How to Write a Book

By Michelle Coppola

(Michelle Coppola is a senior manager of Experiential Programs and the North American Briefing Centers, where Xerox hosts events for our customers. She has expertise in organizing and managing events for Xerox of various types and sizes. Most recently, she led Xerox’s book launch event, Speaking of Work, at the 92nd Street Y to culminate Project: SET THE PAGE FREE.”)

Success for Xerox’s Project: SET THE PAGE FREE hinged on a single question: How do we get world famous writers to participate? Answer that question and you have checked off Step No. 1 on how to write a book.

The next step naturally follows: Find someone who knows really good writers. Enter Bernard Schwarz, director of the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City. He lined up an amazing array of talented writers, singers-songwriters, a poet and a designer. They created wonderful stories, which you can read in this free eBook, Speaking of Work: A Story of Love, Suspense and Paperclips.

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Next, ask the writers. Each of the writers featured in this video (below) recalled the time when Bernard asked them to write a story. To include this step seems ridiculously obvious, but without it (or Bernard!), we would not have a book that features world-renowned writers who contributed their talent to advance the cause of global literacy – and tell fascinating stories about the modern workplace.

My team worked closely with the 92nd Street Y to organize the book launch. The event was broadcast on Facebook Live in October, and you can view the replay here: first speaker begins at the -1:19:40 mark.)

The final step is for the writers: Get inspired. Here’s a quick look at where the Speaking of Work writers found inspiration for their stories. (But they tell the stories better. Watch the video.)

Chip Kidd

The first thing a book designer must know, Chip told us, is the book’s title. Chip is an award-winning graphic designer whose jacket designs have graced books for Alfred A. Knoph for close to 30 years. He walked us through the struggle to get the title of the book, select a proper font and color scheme, and his paper clip inspiration. Check out his blazer. (Watch the video: Begins at -1:10:00)

Sloane Crosley

Sloane wrote the introduction and organized the flow of the book around common themes. Sloane says she planned to group the stories into pairs as an homage to Xerox’s traditional duplicating capability. She changed her plans when she received a story from a 13th writer. Nothing is easy. (Watch the video: Begins at -1:00:25)

Joshua Ferris

The best way for Joshua to talk about his inspiration for Speaking of Work is to read an upcoming book based on his own life. He did not name the book, but he read an excerpt that might explain why he did not follow the footsteps of an uncle who was an electrical engineer for Xerox back in the day. (Watch the video: Begins at -54:55)

Jonathan Ames

Jonathan admits that he hasn’t had a job in years, which means he has no idea of what goes on in an office. But he’s been in psychoanalysis, which happens in an office — he went with what he knows. Compelling as his story is, you don’t want to miss the “the Harry call” that Jonathan and his friends made on the playground when they were “attacked by more normal children.” I can’t un-hear it. (Watch the video: Begins at -42:20)

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce’ story is auto fiction based her work as a professor at Princeton University. For her, a teacher of many years, teaching is a happy place – hence, the name of her story, The Happy Place. She explains that the characters in her story are composites of experiences told in a fictional format. And did you know that Jonathan Ames is one of Joyce’ former students? (Watch the video: Begins at -28:15)

Alain Mabanckou

Alain joined the book project when Bernard called him and asked him to join a mission to save the world, which nicely states a key plank of the 92nd Street Y’s mission: Promote literacy and the arts. Alain turned to his uncle for inspiration. He was a human resources executive for a prominent French company, and occupied a large office in Paris with an enviable view of the Eiffel Tower. Alain’s uncle returned to the Congo when he was recruited to work there, but unfortunately, he lost everything. Listen to Alain’s story. (Watch the video: Begins at -21:55)

Editors Note: This article was first published in Xerox Connect, the company’s corporate blog.


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