Sunday, December 30, 2007

must...rejuice... embrace me, cyberspace... i shan't leave you ever againnn

I DO have some most excellent photos, both of a highly sunburned trip to the tropics and of a Saturday afternoon with The Aunda, but I have to wait until my professional photographer (ie Space Alien) deigns to upload them on her Flickr so I can steal them from her.

Also, it occurs to me that tomorrow may very well be a bad day for blogging, as I have been booked for 5 solid hours of karaoke with Melanie and our favorite Japanese bartender (although his only involvement is to roll his eyes). However, I shall dutifully try my utmost.

Curious... does anyone else have the sneaking feeling that 2008 is going to ROCK?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

you have seven new messages.

The Aunda got the day of our return home wrong, apparently. A transcript of my mother's voicemail:

[Friday, 6 pm]

"[Mooooooooooom's name].

[Mom's name], Aunda Connie call. You call-a me?

[Mooooooooooom's name]. You call-a Aunda Connie?

Tank-a you."

[Friday, 7 pm]

"[Mooooooooooooom's name].

[Mooooooooooom's name], Aunda Connie call. Call-a me.

You come-a home? Call-a me."

[Friday, 8 pm]

"[Mooooooooooom's name].

Aunda Connie call. You call-a me? Call-a Aunda Connie.

[Moooooooooooom's name]. Call Aunda Connie.

Tank-a you."

[Friday, 9 pm]

[in a controversial move, she changes tactics (it's become clear at this point that my mother is ignoring her)]

"[Daaaaaaaaad's name],

Aunda Connie call. You call-a me back?

Aunda Connie call.

Every-ting all-a right?

Quando you come home?

Call-a Aunda Connie."

Friday, December 21, 2007

signing off...

I'm going on my epic voyage with Momrat, Dadrat, and the Baby Rats tomorrow, and I've sworn a solemn oath to various parties that I won't take my computer with me and that I'll only take one manuscript in hard copy. Sooo I guess this is it for us for awhile. (Unless I cheat. Which would be, umm, highly, umm, out of character. No, I DON'T have a blogging addiction.)

So if you stop by here and there's nothing new up, maybe you can think about contributing to the best overlooked fiction list or to the top books about friendship list, since I never have enough to read and desperately need your recommendations. (The first half of that statement is slightly less true than the second.)

And everyone have a [pick the adjectives that best fit your specific situations and preferences] safe, peaceful, merry, loving, rowdy, musical, spiritual, atheistic, warm, candle-lit, snowy, sunny Christmas. Or at least a very happy December 25th.



Editorial Ass's Top 3 Books about Friendship

I have a particular obsession with friendship. I think I think about friendship more than other people do or admit, but in the end I don't believe I'm wrong to do that. We're all taught to seek out romance--in a lot of ways, there's PRESSURE to find a "mate"--and we're all told to love our families. Friendship is the one life situation that we choose entirely for ourselves, and for which there are no rules--no textbook of when you owe whom what, what's fair or unfair, how much or how little you can attach or invest, how brightly colored your world becomes when you find someone who thinks like you or how much it hurts when it turns out someone doesn't think like you. It's a rich and provocative subject and I think some of the best literature in the world is written about it. Actually, what amazes me the most is that some of the best literature is about other things BESIDES friendship.

Some of these books are happy, some are sad. All are a reminder, though, of how much we have the capacity to love, and that we should be vigilant about exercising that capacity.

1) THE CHOSEN, by Chaim Potok
Reuven and Danny, two Jewish boys who grow up next door to each other in 1940s New York, never become friends until they are 15--Reuven, who is a an Orthodox Jew and the son of a bookish, open-hearted, intellectual Zionist, never has occasion to cross paths with Danny, the son and heir of a Hassidic Reb. But when they do finally get to know each other, they develop a bond that changes the way they each see the world.

I love this book because there is no embarrassment about the boys' love for each other. There's no confusion (neither tries to steal the other's woman or anything--girls are only alluded to but don't ever interfere). I feel like it's one of the few literary treatments of friendship that shows unabashedly how life-changing it can be.

Kenneth is good friends with his Uncle Benn. They're both classical chatty Bellowsians, but they are very good about coming back to each other. Get the edition with the introduction by Martin Amis--he says some things that spoke to me as much as the book did, including: This book is about two men who love women but who also love each other.

Also check out RAVELSTEIN. A failure of a novel, in that good old Saul prattles on in his way with zero narrative structure, and a "little" self-indulgent, but a really moving fictionalization of his friendship with Allan Bloom (or so I've heard). I got through the first 300 pages wondering if I should bother to finish, but then Saul drops a one-line bomb on the second to last page that made me cry for a week.

Molina and Valentin meet in an Argentinian jail. Valentin is a revolutionary who has been locked up for illegal political activity; Molina is an effeminate gay man who was jailed for soliciting a man. Despite everything they don't have in common, Molina hypnotizes Valentin with his verbal depictions of Hollywood love stories, and they each come to an understanding of what it means to care about someone.

I've never seen the movie or the play. But the book has some really awesome elements (mainly in the footnotes) that I can't imagine translating perfectly to either of those media. So do read the book.

I know what I have above are three books by boys about boys. It makes me sad that (in my reading experience) women seem to have less to celebrate--friendships are more ambivalent. I hope you'll have recommendations about precious and inspiring female friendships that you'll be able to guide me towards. But friendship is also deeply complicated and a wealth of literature is written about its more ambivalent facets, so we'll have some Runners Up.

Runner Up 1:

THE FRIEND WHO GOT AWAY, by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell
Twenty essays by rising talents--all young female writers who have had a "break-up" with a former best friend. I wouldn't call this a heart-warming read; after all, you'll get to the end and have just read about 20 heartbreaks. But I do think most women go through a break-up at some point in their lives, and they are all left bereft in a way it is hard to explain or talk about with other friends. A thoughtful book, and resonant particularly if you're going through a "break-up" yourself.

Runner Up 2:

THE GIRLS, by Lori Lansens
This only gets second runner up because the "friends" in question are actually Siamese twin sisters joined at the head. I love my sister very much and she's my very good friend but I feel like sister-friends (or "fristers" as we call them) are kind of cheating, since (in most cases) sisters grew up with the same spastic mother, dorky dad, and/or crazy Italian great aunt, and as a result speak a strange secret language that seems weird to everyone else. Sisters, when it works out between them, are awesome friends. But anyway. THE GIRLS. Good book.

Runner Up 3 (I wanted to end with this so I could end with the quote):

THE SPANISH BOW, by Andromeda Romano-Lax. I know I've posted on it a million times, which is why I forced myself to put it down here as 3rd Runner Up, but whatever other richnesses of this book, what was most provocative for me was the friendship between Feliu and Justo. I already quoted this passage (from page 336-337) but I'll quote it again here:

A shroud of bad luck still seemed to hang over him, but he appeared to be taking the news astonishingly well. "What lasts?" he asked rhetorically, as he had so many times before. Then he laughed. "Good looks, rarely. Money--never."

"And friendship?" I asked cautiously.

He fingered his mustache. "Sometimes. I suppose I'd put it in the same category as love: flawed and messy, and of questionable duration, and yet somehow irresistable."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best Overlooked Fiction

Here's our alternative best of list, a collaborative list of great fiction we're sad more people don't know about! Title listings are alphabetical by author's last name, and the "reviewer" is listed after each nominee. Thanks, everybody who contributed.

If you're reading this post and have a suggestion, please feel free to add it in the comments. I'll link this list in my sidebar and will update every time someone adds a title. I'm kind of tempted to add more myself.


