Cabbage and Tuica

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece called Adventures in Publishing about what it’s like to be an author beyond just the process of writing a book and actually getting it published.

Well today I went and delivered my completed manuscript for my upcoming book (in Romanian) to my publisher. This happened literally a few hours ago so be patient as they do their “thing” but both I and they are quite excited. I’ll get into more detail as to what’s going to happen in a subsequent post because right now I want to tell the story of how it all came to be.

If you want to publish and sell a book in Romania, you need an official publisher. There are lots of online choices in America, where everything can be done via email and credit cards and the like, but in Romania I knew the best option was interacting with an actual human being.

Living in Cluj-Napoca has a lot of advantages, among which include the fact that there are a lot of very old, well-established universities here (with professors who write books) as well as it being the “capital” of the region (Transylvania). Therefore there are several well-respected publishers here, and instead of trying to use my Romanian skills to do things over the telephone, I set out on foot to actually meet with them face-to-face.

I don’t want to use any names but through my contacts I had heard about a very respected publisher with an office not far from my home. I went down there one very cold day a couple of weeks ago. There was the correct sign on the door but when I entered the office, there was nobody there. I then saw a sign on the door from their landlord, essentially informing them that they were evicted and to turn in their key. Hopa! Further inquiries yielded nothing – they were apparently “homeless” and out of business for all intents and purposes.

I wandered into a few other publishing offices and met some very nice people, some of which only publish religious books. They were nice people but it was clear my books and what I wanted to do with them wasn’t a good fit for their company. They were quite courteous but still I felt frustrated as it seemed like I’d never find what I was looking for.

And then, as luck would have it, I slipped and tripped my way through the snow across town to a very small office of a publisher that I had found the “old-fashioned” way – i.e. through a Google search :P

I opened the front door and right away I knew something was different. The young woman at the desk was dressed in camouflage pants and had a piercing in her lower lip. Using my mixed-up Romanian, I explained who I was and what I was hoping to do. She sat me down in an office and offered me a coffee and then I met the boss man (dressed equally casually although minus any visible piercings) and then I explained to him the exact same thing.

For about 5 or 10 minutes, the conversation was fairly formal. After all, as far as they were concerned, I was just some random stranger dropping in out of the blue – and I didn’t even have a completed manuscript with me. Back at home it was done – but in English – and only partially translated to Romanian.

I did however have my English book with me (The Complete Insider’s Guide to Romania) as I needed a domestic ISBN to print it and sell it in Romania. Since all I needed was this ISBN and nothing else from them (for that book), that conversation was fairly straightforward.

But as we got to talking about my Romanian book, I could see his eyes begin to twinkle with excitement. You have to understand that he’d never heard of me or this site and therefore it was all brand-new to meet this strange zoo creature – an American who speaks Romanian and has been living here for years and is now making a living from writing about this country. Clearly he was as excited as many of you were when you first heard/found out about me (from this website).

The boss man flashed an enormous grin at me, touched the side of his nose, and asked me, “Hey, by any chance would you like a glass of tuica?” It took all my powers not to burst out laughing as instantly this story popped into my head. My answer, of course, was “Heck yes!”

So the three of us (boss man, the woman with the lip piercing and I) went outside and said noroc and paharul sus and all the rest and at 10:00 am, I had a very nice buzz going on.

The boss man continued to talk animatedly about the book and strictly based just on what I was telling him, I could see he was quite keen indeed to publish my Romanian book. After a couple of glasses went “down the hatch” he then turned to me and said, “Hey do you like varza?”. This time I couldn’t hold in the laughter – after all, I had printed up I ♥ VARZA shirts and given a few of them away. Do I like varza (cabbage)? Heck yes!

So he made some phone calls and next thing I knew we were on our way to a restaurant here in Cluj which… specializes in cabbage dishes (named appropriately enough Varzarie). The food was absolutely fantastic. After lunch we went to a local cafe which is apparently the “writer’s hang-out” in this city, where I got introduced to many, many other writers in Cluj. I swear I wish I had a camera as many of them looked exactly like how you’d imagine an Official Writer – old grizzled Hemingways with beards, one of them in a peacoat and (hand to Jesus) smoking an enormous pipe.

