When I posted the first Biography Progress Report back in June of 2009, I had no idea what lay ahead for me – becoming a parent, being treated for thyroid cancer while closing escrow, getting a major promotion at work. I also didn’t think it would be another four and a half years before I would get to write this, the 34th and final Biography Progress Report, but here we are and here it is.
As of today, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is officially released and will be making its way into mail boxes around the country, and hopefully around the world. It’s been a unexpectedly long journey to get to this point with a lot of craziness along the way, but in the end I honestly believe the book could not be more perfect (well, if those photos of Ann’s third husband had not gotten lost in the mail, that would have been cool).
There are many people who have been following this site for years and have been so encouraging and patient. Knowing that other people care about Ann Dvorak and want to know her story has always fueled me to keep going and see this through. I extend my sincere appreciation to each and every one of you and hope I haven’t let you down.
And now that my first book has been published, what am I going to do? I’m going to Disneyland! Seriously, we’re grabbing my daughter and leaving right now.
We are now one week out from the release of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel! The book may be done and printed, but I’ve been incredibly busy the past couple of weeks getting my marketing ducks in a row.
In addition to the pieces at Immortal Ephemera and TCM’s Movie Morlocks, there are two more online interviews coming up soon. I did two recorded radio interviews last week which should be airing any time now, and spent over 3 hours being filmed for a segment produced by L.A.’s transportation authority. As it turns out, writing a book about an obscure Hollywood actress on the subway after having a baby is a pretty nice news hook. On top of all that, my buddy Chris Nichols over at Los Angeles Magazine was good enough to plug the book launch party in the November issue (see above).
Later on this week, I should have a major marketing announcement which I have had to keep under my hat for a few months now. Looking forward to finally share that good news!
What’s better than coming home to find a package with a copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel? Why, coming home to find a box full of copies!!
Like most kids in 1985, I was enchanted by the movie Back to the Future. Sure the DeLorean time machine and skateboard chase was cool, but the scene that stuck with me more than any other is at the end of the film. It’s the part where Marty is still adjusting to his alternate reality and a humbled Biff bursts into the McFly home with a box of George McFly’s latest book. While viewing that for the first time, I thought that authoring a book and making first contact with the finished product had to be one of the best feelings in the world. I was only 11 at the time, but right then and there I knew I wanted to one day have my George McFly moment. In 1998, I started working towards that goal when I committed myself to telling Ann Dvorak’s story.
Maybe it took almost 30 years, but that moment finally came on Wednesday night. I arrived home from work and my husband handed me a package from the University Press of Kentucky. I was grateful to open it with my daughter on my lap and the hubby standing by my side. And even though I could not coax her into smiling for the photo, I think she was excited to see mommy’s book and I hope it’s something she’ll remember.
As for the book – well, it’s downright gorgeous! Everything I could have hoped for and more. As you can see, the photos look great and as Glen Creason commented, it’s got a kick-ass index.
Thanks again to all of you who have stuck with me as I journeyed down this long, long road. It may have taken a hell of a long time, but after seeing the final product, I can say with all honesty that it was worth it.
Yesterday, I received a sample dust jacket of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel in the mail. I am going to doing an interview next week and the hope is that I would be able to hold up a copy of the book in accompanying photos. Since the book is still at the printer, we’re going to cheat a little and wrap this around another book, perhaps My Lunches With Orson which I just finished reading and might be the right size.
I am thrilled with how it looks, though it’s all still kind of surreal. Less than a month!
A couple of weeks back, I was elated to find that authors Mark Vieira and Susan Doll had generously agreed to take a sneak peek at the Dvorak manuscript and provide pull quotes. This week, the last two quotes came in and are up on the Amazon website.