Arnold, Elizabeth Joy. PIECES OF MY SISTER'S LIFE. The novel tells the story of identical twins growing up on Block Island, their estrangement as children and eventual reconciliation when one learns the other is dying of ovarian cancer. It was a beautifully written book about the unique bond between twins, and one of those few novels I couldn't put down.--JessicaG

Donati, Sarah. INTO THE WILDERNESS. I read it thinking it was a fanfiction knockoff of the Last of the Mohicans movie. And true, it has a few of those elements, but it's full of greatness and win. The main character, Elizabeth, is a strong willed 'bluestocking' and is definitely her own person. She runs the story and ultimately sets into action a chain of events in a small town on the frontier by doing what she wants instead of what everyone else wants. It's a huge doorstopper of a book but it's also utterly breathtaking, and Donati's language is amazing. I've easily read this a dozen times and I'm tempted to read it again this weekend just thinking about it.--Jill Myles

Ducornet Rikki. GAZELLE and THE FANMAKER'S INQUISITION. Both excellent. She's well known in some circles but deserves much wider readership for her characterizations of women and of historical figures.--Kaytie M. Lee


Findley, Timothy. THE WARS. A really special treatment of WWI and the soldier experience (and its aftermath). This book is practically required reading in Canada but isn't even in print in the US.--moonrat

Gover, Robert. THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE. If you like 60s gonzo literature with a sinister crime flare and a protagonist who is as funny as he is scary, I can't recommend it enough. It's one of my favorite books, and no one's ever heard of it.--Rachel

Greenburg, Seth. THE BONE. Too funny.--Anonymous

James, Marlon. JOHN CROW'S DEVIL. You can read it at its surface as a literary horror story, but getting into the many levels he managed to weave in (mixing my metaphors, sorry) brings out social commentary about the role of religion in communities. It has been the kind of book I think about when I'm not reading it.--Kaytie M. Lee

Quinn, Daniel. ISHMAEL. One of my favorite books ever. Basically a conduit for Quinn's ideas of the world and our responsibility as humans to the world. Which, btw, blew my little 7th grade mind away when I read it.--angelle

Sloan, Bob. BEARSKIN TO HOLLY FORK. Brilliant.--Wayne

morning voicemail from Momrat

"Good MORNing!

So I'm in the car and I was listening to NPR and they had this special on twenty-somethings. You know. Except they were talking about 19- to 25-year-olds. They called that "emerging adulthood" and they said that most kids that age still count on their parents for a lot of things. You know, money things and stuff. And I thought, wow, Moonrat is 24--right there in that group! And she's...pretty independent. So...good job, kiddo!

Also, I was wondering, can you maybe bring a really big suitcase with you to the Caribbean? But it would be good if you could only pack a little and leave a lot of space for other people's [read: her] stuff.

That's all!! Have a wonderful day!"

I just realized

I haven't finished reading a book since NOVEMBER. Boo.

I am about halfway through 5 different books. Also, I've been working approximately 80 hours a week. Which makes it tough for me to find incentive to stare at anything (especially anything with print on it) when I get home.

Now is a good time to mention that I'm taking ALL of next week off and going to the Caribbean with Momrat. I've made a pact to take only one manuscript with me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

So hard.

Parting from friends. Especially when you don't know exactly when you'll see each other again.

It doesn't matter how inured I get or how much practice I have. It still breaks my heart every time.

Roar for Powerful Words

Bernita picked me for a Roar for Powerful Words award (for powerful writing in the blogosphere). I contemplated demurring, since my job is more to tinker with other people's writing, but then as I read her entry I realized that in mentioning my award I would get to wax poetic (again) about what makes a good (and powerful) writer.

The rules: you are obliged to list three characteristics you think are important for good writing, and pass the award on.

My three characteristics:

1) Creativity
So much is published on so much all the time that everything's been written about before (a bajillion times). Honestly, a lot of modern "good" writing is really retreading very familiar ground. The great and affecting writers are the ones who manage to tread familiar ground in a way that is unusual (or the sainted few who manage to find new ground to tread). It's a real gift for a writer to recognize when and how they can break the rules about style, content, and market, and then be able to break those rules well.

2) Agenda
The best writers are the purposeful writers. This can mean different things to different people. In many cases, writers strive to touch an empathetic chord with their words, thereby making people's lives a little better or more interesting. But also, writing is a powerful medium and even the most creative fiction writers should think now and then about what writing has meant in history and the venue they've created for themselves to really make a statement, fight for what they believe in, and change the way their readers think. Writing well to entertain is a skill and a power. Writing well to entertain while offering your readers the chance to open their minds is a gift to yourself and your readers.

3) Open-mindedness
(The editor sneaks another little word in edgewise.) Be open to change! Don't take advice from everyone, because not everyone knows what they are talking about, but do listen to what people say and be judicious about editing. If your darlings are distracting your reader you're undermining your own power. Great writers know that being able to step back and take criticism will help them touch more people.

(If you are bored and would like more characteristics, please cf What Makes a Dream Author, where I wax even MORE poetic.)

Ok, sorry for the extensive discourse. Bernita, I hope you're happy to have brought this down upon us!

For passing the award along:

I don't feel right picking from the many wonderful bloggers whose writings I follow, and I got dizzy trying to pick favorites from my long list of buddies. I hope everyone knows how much I love their blogs, and, for those of you who are working toward publication and offer writers venues to air material, new devices to think about, and tips for breaking in, I (and other editors everywhere) are eternally grateful. But I will give two special shouts here to bloggers that are especially important to me, and if either one wants to carry on with the award, I hope they will.

The first is Maria, whose blog I stumbled on accidentally many months ago. Maria has nothing to do with publishing (that I know of!) and only writes because she is a Writer. I wanted to thank her for the many times she's helped me appreciate the world around me a little more vividly.

The second is Angelle, who is the only blogfriend I have whose actual-reality writing I've been lucky enough to read. Angelle is a Writer in the truest sense--she writes because she loves to write, and because she has a message she wants to share with the world. She fits all three of my criteria to a tee.

Thanks for this opportunity, Bernita--powerful words are worth roaring for.

Monday, December 17, 2007

this morning as I was getting off the subway

There was a press of people waiting in clump to ascend the stairs out of the station. Slightly ahead of me, two women in their mid- or late-twenties bumped elbows and turned to look at each other.

"Oh! It's you!" said the redhead. The two embraced. "How funny seeing you here! Usually it's only coming back."

"I'm running early this morning," said the brunette. She had a lovely accent--my guess is German.

"Oh really? What do you do again?" asked the redhead.

It became obvious to me at this point that these two, who had greeted each other so warmly, were subway friends. Their only overlap was on the beloved MTA, although (since they made a lunch date within earshot) it became obvious that they had managed to transcend the commuter divide.

This is especially inspiring to me because we have to realize that at one point these women, cold strangers, must have taken the initial leap and dared to talk to each other on the subway. Most of us are so afraid to take any of those chances (or two shy or untrusting to reciprocate). But we are a city of basically good, kind people. You never know that your best friend isn't sitting next to you. I like to think of those endless possibilities.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

musings on success

So Ron over at GalleyCat posted this interesting take on what the publishing industry sees as a success last week and I can't get it out of my head.

Ron expresses his surprise at publishing "mogul" Hillel Italie's list of hits and misses of 2007. One of the "misses" was Junot Diaz's [universally praised] The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, apparently because the national sales (computed on a Nielsen tool that manages to account for about 70% of national sell-through) was "only" clocking in at 27,000 copies in the first three months of sales (which you can compare to the universally panned If I Did It, which is apparently clocking in more than 100,000 copies).

So I am surprised by all this. First of all, let me say congratulations to Junot Diaz if he reads this--not only does everyone love his book, but he managed to sell 27,000 copies of a debut novel in hardcover in the first three months of publication!! Junot dear, if you're reading this, I KNOW you have personally touched many people with your writing, and your fiscal success should only be icing on the cake.

