Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Amateur Researcher, Part I

I had always had the romantic notion that my grandfather escaped from a prison camp in deepest Siberia, but while working on this book, and looking at the map while doing so, I realized that he had never reached his final destination, that he had escaped from one of the interim, or transition, camps.

When I became interested in charting out his various journeys. I looked at maps of Poland and Russia and identified where different incidents took place. My first observation was that people traveled tremendous distances back then (sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily). My next discovery, when I located on the map the Siberian towns to which my grandfather referred on his flight home, was that he had only gotten as far as Western Siberia, not all the way to the Far East, which I believe was the intended area as that region in rich in gold deposits, and gold mining was the task the prisoners on his chain gang were to perform for the next ten years.

As you can imagine, it isn’t very easy to locate maps of the various forced labor camps (and, by the way, the ones during my grandfather’s era were called katorgas, not gulags); it would probably require searching through the Kremlin archives, not all of which are likely to be accessible by the general public. Even if I knew his precise, ultimate destination, that wouldn’t help me find the interim camps through which the prisoners passed on the long journey to their permanent exile. They might even have been temporary.

But last night I came across a website that provided some information that I hadn’t had, and hadn’t come across anywhere else. The website was one that sells term papers (!); among other hitherto unknown bits of information, it gave a name to the interim camp system: etape – a new word to use in my searches. Suddenly, all sorts of new resources turned up that hadn’t appeared before. The unidentified author of this particular essay, entitled “Siberian Prison System,” also provided information about prisoners traveling on barges to Tomsk, from which they walked the remaining distance, which could be thousands of kilometers.

(to be continued)

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Blurb Received for Book Jacket

“The Accidental Anarchist” is the memoir of Jacob Marateck, but it reads and feels like a great novel. In fact, as I raced through Jacob's adventures, I realized that no Hollywood screenwriter could ever invent such an extraordinary tale. A soldier in the Russo-Japanese war, Marateck, with a great eye for detail, manages to infuse every image and incident with his own unique optimism and an inspirational Jewish world view.

Robert J. Avrech is an Emmy Award winning Hollywood screenwriter and the author of the prize-winning novel, “The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No, I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth

...though the irregularity of my posts must make it seem that way. The reality is that there are a lot of activities going on related to the book's October release. Among them:

Develop a social media marketing plan: I'm going to need some help here, though I think I've come up with a strategy for using Twitter. It'll take me a long time to set up, but if it works the way I think/hope it does, it should be effective. I'll learn more next week when I go to a Social Media Marketing Workshop. If you want to follow my tweets (and give me your feedback on my strategy), my address is: @xsnerg (there's a link on the blog). If you read a Tweet you like, please forward it to your friends; it takes a lot of forwards to make anything, such as a Tweet, go viral).

By the way, I asked my musician son if he uses Twitter. He replied that, "Twitter is for middle-aged people who think that's what kids do." There's some truth in that...

Social media marketing also means setting up a website, which is in progress. For those of you who have regularly been following my blog, some of the information on the website will be repetitive, but there will also be new components, including an animated map of my grandfather's travels. Last week, I spent time in the UCSD Map Library, trying to figure out where the labor camp that my grandfather escaped from was located: I know it was a five-day walk from Chelyabinsk, which is in Western Siberia, and that he rowed across a lake that was a mile wide somewhere along that route. Unfortunately, Google Earth doesn't have the tools to help me look at the landscape within a 100-mile radius, which is what I figured he and his partner would have covered in five days' time; that feature is only on Google Earth Pro, which costs $400. Which is why I went to the map library. I found the call number of the specific map I wanted to examine but it was missing. Contacting the main reference librarian in the map room to see if he can locate it; he was on vacation when I was in the library last week.

The website will also have a video of my presentation to the Jewish Book Council, which will be part of my online press kit, and the Book Trailer I'm currently writing (think movie trailer, but without the budget). (I asked the same son if he could compose something for the book trailer -- I'm talking less than a minute of music -- but he said he needed 6 months' notice... Well, he is busy. But he recommended several websites from which I can download music free, or 'free' after paying a single licensing fee). If I can finish my part of it by the time he returns home from his West Coast tour, I may ask, again. There will also be an area where readers can write in with comments on the book.

I'm also looking for a publicist, 75% of the need is because I don't have time to do everything that needs to be done, and 25% because there are probably things that I haven't thought of (for example, what the heck is Cloud Management?), or for which I don't have the connections.

If anyone has additional suggestions on what I can do to increase the visibility of my book before its October release, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

If You Had Any Doubts as to the Existence of the Notebooks...

I just got hold of my grandfather's first notebook, the one he bought in a train station in Harbin, China, to document his adventures. I hope this is, at least, partially legible so you can see the date, 1904, written in the upper right hand corner of the first page on the left.

In truth, my grandfather realized later that it wasn't 1904 but 1905, and not summer but autumn. While you or I can get the date or even the day of week wrong, we would likely only be one day off. Imagine what it would take to be so disoriented that you'd lost an entire year!

BTW, you won't be able to read the text; it's in Yiddish, which, BTW, reads from right to left, like Hebrew.

Prior to getting this, I hadn't realized that there were photos from newspapers pasted in here. This is a photo of Czar Nicholas II taken from a Yiddish newspaper.

And the picture of the Czarina (which also hung in the barracks, and which the soldiers were expected to kiss).

There are several occasions when my grandfather heads off on some dangerous mission (or adventure) and refers to giving his diary to a friend to hold for him, and to give to his parents if he doesn't return. THIS is that book. (It cost a nickel in China in 1905.)

Even though I always knew it was real, it looks different than what I had pictured (I imagined a cardboard cover, like today's black-and-white marblized, composition notebooks, but this is cloth, and it doesn't look too bad for being over 100 years old and going through a war, and then some. I was also surprised to see just how much my grandfather wrote during the war. He labeled up to page 262.

I don't know who this merry band of Russians is, but I can find out what the text says. And on the right-hand side is my grandfather's name which, it appears, he wrote as Jakob Marteck.