Juli Berwald, Spineless

Cover: Spineless

Cover: Spineless

SPINELESS:
THE SCIENCE OF JELLYFISH AND
THE ART OF GROWING A BACKBONE

Juli Berwald
Riverhead Books, November 7, 2017, $27
ISBN-10: 0735211264, ISBN-13: 978-0735211261
ASIN: B06XVVF6QF

Berwald reports:

I stumbled onto jellyfish, not on a beach like you might expect, but writing captions for a National Geographic story about acid seas. The piece included a graphic showing Winners v. Losers in a future acidified ocean. When I saw an image of a jellyfish on the winner’s side, I paused, and then fell headlong into scientific literature where I found so much was unsettled about the future of jellyfish in our seas that I couldn’t let the idea — forgive me — slip away.

Juli Berwald

Juli Berwald

I followed the story of jellyfish and jellyfish scientists from coast to coast and eventually beyond, mostly funding my travel by attaching it to family vacations. About three years in, I took a week off my freelance work and put together a proposal. I then asked friends to connect me to their agents. Because I had a snappy title and jellyfish have a compelling oddness, agents would usually agree to take a look. But I was turned down again and again because the book didn’t fit neatly into either the science or memoir genre.

After a couple years of rejections, the proposal had evolved. A publisher at an academic press liked what she read and made me an offer. At that point, agents were interested in representing me. One believed that that rather than take the offer, I could sell the book commercially. She helped me rewrite the proposal over about a month, and we sold it to a fabulous editor at Riverhead Books, who loved the science/memoir combination.

From the time I was young, I dreamed of being an author, but thought it was beyond me. Small articles, sure. But a whole book? The thing I wish I would have known earlier is that if you’ve dreamed of writing a book, you need to give yourself permission to write without worrying if it will ever get published. You might even tell yourself, “I’m going to write the worst book I can,” just to take the pressure off. And then you need to sit down in your chair, and write a book.

Contact info:

Juli Berwald, 512-228-0005, juliberwald@gmail.com, http://www.juliberwald.com, @juliberwald
Book website: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/543899/spineless-by-juli-berwald/
Blog: http://www.juliberwald.com/blog/
Agent: Mollie Glick, 212-277-9000, mollie.glick@caa.com
Publicist: Glory Anne Pata, 212-366-2575, gplata@penguinrandomhouse.com

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