But the thing is, I guess, success is always relative. I do have to say that the comparison to If I Did It--or, for that matter, any nonfiction whatsoever--is unfair, since (as you know) I always harp about how nonfiction is so much safer and more lucrative for everyone.

So there are a couple of ways of looking at success. One is whether or not a book meets its expectations. Publishers really have to get themselves all in a dither about books to be able to financially justify some of the advances agents and authors pressure them into throwing down for projects, which means that these publishers have to convince themselves that a book is going to produce a certain amount of revenue in the first year (or two years). We really seriously have to talk ourselves up. We push all our resources into drumming up attention for these high price-tag projects and we gush about them and brainwash ourselves that they will, in fact, sell the millions of copies we need them to. 70% of them don't, of course. 70% of books are a loss.

I don't know if maybe my opinion has been skewed because I work at a small house where expectations are relatively low and success is measured in pleasant surprises. I've worked at large houses, too, though, and I really don't miss the hype that builds around books that cost us huge amounts of money (and I really really don't miss the disappointment and dirt-kicking after the book naturally fails to meet expectations).

I think it's particularly tough right now to publish creatively. There is little ground that hasn't been pretty thoroughly covered by other books already. So the epic buzz that we (publishers) try to create around the big titles often seems to me like throwing energy and tears and sweat and the rest into a black hole. Not that I don't want every ounce of the best for my authors (after all, it's a bestseller for them is the only thing that helps my career!!). I do. But I'm also proud of them for their success even if they don't sell 100,000 copies a year. Even if they don't sell 10,000. Because wide-spread commercial recognition does not necessarily a good book make. I'm proud to be a part of publishing that doesn't need to be bound by the awful, conformist, and extremely conventional rules that tend to bind many commercial successes (and I would never tell Junot Diaz he hadn't performed well enough). This isn't to say that some of our titles don't sell huge numbers--there are super pleasant surprises more often than one might think. But since we don't force ourselves to plan FOR them, there are fewer UNpleasant surprises than it seems like every other company has to suffer.

A tangible example: there's an author on my list who tried for years and years to find a publisher and failed. By the time we got him, he had written a number of books that had no houses. We purchased a number of his properties for very little and we really did our best by him--we got nice packaging, we submitted him for reviews, we took him on a tour. Now his books are really strong backlist titles for us and help sponsor everything else our house does. We get consistent reorders and I think that attention for his books is actually growing as the years go by.

A few years later, a major major imprint at a major major house (think as major as they come) picked up a new book by him. They offered him a huge advance and threw all their money into advertising him and did amazing[ly costly] packaging and marketing. It all looked very nice. Tragedy struck--the book was a serious disappointment. Not only did the advance not earn out, proceeds from the book didn't even manage to cover the advance.

The funny part? The big publisher managed to sell exactly the same number of his new title that we have managed on each of the old titles.

The moral of this story is that all the money in the world doesn't change the market or what people want. And yeah, I know I always bark up the tree of commercial viability and everything like that and I really DO have to follow those rules. But I do also want to say (again) I am proud to be a part of QUALITY publishing and to be able to produce books that I love even if they don't break 100,000.

I hope this doesn't sound like sour grapes. It's not meant to. I just want to perpetuate an understanding of reality that includes success on many different levels.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I hate some parts of my job, too.

I've just had an hour and a half conversation with one of my authors. I spent more than 2 weeks--nights and weekends, too--painstakingly editing a book everyone assumes is doomed to fail because of some of the author's ideosyncracies. I gotta say, I'm damn proud of my work (and, by the way, 40% blinder than before I started--stay in school, kids, 'cuz staring at a computer screen for 16 consecutive hours does NOT pay).

The author, who received his manuscript with my edits the day before yesterday, has, quote, "forbidden" me to make any of these changes because I clearly don't understand his narrative (having, you know, only read the book 4 times at this point). After my long conversation, I did manage to a) get him to lower his voice, and b) get him to agree to look at the whole manuscript carefully and get back to me with written comments next week, but in the course of the phone conversation there were some incredibly not nice and belittling things said (and not by me, for I, like Neville Chamberlain, am the soul of appeasement, although perhaps now might be a good time to look back at how it all worked out for old Neville and perhaps revisit my business strategy).

Seriously. There are SO many novels that deserve to be published that won't ever find editors. Can you please, please tell me why I should be wasting my time working with someone who so clearly wants their book to fail? I do strongly believe that literature should be a vehicle for our principles. But if the vehicle isn't polished, no one's going to buy.

I'm only working in your best interest, buddy. Give me a break.

best overlooked fiction

Because I brought it up in that last post about "best of" lists--Shameless gave some love to publications that make an effort to highlight great books that have somehow missed mainstream coverage.

So let's put together a list of our favorite overlooked fiction. Post your suggestion as a comment and put a line or two about why. I'll publish the complete list of Best Overlooked Fiction on Monday, Dec 17th. There are no rules about what you choose.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

News for 2007: Literary Scientists Prove Men Are Better Writers!!

Disclaimer: angry ranting post to ensue.

My dad brought me up to be a big women's basketball fan (probably because I'm tall and he had some vicarious dreams for me, all put definitively to bed when it became obvious how clumsy I was). But he would do things like by us tickets to go see UConn play out in Storrs (even on weeknights!!) when I was little, and then, even through college, he managed to get tickets to a couple NCAA Final Fours and the like.

I remember my freshman year in college, when I took off four days of class to go with Dadrat to San Antonio to see the Huskies basically walk all over everyone else. A boy on my dorm floor was a big basketball fan, but he actually scoffed when I told him where I was going (apparently he thought I was joking). His explanation: "I don't think anyone actually likes women's basketball, or wants to watch it. It's the same as with any women's sports. It's like watching birds or dogs play basketball. Then first five minutes or so, it's like, cool, birds and dogs playing basketball! But then you get bored and want to go back to watching real sports." (Alas, he wasn't a stupid asshole either, so I can't even write off what he said.)

Anyway, the point is, I've now learned that the same goes for women and fiction writing!! They give it a nice go, and it's really cute the efforts they make, but let's face it, folks--in the end, when we're appreciating fine literature that can actually open our minds, we should really let the men do their work.

My incontrovertible proof? There aren't any women making any mainstream Top 10 of 2007 lists. Here's the New York Times list; here's the Washington Post Book World list. Not a lady in their midst.
Here's the PW Best Books of 2007 list, which is a little bit daunting in its comprehensiveness but, I think, is more fair, since basically they've rehashed here things their reviewers have starred over the course of the year. HOWEVER even there, on their list of mainstream fiction, there are only 4 titles by women (out of a total 25). And of course, let's not forget that goddess of female empowerment, the great Oprah, and her book club, which hasn't deigned to recognize a female writer in the last 3 years. Not even one. (NYT longlist of notables is also incredibly male-heavy, btw. Give it a glance.)

I'm not about affirmative action here, since women do write (and read!) more books already. I'm just surprised that so many books by boys jump so obviously to buzzworthy when no women's books seem to make the cut, particularly BECAUSE there are more books by women being published. I'm also wondering about how reviewers are addressing content. Forgive the crass generalizations here; I'm allowed to use them because I work in publishing and get to think about packaging and target audiences all the time. Is a book with content driven more toward a male readership (take, for example, a war story, like Denis Johnson's TREE OF SMOKE) automatically more interesting to a wider group of people than a book driven toward a female audience (you know, any book with a female protagonist, since men don't want to read about that)?

