Book Signings, Appearances, and Events

In exciting, super short notice news, I’m going to be speaking tomorrow at the Swarthmore College library in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania! It is such an honor because many of the photographs in my book–including the cover–came from that archive. Some of my absolute favorite days spent researching were spent in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection and while getting photograph permissions was chaotic and stressful, the archivists at Swarthmore were by far the kindest, most helpful, most patient people I encountered in the whole process. Not only do they preserve history, but they were excited to share it.

The lecture tomorrow is the first in a series and this particular speaking event is about COs in WWII mental hospitals, given by the amazing George R. Cooley Curator, Wendy Chmielewski, and I’ll be given a few minutes at the end to talk about the COs at Byberry specifically and about my wonderful experience in the archive. It’s open to the public so if you’re available, please come visit!

McCabe Library, Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave, Swarthmore, PA, Friday, October 4th, 2:30-3:30 pm

In less short notice, I’ll also be at Barnes and Noble doing a signing on Saturday, October 19th. I’ll have a bucket of Halloween candy and will be signing copies of my book and available to answer any questions you might have! (I know a lot more about Byberry than I could fit in the tiny book!)

Barnes and Noble, Neshaminy, 300 Neshaminy Mall  Bensalem, PA 19020, Saturday, October 19th, 2:00-4:00 pm.

Hope to see you all at one or the other!!

Omgosh, how fancy and official is this!? My sister spotted it at the Barnes and Noble last week.

Omgosh, how fancy and official is this!? My sister spotted it at the Barnes and Noble last week.

Advertisements

The Reviews Are In!

Byberry and my book served as the cover story for Philadelphia CityPaper a few weeks ago. How neat is this artist’s interpretation of the underground tunnel system that served the hospital in its heyday?

Byberry State Hospital has been out for two months this week (it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long already!) and it’s been getting some great reviews in the local Philadelphia newspapers. Thought I’d share!

Byberry State Hospital . . . tells the real-life horror story of Northeast Philadelphia’s notorious mental institution, shuttered since 1990, in a meticulously detailed narrative and 200 historical photographs. Jones’ balanced portrait of life at Byberry State Hospital ranges from photos of therapeutic art and music classes to graphic evidence of wards where patients spent all day naked in grotesquely unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.”

Dan Geringer, Philadelphia Daily News, “New Book Delves into Terror at Byberry Hospital.”

“[The book] focuses on the rarely discussed positive aspects of a facility, infamous for all its shortcomings. And this is a good thing. While tales of violence, neglect, abuse, and mismanagement have become the hospital’s legacy, little is said or remembered of the hundreds of staff members, volunteers, and directors who did their best to help the helpless and forgotten people in their care. Here, instead, the reader is treated to images of picnics, performances, art and music therapy—and even Byberry’s own Boy Scout troop. Open houses and tours were an attempt to educate the community while gaining support for the hospital. Jones concludes the book with a look at the abandoned crumbling structures in their final days, shot by Hidden City contributor Chandra Lampreich. Byberry State Hospital allows the reader a glimpse behind the walls and fences into a rarely seen and less understood world.”

Ethan Wallace, Hidden City Philadelphia, “Two New Books Provide a Fitting Eulogy to Byberry State Hospital.”

I was also interviewed by Patrick Rapa at the Philadelphia CityPaper for an article exploring “What Did We Learn From Byberry?”

If you haven’t picked up a copy of the book yet and are still interested it’s available for purchase, as Mr. Geringer so helpfully pointed out, at “Smith’s Hardware on Torresdale Avenue near Disston in Tacony, at Walgreens on Bustleton Avenue near Byberry Road in Somerton, at SEPTA headquarters’ gift shop on Market Street near 12th, and at all area Barnes & Noble stores.” And if you’d like a signed copy, you can order it from me through the site (see the order button in the right hand margin).

(Image Credit: Philadelphia CityPaper.)

On Killing My Darlings and the Most Author-Friendly Way to Buy a Book

The book is done. All the photograph permission forms have been signed, the copyediting changes made, the final page proofs approved. As we speak, the book is at the printer, making 1,200 neatly bound, neatly stacked copies of my little paperback.

It’s done.

