The Secret Last Line

Secret last line 02You know how you sometimes hear those apocryphal stories about writers and writing: Ernest Hemingway’s wife leaving his entire manuscript on a train; Sherwood Anderson writing the bulk of Winesburg, Ohio, in the middle of the night and naked; Alice McDermott basing an uncompleted novel on one of my short stories?  Some are completely false (like the thing about Alice McDermott; I just really like her). But some are based in fact and a few of those happen to be completely true.

Here’s one I know is true: The very last line of my novel, Californium, is not the line with which I originally intended to end the book. I was struggling with exactly how to word that line and my editor at Plume solved my dilemma by striking it completely and ending on the penultimate line. I didn’t know things like that actually happened, and I wasn’t sure my editor was wrong to do it, so I got a second opinion from my other editor at Plume, and then my agent, and all agreed that the second-to-last line was the better line and the very last line should go.  At this point, it was hard to argue with people who had taken such care with my manuscript and, frankly, helped me make it a much better book than I ever could have written completely on my own, so I agreed and the last line was lost to history. Well, almost. I still have it saved on a draft of the novel.

I’m never going to sneak into bookstores and pencil in that last line so people will know what it was. BUT, I am willing to reveal it to anyone who reads Californium, who cares to know, and (here comes the marketing pitch) who has bought Californium by July 31, 2016. (I know, to completely lose my soul I just need to add that operators are standing by and if you’re not completely satisfied you can send the book back at no cost and keep the steak knives as my gift to you). But, it would be kind of cool to know, wouldn’t it? Sort of a director’s cut of the book?

If you’re interested, I promise I won’t send the last line and spoil everything until after you’ve read the book. So if you think you’ll want to know, all you have to do is this:

  1. Buy Californium by July 31, 2016
  2. Save your receipt
  3. Either attach a dated receipt or a selfie with the book to r_dean_johnson@yahoo.com by September 30, 2016, and I’ll give up the goods

That’s it. You’ll help preserve a very minor part of literary history, and you’ll be able to say, “Thank God that guy had good editors” Or will you?  Maybe my instincts were right at first. Decide for yourself, then feel free to email me exactly what you think.

Advertisements

From the “How Cool Is That?” file:

Livraria FerinI’m giving a “two weeks before it’s released” reading of CALIFORNIUM, which really isn’t a thing. The thing is that I’m reading with David Caplan and Frank X. Gaspar. The other thing is that the reading will be at Livraria Ferin, a bookstore  in the Baixa-Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon. So, two things. Super cool things.

Big thanks to Jeff Parker of Disquiet International for setting this up and letting me read with two great authors.

 

Errors

SH 36 website banner

This spring they’ve been adding up:

  1. Soooooo many typos. In emails and manuscripts. On Facebook and Twitter. Maybe because I’m left-handed. Perhaps because I’m a four-finger and two-thumbs typist. Probably because I’m forever in a hurry and rushing through things without proof-reading well enough.
  2. There was that bike crash I had right before AWP. The one where I broke my left wrist and pinky finger, got a concussion (which only added to the typos), cracked my mandible, added three manly new scars to my face, and made me miss AWP.
  3. Like, a month ago, my essay “Errors” came out in the journal, Salt Hill, along with a lot of other excellent work (I’m really digging the story “Bald Bear” by Becky Mandelbaum), and I really should have thanked Jacob Collins-Wilson, the nonfiction editor at SH) and mentioned all of this a lot sooner, like, a month ago.

The great Californium pre-sale sale

My first novel, Californium:  a novel of punk rock, growing up, and other dangerous things (Plume-Penguin), won’t be out until July 19. But not only is it on pre-sale right now, it’s also on sale-sale (like 5 bucks off at all the online book sellers). california-bear-flag7

So if you’re thinking about how to look cool on the beach this summer, well, there are a lot of better ways to do it, but having a copy of Californium that you didn’t have to pay full price for won’t hurt.  You’ll look smart . You’ll be smart. And everyone knows smart is the new cool. Kind of.

 

Where I’m Going. Where I’ve Been.

DM_Trinity CollegeThis is supposed to be my 2015 writerly wrap-up. It probably should have posted a month ago. But that’s kind of what 2015 was all about. My story collection, DELICATE MEN, came out so late in 2014 (December 29) it felt more like 2015. And so, the year began with things arriving late and that never really went away.
I finished my MFA in 2003, and here it was, just twelve short years later, and I was giving readings with my brand new book. My first book. Better late than… well, it was just really great to see it arrive, and then to see where it went—those readings with me, into the hands of people I’ve never met but who were kind enough to email me their impressions, and to far-flung places like Brasil, England, and Scotland. DELICATE MEN even visited, courtesy of my old college roommate whom I hadn’t heard from in years, its distant cousins at Trinity College Library in Dublin.

Delicate Men_ScotlandAlso in 2015, my agent, Mackenzie Brady Watson, sold my first novel, CALIFORNIUM, to Plume-Penguin. I’d taken long gaps in working on the novel and taken a long time revising it. In fact, technically it’s the first book I ever wrote, but it will be the third book published with my name on it. (There’s a collection of pedagogical essays I edited, TEACHABLE MOMENTS, floating around this world too).

Late in 2015, my essay, “Something L.A.” was published as a chapbook through Blue Cubicle Press’s Overtime Series. I’d written the early drafts of that essay four years earlier.
At first glance, it may look like 2015 was this extraordinarily productive year for me. And it was in terms of publishing. But I spent most of the year revising the manuscripts of Something L.A. and Californium for my editors, another big chunk of the year it reading from and promoting DELICATE MEN, and far too little of it writing.
Apollo Reading 1

I’m not complaining. In discussing where to start a story, I ask my beginning writing students all the time: When is the best time to arrive at a party? There’s usually one polite, attentive, pleasant student who says, “On time” or “When it’s scheduled to start.” And there’s usually one mostly polite, fairly attentive, slightly unpredictable student who says, “Late” or “When things are really getting good.” Yep.

My essay, “Errors,” will be out in the Spring 2016 issue of Salt Hill. CALIFORNIUM, now with the subtitle: A Novel of Punk Rock, Growing Up, and Other Dangerous Things, will be out July 19, 2016. I’ve got a few readings planned already, and I get to spend three weeks with my MFA students in Lisbon this coming July too. (I’ll be getting some selfies with both books). If 2015 was the year of Late, I’d like to think 2016 is the year of things really getting good. Californium_WSub

A tiny review of The Southern Review

There are always good reasons to read The Southern Review. The Autumn 2015 issue just reminded me of that with the excellent poetry of Charles Rafferty (among many other fine writers). But, the issue kicks off with a real keeper (yes, pun intended): “Nabokov in Goal, Cambridge, 1919” by Floyd Skloot. Just excellent.southern review