The trouble is, of course, there are thousands of wonderful books published each year that all deserve to change lives, but everyone in the world doesn't have the money to buy them all nor the time to read them all (and book stores don't even have the space to stock them all). So through a confluence of circumstance and bad luck (and sometimes just randomness) some of the best works in the English language are totally and completely overlooked. Check out New York Magazine's The Best Novels You've Never Read (compiled May 2007). I've only read one book on this list--Carol Shields's UNLESS--but it was in fact one of the best books I've ever read, and is one I have bought again and again as a gift. She already knew she was dying when she wrote it, and the entire novel is pregnant with wisdom and sadness and honest personal philosophy.

But that difficulty aside, can you seriously tell me that Amy Bloom's universally proclaimed AWAY, Annie Dillard's famously last (and supposedly wonderful) THE MAYTREES, or (my favorite of 2007) Andromeda Romano-Lax's THE SPANISH BOW weren't rich enough to compete with any of these books by boys? Not even one of them?

So a next question (which came up when I realized how few great women's novels of 2007 I could cite off the top of my head)--why are there so few? Does the glass ceiling even come into the money-making side of publishing? Are female authors more poorly marketed unless they're serving up genre fare? HOW CAN IT BE POSSIBLE that, when the majority of fiction readers and book-buyers (this is for both commercial AND literary fiction) are female that it's not books by women or marketed toward women that are being 1) highlighted and offered for awards by publishing companies, and 2) recognized by readers? If any of the published books by women that were given mid-level treatment this year had been seriously framed and trotted about, would these lists look significantly different?

Don't get me wrong--I love books by men. I'm not a "pink" girl, although taking on my current job, I'll admit my tastes have necessarily become a LITTLE pinker, but those who know me well know I really happily read from a wide range. But I am an editor of predominantly "women's" fiction (meaning literary and commercial fiction by women and marketed for a predominantly female audience, NOT meaning genre fiction). This is my axe and grind it I shall. Other people have other axes, and a lot of them can be ground on these booklists, too, so please feel free to grind away. I'd love to hear your thoughts/opinions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

common errors in English

Check out this awesome site (and consider bookmarking...), courtesy of Maud Newton. It's a pretty comprehensive guide to copy editing yourself.

My honest opinion as an editor? I have to confess I'm a little old-fashioned about copy editing on submissions. Yes, the fiber of your writing and your skill with language are of utmost importance and are ultimately what will make you as a writer. But if your submission is poorly copy edited, it really will hurt your chances of getting to the next level with me (and, I think, with a lot of other editors). A more professional submission shows you're more serious about your submission and more willing to put in a little extra time and effort. Since not everyone is a natural grammar freak (thank God--I'm not sure how many other people like myself I could coexist with), it's a good idea to keep a sheet like this handy or, if you really don't trust yourself (which, let's face it, is pretty fair--we manage to miss things about our own writing that we'd catch in a heartbeat in someone else's), to have a friend go over your material, too.

best Christmas song ever

Watch The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale of New York. If it doesn't make you happy I'll buy you a beer.

some self-indulgent good news

Again, Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME is going to be completed!!! Here's the PW article, courtesy of The Swivet.

Dadrat is so cute. I emailed him the link and his email back went like this.

Dear Moonrat,

Thanks for the info. Fall 09 is a long time away. I was hoping for something sooner. Well, better late than never.


Unrelated: I had a big big media hit for one of my books this morning, via my truly miraculous publicity department. The book in question is the one I was so nervous about the other day. This is good news, because media coverage plus store presence should bode much better for me.

Also, another one of my books has been chosen as a Best of 2007 by a major publication. This has been trickling good news, since the book actually sold pretty poorly despite all our efforts. We're hoping that maybe now it will get some of the attention it deserves!!!

YT has joined a writing group!! To commence in the new year. Why, you ask? Because clearly she is crazy. Crazy. By the way, for anyone who is curious, being able to rip apart other people's novels with flair and style (and let's face it, who's got more flair and style than YT?!?) does NOT equate to being able to write one's own novel.

But I did have this realization the other day that I should be making some kind of effort. The story: I was forgiving myself for some overly self-indulgent and rather maudlin behavior by thinking quietly to myself, it's ok, I'm an artist and I channel all my strange emotions into my work. Then I remembered that that's a load of CRAP and that I don't create ANYTHING except fantasy worlds in my head where I AM a writer. So really, now, to make good on all my inexcusable and overly emotional behavior I think I NEED to start writing. And to fulfil my dream of being published I can always make copies on the industrial copy machine and then staple them together.

Actually, Angelle here puts it far better than I do.

morning has broken!!

The last THE LAST summer title is done being edited!! (I'm too exhausted to correct my own unnecessary use of the passive voice just there.) I haven't slept through a night since Friday (although I have taken a couple 3- or 4-hour naps) and I knew it was bad when I found myself huddled in the office kitchen at 7 am eating store-brand peanut butter out of a jar with a knife and chasing it down with room-temperature diet cream soda.

So I'm back!! I think I'll try this whole blogging thing again. I know I've probably gotten a little rusty.

Monday, December 10, 2007

1:28 am

I'm not going to bed until this manuscript is done. I'm not going to work tomorrow until it's finished.

Idea for new business: all-night coffee delivery service!! Someone think about it, quick.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fruitcakes in History

Thanks, Cakespy, for this fantastic look at the psychological phenomenon that is the fruitcake. Who invented the fruitcake, I'm sure you've asked yourself, and WHY? But more importantly, why do they persist in existing when they are the butt of just about every bad holiday joke?

(Among my favorite trivia here: fruitcakes were OUTLAWED throughout Continental Europe in the 1800s. Too good to not be true.)

Scary good news?

It's December crunch (right on the back of October crunch, which, for me, at least, only ended YESTERDAY) so I'll make this a super-short post. I just wanted to explain why even great news--like my #2 of two days ago--can make an editor panic. (Hence my state of "mild" current panic that will probably sustain itself/snowball until the manuscript is completely off my desk in early February.)

So I've talked about sell-in and sell-through before. (I don't want to bore so q quick recap: sell-in is when bookstores buy books from publishing companies; it's a commitment that happens about 4-6 months before the pub date. Sell-through (or sell-out) is when the customer picks up the book, walks up the register, and pays for it.)

Generally speaking, what makes a commercial bestseller in a brick-and-mortar? The answer is book presence. If you make it to the bestseller list, you're more likely to be a bestseller the week after, since people walk in and see your book on the front tables and bestseller displays. In other words, sales beget sales. A bookstore carries more of your book when you've proven yourself, and customers buy your books when they see more copies, because lots of copies mean a book is "good" and has gotten attention.

So the key to bestsellerdom, clearly, is to magically work your way into large presence at bookstores at the beginning of the cycle. Here is the sell-in part. Amazing sell-in numbers are almost essential to bestseller potential (there are examples of books that succeed on low sell-in numbers, but they have other exceptional circumstances behind their success). Also, large sell-in numbers make print runs much more affordable and thereby allocate more money for other concerns like marketing and publicity (this applies to mine and other small companies; bigger companies less so, since they have departmental allocations. But nevertheless big sell-in numbers make things much smoother for everyone).

One catch: great sell-in numbers DO NOT guarantee great sell-through. Other factors--including a high-quality product--are important for making things work smoothly. But if a book is sold in fantastically and there is a large printing to accommodate these great numbers, the publishing company can get into seriously deep doo-doo if the book underperforms on the sell-through level. You see, all books are sold into chains, distributors, and indies on a returnable basis. If there's no sell-through, they simply return their money for the cash back. The publishing company, unfortunately, cannot so easily return a book to the printer.

So yay!! I have had great sell-in and the groundwork laid here for a potential bestseller that might change the course of my career!! But now the pressure to edit the book well--and to have amazing luck--has just quadrupled as the expectations for the book have quadrupled. Hence my "mild" anxiety.

Anyway. Back to the redlining for me. Happy Friday, folks! Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ello is my hero!!

