In his last post Joel Chas­noff, author of The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade: A Skin­ny Jew­ish Kid from Chica­go Fights Hezbol­lah: A Mem­oir, wrote about the bat­tle over his book cov­er. He is guest-blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council.

Even before I signed the con­tract to write The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade, I turned to oth­er authors for advice.

The first writer I met was Joshua Fer­ris, author of Then We Came to the End. Joshua had grown up in Niles, not far from where I grew up in Evanston. I’d played lit­tle league with his best child­hood friend, Grant. It was at a birth­day par­ty for a mutu­al friend that Grant intro­duced us.

Despite the fact that he’d just sold a nov­el that would go on to become a New York Timesbest­seller and short­list­ed for the Nation­al Book Award, Joshua was com­plete­ly down to earth and, bet­ter yet, gen­er­ous with his time. He read the sam­ple chap­ter of my book pro­pos­al and then, a week lat­er, took me for cof­fee and gave an exten­sive cri­tique. He then offered to intro­duce me to his lit­er­ary agent, if I need­ed one. (I did not, as it turned out.) Over the next few years, I’d email him ques­tions about every­thing from what to expect dur­ing the edit­ing process to pub­lic­i­ty strat­e­gy. He always answered back.

Then, in Jan­u­ary 2006, I saw an ad in the Times about an upcom­ing event at the 92nd Street Y with, among oth­ers, Dave Eggers.

Every writer has that one oth­er writer whom he or she emu­lates almost to the point of obses­sion. For me, that oth­er writer is Eggers.

I first came across Eggers in the fall of 2003, when I hap­pened to notice his mem­oir, A Heart­break­ing Work of Shat­ter­ing Genius, on the front table at a Barnes and Noble in Buffalo.

I picked up the book, exam­ined the ama­teur-look­ing cov­er. I flipped through the first few pages and saw a list of metaphors (and their expla­na­tions) con­tained in the book and an Acknowl­edg­ments sec­tion that thanked, in turn, the employ­ees of NASA and the U.S. Postal system.

From that moment, I was hooked. I sat in an easy chair and read half the book right there in the store. Then I paid for it, fin­ished it that night, and start­ed to reread it the next morning.

After his read­ing at the 92nd Street Y, I stood in the sign­ing line for upwards of an hour. When my turn final­ly came, I hand­ed him a book and a white enve­lope with a let­ter in it. I wrote you a note,” I mum­bled, ner­vous, like a kid meet­ing his favorite base­ball player.

Cool!” Eggers said.

For two weeks, I checked the mail­box with anticipation.

No note.

Then, some­how, I for­got about it. Until one day, I opened the mail­box and found a let­ter with a San Fran­cis­co post­mark, addressed to me in my own hand­writ­ing. (I’d enclosed an SASE).

I tore open the enve­lope. Inside was the let­ter I’d writ­ten to Dave, with his hand­writ­ten com­ments scrawled next to each question.

Eggers offered incred­i­ble advice. On my need for an exten­sion from the pub­lish­er: Total­ly nor­mal. Good to have dead­lines, but don’t release it til it’s ready. You can nev­er un-publish.”

On how to know when the book was fin­ished: Have a group of 5 – 6 read­ers out­side of your S&S edi­tor. Get these read­ers com­mit­ted to reading/​helping you make the book as good as it can be. They should be friends/​relations who like you, care about what you pub­lish. They can screen for dan­ger­ous passages.”

Truth be told, the best part of Eggers’ let­ter was not any one piece of advice, but sim­ply that he’d writ­ten back.

Joel Chasnoff’s The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade: A Skin­ny Jew­ish Kid from Chica­go Fights Hezbol­lah: A Mem­oir is now avail­able. Vis­it Chasnoff’s offi­cial web­site: http://​joelchas​noff​.com/.

Joel Chas­noff and Ben­ji Lovitt are Amer­i­can-born stand-up come­di­ans who now live in Israel, and are the authors of the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award-win­ning Israel 201. They’ve per­formed com­e­dy at more than 2,000 Jew­ish events in 10 countries.