This book, as you will see it, as I will hold it in my hands, ended up being something quite different from what I expected it to be. As some of you know, I originally developed a soft spot for Arcadia Publishing when I stumbled across a copy of Yardley, an installment in their Images of America series. It was my dad’s hometown, where he was born and raised in the early 1930s, and as I flipped through, many of the images illustrated stories I had grown up hearing, over and over again, like a broken record. There was the steep hill, with the elementary school at the top, where my dad had rode down on his scooter, the bolts and screws popping out as he descended, until it and he was a broken mess at the bottom. There was the girl he had taken to his senior prom. There, smiling, was the public school principal who had beat my dad, day after day, trying to break him of his left-handedness until he finally became ambidextrous. There was the duck farm where my grandmother would get their Christmas dinner. And then there, sitting cross-legged in the front row, wearing his Boy Scout uniform, was the unmistakable face of my father. He was probably no more than eight, but from the handful of surviving family photographs, I recognized him, without even needing to look at the caption for confirmation.

That moment was really special for me, because my dad had died of cancer two years before, and he would never be able to tell me those stories again. Not only that, but the fact that he was preserved in this published book and without doubt on other people’s bookshelves–it was a form of preservation beyond the limitations of my own family. No matter what happens, my father will never be erased from history.

When I started work on this book, I wanted to provide that same magical feeling to other readers. I wanted someone, somewhere, to suddenly get smacked in the face with an image of someone they loved. Whether they were a nurse, a doctor, a volunteer, a student, or a patient at Philadelphia State Hospital, I wanted to give their families something that illustrated their moment in history.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Due to copyright restrictions, I ended up having to blur many of the faces in the book. Not just patients–which I would have understood, to protect their privacy–but also the faces of nurses, doctors, people beaming at the camera. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I blurred out some of their faces, because I felt like after unearthing some of these long-lost photographs from the depths of archive obscurity I was turning around and burying them all over again, burying their story, hiding them, disguising them, taking away their chance to be remembered in history. Many of these people, with their expressions–some hilarious, some sorrowful–became full-blown characters to me, and it was, at times, like killing my darlings.

Copyright law is a messy, complicated, and at times completely impractical thing. In one case, I couldn’t track down the copyright holder of this really amazingly haunting 1940s lithograph by Robert Riggs of a mental ward at Philadelphia State Hospital (his most famous work, titled “Psychopathic Ward.” Really, it’s amazing, I’m begging you to click through and look at it). This is simply because, in the extensive network of surviving family members and art dealers and museum archives, the information got lost somewhere along the line. I talked with one family member on the phone who was terribly sad about it. She explained that, were Robert Riggs alive, he would have been thrilled for me to include it in my book. As an artist, he and many others like him, are being pushed into obscurity, because the tangle of copyright laws surrounding their work and the associated fear of possible legal retribution have, essentially made it too hard to reproduce or display their art.

I could go on forever about my opinion on copyright laws, but really, my point is that this book wasn’t turning into what I had thought and hoped it would be. I was crushed with disappointment. As it sat with the publisher, getting polished up for publication, I mentally pushed the book from my mind and tried to focus on my next project.

But I read over the page proofs a few weeks ago, with fresh eyes, I realized that though it wasn’t what I had originally wanted it to be, the book had in fact become something much better. It is so much more than a local story, of interest to a handful of Philadelphia residents and the families of those portrayed in the photographs. The terrible conditions at Byberry in the 1940s, which were exposed in a 1946 Life magazine article, fueled a national mental health reform movement that improved hospital conditions across the country. Byberry ended up being the birthplace of the National Mental Health Foundation.

The research, if I may say so myself, is impressive: it is the product of dozens of interviews with former staff members and the ancestors of former patients (so many people welcomed me into their homes, dug up old scrapbooks, spent entire afternoons reminiscing with me) and weekends upon weekends upon hours upon hours of archival research at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, where I read the actual, original, handwritten diaries of conscientious objectors stationed at Byberry during World War II. I can’t even explain to you how excited I was when I was trusted to touch these and read these, flipping through the pages of their impressions of the wards. It felt a little bit like when I touched hieroglyphics when I visited the Great Pyramids in Egypt. If you’re a history fangirl like me, there’s really nothing as awesome as seeing and touching history. My research was also heavily dependent upon archival research (again, weekends upon weekends, hours upon hours) done at the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center, the Philadelphia City Archives, the Pennsylvania State Archives, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, among others. All of this research has resulted in a book unlike any other.

