-photo credit: Tabitha Nelson
On March 23rd I held a release party for my book at the Star Theater in downtown Portland. I hauled down an entire setpiece worth of Babette memorabilia in my truck, including an oil painting of her family’s mansion, the Chateau du Lac, a bookshelf full of books, her favorite chaise lounge and other furniture.
- photo credit: Kristin Lee
I was introduced by my friend Cricket Corleone, who as head of Heliocentric Press, is also my publisher. I began with a slide show culled from Babette’s extensive collection. The tale began with photographs of her mother in early 20th century France and included many pictures Babette took of herself in drag during the ’50s and ’60s.
- photo credit: Barbie Saint
The lecture included stories about Judge Shoemaker, Billie Shoemaker and other people who participated in Babette’s unusual life. I cut the slide show off in the late ’90s, once I moved into the picture.
- photo credit: Kristin Lee
Following a brief intermission, I took to the stage again and read several sections from my book. After that, my fellow promoters, Kristin and Nikki, took over and drew raffle tickets while I refreshed myself with a much needed beer. There were several donations from local businesses, including Imperial Tattoo, Cosmic Monkey Comics, Among the Reedz tinctures and I also included a bottle of Samos wine from Babette’s personal collection.
- photo credit: Tabitha Nelson
We had a great turnout and I was overjoyed to see among them friends who came all the way from Seattle, Vancouver and Eugene. I only wish there had been time to properly greet so many people who are so dear to my heart. This event made me feel like the most fortunate person alive. Thanks to everyone who helped, especially Dean Hunter and the Star staff. I couldn’t have done this on my own.
- photo credit: Jeff Mallory
“Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth” has been in print now for several weeks and on March 14th I hosted a small dinner party for friends who helped out with the project. We shared halibut, Coho salmon and yelloweye rockfish I caught while commercial fishing in Alaska.
As the fish cooked, everyone examined Babette artifacts including more than a hundred pounds of railroad spikes she collected over the years. Consistent with her dedication to every undertaking, each spike had been cleaned, polished, often enamel painted and in two cases, gold leaf plated, plus always engraved with the locations and dates of collection.
Afterward I read several selections from the manuscript, a piece where Babette describes her love for the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, another from our trip to Eastern Oregon where the old Rajneesh Puram cult became infamous, and lastly, my account of the final dinner party Babette ever threw just before her death less than a day later. Check out a clip of that here on youtube.
The most significant developments now are Babette’s availability in Portland-area bookstores, plus online, and a firm date of March 23rd for the release party. It is scheduled to take place at the Star Theater downtown which is a pretty slick venue. I will be escalating the promotion machine increasingly as that date approaches. Stay tuned, this ride is about to get exciting…
So, it is with great joy that I unleash Babette on the world. It’s been a long journey and not over yet, but the book is in print on Portland’s own Heliocentric Press. The title will be available online through amazon.com and barnesandnobel.com plus others around early March.
I should have a list of bookstores carrying it soon, but for the moment, you can get an autographed copy mailed out from me personally. Just visit paypal.com and send $25 to email@example.com which covers all postage and handling.
Thanks so much to everyone for sticking with me through this long process.582 pounds of author’s copies in my basement. Babette is, of course, kitty approved…
Unsurprisingly, I once again write to chronicle another setback. The proof of Babette arrived in the mail last Thursday from my printer. Despite multiple anxious nightmares, it looks beautiful, the cover is excellent, all formatting turned out perfect but the text… well, leaves something to be desired. Here is a close up…
As you can see, the letters turned out fairly pixelated. It creates an effect where the text looks faded and doesn’t pop off the page like it should. I’ve been attempting to remedy this difficulty, but as I will be busy with holiday affairs for the next several days, it must wait. I apologize to everyone for this hold up which can’t be more than a final gasp of resistance before Babette is loosed on the world.
In an aside, on Friday I happened to be working down near Babette’s old house on Tolman Street in SE Portland. The way home took me past Reed College so I paused a moment and stopped by the location where so much happened over ten years ago. It’s something I projected forward to, even then. I would sit on the front steps after some particularly bizarre adventure with my professor and imagine that someday years hence, I would drive down the street and remember our lives together, however it all turned out…
The author with a framed school project of barometric tables the young Babette made in 1937
Hopefully the hard part is over.