The boss man has been in the publishing business for several decades and he introduced me to an innumerable amount of people – writers, published professors, even a few members of the media. It’s obvious he was exactly the right guy for me to meet and he enthusiastically kept introducing me and my upcoming book to everyone in town – all mind you, without having yet read a single word I’d written :P

I must’ve spent the better part of the day with him and his crew, all of them very interesting and knowledgeable people. They’ve definitely got a passion for books and I browsed through several tomes they had on hand that they’ve published, ranging from poetry to academic treatises about Romania’s economy. One book in particular was written by a top Romanian diplomat whom I’d heard of but had no idea he actually lived in Cluj.

I ate a lot of cabbage and definitely got fairly drunk. And although no papers were signed that day, I definitely knew I had found the right publisher for me!

Well today, as I said, I went by their offices and dropped off my completed manuscript for the Romanian book. There was no leisurely lunch this time but I will confess here that a glass or two of tuica might’ve been consumed, solely for medicinal purposes and to wish luck upon our venture.

They’re going to do their “thing” now, including editing it, formatting it and whatever else other stuff they have to do, so no I don’t know exactly when it’s going to be officially published and all those kinds of things. What I can tell you is this:

  • There will be more interviews in the media, this time set up by the publisher, who apparently knows every journalist in this entire city.
  • Yes, the book will be sold and distributed in normal bookstores (nationwide).
  • Yes, there will be an “official” launch of the book, with me appearing somewhere in person and doing a “meet and greet” and all the rest.
  • Deep in the bowels of the Romanian National Library there will be copies of a book I wrote, in Romanian, officially establishing me as an author in this country. Considering I came to this country all those years ago knowing only a single word of Romanian, that’s pretty surreal and unbelievably fabulous.

Again, the manuscript got dropped off this morning so be patient. I’ll definitely announce everything when it’s ready to roll, including how to find the book, the name of this awesome company, and all the rest.

In related news, I also just signed the papers to get my English book printed in Romania as well. I had wanted to do all of this before Christmas of course (I’m an ambitious SOB) but obviously that didn’t happen. I’ve got to do a few more things but look for some definitive news on this front by the end of the week.

The Romanian book will also be published separately in the United States, which I hope to have ready by the end of this week. It’ll be a little bit different than the last one, in terms of how to get it, but I’ll post all those details once they’re ready. I’ll also have a digital version available for those of you who prefer that (or just want to read it without waiting).

I know I’ve been slow in posting on the site here in the past week or so but it was because I was finishing up all the diacritics and final edits of the Romanian book. I honestly had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to get all those special symbols in there, including the “t with a tail” and the “s with a tail”, which seemingly every computer program and font hate and fear and want to convert to “empty squares”. It’s actually easier to write in the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet than it is to write in Romanian. Oof!

Which reminds me, a few weeks ago I met a guy who publishes a quarterly publication in Romania and he told me his team were forced to create their own font from “scratch” just to get those two letters to print the way they wanted.

Definitely excited! So hang onto your hats. Now I can start work on my next book! :)

22 thoughts on “Cabbage and Tuica

  1. The whole s-comma and t-comma mix-up has its origins in the deep bowels of the late ’80s. Back then, in an obscure location in the USA (from Late-and-Isolationist-Communist-Romania’s point of view) s-cedilla and t-cedilla were first encoded for computers and were attributed to Romanian ș and ț. Much, much later (in 1997), the Romanian Academy arose from its slumber and told the Unicode Consortium to add s-comma and t-comma, and they did, but that was about it. It was only in 2003 (after Windows XP was launched) that the Academy remembered that it should also tell software companies that the correct Romanian letters are the ones with diacritical commas, not with cedillas.

    So, in 2003, a new SR (Romanian Standard, the ex-STAS) was created, defining the new keyboard layouts with the right letters in place (and this time, based on the American, instead of the horrid German layout), but there was a catch: this happened after XP was launched, and Vista took years to come out. Being that in Romania, Microsoft dominates the OS “market” (I say “market” because very few have non-pirated copies), it took a long time for things to change. XP SP2 made it possible to view the letters and, eventually, the correct letters appeared with Vista and then W7 in the keyboard layout. Since there’s not much penetration for Mac and Linux OS in Romania, they were usually slow to catch up, but I see that most fonts big these days provide support for ș and ț, and if you have one that doesn’t, a simple font editing fix is enough (just add a comma below and resize to 40-100% of the original size depending on the font).

