Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir

  • By Gail Godwin
  • Bloomsbury USA
  • 224 pp.
  • Reviewed by Kristina Moriconi
  • February 25, 2015

An insider's chronicle of scribes' ever-changing world.

Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir

All at once, in Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, Gail Godwin has written for us a history, a how-to guide, a personal journey, and a cautionary tale. No matter her point of view, though, her message is consistent throughout: The endeavor to publish is not a path for the easily discouraged.

“I would have to live through some humiliating failures,” she writes. “When you were down, it seemed, the insults piled up.”

The chronology of Godwin’s account is circuitous, much like we come to understand the arduous path to publication to be. Art imitating process, perhaps. And on the pages of this memoir — many of which are illuminated by architect Frances Halsband’s pen-and-ink line drawings — readers are given an insider’s look at both the routines of Godwin’s writing process as well as her persistent efforts to publish her manuscripts.

It is as though she has invited us to accompany her on this journey, to experience along with her the successes and the failures — rejections, offers, contracts — and to witness the ins and outs of a complicated industry.

In a chapter entitled “Publishing Partners,” she introduces the metaphor of a dance partnership to help readers better see and understand the relationship between an author and her editors. This image becomes increasingly helpful as the author goes on to illuminate an ever-increasing shift in the structure of publishing.

“Let’s say there has been an intermission,” she writes, “and when we publishing partners (authors, editors, and publishers) return to the dance we notice things are different. A proliferation of nondancers has taken to the floor.”

For writers and readers of all genres, it is interesting to follow Godwin as she traces this transformation in the publishing industry back to its original steps. And woven alongside this history of 50 years, she reflects, too, on her mother’s writing aspirations, how this influenced her own desire to write, and how stories of family and home are always the ones we hold closest and look to for inspiration.

Godwin is the author of two story collections and 14 novels. This is the story behind those stories. And it is told in the way a life happens, with flashbacks and detours and gaps. In this memoir, Godwin’s journey acts as a guide, a map of writing — and reconciling — one’s own process.

Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist. She is author of the chapbook No Such Place (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and her work has appeared, most recently, in Blood Lotus, Under the Sun, and Crab Creek Review. She is the 2014 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, poet laureate and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. Moriconi earned her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington, and now lives and teaches in suburban Philadelphia.

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