Rewriting Milwaukee History

There’s nothing like walking into a bookstore for something else entirely and discovering a pile of books with your name on it. It happened to me this week, for a book I’d all but forgotten about.

The backstory is that late in 2007, I signed a contract with Twin Lights Publishers to write the text for a coffee-table book about Milwaukee from page layouts supplied by the publisher.

The charge was to emphasize history in the photo captions, which was a challenge in the  50–60 words allotted by the layout design, but I enjoy history and the research was great fun. When all was said and done, however, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait was a work-for-hire arrangement (meaning I got paid a flat fee for the research and writing; there would be no royalties or author discounts) so after I deposited my final check, the book more or less fell off my radar.

When I received my author copies last spring–two years and two months after turning in the final copy–I was in the middle of two other writing projects. We had a modest family celebration and that was the extent of it.

However, I kept hearing about sightings in the wild. A neighbor who works in the Milwaukee Art Museum gift shop emailed me about passing out our neighborhood newsletter, and also mentioned that the book was selling well. I’m not surprised. The photos, by Peter and Renee Skiba, are gorgeous.

Photo by Younger Son, who currently is out of town so I can't check to see if he's okay with having a byline.

A few weeks later, Younger Son came across a display at the Milwaukee Public Museum’s gift shop and thoughtfully emailed me the photo at right.

And then last week, I had my own encounter. I dropped in to Boswell Books on Milwaukee’s Fashionable East Side to fulfill my good-karma commitment to buy one children’s book a month from a local independent bookstore.

After I’d purchased Hot Rod Hamster for a baby gift and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z (a middle-grade book that is inexplicably unavailable in our county library system) for my own Shelf of Inspiration, I was browsing in the grown-up section of the store when I suddenly discovered a stack of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait (Twin Lights Publishers, Inc., $26.95) right there in front of my very nose.

I have four other non-fiction titles to my name, but they were either textbooks or written for niche markets and tended not to show up in mainstream bookstores. So the author experience at Boswell was a first for me, and it was very, very nice indeed.

And it was also very nice to hear from Daniel Goldin, Boswell’s owner, that the book not only looks pretty, but it’s selling well, too.

© 2011 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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16 Responses to Rewriting Milwaukee History

  1. Deb says:

    Yay, Anne! I was honored to view the book when I was with you at the Art Museum! To be in the presence of the published…

    Looking forward to getting together soon!


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Thanks, Deb. I’ve dragged a couple other victims over to see the book at the Art Museum. But somehow, having to ask for it to be retrieved from a shelf behind the register (as if it had nekked people in it or something) just isn’t the same as seeing a stack right in the middle of the store! I suspect the initial order had a bigger display, however.


  2. Amy Lou says:

    Wonderful Anne, I’ll be on the lookout for this. Very impressive!


  3. Anna says:

    How great! It’s nice that the book is going strong, and that it keeps popping up to remind you of a job well done. 🙂


  4. You’re right, it’s a neat experience. Surreal, too, for me. The first time it happened to me, I knew it was my book—obviously—but at the same time had a hard time getting it to sink in that that was really my book. Odd. Still, always a pleasant surprise whenever I saw it in our local book stores. Congratulations!!


  5. Anne M Leone says:

    How exciting, Anne! What a great experience, and so happy that your book keeps popping up everywhere.


  6. Becky says:

    Now I know what to get you for your birthday – or should it be the other way around?

    Virtural Sister


  7. Marcia says:

    Congrats! I’ll bet that made your day. 🙂


  8. Karin says:

    WOW! How great that all must have/has been! One side of my family is from the mid-west area and I can only imagine how great that book is!


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