First is from Michelle Morgan, who accomplished the seemingly impossible task of writing a Marilyn Monroe biography that is neither sensational tripe or redundant. Getting a quote from Michelle is kind of cheating because we are friends, but I respect her tremendously as a writer and was happy that she said the following about my book:
Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is a treasure trove of information about this under-mentioned star. The wealth of information is stunning and the writing is full of passion and warmth. Without doubt nobody but Rice could have ever written this book. This book is a fabulous tribute to someone who deserves to be remembered.
This last quote comes from Margaret Talbot, daughter of Ann’s frequent co-star Lyle, and writer for the New Yorker. Her own book The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, is an excellent read and I am grateful she contributed the following:
A scrupulously researched, consistently insightful and thoroughly welcome biography. Fans and students of Hollywood’s fascinating pre-Code era will particularly appreciate a chance to learn more about one of its most sophisticated, intelligent, and hauntingly beautiful actresses.
Thanks again to all four of these talented writers for taking the time to read the Ann Dvorak book and composing a few sentences. I hope none of them were humoring me!
I was visiting the listing for Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel on the University Press of Kentucky’s website yesterday (yes, I do that), and noticed that a couple more blurbs had been posted. They’re from two of four authors I had submitted earlier in the year who had received a copy of the manuscript about a month ago.
I am enormously grateful to these busy people for taking the time to read the book and write a blurb. I may have been cheating a bit with Mark Vieira who has been a friend for years, but I do admire him tremendously as an author and think his book Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince is one of the best Hollywood bios out there. If anyone can spot a pile of tripe, it’s Mark, so if the Dvorak book is not up to snuff I’d like to think he would not have sent in this blurb:
Ann Dvorak has always been an enigmatic figure, whether you’re looking at her electric vitality in the 1932 Scarface or her feline grace in 1947’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. Fifteen years separate these unique performances, and there’s no one like Ann Dvorak, yet the story of her career remains untold. In Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, Christina Rice corrects this oversight. We learn about the ambitious young dancer, how her unusual looks and singular intensity pulled her into acting, and how her path to stardom ended in regretful obscurity. This is a compelling story, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes sad, but Christina Rice tells it honestly and objectively. Her dedicated research makes it possible to see both Ann Dvorak and her milieu with clarity. Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is a sensitive biography of a real talent.–Mark A. Vieira, author of George Hurrell’s Hollywood
Susan Doll is not someone I know personally, other than a couple of email exchanges, but I enjoy her posts on TCM’s Movie Morlocks immensely. Plus, she holds a Ph.D. in film studies, so her opinion carries a lot of weight with me. I was relived to see what she had to say:
Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is more than the biography of an overlooked movie star. Author Christina Rice has meticulously researched the life of Dvorak, whose strong, self-reliant characters made her an important presence in the pre-Code era. Written in a reader-friendly style, Ann Dvorak explores the highs and lows of the actress who dazzled viewers in the classics Scarface and Three on a Match. –Susan Doll, author of Florida on Film: The Essential Guide to Sunshine State Cinema
So, my baby is officially out in the world and so far the response has been positive. Fingers crossed it passes the litmus test with all of you.
Well, at least my work on the actual book is now done. The index for Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, expertly compiled by my friend Kim, has been completed and was submitted to the University Press of Kentucky yesterday. As far as I can tell, that’s it. There’s nothing left for me to do for the actual book, and the next time I see it will be in its completed form.
I have hit many deadlines during this process, but this is the first time where I felt an overwhelming urge to break open a bottle of champagne. It’s been a crazy long process, as I have been working with UPK for almost two years, not to mention the years and years – and years of research. It’s nice to feel an ever-so-slight amount of relief.
It is only a slight amount though. I still have the huge job of marketing the book and convincing people they want to read the life story of an actress they’ve possibly never heard of. I also have four more months of blogging everyday. Even though my husband has encouraged me to drop this fool’s errand, I feel that after 233 days, I need to see it through.
So, the book may be done on my end, but I won’t be going to bed earlier any time soon.
Thanks again to everyone who has stuck with me through this!
