I read in The New York Times yesterday that Joe the Plumber has penned a book.  The news was in an op-ed piece written by Timothy Egan, in which he takes publishers to task on allocating what little money they have to giving voice to people who perhaps don’t deserve it.

Egan also writes of a possible book deal for Sarah Palin, projected to be worth $7 million—a lot of money for a would-be author who we have all seen possesses a tenuous relationship with the English language. And as these books come to our shelves, what great works of literature remain dormant in the desks of real writers?

Between Egan’s op-ed and Adrián’s post here last week, I’ve been sitting at my laptop today feeling pretty depressed. But the pieces also got me thinking about the validity of publishing one book over another, and the ways that we document the world around us. Would a book about the phenomenon of Joe the Plumber written, perhaps, by George Packer be more valid? Or were Joe’s 15 minutes of fame a mere anecdote in American history and worthy of only a few paragraphs in some political science book about elections? And in giving Mr. Plumber a public voice, are publishers defining history and validating that Joe is more than a simple anecdote?

Can we qualify the ways in which our world gets written about? I personally do not keep a journal. I have dozens of notebooks lying around my apartment, all filled with ideas, observations, and sentence fragments, but I don’t record my daily existence. However, I think about journaling all the time, and question the fact that I don’t.  And the fact that I don’t has something to do with my belief that I don’t find the day-to-day worthy of recording.

Now, I understand I am revealing my own ambiguous relationship with my ego, but what makes something worthy of being written about publicly versus privately? Should different measures of value exist when publishing and money are involved? I’d love to hear how others wrestle with these issues, and if you have a second read Egan’s piece; it’s not often I find something so equally disheartening and engaging. 


Or write him a song if you are so inclined.

12th Street got an interesting email this morning and we wanted to pass it along to you, our audience. We encourage you to speak you mind and exercise your voice. This nation is at a unique moment in time where one hopes that the spirit of bipartisanship will carry over into the real-world business of governing, where for the first time in years, the task will be to find a way to spend and do less and to make voters understand the need.

Let us know if your letter makes it in!

Letters to President Obama is an exciting and fascinating project offering Americans the chance to share with one another the excitement of a milestone in American and African-American history.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
On October 28th, 2008, Skyhorse Publishing announced plans to publish Letters to President Obama: Americans Share Our Hopes and Dreams with the First African-American President.
Scheduled for publication in April 2009, it is designed to capture the country’s excitement and hope at a time of change and transformation.
No one could have predicted even two years ago that in January 2009, an African American would take the oath of office as President of the United States. This new collection of contributions is being created to stand as a time capsule of this exciting moment in history. Written by citizens themselves, it will reflect and dramatize the range of emotions and aspirations Americans of all walks of life are willing to share with President Barack Obama as he prepares to take office.
Bill Wolfsthal, Associate Publisher at Skyhorse, commented, “I know this book will make a unique statement about who we are as Americans in 2009 and will provide an opportunity for citizens to share their feelings with one another—both by writing letters and reading the finished book.”

Central to the book is the African-American experience, but Americans of every race, color, gender, and age will be represented. From children and seniors, from cities and farms, all have something to share with with one another and with President Barack Obama.

Edited by a team comprised of professors from the University of Michigan and Cornell University , Letters to President Obama is being created to stand as a time capsule to memoriale how we, as a nation, feel during this dramatic moment in history.


The Editors of Letters to President Obama

Professor Hanes Walton, Jr. is on the faculty of the Center for Political Studies and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan . He has a PhD in government from Howard University.
Dr. Josephine A. V. Allen is professor emerita of policy analysis and management at Cornell University and professor of social work in the College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University. She holds a PhD in political science and social welfare administration and policy from the University of Michigan. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
Dr. Sherman Puckett works with the Wayne County Department of Public Services. He holds a PhD in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan . He lives in Detroit , Michigan .
Professor Donald R. Deskins, Jr. teaches urban geography and sociology at the University of Michigan . He holds a PhD from the University of Michigan . He lives in Ann Arbor , Michigan .
Letters to President Obama
$19.95 Hardcover (Can. $22.95) / ISBN 978-1-60239-714-9
6” x 9” / 320 pages / Politics / April
Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 903
New York, NY 10018


12th Street’s print journal submissions period is officially open, and this year it runs from October 15th- December 15th, 2008.  That gives any undergraduate enrolled in The New School the opportunity to share their best writing with us and our readers.

What are we looking for?  We publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  We’re open minded, so be bold; our aim is to explore the role of writer in the world and provide a forum for creative expression.

At the top of the page, you will find a tab linking to our submission guidelines.  You can also find 12th Street submission information and updates on our facebook page.  Become a fan!  If you would like a copy, they are on sale at your local Barnes and Noble with the other literary journals in the magazine section.

With every issue we are offered the opportunity to give a public voice to new ideas and writers, we consider it a privilege and hope you will get involved- and write out loud.


Anna Utevsky


Want to be a bookseller? I asked an international sales representative from Harper Collins what it’s like. He’d just gotten back from a month long trip, back in time to watch the Minnesota Twins lose. I caught him during the 6th innings.

12th Street: So how does one become a sales representative for Harper Collins?

Austin Tripp: Well, you start, typically, as an assistant to a rep. There are other scenarios, but this is most usual. I started my adult working life working for a printer making books, and did sales for them, and then moved to New York to be an assistant. I wanted to travel somehow, and this seemed right. It is very corporate though; I wasn’t ready for that.

12th Street: You don’t feel like a salesman yet.

AT: Oh, I do, I am. Just the other day I sold a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. Singapore and Thailand are my favorite. The business is great in both, but I like the culture. Both are very different—Singapore is so clean, and while they have atrocious human rights violations, they make decisions over there with the people’s best interest in mind. Thailand is just nuts.

12th Street: So you like the antibacterial hand wash in Singapore offered by the beaten one-eyed slave.

AT: Love it! Seriously: no litter, no spitting, and no durians on public transport.

12th Street: Durians?

AT: It’s a fruit that smells like ass.

12th Street: Aha. So, how much of Harper’s sales goes to Asia, and how does that compare with international sales as a whole?

AT: Asia compared to the rest of the Open Market (outside of US, UK, Canada, and members of the traditional British Colonies) is pretty large. Actually, it’s the largest. It could be an important percentage for a writer, but not their primary concern, unless their book has specific appeal to a country—say you are Malay or something.

12th Street: So, how does Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows do against something like Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment on Its Ear? (more…)