And though when I was doing it, it felt like I was blurring every face, it’s really just a small percentage of the 200 total photographs in the book. And beyond the blurring, this book provides an unprecedented inside look at the hospital’s ice cream parlors, beauty parlors, woodworking shops, libraries, baseball fields, dairy cows, and bowling alleys.

But I think my absolute favorite thing about this book is the fact that never before has there been a published history of the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry. And now, with my book, a history exists: spanning from its early farm colony days in 1906 until the doors closed permanently in 1990. (I was only one year old!) When I was researching, I came across hundreds of people–on Ancestry.com news threads, online forums, and blogs–desperate for information about their relatives who had been patients at Byberry. They only had scraps of information–a family story about their illness, told in hushed tones, a name, a possible death date. They wanted to know what had happened to those relatives, many of whom entered Byberry and never left. In a way, my book is a history of the faceless, the nameless, the undocumented, the forgotten. I hope it gives as much comfort to those relatives looking for information, clues regarding what their relative’s experiences might have been like at the hospital, as I found in my father’s photograph.

I learned so much while writing this book and had so much fun researching it. The book developed into exactly what it was supposed to be and I believe I wrote it exactly the way it needed to be written. I’m so flipping proud of this book and I can’t wait for you all to read it.

On that note, I wanted to mention the most author-friendly way to purchase a copy, if you’re so inclined. All that research I had so much fun doing, and all those photograph permissions I had to get were expensive. Actually, it was mindbogglingly expensive, and almost restrictively impossible on my salary, especially considering the fact that I didn’t get an advance for this book. (Common in non-fiction publishing.) Until a relative stepped in and offered a personal loan, I really didn’t think I was going to be able to finish writing the book. The quality of the images I was able to afford to include, therefore, is largely thanks to her. It was an investment I don’t regret making, because I’m proud of the history this book effectively preserves. But, that said, I do have to pay back that loan (no interest, of course, I’m so lucky to have such great and supportive family members!)

Here’s the nitty-gritty:

Total expenses (photograph permission fees, archive travel costs, etc.): $2,266.70

My contract dictates that I get a normal royalty rate of 8% per book, which, by my calculation should be about $1.75 per book. And on the first print run–who knows if we’ll even ever go to a second print run–there are only 1,200 copies to sell. If the print run sells out, I’ll make about $2,100. I won’t even break even on the loan.

However, I’ve bought 200 copies at a 50% discount from the publisher and can sell them as I please, though I am bound by my contract to sell them at full price, $21.99 (I know, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have a discount war going on, and are offering the book at somewhere around $14.00 right now.) But this means I get a 50% royalty rate on these 200 copies. That’s about $10.99 per book. If I manage to sell all 200 copies, I’ll make $2,199 and I’ll kick in the remaining sub-$100 to pay back my relative in full.

[Updated July 3rd, 2013: I have been notified by my publisher that my calculations were incorrect. Though the royalty rate is, indeed, 8%, it’s 8% off the net, which means I can actually expect something closer to 80 cents per sold book.]

The book will be published on May 20, 2013. If you’d like to preorder a signed copy from me, you can order through PayPal.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

For those of you I know and love and am dear and geographically near to, I can hand deliver! Or, if you prefer, checks, money orders, and cash are options. Email me at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com to discuss this method of payment further.

I’ll be absolutely thrilled if you buy a copy of my book wherever–online or at a bookstore. But if you can afford the full book price and would like to help me out, I’d really appreciate it. I never wrote this book with a goal of making money–it was always about the history–but breaking even would be nice!

[hugs everyone who read to the end of this extremely long blog post]

Cover Reveal!

I’m still, technically, burrowing to finish up this book. But my editor sent me the cover last week and I just couldn’t resist sharing it.

Images of America, Hannah Karena Jones

I was able to recommend which photograph would be used for the cover and as I was sifting through the hundreds of Byberry photographs I’ve collected, trying to decide, I knew this was the one. I wanted to avoid an exterior building photograph, because even though most locals would recognize the distinctive hospital brick design, it wouldn’t be all that attractive or intriguing. And I wanted to avoid graphic photographs that depicted how terrible conditions were there, on occasion, because it wouldn’t have fairly represented the book (of course these photographs are inside, to provide a complete history, but I didn’t want them being the iconic cover). I didn’t want to misrepresent the history. Even though Byberry’s remembered for the exposes of poor conditions, there were huge expanses of time where the patients were clean and well cared for, where the buildings were new and the budget was sufficient; also, fun fact, Byberry used to be a working farm!

