, then suffering for years from lung cancer until his death at age 47. He called the collection Kuntres Mordechai, and it is entirely written in Hebrew. I started the translation two NaNoWriMos ago, but admittedly fell of the wagon when my I found a new job, plus I jumped into other writing projects. I have to re-shift priorities and jump back on the wagon again. I’ll revisit after the coming NaNoWriMo, and hope to produce this before the end of next year.

My First 30 Marathons: The Running Story of a Midpack Runner: Putting all my marathon running reports together. Hoping I can find them all. I wonder if I’ll be successful. If I can actually find them, collating should be a snap. Everything’s already been written! This would include the next three marathons I’m running over the next half year, and would exclude the Makeshift Marathon I ran when Sandy canceled NYC in 2012, and also the seven ultras I’ve run. Or maybe they shouldn’t be excluded at all. I’ll think about it.

Children's Book #1 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a famous children's book. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Not creative enough. Will submit new drafts shortly.

Children's Book #2 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a less famous  - albeit more notorious - children's book. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Too tawdry. Will submit new drafts shortly.

The Knish’s Best 192 Articles of the First 192 it’s Published: I launched the first issue 14 years ago, and just released issue #32, which was very satisfying. The time may have arrived – as with my Marathon project above – to house them all in a single compendium, as a way of celebrating the site’s anniversary of its Bar Mitzvah. Everything’s written, I just need to write an intro and a timeline and do a pile of formatting. Shouldn’t be a big deal. Problem, though, would be how to share revenue with all the writers. What would be a fair system?

In my head (13):

How the Countries Got Their Shapes: I read a wonderful book entitled How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. It’s exactly what you think it is. I did the best research I could, and could find not a single book that covers the concept on a global scale. I could be the man who could fill that gap. I would enjoy the research very much. I wonder if I’d have to ask the author of the inspiration for permission before proceeding.

The Israel/Gaza War: The 102nd Bloodiest Conflict in the World in 2014: Amid the swaths of the myriad piles of articles I read on the topic, one little factoid stood out to me out of all others: that little statistic that I think would be an alarming book title. Because Israel has so many challenges coming from all directions, it also – as a silver lining of sorts – creates opportunities for people concerned for her to battle on her behalf. Perhaps I could contribute in this way, by helping to focus attention away from Israel and towards at least 101 other places on earth that deserve more international concern and intervention. I would have to come face to face with a lot of evil, though, plus the research would be difficult, and the data murky. This might be a calling I might have to answer, though.

Territorial Disputes: A Primer on the 600 Other International Land Quarrels No One Knows or Cares About, But Should: Along the same lines as above: a very long story, very short: somehow a miracle happened that the president of a publishing company invited me to present to his committee - that publishes books in a “Things You Need To Know” motif - my thoughts around how only Israel – and perhaps Cyprus/Turkey and India/Pakistan – gets vilified over its land issues with its neighbors. My project was declined, but it’s being kept on the burner. If they won’t go with it, perhaps I’ll strike out on my own (something I’m familiar with). As above, this might be an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an area more deserving, and away from where it is currently. Which project would be worthier? Hmmm…

Children's Book #3 with Classified Title: I was inspired by a series of photographs that I took of my children. My Editor-in-Chief has some great ideas about spinning it into a bedtime story. I’m pondering the text, and will need an illustrator to convert the pictures we have into artwork for the book.

Parenting Book with Classified Title: There are many parenting books out there. Most of them are garbage. I have an idea for one with a healthy dose of humor and a large general twist. My everyday parenting keeps inspiring ideas for the project. I think I’m to begin putting pen-to-paper on this shortly.

The Inevitables: A Gladwellian idea I have about people who spend their entire lives in pursuit of a specific career, switch to something else on a dime, and become wildly successful despite a complete lack of practice or the 10,000 hours Gladwell himself talks about.

Universals: The Differences and Similarities Between Global Cultures: I’m fascinated by this. There are things that are the same 99% of everywhere (basic utensils, green is go, cash for service, elemental human needs), and things that are different 99% of everywhere (voting systems, traffic handling, cordiality, attire, interpretation of freedom, hand gestures, justice). I’d like to explore. I’ve been traveling more lately on behalf of my corporation, and my cultural experiences have expanded, as has my curiosity.

Speakers of the Torah: My first actual sefer-esque idea. While researching my Noah book, it struck me how little dialogue God has with his direct primordial creations. Noah never speaks to God. Adam speaks two utterances to his Creator. Eve speaks to Him more than her husband does. There is also limited dialogue between man and man. I read a discourse by the famous Nechama Leibowitz on the dialogues of the biblical Joseph. She made fascinating conclusions, and it left me intrigued. I think this idea is worth exploring in full, and I wonder where the research will take me. I’ll start writing notes on this, and see where it leads.

Things that Drive Me Crazy About the Talmud: My second actual even more sefer-esque idea. My shadchan self-published a sefer recently, borne out of notes he kept while learning through TaNaCH over a 15-year period. They were truly original thoughts that he compressed into a single, impressive volume. I realized while reading that our thought-lines were quite similar, especially in regards to the myriad unanswered questions – and potentially original ones – that I had about the gemorah, in which I’m currently immersed in my second cycle of learning. I have begun to keep notes, and here too, I will look back after a time and see if I have anything worthy of being recorded in a single large volume. Apologies, I don’t have a more polite title at this time – and maybe I’ll just go with it.

The Haggadah Project #2: I have another pop-culture inflected idea for an haggadah, but first let me finish the other one. This one would be more niche, but perhaps more fun to put together.

Obama, Book I: Must Finish Bush II, Book II first.

Obama, Book II: I never thought there’d be a sequel.

Trump, Book I: OMG no.

When you let me know which project I should tackle – or stay focused on - for November, also please let me know what my grade is on my report.

Oh, and feel free to avail yourself to a book of mine or two (Just a few more sales and I will have sold 350 books; nice little milestone) at 50%-75% off. I'll have several more items on my bookshelf for you very soon, but for now, truly, the lineup is quite colorful, and pleasing to the eye – at least to mine:

Man, I also gotta put out another issue of and release some more of my surname articles…