Ello wrote me a story and has thereby earned the Moonrat Spirit Award for Excellence in Blogging about Moonrat. Seriously, girlfriend, spot-on.

I just don't know how she knew all the details from my personal life to incorporate... (cough, cough...).

ok, one tiny frivolous post (but it's really not!!!)

I'm worried my baby might be dying. And by my baby I mean my 4 1/2-year-old blue Dell clunker with its 256 MB of memory and its little removable wireless card that sticks out of the side like a granola bar.

It keeps making this high-pitched clicking nose and shutting itself off mid-application. I called my dad, source of all knowledge (particularly related to why my computer is running so slow and whether or not it's still safe for me to eat something that has been in my refrigerator for XXX amount of time and has turned an unusual color), and he implies that the harddrive might be "kaput."

Boohoo. I know I'm a dork but I love my laptop. I even bring it into work to edit on since I like it even better than my schmancy work computer. We've been together a long time and I want to think this is just a bump on the road.

Also, opinion: would a new laptop be tax-deductible in my situation?

my new favorite band

The Rosie Taylor Project

The lead singer has the same birthday as I do.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

someone up there loves me

And boy, do I love them back...

Good news for today--

1) My first baby (the first book I bought, edited, nurtured, and now shepherded to the press at my current company) sold a major subsidiary deal today--a deal that pays back almost the entire advance I paid for it. Mama did good. (So did the Rights department, bless them.)

2) My sales manager called today (bless her) to tell me that a later baby of mine has sold in $$$$loads. Like, more than 4 times the number I was expecting. I'm palpitating.

3) I had dumplings for lunch.

All in all, an AWESOME day.

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

"Time is, as they so boringly say, money. So let's get on this. No one has a copyright on the truth."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Life is more managable when you focus on small, executable goals.

Or something.

1) Edit 50 pages of current very funny ms.
2) Assemble next season list and get to marketing & production
3) Look over proofs of history ms and get galley order out
4) Read proposals for 2 hours
5) Get materials ready for ed meeting tomorrow
8) Leave by 8 pm, a the LATEST

For tomorrow:

Professional holiday greeting cards! Woot!

Monday, December 03, 2007

why bad kissers don't get to second base

Thanks, Angelle, for this excellent CNN story.

The funny thing that we don't think about--it's true!! If the person is a bad kisser, that might be the end of all potential for you, no matter how nice and cool they seemed before. CNN calls the first kiss a "complicated exchange of information." Amen.

According to the article, men tend to use kissing as a means to an end (the end being in the pants, natch) or to "kiss and make up" (literal reconciliation), while women use kissing as a complex mate assessment program.


Onion articles for writers

Thanks, Brian, for this awesome, awesome post.

Some of my favorites include

Author Wishes She Hadn't Blown Personal Tragedy on First Book


Novelist Thinks People Shrug 10 Times More Than They Actually Do

genius anthropological observation

The reason morning rush hour sucks SO VERY MUCH is because not only is it just as crowded at evening rush hour but also a lot of people HAVEN'T HAD THEIR COFFEE YET.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I'm curious--how did it go? Did people finish stuff, or make good progress?

Filipino Funerals

Sorry in advance to those whose sensibilities will be offended on this. (I know I'm at the very least apologizing to myself here.)

Sammy was showing me and Angelle an online album of pictures that was sent to him by one of his cousins. They were taken at...yes, folks...his uncle's wake. Open-casket wake. We have a WHOLE GAGGLE of aunts and cousins posing chorus-line style in front of an open casket.

I love Sammy dearly and should say that his family has effectively adopted me but they don't know I keep this blog and I still have to say that we don't even do these kinds of things at Italian funerals. Sammy himself says he has a high threshold for tomfoolery when it comes to his family and so he finds this pretty funny (may his uncle rest in peace). In fact, he insisted I post.

I've embedded two exemplary photos here in an old old post so that no one has to see them if they don't want to. But seriously.

Where Am I Wearing?

This is an awesome blog. The well-traveled author tracks global distribution of goods to show you (in a very readable way) where your stuff comes from and the impact our daily behaviors have on local global economies. Cool stuff.

I, however, have chosen to link to his discussion of why it is exactly that Mrs. Butterworth has lost her boobs.

further to the Disney Princess discussion

Gawker has a topic they blog about on occasion. They call it "femiladyism." It's this new phenomenon of modern women who seem to me intensely embracing femininity as their main venue for asserting themselves. In other words, modern women all want to be grown-up Disney Princesses.

I'm not passing along judgment, just this article, for example (it's a story of a 29-year-old woman who had a Beauty & the Beast themed wedding).

I don't care at all what adult women want to do with their lives, and I'll admit the idea of a giant golden wedding gown and blood-red bridesmaid bouquets...well, it kinda appeals. My brain is already extremely firmly set in its ways, and I think that all the damage to my psyche is done already. What bothers me is what they teach little girls about body image (and other things). Why are they all slender-waisted and large-breasted (those proportions, scientists and psychologists have shown, are difficult for almost any woman to achieve without either unhealthy eating/exercise habits, plastic surgery, or a combination)? Why is it that Pocahontas and Mulan represent "different values" that exclude them from the central princess canon? I mean I'm sure this has nothing to do with their skin color or anything. Because after all there is Jasmine to serve as a role model for how little girls "of color" can grow up to be princesses, too!! Only they should bear their midriffs and copious bosoms (thank goodness Jasmine's costume is so historically accurate as well as providing excellent reinforcement for the charms all little girls should feel like they need to display!!).

Sorry. I don't know where that rant came from. Oh, Ello, I think it might have been stewing since you mentioned how much you hate the princesses. Anyway. Now it's out of my system. For the moment.

I'm just surrounded by famous people these days.

Congratulations, Patricia Wood!! Her "profoundly lovable novel" (THE LOTTERY) was chosen by Washington Post Book World as a best book of 2007!

Really, really wonderful news, Patricia. I'm so happy for you!

I feel like my blogring here is disproportionately talented and awesome. I'm not complaining here at all. I'm just saying. Keep on rockin' it, guys.

it's snowing!!!

Fast, hard, accumulating snow!

I love this moment, waking up and being able to hear the little pellets as they hit, watching all the city dinginess disappear for a little while before it starts to slush and gray.

Friday, November 30, 2007

because Google searches continue to be funny

Based on data collected from my sitemeter

-I am the second (of two) hits under "my mom is a tyrant"

-thanks to Church Lady's question about the difference between an Editorial Assistant and an Assistant Editor (and thanks to my perhaps poor word choice in my response), I am now the #2 google hit under "kinds of asses"

-and now, for winning referral of the day (I was in the top 10 hits for this!! If you can figure out why, you get a prize!)

"I broke my hyphen but I'm still a virgin"

That's right, folks.

some random end-of-day postage

9 Badass Bible Verses, via The Swivet. These are pretty bush-burningly awesome.

Cosmo is turning their newest employee (a Smith College graduate and probably a recovering feminist and interesting person) into a CosmoGirl!! And she's blogging about it here!!! How does everyone else feel about this? [Here's Gawker's take.]

Did anyone else hate the movie ENCHANTED as much as I did? Because a couple of people have told me I'm totally crazy. Just wanted to hear other people's thoughts. Someone told me I'm beginning to have a feminazism problem. I'm not at all a bra-burner or a man-cutter but I know where I stand on ENCHANTED and I feel like the glass ceiling got about three inches thicker with that movie.

Also, did anyone see this weird story about the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide when her online boyfriend broke up with her? Only her supposedly 16-year-old "boyfriend" turned out to be the 47-year-old mother of one of her former best friends, whom the dead girl had friend-dumped. The mother took revenge by dumping her back. Anyway. Interesting NYT article about the nature of modern parenting and how involved in your kids' lives it's ok to be.

