It’s a day before Thanksgiving, an appropriate time to talk about book dedications and acknowledgments. Since my first book took me approximately 15 years to complete–from idea to final publication–these two sections proved to be a challenge.
First of all, in terms of acknowledgments, you can collect a lot of people to thank along the way in 15 years. But I didn’t want to necessarily junk up the beginning of my first book with list upon list of names. (I’m so impressed with books with one succinct paragraph of thanks.) It’s like determining the invitation list for a wedding: Where do you cut? Who do you include/exclude?
For myself, I had to begin with the folks who were with me during the early, early part of my struggles with the manuscript. Then it moved to people and institutions who were instrumental in providing editorial input or finances to give me time to write. And last of all, those who just made life easier through tangible and emotional support. These were friends and family members who fed me, made me laugh, and provided me with larger spiritual perspective through this painful journey towards publication. What is funny is that I’ve had a couple of friends who have been approached, "Are you the one in Naomi Hirahara’s acknowledgments?" (One thing to note: you’ll definitely sell some books based on the acknowledgment. I guess that’s one plus of having a long list of names.)
Although I had read numerous nonfiction books to get a handle on my first book’s topic, most of the research was done through day-to-day interaction, memories, and informal interviews. I depended heavily on layers of personal experience and imagination, rather than tomes of paper.
In my second and third books, which had much shorter acknowledgments, I had done focused research on specific topics, so I did mention those resources to help direct persons who wanted to find out more.
Now in terms of dedications, I must warn you that I’m a bit prepositionally challenged. As a copout, I explain that it’s my bilingual upbringing (Japanese probably was my first language), and if you are familiar with Japanese in anyway, you know that the Japanese use of participles, specifically "postpositions," is at the very least perplexing. That confusion has bled a little in my command of English prepositions.
What I’m getting at is the subtle difference between "to" and "for" in a dedication. Most book dedications seem to use "for." But "for," to me, connotes that the author wrote the book "for" somebody. I wrote my first book, SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, for the story. And during the course of 15 years, the motivations ebbed and flowed. When the book was finally to be published, I wanted to dedicate its completion to my parents, who had inspired me in different ways to write the story, and to my grandmother, who, unfortunately, had passed away a year before the publication date. The dedication reads, "To Mom and Dad, for dreams and laughter, and to Chiyoko Mukai (1912-2003)."
The second book in the series, GASA-GASA GIRL, was dedicated "to" my brother Jimmy, who had accompanied me once on a trip to New York City, where the book is based. And the third book, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, I wrote "for" Wes, my husband, because I did, in essence, write it for him, in honor of his Okinawan heritage. (If you want to see photos of the whole brood, check out the gallery here.)
So, for you writers out there, did you find your acknowledgments or dedication page particularly difficult to pull together? And set me straight on this "for" and "to" business (grammarian Deni, perhaps?). Take a break from stuffing the turkey or watching football and write in a comment.
One final note: for you debut authors, I would recommend that you submit your acknowledgments and dedication with your manuscript before the proofreading stage rather than after. I’ve seen some botched acknowledgments in mystery books; it’s obvious that no one checked these pages that carefully. And since these pages usually start off your book, you want these expression of thanks to be the best they can be.
WEDNESDAY’S WORD: omiyage (GASA-GASA GIRL, page 241)
Every good Japanese American knows that when you visit someone, you come bearing gifts. The gift–whether it’s fancy or a two liters of Coke–is omiyage, pronounced o-MI-a-geh. And when you go to visit family in Japan, you must bring omiyage back for all your relatives. Which makes for a very heavy suitcase. Coffee and Almond Roca used to be standards, but they have all that and more in Japan. Decaf coffee is rarer in Japan, but what is definitely a big hit is American baseball T-shirts with Japanese players’ names. The most popular: Matsui on the Yankees, of course. Go Godzilla.