We are to publish a book he said, a real, physical mass of pages with a plot and symbolism and all that great stuff. To accomplish this goal a quirky group of college students, a professor/master indie press runner, and a lucky contest-winning author all had to come together as one. This spectacular, never before seen unity was formed with the singular purpose of getting Neil Connelly’s The Pocket Guide to Divorce into an indie bookstore near you.
But, of course, not everything is that easy. There were hundreds of submissions to Gorsky Press through its Molly Ivors Prize for Fiction contest, and by the time our classroom congregated for that quintessential first day of lecture, those hundreds had been limited to four. These were the finalists, and we were the judges. The real question though, was which of these manuscripts was the best? And by ‘best’ I mean which one of these books was realistically publishable? Which of these manuscripts, all well-written, and all infused with the blood, sweat, and tears of the their authors, could we actually make printer ready in merely fourteen weeks? The answer to that burning question came about 750 pages, and four manuscripts later.
It was a heated battle of the books. The contestants included a feel-good coming of age novel surrounded by paranormal undertakings, a collection of short stories concerning the shortcomings of those who had sex in Taiwan, the inspirational story of a boy following in his mysterious Hassidic Jewish father’s footsteps to be a book seller on the streets of New York, and the story of a guy going through a divorce that you sort of just had to feel bad for.
And with that, the debates began. Organized into a circular pattern and prepped with our opinions, we faced our desks towards each other and got into our respective groups. Arguments, counters, and rebuttals were thrown around as each faction tried to convince the others that their choice was in fact, the best. Feelings may or may not have been hurt in the process, but in the end, with about half the class behind it The Pocket Guide to Divorce ultimately won. And that was that.
(Students in The Publishing House course wrote seven narratives about the class and the contest. This is the first.)