making the impossible possible: editors wrap rust belt book in record time

It takes time, patience and the determination of a hungry lab rat to get a book published. There's the research and writing, followed by multiple rounds of editing and rewriting. And that's just the beginning! Agents must be secured, publishers persuaded. Design elements such as layout, illustration, font and the all-important cover art must be ironed out. At long last, dummy copies are printed, followed by advance copies. Then -- finally! -- the books are printed, distributed, and offered for sale.
In the best of cases, the process takes one to three years from start to finish.
Or, you can do it the way Richey Piiparinen and Anne Trubek did. The pair of Cleveland writers managed to compress the entire Sisyphean process into an implausible three-month timeframe.
When Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology comes out next month, it will illustrate in bold fashion the strength of character abound in the Cleveland community. That's fitting because inside the pages of the book, that very same audacity of spirit is expressed in literal form.
Fresh Water first wrote about the project back in June, when Trubek and Piiparinen made their initial plea to local writers to pitch stories that depict, describe and clarify what it means to live in Cleveland, a recovering Rust Belt city.
"The community made putting this book together easy," explains Trubek. "And that’s what this book is, too: a community effort to tell the story of a city."
When the call for submissions was levied, the response was overwhelming, notes Trubek. Despite the fact that busy, experienced writers were solicited to work for free under ridiculously short deadlines, more than 80 sharpened their pencils. What's more, many donated additional time to edit, promote and otherwise move the process along.
Established writers such as David Giffels, Connie Schultz and Michael Ruhlman join dozens of other Cleveland-based writers and artists (including members of the Fresh Water team) to offer an "inside-out snapshot of Cleveland."
"Inside these covers are narratives of failure, conflict, growth and renewal -- the same themes we find in Cleveland," explains Trubek. "Our goal for this book is to retell Cleveland’s story, to create a new narrative that incorporates but deepens and widens the familiar tropes of manufacturing, stadiums and comebacks."
The result is not pretty or shiny, but it is beautiful. It’s a book about Cleveland after all.
Why the rush?
The starting gun for this race sounded on May 12, 2012. That's when Salon published the article "Rust Belt Chic: Declining Midwest cities make a comeback." The sub-hed was "Gritty Rust Belt cities, once left for dead, are on the rise thanks to young people priced out of cooler locales." Other articles followed -- in Atlantic Cities, Details, Huffington Post and others -- that hung on this concept of "Rust Belt Chic."
"I had this moment of panic -- that people will be running with this story of Rust Belt Chic when we should be doing it ourselves" recalls Trubek. "I'm always pissed off when I see these stories written by somebody from New York or San Francisco who flies in or picks up the phone to write about what's going on in the Rust Belt. So I thought: Let's put something out there quickly that can take hold of this narrative and define it ourselves."
So, what originally began as a lark, dreamed up over beers at the Happy Dog, has just been shipped off to the printer where it will become real.
"How did we manage to pull off this lark?" Trubek asks. "The community made it happen. The result is not pretty or shiny, but it is beautiful. It’s a book about Cleveland after all."
Preorder copies of Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology here.
For a taste of what's to come, click here.

- Image 1: © Bob Perkoski
- Image 2: © Randall Tiedman
- Image 3: © Ted Sikora
- Image 4: © Garie Waltzer

Read more articles by Douglas Trattner.

Douglas Trattner is a fulltime freelance writer, editor and author. In addition to acting as Managing Editor of Fresh Water, he is the Dining Editor of Cleveland Scene, author of “Moon Handbooks: Cleveland,” and co-author with Michael Symon on two New York Times best-selling cookbooks. His work has appeared in Food Network magazine, Miami Herald, Globe and Mail, Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Magazine and others. He lives in Cleveland Hts. with his wife, two dogs, five chickens and 20,000 honeybees.
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