It's Official—and Cover Reveal: Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent

Friday, August 17, 2012

Many years ago I wrote an odd book called Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.  Flow had grown out of my love for my city, was supported (in all its strangeness) by a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and was published by the best possible house for a book such as that one:  Temple University Press.  Micah Kleit, my editor, gave the book room, while Gary Kramer, a savvy and delightful publicist with deep Philly roots, gave it wings.  Not so run-of-the-mill in tone, structure, and voice, but always Philly true, Flow sits today—slender and alive—on my shelves, thanks to Micah's picking up the phone when I called.

From Flow grew Dangerous Neighbors (Laura Geringer Books/Egmont USA), my 1876 Centennial novel.  Katherine, a bereaving twin, stands at the heart of that story, but just one step to her left is a character named William, a young man from the poor side of town who rescues lost animals for a living.  William was a character who never left my thoughts.  He lived with me long after Dangerous Neighbors ended.

Soon I was conjuring William as a young adolescent living among the machines of Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1871 Philadelphia.  His brother has been murdered by a cop (the murder based on a real Philadelphia event), his father is in Eastern State Penitentiary, and it is up to William to protect his heart-and-soul-sickened mom.  William gets some help in this from his best friend, Career, who has a job with the newspaper man, George Childs.  He gets help, too, from a prostitute named Pearl, and from the little girl next door.  He thinks he's getting help from the strange medicines (that sarsaparilla resolvent among them) that were being pedaled at the time.  And those ginger-haired twin girls from Dangerous Neighbors?  They're in and out of his poor neighborhood, thanks to their feminist mother.

After I'd finished writing this novel, I sat and thought for a time about publishing options.  I wanted a true Philadelphia home for this book.  I wanted an opportunity to work with a house that might connect this story to Philadelphia school children, museum goers, history buffs.   It wasn't long before I was writing a note to Micah at Temple University Press, who thought the story sounded interesting and encouraged me to send it on to his colleague, Stephen Parks.  Steve is a Syracuse University professor who also runs New City Community Press.  NCCP began as a literacy project in the public schools of Philadelphia, won a major national grant in support of its ethos, and remains today committed to telling community stories.  I liked the sound of all that, and so, last February, I met Steve in Chestnut Hill and we talked.  There's been no question (in my mind) about this book's future ever since.

Today I can officially announce that Dr. Radway's Sarsparilla Resolvent will be released next March from New City Community Press and distributed by my friends at Temple University Press.  It will be illustrated by my husband, William Sulit, who also designed the book's cover, revealed for the first time here; for a glimpse of interior art, go here and for more of Bill's art, go here.  In January, Egmont USA will release the paperback of Dangerous Neighbors, with my teacher's guide bound in (the starred PW review of Dangerous Neighbors can be found here.).  It is my great hope, then, that the two books will make their way into the homes and hearts of Philadelphians and others.  There are some other fun developments in regards to this project, but I will save them for later.  For now, my great thanks to Micah, to Steve, to Gary, to Egmont USA for the paperback, and to Amy Rennert, my agent, for stitching the innumerable parts of my crazy dreams together.


bermudaonion said...

This is very exciting! I wanted to know more of William's background when I read Dangerous Neighbors. The illustrations are gorgeous!

Elizabeth Mosier said...

This is such GREAT news! Congratulations! I'm so looking forward to re-entering the world you created!

Susan Campbell said...

What an exciting publishing adventure! So true to William, you know?

Serena said...

I am so glad William's story is being published and I cannot wait to read it. I just adored what we saw of him in Dangerous Neighbors and I cannot wait to see his story...and those twins again.

And its illustrated...what more could we ask for!

Amy said...

Yayyyy! Very happy for this. :)

Jody said...

You really are a class act. I taught at Temple 30 years ago, and I still remember the extraordinary inner-city kids. Their hunger to share their stories and to learn to write.

Umm.....wheels turning.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Fabulous cover!

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