By “hard part” I don’t mean writing my Babette chronicle. Instead, the most difficult times have been tense hours spent formatting the document into a workable template for the publisher. Imagine the publisher is a small circle while my book remains 356 defiantly rectangular pages.
I write on a Mac. For many readers that explanation is sufficient. As a borderline Luddite, it’s amazing I can use a computer at all. The last several weeks have been an endless series of conversions…one program to another, each requiring more and more adjustments…now the margins are off, next the page numbers aren’t right, somehow a paragraph didn’t indent…the list goes on. Each time the whole process begins again. I thank my partner Kristin for her instrumental help in making everything happen.
However, as of this afternoon, I’m pretty sure it’s finally done. I am now waiting for a proof to show up in the mail, hopefully this coming week. With any luck, I may be able to declare the print edition available no later than December 9th. The digital ebook will probably take a little longer because of other infernal formatting issues. Thanks to everyone who kept the faith through delay after delay. I’ve wanted to make this as close to perfect as possible.
Many people have heard me imitate Babette’s voice over the years, often while reading selections from my manuscript. Her way of pronouncing my name was aways comical, which I spell “Wrahs.” While her accent is quite heavy, many have observed that it doesn’t quite sound French. The explanation I remember being given is that after emigrating to America in 1946 and eventually attending college at Portland University, her English pronunciation needed work. The speech coach she learned from was Polish and soon her language molded around his accent as well.
Only a few recordings survive of Babette’s lectures, but one of particular interest is called “Dr. Ellsworth: Women in History.” It is dated March 8th, 1997 and was apparently taped by a student in her living room. It lasts almost forty minutes and at one point her beloved antique clock from Quebec can be heard ringing out the hour. I have made a brief excerpt from this and put it up on youtube here.
In other news, I have spent the last two weeks formatting my manuscript and all that is left should be making the front and back covers turn out right. This has been an extraordinarily painful task. I never want to format a book ever again, even of my life depended on it. We’re almost done. Thanks everyone for sticking with me on this.
There are many significant numbers that appear in Babette’s saga, from the year of her birth in 1928 to her death in 2002 in front of 40 students expecting a tour of Mt. St. Helens. She kept 7 wigs on styrofoam mannequin heads in her closet, required 3 weekly pill boxes to contain her medications and (to keep it from binding) always remembered never to wind her beloved antique clock from Quebec during the times of a quarter before the hour until 5 minutes after the hour. While living in her pantry, I took inventory that uncovered 48 cans of tomato sauce, not including several that has corroded enough they had to be thrown out.
After Babette’s cremation, I discovered her funeral home toe tag taped to the plastic urn. I have kept it on my key chain for 11 years now, the number: 336994.
However, the most significant number today is: 13:978-0-9911861-0-5. That was the ISBN issued to Babette: The Many Lives, 2 Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth. With that, everything should be falling into place shortly.
So, I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the Babette fundraising project so far. I honestly never thought it would do this well. Here is a video of myself reading the brief first chapter…
I am getting very near to the final version of this project and want give everyone who has followed me the chance to take part in it’s conclusion. That’s right, I need money to publish Babette. Every little bit helps. Here’s a link for the site that I’m using to crowdsource it. Thanks to everyone who has helped out with this effort!
So, here is the most recent update: I have at last completed my last significant revision and yesterday printed up two copies of the manuscript. One I am combing over myself to be sure every last detail is correct, while the other, my friend Katie Ash is examining. In addition, my friend Brian Fitzgerald is proofreading an electronic version. Hopefully, this will catch any remaining errors. Once final corrections are made, Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth, will be complete and ready to publish.
On that day I will drink one of my last few bottles of Babette’s favorite wine, a Greek muscat variety called Samos. When I first moved into her cellar in 1999, we had about three crates of it, but over the years she gave many away, plus once inheriting the lot, I felt no need to conserve until now there are only three left. There will no doubt be difficult formatting issues and other technological problems until the print run is actually ready, but I will drink Babette’s wine on the day my manuscript is complete. That day is very close. Thanks to everyone who has helped bring it closer.