I hate my designer so much right now.

[all this happened over a phone conversation in the last 15 minutes]

[Book in question: my lead title for the Winter, a novel that should (fingers crossed) really take off. My baby, as it was my first serious acquisition here. Final pass page proofs are releasing to the printer today.]

My Designer: Did you get your final corrections for the XXXX pages?

Yours Truly: Yes, thanks. [I don't feel like bringing up with him the fact that the hyphens I asked him to add (there were about 5 missing hyphens throughout) were too long; they looked like em-dashes (--)]

MD: Well, you know, you wanted all those hyphens added, so I made sure I followed your instructions for each hyphen.

YT: Yes, thanks.

MD: So I hope you're not going to be sending it back to me with any corrections.

YT: Nope, we're all done. [I had the production manager change the hyphens to appropriate hyphen size so I didn't have to involve him again because he's such a mistake-riddled pain in my ass sometimes.]

MD: Good, good. [Gleeful laughing.]

YT: What's so funny?

MD: Has the production manager sent the text off to the printer yet?

YT: Not sure; it's possible.

MD: Well, before she does, maybe she wants to check the hyphens I put in. I made them nice long dashes instead of hyphens, to keep you on your toes.

YT: Yeah, I know...wait. You did that on purpose?

MD: I was teaching you a lesson about being a careful editor.


[Lucky I AM a careful editor. For ####ssake.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why I Love My Job #6987648

I am editing what may actually be the funniest novel in the world. I have literally had to get up and go to the bathroom to wipe my eyes twice today because I'm laughing so hard.

That's a good day at work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Congratulations, Aprilynne!!

4 books to HC--and no one deserves it more! I'm so, so excited for you, and can't wait to hold the first one in my hot little mits (I trust you're going to keep us updated on all the news!).

Daniel, my fellow editor, hypothesizes that I always have so much work because I'm too much of a perfectionist.

"It's a one-hour job," he says. "Give it to Moonrat; she'll be able to do it in two hours."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

swamped with catch-up.


I'll be back in a couple of days when things are sorted out.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Italian funerals, etc

My Uncle Lou died on Thanksgiving at around 1 in the morning (we were at the hospital until about 8:30, when he was already asleep). I didn't want to post about this originally because I didn't want to come across as a sympathy troll--it's sad that he died, particularly for his wife of 56 years, his sister (The Aunda), and my mother, his goddaughter. But he was 78, had lived a full and happy life, had one of the most adorable and functional marriages I've ever seen, and was surrounded by people who loved him (we stayed at the hospital until about 9 on Thursday night). Furthermore, he chose it for himself, in a way--he had advanced kidney failure and told his wife he was tired of the dialysis. I'm tired, Dolly, he said. As his eulogy, which my aunt dictated and I just typed out, says, he passed into the good Lord's hands peacefully and willingly. The rally monkey pointed out most of us should be so lucky to live such a full life and then be able to choose our death (at least, to a degree).

My biggest sorrow is for my Aunt Doll, who will have to learn a whole different kind of lifestyle after literally a lifetime of having him as her partner. I got to watch this process over the last two years for The Aunda, who lost our late, great, feisty pseudo-grandfather (The Ongolo) in similar (although less willing and peaceful) circumstances. I think it's a wretched, wretched arrangement that when a partner dies you have to negotiate your grief AND re-establish your entire lifestyle all in one go. But I haven't worked out another system yet. Oh, it also really, really irritates me that an oh-so-recently bereaved widow has to deal with the vulgar (and often crippling) finances of a funeral service. It makes me REALLY MAD. But again, I haven't worked out a system for that one yet, either.

She describes him as "the only man in her life"--they "met" when she was 17, during the Korean War, when he was stationed abroad and she sent him clippings of comic strips at the behest of a mutual acquaintance. When he returned to the Italian ghetto in Hartford (at age 20), he urged her to be his lady, to introduce him to her parents, etc, in all the established traditional accepted patterns like a good gentleman. But her parents were super-strict, and she knew if she had even a hint of a boyfriend there would be major trouble. So she rejected him. He got on his bicycle and rode across three towns--about 20 miles--to her cousin's house, where she was babysitting her nieces, to argue with her about it. Naturally one of her nieces squealed "DOLLY'S got a BOY-friend!! DOLLY's got a BOY-friend!!" and all heck broke loose and then, you know, she DID have a boyfriend, because her niece said so. Then they got married. Classic.

We've been preparing for the wake and funeral this weekend. I hope it doesn't seem irreverent in light of this circumstance to take this opportunity to commemorate the Italian family unit. The first (well, actually, more like the 12th...) thing to happen is the daughter-in-law who failed to make it down from New York to visit Uncle Lou in the 6 weeks he was sick (she had a cold, apparently) shows up to "help" (read: take over everything), to the noisy chagrin of the other daughter-in-law who's been present the whole time. Then there is major drama over who gets to read the eulogy--Momrat gets the honor, since people think of her as the public speaker; however, a daughter-in-law WROTE the eulogy. Momrat feels that the eulogy doesn't fully capture Uncle Lou's life, and further that it's boring, but "gentle" suggestions about content changes are met with tears and he-said she-saids (naturally, the various husbands have had to step in to mediate). Etc.

Then, The Aunda got into a car accident with her cousin Antoinette on their way over to visit Aunt Doll with the 5 trays of funeral cookies on Saturday. It was a full-on collision, but luckily Antoinette was driving like an old lady, so although the car was totaled no one was seriously injured in either car. (Although when the police were asking insurance questions and inquired as to whether The Aunda experienced any pain, she did say, "Well, just a little, in my neck." Then she jabbed him in the chest and said, "Write that down, now.")

The Aunda, who had been on the way over to Aunt Doll's house, anyway, had the policemen to call Aunt Doll and have her pick them up. So poor Aunt Doll has to leave her house to pick up The Aunda! When Aunt Doll gets to the scene, The Aunda tells her, "Oh, Dolly, you almost came to the funeral for all three cousins tomorrow instead of just Luigi!" Classy.

No way, says Momrat. Can you imagine? she says. Poor Lou just shuffled off his mortal coil and is finally peaceful in heaven and only TWO DAYS later there shows up The Aunda to nag him again? (He kicked her out of the hospital room 4 times in his last two days--she was driving him nuts.)

So Aunt Doll arrives and the police try to escort The Aunda to her car. "No, no!!" she protests. "The trunk!! The trunk!!" Afraid of finding a live baby or something, the police lead her back to the smoking abandoned vehicle and bust the trunk open. After all, she needs to save her...5 trays of cookies, duh.

The police asked how old she was for the insurance form, but then thought she must be mildly demented because they couldn't believe she was actually 86. (Bena thic, as we say... benedici, I think it is in real Italian.)

So I ended up taking a 5-day Thanksgiving instead of the 2-day affair I originally planned on, and I "get" to miss work on Monday. You can imagine how traumatizing this is for me. I spent all afternoon editing yesterday, and I got through a good chunk of a manuscript, but something really important is happening at work on Wednesday and I'm stressing out a little bit about it. Robert the Publisher, who is kind of like a dad figure, never ever puts pressure on us in these kinds of situations and tells us to take the time we need (not like a previous boss who would be like "you realize if you miss ed meeting on Thursday you're going to lose that whole project"). So bless Robert. But I'm still a little bit stressy.

Anyway, I better go get cleaned up now. Not sure how to sign off; sorry about the random thought dump.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Momrat has purchased a home karaoke machine.


NYT Notable Books of 2007

The list is out. 100 books, and I've read...2. And one of them was DEATHLY HALLOWS.

