Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway ~ Frances Lefkowitz - To Have Not

Book by its Cover

“Is that you?” people ask, pointing to front cover of my book. It’s a fair question: the book is a memoir, a true story of my journey from childhood to adulthood, and the picture on the cover is of a little girl. She’s wearing a pink mask, obviously homemade, but it can’t hide a playful yet knowing look in her eyes, a smile that is holding something back. It could very well be me. But it’s not.

When my publisher first showed me the cover, designed by the very talented and patient art director Dorothy Carico Smith, I balked. “That’s not me,” I thought. I’d been a tomboy, and would never have worn pink. My face would not have been quite so clean, my clothes not quite so pristine. Plus my eyes are green, not brown. So I asked Dorothy to fiddle with the image. Could she scuff up the face a bit, add a smudge of dirt to the chin, as if I’d just come in from the playground? Could she change the color of the sweater from pink to blue, maybe add a little rip? And the mask...I would probably have made it out of cardboard, not fabric.

Computer graphics programs can create magic, but not miracles. The smudge we added looked like an ominous bruise instead of harmless dirt. So we tried to shoot our own version of the photo. Dorothy cut a mask out of cardboard, and recruited her nine-year-old neighbor to wear it. But photographing someone in a mask turns out to be a very tricky proposition. The cut-outs in the mask create shadows that obscure the features of the face, especially the eyes. You’d need a studio, lights, technicians. The pink photo, though it looks casual, was done in just such a setting.

My next thought was to use a drawing instead of a photo, to avoid all the technical difficulties. An artist friend of mine drew a charming sketch of a girl in a mask. But when Dorothy enlarged the drawing into a mock-up of the book cover, something was missing. Eye contact. The eyes of the girl in the original pink photo look straight into the camera, and straight into the viewer’s eyes. Along with the bold pink and the puzzling mask, those arresting eyes stop you in your tracks. And that’s pretty much all you could ask for in a book cover.

We ended up using the original cover that Dorothy first created. Only now I loved it and knew it was perfect for the book. Sometimes you have to take a circuitous route to get back home. And sometimes authors should stick with the writing, and leave the design to the professionals.

About the author ~ 

Frances Lefkowitz writes for love and money, and sometimes both at the same time. She comes from humble urban California beginnings, spent her young adulthood in New England, and has garnered many boast-worthy accomplishments. Still, she is one of those women who feels she has not quite lived up to her potential.
Frances was born in San Francisco to parents who straddled the philosophical and demographic lines between beatniks and hippies. Food stamps, welfare, and free medical clinics played key parts in the life of her family, which moved nine times in seventeen years, mostly within the confines of the city. After twelve years of public school, she attended Brown University on scholarship, earned a degree in anthropology, and then worked in archaeology, palynology (the study of fossil pollen!), catering, the music business, and low-budget films before becoming a magazine writer and editor.

Formerly the senior editor at Body+Soul magazine (now Whole Living), Frances is now the Good Housekeeping book reviewer and a freelance writer and editor. She also teaches at the Sun Magazine’s writing workshops and the Writer in West Marin program. Generally the bridesmaid rather than the bride, her essays have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, named as “Notable” in the Best American Essays 2007, and placed as runner-up for a James Beard Award for food writing. Fortunately, there have been some actual awards, too: the Fellowship in Literature from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, The Martin Dibner Award for Maine Writers, and a residency at the Hedgebrook Writing Retreat.

Frances divides her time between Southern Maine and Northern California. Her hobbies are surfing and speaking Spanish, and she especially likes going to Central America, where she can do both at the same time. Her most boast-worthy accomplishment, in fact, might be the eight-foot wave she caught a few years ago in Costa Rica. Buena ola!

Visit Frances at her website
Friend Frances on Facebook
Follow Frances on Twitter
Check out her blog
Email Frances ~ frances AT franceslefkowitz DOT net

Her book ~ 

To Have Not 

Poverty has many guises: a lack of money, of course, but it can also be a lack of love or choice, pleasure or safety, faith or confidence or possibility. Poverty seeps into the soul and deadens the spirit. In To Have Not, Frances Lefkowitz reflects on her own life of poverties. A poor white girl from 1970s San Francisco, Lefkowitz tries to escape her upbringing through an Ivy League scholarship, only to realize that upward mobility is not all it s cracked up to be: being a Have Not and not having aren't necessarily the same thing. Crashing headfirst into boundaries of class, race, and sex, Lefkowitz emerges scarred but whole, humor intact. To Have Not speaks to anyone who has ever battled the feeling of being cut off from the world s abundance, and then settled, eventually, somewhere between resignation and appreciation for all they do have.  

Thanks to the publicist, I have 1 copy of this book to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to residents of USA & Canada only. No PO boxes.
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* The contest will end on February 2nd at 11:59PM EST; 1 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publicist.