The Road to Publication. Okay. Daunting topic. What did I get myself into?
Months ago, when I signed up to write a post on this theme, my launch day, June 14, still seemed so far away and abstract. Back then, I imagined that the day before Tokyo Heist was released into the world, I'd be writing from a place of great insight and emotion and that the words would come easily. To my surprise, I've had a massive case of writer's block on the subject. Marking out start and end points? Not easy.
Did my road to publication begin with the first scenes I wrote of what would become Tokyo Heist back in 2004? Or did it begin at age five, when I was a self-publishing industry long before Amazon, churning out handmade books with titles like Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables and foisting them upon anyone who crossed my path? Or did it begin when I left an academic career to pursue creative writing full-on?
I'm near the end of the road to publication now, at the last water stop before the finish
line. Or is there a finish line? Am I ending a
journey or beginning a new one? Am I just going around a bend in a very long road?
Because I could stand here philosophizing about this forever, I'm enlisting the help of a traveler you may or may not have heard of: Hiroshige Utagawa, a Japanese woodblock print artist from the 1800s.
(I know; summer's beginning, and I'm giving an art history lecture. Stay with me. I'll be brief).
The Tokaido Road was the main highway in old Japan, linking Edo (before it was called Tokyo) to Kyoto, which was the capital. Hiroshige traveled along this road in 1832. Inspired by what he saw, he sketched madly along the way and later created what would become his most famous series of landscape prints: "The Fifty-Three Stations of Tokaido." The "stations" were places where travelers could find food, stables, and lodging.
Hiroshige's 55 prints were a huge publishing success in the highly commercial business of ukiyo-e prints. They established him as the most prominent printmaker of his time. The prints became sought after in Western countries, and Vincent van Gogh was one artist who was profoundly influenced by them. In fact, this is a connection my characters learn of and explore in Tokyo Heist.
I love the Tokaido Road series too, and at times along the journey of writing and publishing Tokyo Heist, I've looked back at those images, imaging myself trekking across those vast landscapes. They seem alternately barren and lush, inviting and hostile. I'm going to highlight a few stations from my journey with Hiroshige's help. I think some of his snapshots from the road could be mine too.
When I scrolled through Hiroshige's 55 images this time around, it was really the images with people that drew me in, even though he's primarily a landscape artist. The road to publication is an endurance event, and may have its solitary stretches, but there are stations and fellow travelers to be found.
I'm trying to change the language I use to describe the journey. I catch myself using words like endure and survive. But the road to publication can also be enjoyed and celebrated and savored. You can stop every so often and take a good look around.
Many people along the way have helped me get to where I am as a published author. Just as importantly, many people have reminded me to pause and enjoy the views. Thank you, Apocalypsies, book bloggers, beta readers, crit group partners, publishing team, family, and friends, who have offered help, companionship, and respite on my own Tokaido Road.
Diana Renn's debut novel, Tokyo Heist (Viking/Penguin) releases Thursday, June 14, 2012. It's about a teenage girl who loves manga and who stumbles into an international art mystery in Japan.
View the Tokyo Heist book trailer at YA Books Central.