Dec. 7, 2007 -- Web site, Live!

Step 1—The Web site goes live.

Although really, this isn't Step 1 to my first book, but Step 5,352, or something like that, if I had been counting.

Finally, there's a reason to launch

And where does one begin? At the moment of my father teaching me letters using the looming headlines of The New York Post? At that first child’s poem only-a-mother-could-love about butterflies? At the notebook my junior year high school English teacher had us all keep, which she had us call our “Creative Eye” (or “I,” she told us). Zooming forward a few decades, my first published story in Other Voices?

This book alone has probably taken as many steps: Starting with that slow news day on the home page in the summer of 2003, when I began chatting with the Live Online editor, who admitted she was hardly ever able to have authors on the site’s online interviews anymore. “I could do a show for you,” I said.

Two months later, in October 2003, in an interview conducted by telephone in a council flat in Lincoln, England, because I’d been doing a residency in Scotland, Alice McDermott became my first “Off the Page” guest. Within the first few months, I interviewed Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Jhumpa Lahiri. Five months after that, a very savvy DC writer and literary editor (C.M. Mayo, thank you) said to me, It would make a fabulous book. Six months later, I began shopping around for an agent. It took a year and a half and countless revisions to my non-fiction book proposal (using Susan Rabiner’s Think Like Your Editor—another thank you!) I was told one morning: It’s going out the next day.

Norton bought it within the week.

I hadn’t written the book yet.

And so, with much joyfulness, bottles of Prosecco (the cheap person’s champagne, three of them since holding the first copy of the book in my hand two weeks ago), gleeful emails about possible reviews in prestigious magazines (to be mentioned if they ever come through) plans for book store events (Politics and Prose, Jan. 25) and new Live Online discussions ( Ha Jin this week, Marie Arana and Richard Bausch on Dec. 10, Andrea Barrett on Dec. 17), I introduce: Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings and Everything in Between.

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