This photo was exactly the feel I was going for. It’s a little mysterious in that it draws your attention. You look at it, and you want to know more. Also, it gives a tantalizing glimpse inside, giving a look at what night shift on a women’s ward looked like. Calm, isn’t it? And I really liked how the angle of it makes you want to walk down that row; it’s almost like a “Welcome, come in! Open the book!”

Currently, the cover is my laptop’s background. Every time I glimpse at it, it motivates me to keep writing. And now, that’s what I’m off to do. The book’s almost done and the deadline is even closer, less than three weeks away!

Hope you all like the cover as much as I do :]

(Cover Image Courtesy of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.)

Philadelphia and the Ploughshares Literary Boroughs Series

Miscellanea Libri, in the Reading Terminal Market

It’s up! My guest post is up!

If you live in the Philadelphia area, are moving to town, or just want to know what’s occurring on the Philadelphia literary scene (where to read, where to write, where to get published) definitely check it out!

I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project. Though over the years I’ve attended a lot of events–such as the Push to Publish conference–and was involved with Philadelphia Stories through my internship, this blog post gave me a whole new appreciation for the city. Normally, we of the suburbs avoid adventuring into Philly too often, but I’m starting to really appreciate how many things there are to do there. I think that as teenagers we labeled it as “lame,” just because it was nearby and familiar and we never got past that negative stereotype.

I’ve really been enjoying the entire Literary Boroughs blog series. There have already been posts on Minneapolis, Ithaca, Brooklyn, Omaha, Portsmouth, and Morocco. It’ll be running until next spring, one post a week, so keep tuned to explore other cities!

What Does Poe and a Philly Cheesesteak Have in Common?

Ever since I found out that the National Park Service preserved (one of) Edgar Allan Poe’s Philadelphia homes, I’ve been wanting to adventure there. Due to the pressing need to do some Philadelphia research (more on this later), we finally went and explored it on Saturday.

Fun Facts about Poe and Philadelphia:

  • Poe lived in Philadelphia for six years and they were his most productive, successful, and happiest years.
  • While in the city, he published The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat.
  • It was while living in Philadelphia, it’s believed, that he wrote The Raven.
  • He lived in five different homes in his six years there.
  • A lot of the murders highlighted in Philadelphia newspapers at the time (has Philly ever been safe?) served as inspiration

Due to “the lack of primary evidence describing [the interior design] during Poe’s occupancy,” all the rooms are empty and the walls bare, which gave it a pretty creepy feeling, especially in the basement. The only objects in the rooms were photocopies of some of his poems and stories, loose-leaf and scattered on the shelves and in the closets, some strangely out-of-place photocopies of airplane drawings, and, even more out-of-place, this stuffed monkey.

Why is there a monkey in Poe’s closet??

It’s a small house, so it only took about an hour to properly explore and read all the museum materials. I’d definitely recommend stopping in if you’re in the Philadelphia area.

On a side note: after seeing The Raven in theaters a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but imagine John Cusack wandering moodily around the house.

Calling for Submissions! Book About Byberry State Hospital, Philadelphia

Byberry State Hospital, PhiladelphiaThe research for this Byberry State Hospital book is going great. I’m collecting lots of information and learning SO MUCH. I didn’t even know Conscience Objectors did public service during WWII–I thought they escaped to Canada, a la Vietnam war–let alone know that thousands actually worked, for no pay, in the state mental hospitals.

However, the pictures are proving more difficult. I need 180 photographs for this book. So far I have digital copies and the rights (the rights are the time-consuming part of this process) to 21 photographs. See the frighteningly wide gap between them?

A lot of you have already kindly contacted me stating that you don’t know anything about Byberry and you don’t have any photographs. I’m asking that you spread the word so as many Philadelphia residents and former Philadelphia residents who know anything about Byberry hear about this call for submission.

Please post a link in your next blog post, tweet about it, press this post, spread this flier around the social media sites. Instead of printing it out and posting it on pin-up boards everywhere, (well, I am going to do that too), help post this flier in as many online places as possible.

I’m looking for pictures of staff members, patients (before, after, or during their time at Byberry), and photographs of the building itself. Maybe they’re photos of your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, and uncles. Try digging through your family photo albums and asking questions.

Maybe you’ll find out something you never even knew.

Everyone who contributes will get full credit in the book!

Please and thank you!