    Interestingly enough, S-comma and T-comma were inspired by C-cedilla, and were themselves the inspiration for Turkic S-cedilla, so we’re the only ones to have kept the comma design.

    And now you know!


  2. I must say that I will definitely buy your books. The Guide is already on my list with a few copies. I barely can wait to read your Romanian book. :)


  3. You mean like you can provide ebooks in an automatized fashion by the thousands sent electronically after you get paid, via e-junkie or somesuch ?

    Ummm, please, after eating so much slop cabbage (de cazan) at the canteens of my childhood and youth, I have the right to be a bit cautious about certain cabbage dishes. I’m a bit “devarzuit”, there’s this term in Hungarian, sounds like a tongue twister, “elkaposztalanitotatott” (check the spelling).


    1. Well if you ever come to Cluj, try the restaurant Varzarie. It’s that “red” cabbage in the style they call “calita”. Flipping delicious! :)


      1. Ummm, “cured” red cabbage!
        Cluj is on my list for whenever I’ll visit Romania. So it’s settled, sana la Miorita, cafea la cafeneaua de langa, pranzul la Varzarie, cina la impinge-tava. And if I’m lucky, TIFF.


  4. I honestly had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to get all those special symbols in there, including the “t with a tail” and the “s with a tail”, which seemingly every computer program and font hate and fear and want to convert to “empty squares”. It’s actually easier to write in the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet than it is to write in Romanian. Oof! <- i know exactly what you mean, I am a student in the UK and i've written an essay for one of my classes about the churches in Bucovina (Moldovita, Sucevita etc) and when I wanted to print it, i had to reinsert those symbols "manually" on the computer that had the printer….:D

    "One book in particular was written by a top Romanian diplomat whom I’d heard of but had no idea he actually lived in Cluj." <- are you talking about Neagu Djuvara?


      1. Happy Birthday, Elisabeth! The presents look nice, and your day sodnued great. I like the fingernail painting photos a lot. Fun!I think everybody is looking forward to more photos of children’s books. They’re always neat to look at!


      2. Hi Earl. I have enjoyed your crfoolul descriptions of travel with illustrious verbiage to define the wonders of which you have experienced. However, I am perplexed. How can you be wandering if you have, and I quote, I’ve now spent over 140 days in Romania since the end of December 2011. It seems like you are actually Romanian Earl instead of wandering. And honestly, I am so sad that you have lost your adventurous spirit. I realize that this comment is not of the genera which you normally approve, and that I take as the truth. But know this, I enjoy your blog, and if by chance you want to address my concern, I think I am not alone in your followers to deserve an answer.


  5. To print the diacritics is fairly easy. Every major font has them and you can find them in windows app named character map (start menu). Also you can use keyboard set in romanian language or shortcuts (ALT+0227=a with a tail but not working in laptops though).
    There are also some applications for automatically putting diacritics in plain texts like subtitle workshop ( or online at So many options.

    Anyway, congratulations on your new book. I will sure buy it ;)


    1. The “Romanian keyboard” for Apple doesn’t even have s with a tail (ş) and there seems to be a difference between Unicode and other charsets… what looks fine on my “American” computer gets scrambled to the “empty box” on “Romanian” computers and vice versa. It’s a real headache! So thanks for the link :)


      1. The “Romanian keyboard” for Apple doesn’t even have s with a tail (ş)

        Really? I’m looking at it right now. Actually, there are two virtual Romanian keyboards on Apple, Romanian and Romanian Standard. The second one has s and t with tails.


      2. I’m using Tiger 10.49 and the Russian keyboard works very well (minus the damn Й) but the Romanian one is definitely missing a ş :(


      3. Ah. I’m using 10.6.6. I assume your hardware is preventing an upgrade to 10.6? (Not that I’m even running Apple hardware; I’ve got a Hackintosh.)


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