Gail Godwin

Nonfiction by Gail Godwin

Publishing Publishing
A Writer's Memoir

Published 2015


Read an Excerpt

Publishing is a personal story of a writer's hunger to be published, the pursuit of that goal, and then the long haul—for Gail Godwin, forty-five years of being a published writer and all that goes with it. A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958, Godwin met with Knopf scouts who came to campus every spring in search of new talent. Though her five pages of Windy Peaks were turned down and the novel never completed, she would go on to publish two story collections and fourteen novels, three of which were National Book Award finalists, five of which were New York Times bestsellers.

Publishing reflects on the influence of her mother's writing hopes and accomplishments, and recalls Godwin's experiences with teachers Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; with John Hawkins, her literary agent for five decades; with John Irving and other luminaries; and with her editors and publishers. Recollecting her long and storied career, Godwin maps the publishing industry over the last fifty years, a time of great upheaval and ingenuity. Her eloquent memoir is illuminated by Frances Halsband's evocative black-and-white line drawings throughout. There have been memoirs about writing and memoirs about being an editor, but there is no other book quite like Publishing for aspiring writers and book lovers everywhere.


"By allowing the personal to expand outward, she also gives us an overview of publishing in the last tumultuous 50 years." —Library Journal

"...her engaging memoir, similarly, is interesting primarily for its mildly gossipy anecdotes about various publishing executives and glimpses of stories begun and abandoned or morphing into other novels." —Kirkus

"As she chronicles her struggles to get each of her books into print in a time of constant turmoil in the book world, she candidly shares details regarding her contracts, relationships with agents and editors, and promotional efforts in an era of perpetual upheaval in the publishing world. Godwin also reveals the poignant inspirations for her novels. Avid readers and aspiring writers will find Godwin's generous and spirited "meditation on publishing" illuminating and affecting." —Booklist

"This book succeeds at giving an eye-opening look at the reality of what it takes to publish just one novel-or, in Godwin's case, 14." —Publishers Weekly


“You don't have to be a hungry writer or an aspiring editor to appreciate Publishing. You don't have to have followed Godwin's career as a reader either, though the millions who have will be treated to a look behind the scenes.”
New York Times Book Review

“Godwin affectionately divulges the various moments, places, and characters in her life that eventually slipped into her 14 novels. These disclosures leave you hungry to reread her oeuvre with the newfound secrets in mind.”
Entertainment Weekly

“This memoir by the acclaimed, prolific novelist is testament to both her talent and her perseverance.”
O, the Oprah Magazine

“A chronicle of her life as a writer whose career has been boosted and buffeted by the vagaries of the publishing industry. She has made of it a suspenseful account, with . . . emotional depth, too.”
The Wall Street Journal

“This is delightful reading.”
The Boston Globe

“An agile, winning book.”
USA Today

“A three-time National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author, Godwin offers a valuable memoir for anyone interested in books . . . By allowing the personal to expand outward, she also gives us an overview of publishing in the last tumultuous 50 years.”
Library Journal

“Engaging . . . captures [publishing's] pleasures and pitfalls.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Avid readers and aspiring writers will find Godwin's generous and spirited 'meditation on publishing' illuminating and affecting.”

"As a long-time fan of Gail Godwin’s fiction--The Odd Woman and Violet Clay happen to be my two favorites--I loved following her insider’s experiences with the world of New York publishing (agents, editors, publishing executives, and others) as she matured as a writer from her time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to the present. Reading Publishing felt like having a long visit with a new friend who’s telling you the story of her career. And I so wish that I could read her mother’s novel Otherwise Virgins!"
—Nancy Pearl

“An eye-opening look at the reality of what it takes to publish just one novel--or, in Godwin's case, 14.”
Publishers Weekly

“Memoir enthusiasts, writers working to get published, and readers interested in a gossipy look into the publishing world will enjoy this book.”
Library Journal

Publishing, riding its title subject through time, exemplifies Godwin's method--which is to tell stories in a confiding voice, enlarge resonances as much as possible and care for each player caught up in the current of her tale.”
Asheville Citizen-Times

“While her accounts of writing and publishing are fascinating and amusing, Godwin's central strength is in her utterly charming personality: wise, occasionally self-deprecating and quietly playful.”
Shelf Awareness

“All at once, in Publishing: A Writer's Memoir, Gail Godwin has written for us a history, a how-to guide, a personal journey, and a cautionary tale.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

Bloomsbury | Paperback| 224 pages