Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday night

I'm tired.

I'm living in two worlds. I'm running my automobile business, which is a full time job, and I'm editing my book with a looming deadline, which is a full time job.

It is very exciting, getting an opportunity to make the world a little better by telling my Aspergian tale. But it's long hours and hard work, too.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It became more real today

Today it became more real, with my appearance on the Random House web site:

Look Me in the EyeMy Life with Asperger's
Written by John Elder Robison
Foreword by Augusten Burroughs
Category: Biography & Autobiography - Personal Memoirs; Psychology & Psychiatry
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Publisher: Crown
On Sale: September 2007
Price: $25.95
ISBN: 978-0-307-39598-6 (0-307-39598-7)

Format: Abridged Compact Disc
Publisher: RH Audio
On Sale: September 2007
Price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-7393-5768-2 (0-7393-5768-9)

It's got an ISBN number, and it's even got a price.When I went to New York, it seemed like the publication date was so far away. Now, it's rushing toward me at tremendous speed.In a few days the author bio should appear along with photos and more info.

Things are certainly moving fast.When I gave the book to my agent, my brother said, "don't expect too much . . . they might take 2 months just to read it." Well, here we are. Four weeks from the day I handed it to my agent to distribute, and the release date is already announced. For an industry that he described as "moving at the speed of glaciers," things are sure hopping.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday night

I arrived home to find the first part of my edited book in my Inbox. It's remarkable how much my "good as it can possibly get"work improved with a good editor's touch. I will work on it all weekend.

At the moment, I am confined to the upstairs. Cubby has invited seven friends over, six of which are girls. He seems to do that every Friday night lately. I think back to my life at seventeen, and I see how his life is so, so much better.

Rick Colson, my photographer friend, is coming to do my author photos in the morning. Perhaps I'll post one, if they're not too scary.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It snowed all day

so I did get to run the tractor and clear snow. I really like my tractor, a John Deere 4510, but I wish it had hydrostatic drive. I'm always afraid I'll push the shuttle lever the wrong way and run it over something important, like my brother's car or Cubby's 4-wheeler.

If you love machines, you should know about Tractor By Net:

"My tractor" started life as "my father's tractor." Both my father and I grew up with tractors, down in Georgia. Fords and Massey Fergusons. Ever since moving to New England, my father had dreamed of having his own tractor. In the summer of 2004, he finally got one. He bought a brand new Deere from Sirum Brothers, the local dealer, and they brought it to his house July 1st.

He got sick a week later. He died the following spring. The tractor only had six running hours on it, but he had spent countless hours gazing at it, parked outside by the shed, while confined to the house.

You can read the story of my father and his tractor on my brother's web site, Click "other projects" and then "essay by my brother."

Everyone loves a tractor, just as everyone loves a pig race. My brother made friends with Haven Kimmel some years ago, and she came to visit us at our new houses two summers back. He brought her over to my house, and the first thing she wanted to do was drive my tractor. So I let her. She's the only girl that ever visited here and drove the tractor, and it convinced me that all her farm girl stories are undoubtedly true. It was very reassuring.

Everything around me was pretty much shut down by the weather. Our car company closed at 1 o'clock. I went home to work on book editing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The secret life of authors

I'm sure some of you wonder what an author like me does when no one is looking. Well, no one is looking today . . . .

At 7AM, my son, Cubby, engaged me in stiff battle for a ride to school. "You're not busy," he yells! "You're just lazy!"

At 7.05, the battle ended with the arrival of the bus, and Cubby's departure.

They are forecasting a blizzard later today. Will it happen, or it is just a weatherman's dream? I figure I'll get ready just in case. As other Aspergians know, one the best things about winter is the opportunity it presents to use machinery to manage the snow.

I drove to work and helped Sal put the snow blower on the little tractor. Sal and I love to blow snow, and we have a real kick-ass-and-take-names machine with which to do it. When we do our sidewalk we can throw snow clean onto the front porches on the other side of Page Boulevard.

We tested the blower, and then washed the machine, filled it with fuel, and waxed it. The snow just slides right off a well-waxed tractor.

Then I met with Adam and Paul, our Land Rover crew. We looked at the Defender projects, spread all over the Rover shop. Paul is putting a new motor in an antique Rover, a vehicle that turned 24 the year Adam was born.

