The secret's out
My first book will be published by Autofocus Books in 2025, and it's not a novel
On Monday, Autofocus Books made the official announcement: my nonfiction book Leave: A Postpartum Account will be published in 2025.
I haven’t written much about this book here, because The Next Novel is about novels! So a brief history:
I wrote the core pieces of it as notes on my phone while recovering from a birth injury in 2019. I was basically stuck on the couch, being cared for by other people who were also caring for the baby, and at first it was terrifying and then it was boring and both emotions made me want to document it, but at that point I thought the notes were only for myself.
In late 2020, I went back to the notes and started to shape them into a narrative, thinking I might have an essay.
Over the next year, the project grew into something that was sort of an odd length. 22,000 words: too long to submit as an essay and too short for a traditional memoir. I began to think of it as a slim book, something that could be read in a day but also lingered over. Something like Rivka Galchen’s Little Labors or Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness.
In late 2021, I sent it to a few first readers and to my agent, Ashley. I got so many good notes!
In 2022 I did a revision and Ashley and I came up with a short list of independent presses that might be into this kind of project. When I say short, I mean very short. (I believe the market for this kind of book is actually quite large, but it would be seen as a risky acquisition by most publishers for a variety of reasons, many of which I understand… and that’s a topic for another day.) We divided the list into presses where I could take the book directly and ones where she would pitch it. Fun fact: Autofocus was on that original list, but by the time we finalized it, their submission window had closed!
Aaaaaaaaand I didn’t end up submitting it to most of the others either because with one of the very first presses I’d submitted to, I’d done so through a prize competition, and it wound up being a finalist. There were five finalists and the winner would be published, but first the judge needed to read and consider all five.
In April 2023, I learned that Leave did not win the competition, and the first thing I did was email Michael Wheaton at Autofocus. I’d met him briefly at AWP, where my friend Sara Lippmann had mentioned my book to him and claimed he seemed interested and whether you were just pumping me up or that was really true, THANK YOU, SARA! I never would have done it without a lot of encouragement because I’m a Midwestern rule follower, and if a press says closed for submissions, they really do mean closed for submissions. But in this case, it worked out.
In July 2023, Michael said he wanted to publish it, so I’ve known since then but I’ve been waiting to say anything here until the official announcement.
I am thrilled that Leave wound up with Autofocus. I love their aesthetic, and I am in such great company among their authors.
There’s still a lot to do before the book comes out. I’m taking one more pass at the manuscript before Michael gives me his edits, and then I’ll have those edits to make as well. Hence my revision reading list.
Then at some point there will be a preorder link and I’ll ask you all to kindly preorder and explain why preorders are so critical to a book’s success.
And then 2025 will be here before we know it.
I’m feeling a lot of feelings over here. I’m mostly excited, a little nervous.
I also can’t stop thinking about — and this might feel like a hard turn for some of you, but for those who know me or have read early versions of Leave, it will make complete sense — the women who are giving birth in Gaza, right now, under horrific conditions. Bombs falling around them as they labor in shelters and in streets, C-sections and sutures with no anesthetic, and in many cases no one to help if there is a complication.1 And for the ones who make it, the near impossibility of breastfeeding but no clean water for formula, no vaccinations, and unsanitary conditions that increase the risk of infection for both mother and baby.2
The WHO and the UN estimated back in November that there were about 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with around 180 giving birth every day.3 The expectation then was that miscarriages, stillbirths, and maternal mortality would rise. There aren’t solid numbers on what’s happened to these women since then, because so much of it is happening outside of any sort of system. But there are reported stories, and they are devastating.
The United Nations Population Fund is one of the organizations focused on saving the lives of these women and their babies. $5 covers the cost of an emergency birth kit, which contains things like a sterile sheet and latex gloves. If you’ve ever thought, I would pay for this Substack if it ever goes paid (which I’m 99.99% sure it won’t), please take that money and donate it here.
Love to you all, especially to all the new TNN subscribers this week. It’s going to be a little nonfiction-y around here for a bit, but I’ll be getting back to the glass house novel soon.