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First-time author describes navigating jungle of the publishing world

By APRILL BRANDON
Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.
Updated Nov. 5, 2010 at 6:05 a.m.

Author Ann Weisgarber reads a selection from her award-winning first novel "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree" at the American Book Review reading series on Thursday.

Who's nextThe next speaker for the American Book Review reading series will be E. Ethelbert Miller at noon, Dec. 3 at the University of Houston-Victoria. Admission is free.

Ever since her book, "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree" was published in the U.S. in August, author Ann Weisgarber has been on a book tour that has taken her all over the country, including major metropolises like New York City.

What she considered the premiere event, however, was her last stop, which just happened to be the American Book Review reading series at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to be here. All those other places on my book tour could learn from you guys," she said to the crowd.

Although she's not your typically author - with no literary background, she taught herself to write fiction by taking non-credit college classes and copying pages of novels by longhand - Weisgarber is now a sort of expert at navigating through the confusing jungle that is the publishing industry.

Once she finished writing her novel, family and friends encouraged her to try and get it published. Soon after, Weisgarber, of Sugar Land, set about finding an agent, she said.

"I'm pretty sure that's why a lot of authors drink. They have to find an agent," she quipped. "I'd send out 10 letters at a time to agents. When I got a response back that said "Dear Author," I knew it was not good news. So then I'd send out 10 more letters."

Eventually Weisgarber did find an agent, only to be dropped by that same agent after they couldn't get any publishing houses interested in printing the book.

"Yeah, my agent dropped me. Which was fine. Not really though," she laughed.

Her book did get published eventually, through a publishing house in England that focused on manuscripts that were not represented by an agent, she added.

"The letter they wrote me started with 'Dear Ann (if I may).' I remember thinking, you may call me whatever you want," she said as the audience laughed.

Once published, it received an award from the Texas Institute of Letters and was nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Orange Award.

"Soon after that, I got flooded with e-mails congratulating me, many from all the agents that rejected me. Then after that, it took a year before the book came out in the states," Weisgarber said. "At the Texas Institute of Letters, when I went to get my award, my editor told me he was ripping up my old contract and making a new one for my second and third book. That one surprised me. With all these awards, there is additional pressure now."

Weisgarber is working on her second novel, which is set during the 1900 hurricane in Galveston.

Of all she learned while writing her first book, her advice to other aspiring writers is simple.

"The best thing writers can do is read. Slow down and read. The reason I hand copied pages from another novel is because it forces you to slow way down and look at the word choices, the length of the sentence," she said. "The whole writing process is a mental illness. It makes you do crazy things."

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