At a party this spring sponsored by Grub Street, Boston’s independent writing center, novelist Elinor Lipman and Beacon Press director Helene Atwan got more than just drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Atwan signed Beacon’s first Tweet book, a 120-page paperback original, Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus, based on Lipman’s daily political Tweets begun in June 2011. And Lipman added her first almost-instant book, four-months from gestation to delivery, to her portfolio. The book, which was named by one of Lipman’s Grub Street students after the party, will be available August 28, in time for both the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Atwan didn’t attend the Grub Street gathering to buy a manuscript, anymore than Lipman set out to sell one. After all, she was already working on two books, which will be published simultaneously next May: a novel, The View from Penthouse B, and a collection of essays written over 20 years, I Can’t Complain. But when she told Atwan “no” to her question“Someone’s doing your Tweets as a book, right?,” Atwan replied, “Well, I am.” And so the deal was done.
Lipman’s Tweets came about in the same unexpected way as the book deal. After taking a workshop on social networking, because it was given by friends,she decided to send up a trial Tweet balloon, a haiku-like summing up of the previous day’s political news. In it she commented on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announcement of the passage of the state’s same-sex marriage bill—and the makings of Tweet Land were born. Lipman promised herself, she told PW, to begin the day by writing a brief 140-character poem about the events of the day. It hasn’t always been easy. Try rhyming “Blagojevich.” But Lipman also promised to keep writing them through the fall elections. The Tweets have garnered praise from novelists like Stephen McCauley, who calls them “the only sane, smart, and witty thing to come out of the Republican primaries.”
Lipman views the Tweets as her “morning warm-up” before she does her other writing. And she has set herself very few rules. “I try not to be mean,” she says. “I work on them until something makes me smile. The topic is the hardest thing. Herman Cain was the gift that kept on giving. That’s why I’m hoping for an outrageous vice president.”
Beacon has an aggressive marketing campaign to make the book during the short window before the November elections. Promotional quantities are going into Barnes & Noble, and Lipman will be doing a dozen events at bookstores, libraries, and Jewish Community Centers in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, metro New York, and Western Massachusetts, according to associate publisher Tom Hallock. At her signing at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., Lipman will be joined by several other area writers, including Anita Shreve and William Martin, who will read her verses.
Beacon also did a Tweet Land sampler, which it gave away at BEA and included in an Indie Next White Box, and it is promoting the book on Politico.com. One special plus is that Random House reps, who carry Beacon’s titles on their iPads and in their bags, are already familiar with Lipman’s work. Many of her novels are available in Vintage editions. And, of course, Lipman will be Tweeting.