A City Writes A Book, Or What I Did Over My Summer Vacation August 12th, 2012 A lark. That’s what I called it when Richey Piiparinen decided, over beers at the Happy Dog, to put together an anthology about Cleveland over the summer, pay for it ourselves and self-publish it in September. The timing seemed right, and it made sense to move fast. Why? There was something in the air—and on the airwaves. Richey had been quoted extensively in Salon and on NPR Morning Edition about a “Cleveland Resurgence.” Meanwhile, I had been making a few small efforts towards getting Cleveland non-fiction writers together. In fact, the Happy Dog plays a large role in the deeper backstory of Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology. During the winter, Ohio City Writers hosted a “Write To Assemble” on whether or not Cleveland writers should be boosters or critical of the city. That night , unlike the one in which Richey and I brainstormed the anthology idea, was not a good one for me. When I got to the Happy Dog that earlier winter night, I was excited: every time I go down to Detroit-Shoreway, I’m amazed at how quickly it is changing for the better. The streets were lit, and when I opened the door to the bar I could not even enter for the crowds: the place was packed. But the conversation depressed me. As a fairly recent transplant to Cleveland, I often feel left-out: Cleveland can be an insular community. The topic of the panel exacerbated this feeling. No offense to others who feel otherwise, but for me as a writer,the question of Cleveland pro/con is boring. My take is different: for me, Cleveland is fascinating, important, and of consequence. Cleveland writers are a varied, talented and accomplished bunch. I couldn’t find a way for my perspective to become part of the discussion others were having. I drove away sad, sure I would continue to be a somewhat isolated writer, often writing about her city but divorced from her locale. This lark—this crazy idea for Rust Belt Chic–was a way to do something with those uneasy emotions. It was a risk. Put together a book in 3 months? Pay for it ourselves? And ask those I do not know very well work with me to do so? But it has been a charmed project from the beginning. When we put out the call for contributions, our inbox exploded. We gave writers and artists only three weeks to send us contributions, and we received over 80 submissions. Established, very busy writers who really should not be writing for free decided to spend days working and worrying over pieces they wrote specifically for our book. Others stepped up and offered to help spread the word, help us find printers and otherwise navigate the self-publishing route. The community, in other words, made putting this book together easy. Most of the writers who submitted seemed, again like osmosis, to understand what we were after: to describe our city, circumventing the pro/con issue by simply telling the city’s story, ugly and pretty both. The quality of what we were sent astounded us. We were equally smitten by pieces by established writers such as David Giffels, Connie Schultz and Michael Ruhlman and those by newer voices such as Eric Anderson, Elizabeth Weinstein and Pete Beatty. We offered no money to any of the writers, save a free copy. But when we launched the option to pre-order the book, the writers—the last people who should also feel compelled to support the project through their own coffers—were the first to pay $20 to help fund our printing costs. Two months after that night at Happy Dog, here is what we have done: we vetted 80-some contributions. Richey and I exchanged approximately 6, 345 emails. We have then exchanged another 5,321 to writers interested in the project. During the momth of July, we completed 50 sets of edits and pulled together up a team of six volunteer proofreaders. As I write, the files for the book are being readied for the printer, and it contains contributions by 52 writers and artists. It has been the best kind of lark, a risk well-taken. Time for another hot dog. Want more details about the final product? Here’s the skinny comments Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (will not be published) (required) Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.