Then, half a year after Ron turned it down for West Branch, he emailed to say that he couldn't stop thinking about the story, and, by the way, did I know that he'd established his own small press a couple of years before? No, I hadn't known. It turned out that Ron had been publishing beautiful, hand-sewn poetry chapbooks. It also turned out that he'd been thinking about expanding his publishing list to include fiction chapbooks, and would I be interested in having my story, "One-Foot Lover," be his first? He cautioned that there wouldn't be much money involved, that the print run would be small because each chapbook would be handmade. I jumped at the chance to see my story transformed into such a tangible work of art.
The publication process was delightfully intimate, making me feel that here was a publisher for whom my story was as special as it was for me. Ron's a meticulous editor, so he posed some helpful suggestions about adjusting words and phrases here and there, and then he included me in the process of physical creation of the book—he sent me pdf files of proofs, even mailed me sample copies. Also, we batted around ideas for covers, and he found the one we ultimately used, a painting by Brian O'Conner that captured "One-Foot Lover's" imagery in a powerful yet indirect way. So as to honor the story's title and plotline, Ron chose a font called "Footlight." ("I couldn't resist!" he said.) He asked me to write up an Afterword describing how the story had come to be written, which I was thrilled to do because I wanted to pay tribute to my friend Catherine Cole who, after losing a leg to cancer, went on tour with the very dance performance that inspired my story.
My understanding is that it takes Ron half an hour to assemble one chapbook, sewing each copy on his sewing machine. He color-coordinates the thread with the inks on the front cover, and numbers each chapbook. Ron even mailed me a set of title pages to sign so that he could sew them into 25 autographed copies. Wow! To have my work handled with such loving care was nothing less than an honor. And I think how, in a way, this chapbook connects me to the first authors ever published—Centuries ago, the first books were, after all, handmade.
DANIEL M. JAFFE, a prize-winning fiction writer, is the author of the novel The Limits of Pleasure; compiler-editor of With Signs and Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction; and translator of Here Comes the Messiah!, a Russian novel by Dina Rubina. Dan's short fiction, personal essays, and literary translations have appeared in dozens of anthologies and literary journals in the U.S. and abroad. Dan teaches creative writing in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. For more information about guest blogger Daniel M. Jaffe, visit his personal website.
UPDATE: Dan Jaffe now has a new book out, Jewish Gentle and Other Stores of Gay-Jewish Living (2011). Here's the link: