Category Archives: Writing and publishing

JWN’s 8th blogiversary

… is today.
Over the Christmas of 2002, my son Tarek said to me a number of times, “Mom, you really should start a blog.” I said, “A what?” (not surprisingly)… And then as he told me more about the concept, I became more and more intrigued.
Long story short, he helped set me up JWN… first on Blogger, then on MT (and I even have a plan to move over to WordPress sometime, not yet implemented.)
So here was my very first blog post, from February 6, 2003. In it, I gave my evaluation of the really terrible, mendacious and war-preparing presentation that Colin Powell had just made to the U.N. You remember, the one that included all the allegations about the “aluminum tubes” and the alleged presence of Al-Qaeda operatives in areas of Iraq under Saddam’s control…
Over the days that followed, I tried to do as much truth-squadding as I could regarding those completely unfounded allegations. (I also did a little at the Christian Science Monitor.) And over the six weeks that followed February 6, I did what i could to use my blog to warn against the many dangers that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would, in my analysis, almost certainly lead to.
On March 19, 2003, I blogged the way I’d learned about the start of the invasion by writing this post, which featured my 17-year-old daughter Lorna.
Lorna is now an accomplished and lovely young woman of 25 who’s deep into a doctoral program here in the U.S.
And what has happened to that whole generation of 17-year-old Iraqis meantime???
The anti-war movement failed to halt the onrush of that war. We failed to halt Israel’s assaults against Lebanon in 2006, and against Gaza in 2008.
We failed to halt the U.S. escalation in Iraq in 2006, and in Afghanistan last year.
Now, however, I submit, the dysfunctional (or even, clearly counter-productive) nature of all those attempts by the U.S and Israel to solve their problems by the application of massive amounts of military violence has become clearer than ever. Military violence is not a sustainable or even, at any level, a logical path to greater peace and human wellbeing.
And I think more and more Americans are understanding that now?
… Anyway, it’s been a huge eight years in world politics, in my engagement with world politics, and in my life as a blogger.
If you want to see the extent (and the rough balance) of the things I’ve been blogging about, go to the blog’s front page, if you’re not there already, and scroll down the left sidebar till you come to the “Topical Index”. When the categories have become too big, I have tried to break them down, by calendar year or even (for Iraq for a whole period there) by quarter. I see the biggest category is “Palestine 2009” with 165 posts tagged there.
Over this period, I have also built up some great relationships with other bloggers. And even last year– acting partly on another suggestion that Tarek had made a while earlier– I got the idea of founding Just World Books as a way to bring the work of these bloggers in a better way to a broader reading public.
I love being a book publisher! But it’s been a lot of work, founding a company– becoming a businesswoman, for goodness’ sake!– learning all those new skills that I never knew I’d ever have any need of! Then, over Christmas (again), I decided it was time to restore a bit of work/blog balance to my days; and that I needed to reconnect with my voice as a blogger.
Just in time, eh, before this amazing new wave of uprisings started busting out all over the Middle East!
I should note that another of the pleasures of blogging has been to host the forum that the commenters here all contribute to. Having this conversation across national barriers, time-zones, and worldviews has really been amazing. Back when I started doing it in 2003, it felt even more amazing. I don’t want to lose that spirit of wonder and appreciation about this aspect of the blog.
… Where will we all be in another eight years, I wonder?

Egypt, the world food-price crisis– and JWB’s next book!

I just want to pick up on the food-price dimension of what’s happening in the Middle East (and other parts of the world) today.
Since the beginning of the current wave of uprisings in the Arab world, I have been of the opinion that this crisis is about two things: livelihoods, and basic human dignity. In both these areas, the recent and ongoing steep rise in world food prices is key; and it is set to continue, or become even steeper over the months ahead.
Simon Nixon had an interesting article in the WSJ on this.
He writes:

Continue reading

Visser’s book on Iraq now available for sale!

Reidar Visser’s magisterial 300-page book A Responsible End? The United States and Iraq, 2005-2010 is now available for sale from Amazon. Actually, it’s already selling really well there!
Long-time JWN readers will be quite familiar with the work of this smart and dedicated European researcher, who hangs his hat at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). I am really, really proud that this book, which is an author-curated compilation of Visser’s best contemporaneous writings on the subject, is in the inaugural (Fall 2010) list of my publishing company, Just World Books.
Visser and I signed a contract for the book back in spring, in the hope that the Iraqi parliamentary election of March 7 might fairly rapidly lead to the formation of a new Iraqi government and therefore to the end of the five-year “transition” period envisioned for Iraq’s first post-invasion elected government. That would give this collection of Visser’s blogged and other short analytical texts from 2005 until the present a clear start and end-point and therefore some strong thematic integrity.
But as we know, the leaders of Iraq’s four main political blocs dithered and dithered. (And the U.S. stood in the wings, urging them all to build a wall-to-wall coalition rather than leaving one or more of the blocs to play the– perhaps rather necessary?– role of a parliamentary opposition.) Long story short, it took them until November 11 to inaugurate the new prime minister, who by an amazing coincidence (irony alert!) is the same as the old prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. The “new” (also old) president and the actually new speaker of parliament were inaugurated at the same time.
Jalal Talabani’s inauguration on November 11 as sole president marked the end of the clunky former “presidential council” system and therefore also– in Reidar’s view, and also in mine– the end of the transition. (Iraq still doesn’t have a government– far less a government capable of delivering basic services to the citizenry… But that is all a slightly different issue.)
Regarding our publishing plans, Reidar and my editorial team had prepared just about all of the manuscript by late October. But in early November he said it seemed that the “end” of the transition could be close, so we held off on finalizing the book. And then on November 11 it happened. Reidar wrote one of his inimitably canny blog posts about the events of that day– that same evening. Then the following day, he wrote a few pieces of supplementary text that helped ease the new blog post into the right place in the book and expressed his final thoughts on the nature of the transition… My amazing contract typesetter Jane Sickon and I worked on the PDF that weekend. We had the first proof copies of the printed book in hand on November 15… and the final printed version went on sale at Amazon on November 24.
If you’re anywhere near Washington, DC, by the way, we will be formally launching the book at the Middle East Institute there at lunch-time next Tuesday. Reidar will be coming over to speak at the launch. We’ll have copies for sale; and he can discuss and sign your copy after the main discussion.
… The publication of Visser’s fine book marks the end of JWB’s fall 2010 publishing season. We have now published four fabulous titles and I venture to argue that not a single one of these books would exist in its present form today– or even, perhaps, ever– if I had not taken the decision to found this publishing company last spring, and if I had not worked with these four great writers to mold some of the best of their existing short-text oeuvre into the durable, familiar, and user-friendly format of a book.
Back in late September, when my editors and I were actively working with all these manuscripts, I discovered that the “self-curation” model of compilation that I had developed, and that I’d shared with all these authors, had had some amazing and largely unexpected results. I wrote then about those results that,

    In addition to providing the reader with a reliable and compelling authorial voice, the curating model allows a few other important things to happen in the text:

      * Because the blog posts and other short texts are presented in chronological order– whereas, for example, most blog archives are in reverse-chrono order– the curating model midwifes the emergence of a strong and sustained narrative in our books. Such a narrative may have been implicit for a devoted reader of the origin blog in question. But seeing it come out of the author-compiled chapters is a much more powerful experience.
      * Because the book’s constituent texts all come with their original dates of publication clearly marked, our authors and editors don’t need to go back in and correct and/or update them in any way. We know that this blog post was written on such-and-such a date in 2007, or the speech was delivered in 2008. We don’t expect anyone at that point in time to have foreseen the future! But it can still be really informative to see what this smart observer and/or analyst was indeed saying at that time. Keeping the constituent texts more or less as-is retains as much as possible of the freshness and quirkiness that can make reading blog posts (or listening to Chas Freeman speeches) such an engaging and enjoyable process.
      * Having the authors go back into their own past oeuvre and interact with– and comment on– it in the present gives the reader the rich experience of seeing this writer’s intellect actively at work in a reconsideration or re-presentation of his or her own past work. The word “curate” comes from the Latin for “to pay close, loving attention to.” And what we see in these books is these authors undertaking a close– hopefully loving?– and very thoughtful engagement with their own past oeuvre.

… Anyway, I hope all my great readers here at JWN will help us to spread the word about these books! They are all priced between $22.95 and $24.95. Our JWB sales page at Amazon is here. I think these books– all of which are very different!– can fill many of your gift-giving needs for the upcoming holiday season!
Two final points: If you and a group of friends or a local congregation or community group want to order a total of 12 or more of our titles (any mixture of them), contact our community outreach program to learn about the great terms on which we can fill those orders. Secondly, if you live on the U.S. west coast and would be interested in helping plan the west-coast tour that Laila El-Haddad will be undertaking in February 2011, to promote her fabulous Gaza Mom book, let us know as soon as you can, as we have just started that planning!
But my main message is this: Hearty congratulations to Reidar Visser, Laila El-Haddad, Joshua Foust, and Chas Freeman for authoring four fabulous and very important books for the reading public! They will sit on library shelves for generations, and bring your work into a form that is much richer than being “merely” the sum of its parts.

Celebrate Laila’s book launch today!

Today’s the day! Laila El-Haddad will be launching her first book, Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between at 6:30 pm EST in Washington DC’s Palestine Center. The event will be livestreamed. So come in person if you can– but if you can’t, make sure to watch the livestreamed version, which you can do by going here.
Details about the live event are here.
I am really thrilled that Laila’s book is on the inaugural list of my new publishing company, Just World Books. It is an author-curated compilation of Laila’s very best blogged and other short-text writings from late 2004 through September 2010. As the title indicates, the book provides an amazingly multi-dimensional view of the life of a Gaza-Palestinian woman of our times. Laila is a wry observer and great recorder of all that she sees. (The fact that she has an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government attests to her skills in political analysis, as well.)
The book is 444 pages long– and thus a total bargain at $24.95! Don’t be put off by the length, though. First, a lot was happening in those years, which was definitely worth recording. Second, the book contains a broad range of different components, including numerous photos taken by Laila, her dad, and others; lots of adorable (and often very poignant) observations on milestones in her two young kids’ development, and other important facets of family life; some short pieces of poetry, from Mahmoud Darwish and others; maps; one entirely “tweeted” text– and even a recipe! So you won’t be bored for a moment.
the book has garnered fabulous endorsements from, among others, Hanan Ashrawi, Ali Abunimah, and Stephen Walt… and a very thoughtful Foreword by Duke University prof miriam cooke (who hates capitalization.)
So even if you can’t come to the launch event in person, or catch the livestream version, do buy the book— and remember that it makes a great holiday gift for everyone on your list.
If you want to join with a group of friends or a local community group and buy a total of 12 or more of JWB’s four titles (total list is here), then contact JWB for details of how to do that affordably.
** Important notice for readers on the U.S. west coast: We are now organizing a book tour for Laila along the west coast, in early February 2011. If you would like to help with the planning for this, contact me and tell me what ideas you have, how much time you would be able to put into helping us with this– and, of course, where you live. Thanks!

Laila El-Haddad and Josh Foust books: on Amazon!

It has been a crazy and wonderful week! We launched Josh Foust’s book Afghanistan Journal on Tuesday. Just prior to that, both his book and Laila El-Haddad’s Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between went up for sale on Amazon. I’ve been completing the work on the hardcover version of Chas Freeman’s book America’s Misadventures in the Middle East. And the team were all working along to finalize publication of Reidar Visser’s book A Responsible End? the United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010 when Reidar wrote to say (metaphorically) “Hold the presses! The Iraqis are about to start forming their new government, and that will be the appropriate end-point for my book!”
So we held off on completing his book. The Iraqi pols did indeed, on Thursday, take the step that brought to an end the presidential council– and thus also, in Visser’s view, the period of “transition” of which the council had been a prominent feature. On Thursday, he wrote a magisterial blog post summing up the dramatic developments of the day; and yesterday he incorporated that new material and a bit of commentary upon it into the final version of the book. He and we are now reviewing the final PDFs of the book… and the first copies of the 300-page tome will be printed on Monday.
Speedy turnaround, or what?
By the way, if you’re in DC, you might still be able to get into Laila’s book launch— next Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Palestine Center.
Any of these books would make great holiday gifts for your family and friends! All are informative, lively, beautifully produced, and affordably priced. You can access all of them as they are published, through our still-developing Just World Books page on Amazon. (Visser’s will take another 7-10 days to get up there.)
We are not, unfortunately, able to give discounts on any retail purchases of our books. But if your community group or a group of friends wants to buy 12 or more JWB books in one purchase, contact us to hear about our terms for that.

Chas Freeman book: Buy it on Amazon!

We’ve done it! The paperback version of Amb. Chas Freeman’s book, America’s Misadventures in the Middle East, is now available for purchase through Amazon. The paperback, hardcover, and e-book versions of the book will all be available through other sales channels in the near future. But for now, you can be the first on your block to order Amb. Freeman’s fabulous book, which is an author-curated compilation of his essays—many of them previously unpublished—on U.S. policy in the Middle East from 1990 through 2010.
The three titles that will follow Freeman’s from Just World Books in Fall 2010 are all books that bloggers on foreign affairs have “self-curated” from among their own best previous oeuvre. You can find the whole line-up on this page on our website. Just World Books’s stated goal is to publish “Timely Books for Changing Times”– and I hope you agree with me that all these books certainly fit that category!
I hope, obviously, that you buy– and enjoy!–Freeman’s book. (Buy lots of copies! It will make a great holiday gift for friends and family!)
Sadly, the way we are producing the book means that Amazon won’t allow us to discount it. But if you buy multiple copies, at least you can save some on the shipping costs… no small matter, these days.
Also, I am not sure yet how the availability of the book to non-U.S. destinations will be organized. If you live in such a place and have any problems ordering it, let me know. I am hoping that my deal with Amazon will also put the book onto Amazon.co.uk, but I need to figure that out.
In addition, I would really welcome any help you could give in spreading the word about this important book. Here are some ways you might do this:

    * Write a customer review on the book’s Amazon page; or at least, scroll down to the Custmer Reviews section and give a thumb’s-up to the reviews that boost the book!
    * Write about it in print, or in any on-line forum you belong to. (If you have a blog or website, contact my margeting guy, Brooke Heaton, to get a blog badge that you can put onto any kind of website, that will link to the book. Sometimes, you can even get credit from amazon for doing this!)
    * We’ll be happy to send you a stack of 20 copies of the great postcard we have, that advertises all our Fall 2010 titles. Once again, just contact us.
    * Go to your local bookstore and ask them to order in a few copies of the book– for you and your friends. (We get less royalties if the book is sold this way– but the exposure is great!)
    * Write about the book’s appearance on your Facebook or Twitter page. Link to our Facebook page, and the info it will soon have up about the Freeman book. If you don’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts, make sure you tell the people in your family who do have accounts to post something about this book.

I am really psyched that we got the book onto the Amazon site and available for purchase today. The publishing model I created eight months ago and have been following ever since promises most of our authors a maximum three-month turnaround time from the date we accept their manuscript to the date it is available for purchase. When I created the model, I still wasn’t sure we could do it. Now, we have! Of course, it helped a lot that Freeman’s manuscript was beautifully written and altogether in great shape. It came in to me on July 7, and I accepted it for publication almost immediately.
And now it’s a book. Wow.
… Now, our editing and layout teams are hard at work on the other three books in the Fall list. They’re doing a fabulous job– professional, and deeply committed to our goal of speedy turnaround.
Have you checked the website recently? We’ve been putting a lot of new content up there, including a couple more podcasts over the past two weeks, news about our authors’ continued blogging and writing activities, and some of the great advance praise we’ve already received for Laila El-Haddad’s Gaza Mom book…

Just World Books website is born!

Okay, I know I’ve been promising my readers here that the JWB website will be published “any day now”… And the day is here! So head on over and check out the site’s many great features and the fast-growing amount of content we have there! (Now including two podcasts already– one featuring JWB author Laila El-Haddad… the great advance praise Chas Freeman’s book has been receiving from a wide range of people, etc etc.)
Right, I know if you click on any of the “Buy Book” buttons at this point you’ll discover that that we don’t have any actual books yet. They will come! I am planning to have Chas Freeman’s book ready for sale on or before October 1… and after that, the three other titles on our Fall 2010 list will all be coming out at 2- to 3-week intervals.
The website has a newsfeed with RSS attached, so you can click on that little range RSS icon to get the latest up-to-date news from the site. Or even better: you can sign up for the Just World Books newsletter, which will be a fortnightly emailed update in which I outline the latest developments in our pretty hectic publishing schedule.
Well, I guess now that the JWB site is up, I shan’t need to keep putting JWB news onto the blog here… and I know I need to get back to doing more regular blogging.
But I’d really love it if all of you loyal JWN readers could spread the news about Just World Books and its activities as widely as possible! Thanks!

Building ‘Just World Books’

This is kind of a “what I’ve been doing this summer”. Yes, I have felt intermittently guilty that I haven’t done more JWN blogging. One item in particular I wish I’d blogged about was the passing, last weekend, of Tony Judt. (However, numerous other people have been more eloquent in explaining the depth of the loss that Judt’s passing represents than I could have been. Check these two posts– from Steve Walt and ‘Sepoy’ [Manan Ahmed]– and follow the links in them wherever they lead… )
But… my big news this summer has been that the project that I announced here last April, to found a completely new book-publishing house from scratch and have it release its first titles this autumn is now well on its way to achieving that goal…
Just World Books is getting born!Freeman-book-cover.jpg
Today I sent off to the typesetter the whole interior of Chas Freeman’s beautifully argued book America’s Misadventures in the Middle East: It will be published in late September. (The delay is because we have some fabulous people reading it with a view to providing blurbs/endorsements…. and hey, it’s summer.)
Next up, after Chas’s book, will be Laila El-Haddad’s amazing chronicle of the last four-and-a-half years, Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between:
El-Haddad book cover.jpg This one will be out October 14, God willing. Laila is in Gaza with her kids right now, s batch-editing the four Parts of her book– which will have lots of her great photos in it, as well, is a big challenge. But I have what feels like a great team of editors, graphics and layout director, strategic advisers, etc. So I have great confidence we’ll make that deadline.
By the way, a main reason I need to blog this, is that I’m about to start opening the auction for the non-English rights to these works.
If any of you has friends in non-English-language publishing houses who ought to know about these books and JWB’s other titles– write me, and give me their contact details!
… We are, I recognize a little behind in launching the long-promised Just World Books website. But the design firm, Siteshine, has been doing a great job. One delay has been because we’re trying to incorporate as many social-media options into there as possible. Anyway, it looks beautiful; it’s gaining more functionality every day; and y’all will be the first to know when we finally do launch it!
So we’re already making some good plans to launch these first two books. In addition, last night, I got the bulk of the manuscript for Joshua Foust’s book about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, which looks like a really important contribution… Then Reidar Visser’s book about Nuri al-Maliki’s government in Iraq, 2006-2010 should be coming in, in manuscript form, at the end of the month. So the fall publishing schedule will have four really big titles on it. (And yes, your friends in non-English publishing houses can start bidding on those two, too.)
I might also be publishing a little compilation of my own, that would bring a 25th-anniversary reprint of my 1985 book on Lebanon and my 2005 and 2006 articles on Hizbullah, together in one volume. But I’m a little behind on that project.) It might not come out till Spring 2011.
… Being a publisher, it turns out, is a lot like being a mom: A long pregnancy, an even longer period of labor, and finally– one hopes– a successful delivery. It’s also like being a mom because I’m supporting and promoting the work of others, much more than my own; and that feels great.
Actually, I made that point about publishing being a lot like being mom on the new Just World Books Twitter feed. Hey, any of you who are on Twitter, follow Just World Books over there!

Just World Books update #4

We’re still tweaking the website at Just World Books, so until it’s ready to roll out, I’ll be sending out my updates from here.
I’ve signed three new contracts in the past couple of weeks. Two are with Manan Ahmed, who’s the principal blogger (Sepoy) at Chapati Mystery and also blogs at Informed Comment: Global Affairs. He’ll be publishing one book with JWB on the impact of the ‘Global war on Terror’ on society, culture, and politics, in Pakistan, and on relations between the majority-Muslim world and westerners. The other will be on the impact of the internet and other social and technological innovations on society and culture in Pakistan, and on the “desi” community worldwide.
Those books will both be author-curated compilations of Ahmed’s blog posts and other writings.
The third contract I signed is with Ron Mock, who’s a professor of political science and peace studies at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. His book will be an exploration of the challenges Christian pacifism has faced over the centuries, and continues to face today. It will be coming out next year.
In 2004 Ron (who’s an old friend, and an excellent writer and thinker) published a very thoughtful and timely book called Loving Without Giving In: Christian Responses to Terrorism and Tyranny. This one develops and deepens some of the arguments he was making there.
When I was talking with Ron about publishing this new book, I thought it would be nice to make this into the “flagship” book– or whatever the nonviolent equivalent of that would be– of a new series of books that JWB might publish on issues in nonviolence. If any JWN readers know people who are doing interesting writing in this field and might want to be included in this series, please let them know about this opportunity and have them contact me!
Finally, since I’m sure people are all excited about Laila El-Haddad’s book(s), I should tell you that after further consideration and discussion I have decided her manuscript will be published as one book, after all. It will be a big one– maybe 350 pages. But it’s going to be great. The title we’ve chosen is Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between. Expected Publication date: October or November 2010.
Amb. Chas Freeman’s first book with us is now in editing. Its title is America’s Misadventures in the Middle East. Publication date October 2010.