After that, I crawled under my rock to ponder the story of creativity, perspective, line drawing and painting. A possible addition to my book, or something for a future book. I consider the looming deadline for my next Rover News magazine article.

Then I went to lunch, where I read The Audacity of Hope while eating my sandwich and then switched to the The Omnivore's Dilemma as I consumed my cookie and second ice tea.

Later, I went home and got the big tractor greased and fueled and ready to clear the street where I live. What would life be like without large complex machines . . . . I shudder to imagine.

That is today's glimpse into the secret life of authors.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's already started . . .

Well, today my book was the "deal of the day" on Publisher's Lunch, and the blog posts started appearing. I was surprised and saddened to see how quickly people were to jump to the conclusion that my book is Running With Scissors redux. Running With Autism, one said . . .

When I approached publishers with my book in January, I was concerned that people would see me as riding my brother's coat tails. I'm sure the connection to my brother got me in the door, but after that, I and my work stood alone.

My brother is published by St. Martins. When choosing a publisher, I interviewed St. Martins, along with eight other houses. With some of the best names in publishing seeking my work, I chose the editorial team that loved it best, the group headed by Steve Ross and Rachel Klayman at Crown.

Every single publishing house I visited made me welcome. I thanked them all for the chance to meet them and have them review my work, and I'll thank them again here.

My brother and I are close - we built homes next to each other - but my book is not a reflection of his, nor does it build on his stories. My experiences, being eight years older, were quite different. And as adults, we followed completely different paths with my brother going into advertising and me joining a band, then becoming an engineer, and finally starting my automobile business.

I hope that coat-tail sentiment passes, though I may have to wait until people can read Look Me In The Eye and make their own comparison.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The beginning

My brother always loved my stories as a child. And my son loved them, too. “You should write a book,” they both said. I pondered their comments, and continued along, operating my automobile business and telling the kid stories every night when he went to bed.

In 2002, my brother Augusten Burroughs wrote Running With Scissors, a story about our childhood. When the book came out, I was quite upset because reading it made me remember how bad our upbringing really was. Many of the reviews portrayed the book as funny - hilarious even - but to me it was a dark story because it made me remember all the bad parts of my childhood, things I'd forgotten for 30 years.

I was stunned to read some of the things in my brother's book. For example, my brother told how Bookman molested him at 13. I had never known that. But I sure knew Bookman had tried to do the same thing to me, five years before!! I felt very bad, reading my brother's story. If only he could have come and lived with me, I thought as I read RWS. But at 21, my age when RWS happened, I was virtually homeless. I was on the road with bands or squatting in my girlfriend's apartment. I had no way to take in a 13-year-old brother. And I had no idea.

I was afraid to let any of my customers see the book, but I was proud of my brother so I put the book on our counter and cringed every time someone bought a copy.

They are never going to speak to me again, I would say to myself, every time someone bought a book. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, people told me how inspired they were. They told me about their own bad childhoods, and how impressed they were that my brother and I had come out of ours OK. That experience gave me the courage to write my own story. My brother's stories proved to be very inspirational to many people, to my great surprise. Even now, four years after RWS was published, people walk into my automobile business and tell me how my brother's book affected them.

I've heard similar things about my brother's book DRY. I don't appear in that story, but of course people in my area associate me with it.

My book is not a "bad childhood" story. My story is about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome – a high functioning form of autism - overcoming my limitations, and ultimately becoming a successful adult.

It’s a lonely story at first, because I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t know how to act, or how to respond. As a child, my best friends were all machines. When I got bigger, my understanding of machines led me into a career in electronics, and I found myself on the road with Pink Floyd’s sound company Britro, and then the musical group KISS.

I’ve told how I moved into a real job, as a designer for a major toy company – an Aspergian passing for Normal in polite society. But then it fell apart. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I quit my job and started fixing cars in my driveway.

Machines were never tricky. They never lied, and I always understood them.

But something happened when I started my business. I started to understand people, too. And one of the people was an insightful therapist, TR Rosenberg. TR told me about Asperger’s and that knowledge changed my life.

My book is in the end a story of triumph, as I mastered the condition that held me down all those years, and I found fame, fortune, and happiness, at least to some extent, in the woods of Western Massachusetts.

Look Me In The Eye is being published this September by Crown, an imprint of Random House.