Monthly Archives: September 2015

Everything that changed in Detroit before and after I finished my manuscript


As I go through some final edits to “How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass,” I find myself now having to double back on almost everything because so much has changed in the city, the state and the country from when I first started writing in December until now — even today.

The challenge in writing a social guidebook is making sure everything is accurate and up-to-date. The last thing I want is to share this project with the world, and then get a bunch of corrections on my Facebook statuses. But the challenge in writing a guidebook about Detroit is that everything is changing so fast, there’s a chance there might be some incorrect things showing up after I publish, because you never know what might happen.

A few things I had to change along the way before publication:

  • Same-sex marriage, obviously, is no longer against the law. A few points in the book talked about gay life in Detroit, so clearly those talking points had to be revised.
  • Michigan Central Station now has windows. I described it as having no windows.
  • The school districts are still up in the air. Gov. Snyder has detailed several plans for DPS and EAA, some of which may take place after publication. I didn’t change much in the way of detailing the current state of DPS and EAA, so if anything changes after the book comes out…IDK, guys.
  • The Heidelberg Project kept burning down. Which I made a point to mention, but it was looking a little worrisome there.
  • The JOA is still up in the air. I did my best to describe the current state of the relationship between the News and Freep, but it was tricky.
  • You can now buy side lots from the city. At first writing, I only described the homes sold through DLBA.
  • The Magic Stick became Populux, the AMC in the RenCen closed down, the future of Bert’s Marketplace is uncertain… Actually, I didn’t have to change much here because I didn’t mention any of those. Here’s a fun fact: I barely talk about certain venues because as we see, they may not even be here tomorrow.
  • Food truck ordinances are still being worked on. So I mentioned that it’s technically illegal to operate a food truck, but guess what’s on the table now at City Hall? And since it hasn’t been resolved, I’m stuck with trying to explain in the present tense for something that could (or could not) happen in the future.
  • Schools kept closing. Oh, here’s a list of good schools in Detroit and WOMP, Friends School may or may not exist when this book is published. You see why I lose sleep at night?
  • And then there was more. Curbed Detroit became a Vox property, there was that AOL-Verizon deal that affected the Huffington Post, The Michigan Citizen closed up shop for good, all the rape kits were tested, maybe crime isn’t that bad this year?, radio shows changed hosts, buildings with historic designations at risk…who can keep up anymore?

Look! Here’s the cover to my first real book

DETJackass_Cover_WebSafeWhen I was 7, I wrote a “book” called “It Can’t Be” about my elementary school classmates, and I printed off copies of my “manuscript” at Kinko’s and wrapped them in plastic report covers. When I was 15, I wrote another “book” — a compilation of fictional stories that parodied high school gossip into adult situations. (Been on this sarcasm/satire kick for a minute, son!) The cover to “It Can’t Be” was the title and my full name in large text, probably the equivalent of 14-point font, which was the largest that Canon typewriter could make. The cover to the high school one was made with clip art. I always did the best I could with the resources I had, at any age!

I knew for my first, grown-up, real, actual, 30-and-paying-bills, sent-to-a-printing-press, Amazon-and-Barnes-and-Noble-linked book, it had to be special. Because it’s a book about Detroit, I wanted it to be something that is beloved among Detroiters yet still recognizable to people outside Detroit. And what’s the one thing Detroiters and Michiganders miss when they move away, or the one thing tourists can’t get enough of? Vernors, of course.

You kind of have to think like a marketing person here, because people actually do judge books by their covers. I wanted something that I knew would stand out. Something I knew would make you do a double take. The Ambassador Bridge is lovely, but from afar, it looks like a bridge. We all know what the Detroit skyline looks like. And I didn’t want to go with something too obscure to non-Detroiters, like a Pewabic tile theme or something like a pair of gators.

I knew it had to be something I loved. I pitched the idea to Anne Trubek, my editor and publisher at Belt, and Haley Stone, our illustrator. Haley nailed it. I was sitting in my cube at work when the first mock-ups came, and it took everything in me not to run around the office screaming. This, I think, sets the tone for the message I want to convey about Detroit. Please judge this book by the cover.

We’re getting closer and closer to the release date and I’ll be sharing more here on my site (and hopefully other sites too?) as we go along. In the meantime, you can pre-order “Jackass” here.