Although YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION rocked, officially. Wow, great book. I actually dragged my dad (Dadrat, who, by the way, was very pleased with everyone's comments) to Borders today, Black Friday, to try to find a copy (Black Friday shopping is against my dad's religion).

Also, a couple of the books are on my to-read list, including CLEOPATRA'S NOSE, which has gotten some awesome write-ups (also my friend has already lent me her copy). I also heard great things about THE REST IS NOISE (I wish there was more musical history available... I'd love to see some smart proposals on musical topics...).

Darnit. In the process of writing this post I've just ordered 3 things on Amazon and reserved a couple others.

Any thoughts? Should I trouble with any of the others in particular?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

In honor of Thanksgiving, pumpkins, and other wonderful things, Cakespy posted this awesome write-up about the history of pumpkin pie, complete with a step-by-step recipe for your own pie and crust.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (at least, at the moment), because in many ways I believe it's the purest holiday Americans celebrate--it's about eating ourselves silly, with no religious pretexts. You know how I feel about food, so I'm planning on incapacitating myself tomorrow and probably won't make it back to the computer until Friday or so. Happy Thanksgiving!!

holiday gifts

[Since all the crazy people, and probably me too, are going shopping this weekend.]

Angelle told me that she's making a rule this year--everybody's getting a book. That's both simple AND thoughtful, she said.

I got all excited, of course, and congratulated her for supporting the publishing industry. Naturally everyone who makes a promise like that is not only promoting literacy but making it ever-so-slightly more likely that I'll have a job in 5 years.

So I don't know why this didn't occur to me before (oh geez, you know I probably do this every year and just don't remember), but I think I'm going to jump on the wagon. Everyone gets a book!!

If you think you, too, want to jump on the wagon, I have some fun ideas for shopping. And by "fun" I mean "things that support debut authors, indie presses, and indie stores while potentially saving you some dough." Feel free to ignore these, though, and just buy books--you're still promoting literacy.

-It's easy to head for the classics, but if you're in the mood for a book hunt, try sticking to living authors. That way, you're giving a double holiday present--the book to the person you're giving the book to, and the royalties to the author. Everyone's happy.

-Keep your eyes on the spine (or more specifically, on the imprint icon at the bottom!) and see if you can't support indie presses. The other day, I discovered Soho Press via GOD OF LUCK, a book I saw listed on Booksense and decided to read. In internet searching for a cover image for thebookbook, I stubled on the Soho Press Web site. Not only do they have lots of interesting books, they tend to have low-priced (ie affordable) hardcovers--the average appears to be $22.00.

-Here's my general conscientious book-buying guidelines from a couple of months ago, if you're bored.

-If you're buying in paperback and happen to have an independent bookstore nearby, go there. The cover price on paperbacks is the same at independents as at the big chains, and even Amazon can't reduce the price enough to make up for the shipping costs.

-If you're buying in hardcover, Amazon is by far going to be your cheapest option (plus they'll wrap and deliver for you). If you are buying in hardcover, why not pick your favorite debut novelist and be their hero by sending everyone a copy? That's what I did for SPANISH BOW. I'm not sure I'm Andromeda Romano-Lax's hero, but I did buy copies for my friend Rachel, my friend Kate, my friend Angela, my editorial assistant, and my mother.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

apparently you only need to be in junior high to enjoy my blog.

Thanks, Kaytie M. I feel GOOD about myself now ;)

different kinds of Asses and Editors

Church Lady asked the good question--what's the difference between an Associate Editor and an Editorial Assistant? Here's the hierarchy, with some self-indulgent annotation.

Editorial Assistant: this is the entry-level position, although you probably won't get it without significant experience elsewhere. I, for example, was an unpaid intern at a literary agency for a year first. An Ed Ass is a total flunky. Chief duties include transmittals (that is, preparing edited manuscripts for production, including their horrible illustration programs) and all administrative work for their boss(es) who is/are editors, senior editors, publishers, etc. They also keep their boss's submissions log and often are the chief/sole vetter of any or all proposals that come in to their editors--they read, write reader's reports, and advise their bosses on how to act. They open the mail, take the phone calls, placate the authors when they're angry, deal with all the data that needs to be kept track of (like the specs in the catalog copy, the permissions available on published books, the authors' payment schedules, the processing of contracts) and generally run everything, ever. They are generally not allowed to edit or acquire books, but are responsible for all other details of publication. If you ever get a book deal, try to make nice with your editor's Ass, because if the Ass likes you you'll get the hinges greased to the best of his/her ability. It's an invisible position and just a little appreciation is so very appreciated.

[some companies have one or even two "in-place promotions" here, such as Senior Editorial Assistant or Editorial Assistant Coordinator or the like.]

Assistant Editor: At some companies, this is an assistant who is allowed to take on some editorial responsibilities, but in most companies, this is an editor who is still trying to shed the last vestiges of an assistant. Ass Eds usually don't have assistants themselves, and are usually responsible for training up the Ed Ass who replaces them, but they do shed the administrative duties (the mail, the note taking, etc) and are usually encouraged to acquire modestly (usually one or two titles a year) and to edit. Frequently, more senior editors will pass down projects they have acquired so the Ass Ed can cut his/her teeth on them editorially, with some supervision. Most people aren't Assistant Editors for very long--if you've made it this far, no one's going to stop you, and you'll start generating so much business that they'll promote you pretty steadily from here. Although of course this too varies from company to company.

[nb I skipped that whole position, which is why I'm such a seat-of-the-pants editor. Sigh.]

Associate Editor: this next step up is an editor who is too junior for full status. There are no assistant/administrative duties anymore (thank god) and usually an associate editor has an assistant of their own that they share with others. Associate editors are usually expected to acquire, edit, and manage their own list of titles, so it's a position where there are usually performance incentives (or at the very least, requirements).

Editor: I guess this is what you think of when you say "editor"?

Senior editor: the next promotion track after editor (usually you have to have been somewhere a certain amount of time, and need to be generating a certain amount of revenue for the company).

Executive editor: some companies have this title as further in-place promotion. (My company doesn't.) Some companies also have a "deputy publisher" position to imply that this is the editor who's second-in-command after the publisher. A deputy publisher, however (and this is often true for an executive editor), has to deal with practical/fiscal matters--budget planning etc--that editors don't have to deal with ordinarily.

Publisher: when you get to this level, you're starting to abandon your hard-won editorial privileges in favor of budget management, project flow, and big-time business. These are good and useful skills to have but unfortunately just not as much fun as editing.

Does that clear it up a little bit?

Umberto Eco on Beauty

Last Thursday, I was lucky/sneaky enough to get tickets to the New York Public Library's "LIVE" series interview with Umberto Eco. Actually, how the tickets worked out were like this: Robert the Publisher is a donating sponsor, so when his daughter calls for tickets, they get her as many as she wants and we get to sit up in the nice front reserved section. Rockin'.

I was pretty excited about going to see him. My relationship with Eco has been like this thus far: I read and LOVED The Name of the Rose. I loved loved loved loved it. Then I tried to read Foucault's Pendulum. I got through page 29 and realized not only was I not enjoying it at all but I really had no idea what was going on, and there were probably other ways I could be spending my time without making myself feel stupid. Then I bought a remaindered hardcover copy of Baudolino at The Strand for like 4 bucks or something. I was charmed by the opening sequence (the virgin who catches the unicorn) but then gave up after 400 pages (which I rarely, rarely do, because if I don't finish it I don't let myself write it in The Book Book) because it was just boring. So I don't know. You take a literary average there.

I have heard that Foucault's Pendulum is amazing, and one just has to work beyond the unusually obtuse first 30 pages. So I may give it another shot someday. Who knows.