I’ve spent the last 3 weeks or so going over the hard-copy proofs of Ann Dvorak, Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel with a fine-toothed comb, hopefully finding any remaining issues. Yesterday, I sent off around 60 pages with corrections. I spotted a few typos here and there and a couple of glaring errors. Most of my changes were small things like adjusting sentences to make more sense and eliminating word repetition. I used the extremely boring word “effective/effectively” so many times to describe Ann’s performances, that I was ready to punch myself.
If there are two things I have learned while writing this book (I actually learned hundreds of things), they are; a 100,000 word manuscript is going to have a lot of mistakes and typos, and I am a terrible proofreader. Prior to submitting my first draft to University Press of Kentucky, I had two very capable proofreaders go over it, one of which is a walking encyclopedia of classic cinema. They both found many corrections, and then it went to a copy editor who made additional revisions. From there, I received the laid-out proof which I read twice, along with Indexer Kim who also read it and found the word “complied” instead of “complied.” That mistake got by four of us. Kentucky also sent the proof to an additional proofreader. That person found “impeding” instead of “impending,” “absolved” instead of “absorbed,” and “closest” instead of “closet.” They didn’t even catch “complied!” For the record, I found none of these incorrectly used words, which was very frustrating.
At this point, there have been at least six people who have read this thing, looking for mistakes. I like to think that we caught them all, but who knows? So, when you finally have Ann Dvorak, Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel in your hands, please be assured that twelve eyes did their damnedest to make this book perfect.
Working with the University Press of Kentucky has been fantastic. They provided editorial guidance early on, which helped get me pointed in the right direction for the duration of writing the book. Since turning in the finished manuscript, they paired me with an awesome copy editor, allowed me to make significant last minute changes based on newly obtained materials, and assigned the book to talented designers for the cover and interior. The one thing they did not provide was an indexer.
I am not sure if putting the burden of the index on the author is traditional or a new development in the world of publishing. I knew early on that this was going to be my responsibility, and had been dreading it for months. Sure, I had the option of hiring someone, but generally don’t have a spare $3,000 for such things. Fortunately, making my living as a librarian means I hang out with other librarians, and one of my closest friends happens to be a cataloger. For those of you not familiar with the profession, there are many different paths librarians can follow in their careers and not everyone can be a cataloger. I certainly never could. I don’t have the patience and attention span to analyze an item, describe it, and assigned one, or many, classifications to it. As it turns out, a person with a mindset for cataloging, is also well suited for compiling an index.
Back when I was first grumbling about the impending task of indexing the Ann Dvorak book, my cataloger friend, Kim, said she would help me. “Helping” me has actually translated into doing the whole thing, and I now feel as if I owe Kim a life debt even though she frequently thanks me for letting her tackle the index. I have had many people asked why I just can’t have some sort of computer software do it. I suppose I could have, though the publisher discouraged it because these software programs do not catch everything and sometimes make spelling corrections which are not necessary.
Yesterday, Kim sent me the index she has been compiling the past two weeks which is now about 90% complete. It is truly a document of beauty and made me realize another reason why it’s really necessary to employ a human for this task. While a computer might be able to compile word repetitions, it’s not going to be able to identify concepts and cross-referencing. Ideas like Ann’s relationship with her mother, failed writing projects, attitudes towards film roles, etc are not going to be conceptualized by a machine, nor will a computer be able to cross-reference film titles or personal names that have been changed. I recently looked at a film bio published last year with an index that appeared to have been compiled with a software program. It was noticeably minimal and not particularly useful. Maybe this in-depth sort of indexing is not important to everyone, especially in this day of keyword searching, but as a researcher and a librarian, I still find a finely crafted index to be of value and am proud to have one included in my book.
So, this November when Ann Dvorak, Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is unleashed on the world, be sure to thumb through the impressive index and give a silent word of thanks to Kim, the librarian who put it together.