Every writer has a publishing horror story: here is one of mine.
When the University of Missouri Press was preparing to publish my memoir, Lost Among the Baining, which takes place in New Guinea, the marketing manager forwarded jacket copy for my approval. Imagine my surprise when I read that my book is set in New Zealand!
Sit down, I thought, breathe deep. They haven’t published this yet.
And it’s true, I saved the book from the embarrassment of an utterly absurd cover. But alas, the geographically-challenged manager had already sent out a press release to media, libraries, and schools, placing my story in New Zealand. Where—in an extraordinarily creative elaboration—I apparently cooked a lot of manioc (a food I’ve never tasted in my life).
A second, corrected press release led only to confusion. Barnes and Noble couldn’t get it right for months, and even now, a year and a half later, many libraries still set the book in New Zealand. Some libraries somehow managed to catalog it as half and half. (Don’t ask.) And my Missouri publisher--a university press, no less--couldn't be bothered to do anything more to correct the error. After all, we live in a world of alternative facts!
So let me say at the start, whatever you may have read about this book, Lost Among the Baining really takes place in New Guinea, which is nothing at all like New Zealand.
The story revolves around a field trip I took with my husband to live with the Baining people, an isolated group in the mountains of New Britain, PNG. We were very young (this was 1969), we were overwhelmed by both the jungle and the Baining culture, and our 16-month journey haunted us for years—40 years, in fact, at which point we returned to these people whose very different culture we had come to appreciate.
Lost Among the Baining looks back—with a good deal of humor—on this life-changing journey to the bush, and its long aftermath. Reviewers have called it “provocative,” “inspiring,” “compulsively readable,” and “laugh-out-loud funny.”
I wrote this book after several decades in literary journalism. Focusing on books, the culture of magazines, and travel, I've been a columnist and reviewer for a wide range of publications, from the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor to the Women’s Review of Books. My two previous books are Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, and Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories.
These days, I'm concentrating on travel, both in my new work and on my blog, TraveLit, which reviews a selection of excellent travel books and brings together evocative quotations, links of interest, and reader recommendations.
I was born in New York City, and I’ve lived in London, San Francisco, and New Guinea. I now live with my husband in Cambridge, MA, and Sanibel, FL.
Please take a look at my pages for Lost Among the Baining, New Guinea Photos, TraveLit, and my two previous books: Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, a widely-praised critique of contemporary reviewing, and Other People’s Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories.
Lost Among the Baining: Adventure, Marriage, and Other Fieldwork is available in hardcover and ebook editions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is on the bookshelves in the Boston area at Porter Square Books, Harvard Bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and the Coop. It's on the bookshelves in South Florida at Books & Books. It can be ordered at Longitude Books and Powells, through independent bookstores, or directly from the University of Missouri Press.