At any rate, I loved The Name of the Rose so much that I was happy to forgive this professor of semiotics (yeah, I'll admit it... I only bothered to figure out what "semiotics" was relatively, more specifically, last week) for his intellectual density (ok, I'm going to go ahead and say it--I think it's snobby to deliberately write so densely that even the elitely educated among your fans might not enjoy what they're reading. I'm just going to go ahead and put that out there.). I thought that surely I would learn something from the discussion, even if he was way, way over my head.

And I think I did, actually--the discussion was on the natures of Beauty and Ugliness (based on his two recent books on those topics). He drew some interesting lines for me to connect subjects--stuff I'm sure if tripe for students of semiotics but for me was pretty interesting because I'd never thought about it.

For example, the concept of beauty changes a lot--he put up visual representations of Venus from the archaic period, when she was a clay lump with giant breasts and no other distinguishing features, to medieval portrayals, when she was decidedly plump with rolls of fat at her knees, to a nineteenth century painting that had her sylph-like and gauzy. Beauty has no constant; the only thing that is constant is ugliness, which is simply the opposite of beauty. Aha.

He also talked about the difference between Beauty and Kitsch--apparently, kitsch is anything that inspires desire. A viewer looks upon beauty and appreciates it strictly as an aesthetic experience. Anything that inspires desire, however, is pornographic. This made me mad to hear, because everything inspires desire (for me, at least)--I can look at a landscape painting and feel desire. I would say if something DOESN'T inspire desire in me it is boring. Does that mean I find anything beautiful boring? Or anything unpornographic?

The worst part about the discussion for me was when the interviewer (who was really good, by the way) read a passage from Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre talks about how when he was younger he knew that he loved to look at his beautiful mother and to "kiss her sweet smelling cheek" but that he derived a greater satisfaction from the company of middle-aged highbrow men, from sitting around a table and talking with them about this and that, which he perceived as a much higher and more honorable joy. He said they were ugly and fat and the idea of having to embrace them made him feel vague distaste, but that the distaste was part of what made their company desirable. He mistook disgust for beauty, he said. In other words, "I was pretentious."

I started to think about how pretentious the whole thing was then--sitting around at this wine reception in the New York Public Library, listening to a cello quartet and rubbing elbows with the other people who could afford to be donating sponsors of the author readings program. Real Eco fans couldn't even have gotten those tickets--they were so elite and sold out so far in advance. And there we were listening to this celebrated author who purposefully makes his own material too difficult to enjoy while he talks about the nature of higher art.

That's not to say I blame Eco for being involved; I don't. That's just who he is, what he writes, what he knows, the life he has worked hard to make for himself. It's just that I felt really guilty for being involved.

Now there's a slightly too-long public confession that most people won't have been able to make it through the end of (I probably wouldn't have made it through to the end if this weren't my own blog). I just wanted to get it out there.

YT is sick.


I am clearly being punished for the vast quantities of pastry I ate on Saturday.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Now I have joined Netflix. Grrrr.

emotionally taxing weekend

There were three (3) extremely emotionally taxing episodes this weekend. Suffice it to say it is inadvisable to eat large quantities of pastry with a psychotherapist.

So instead I will leave you with this picture/dialogue.

[picture removed 07/09/08 at Momrat's request]

[Pictured: Dadrat, Momrat, and lots of The Aunda's homemade pasta. Not pictured but vociferously present in voice-over: The Aunda.]

The Aunda: Mike! Itsa too crowd over here! Go a-sit at la otra side of da table!

Dadrat: But I want to sit here.

The Aunda: Why?!

Dadrat: I love my wife!

The Aunda: Bulla-sheet!

[today's dialogue brought to you by IAA, Italian Americans Anonymous.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

writing McNovel

Paperback Writer posted this awesome set of pointers on figuring out if you're writing a McNovel. I laughed really hard. Then I got a little sad.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

catalog of nice things I ate today

Venue: Olive's sandwich shop, Prince btw Wooster and Greene
-dark chocolate "ringding" (modeled after the Hostess, only 8 bajillion times nicer, with dark chocolate brownie cake, squishy white frosting filling, and dark chocolate candy coating) (actually, I received this as a gift and ate it for breakfast on the train downtown this morning, since I found it sitting in my purse. But yeah, go to Olive's and buy some baked goods.)

Venue: Saigon Grill, 90th & Amsterdam
-barley tea
-chicken crystal dumplings
-cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)
-shrimp summer rolls with noc cham and plum peanut sauce
-deep fried shrimp in egg roll wrappers
-papaya salad with shredded beef and peanuts
-taro chips
-chicken and beef satay
-pho bo (rice noodle soup with thinly sliced beef
-thai iced tea

Venue: Hungarian Pastry Shop, 111th and Amsterdam
-coffee (4)
-flaky custard pie
-blueberry graham cracker layer cake
-cherry cream cheese strudel
-strawberry almond tart

Venue: Swish Caffe, 115th and Broadway
-mango lobster fish roe roll with sweet mango sauce
-philadelphia roll
-pickled ginger

I'm feeling a little... what's the word... Oh yeah. Obese.

Time for dinner.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I love my job.

It's 6:07 on a Friday night and I have a total RUSH because I just finished up a transmittal for a project with a complicated art program. I don't know WHY but it feels so good to be rushing around and working late and finishing a huge project.

I don't know why I do this on Friday nights, either. That's the way things tended to go at my last company, with the Asses all running around like crazy late into Friday nights to make sure the packet was with Production by 9 am Monday. But here, there's no one pressuring me but me. But this is not the first time I've found myself getting a huge rush out of kick-starting my weekend like this.

Yesterday, I had wrote a rather grueling ed memo for one of my special books. I love it and it will be fabulously successful (cross fingers!) when it's ready, but the first draft I saw from the author needed some real work. The author and I had a chat about it and I think we're on the same page.

At the end of the phone call, I asked, "How are you, though? Are you ok?"

"I'm ok," she answered.

"Are you... daunted?" I asked.

"A little," she said. "But have to say I still think you're a wunderkind."

Luckily this whole call was over the phone so she couldn't see how red I got. "I'm still fooling you, then," I said.

"I guess you must be," she said.

I do I do I do love my job, I do. I'm so galvanized I might go have another tussle with my designer now!!

Have an awesome Friday night!

I'm the #5 Google hit

under "Sushi karaoke publishing"

ONLY #5?!?!?!

further adventures with my designer

[phone call, 1:09 pm, Friday, November 16th]

Moonrat: Hi there. Thanks for sending up the two jackets you owed me.

Designer: Yeeees.

Moonrat: Just one thing, though. It looks like you used the catalog copy instead of the jacket copy I sent to you. [nb I sent these along more than 2 weeks ago]

Designer: Oh. Did I? Sorry.

Moonrat: Yeah, so, since I have to send up the author photos anyway, I'll just hold off on my other comments until you get a chance to drop the new copy in. [nb both books are now a week late]

Designer: I guess I can do that. But first send me the back cover copy.

Moonrat: I already did. All the jacket copy is together, in the files I sent you on those disks.

Designer: I know.

Moonrat: You know?

Designer: Yeah, truth be told, I knew you sent me the jacket copy, but I didn't feel like using it, so I just ignored it and used the catalog copy instead.

Moonrat: ...Right. I'm...going to go now.

Designer: Byeee!

democracy fails!!!

That is what our experiment with new templates has revealed.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Novels in Translation

This Top 3 was special-requested by Froog. I'm actually limiting myself to 3 here, this once. I promise. At least, I'm going to try really hard.

Please leave all your suggestions.

1) THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ, by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam
A dying Mexican patriarch, filthy rich and despised by his own family, looks back on his life--the women he hurt, the lives he ruined... Or maybe he's looking at the wars that ruined his life, the women who hurt him, the way he quielty suffered slavery, war, racism, the death of his own children, the distortion of his own legacy. Artemio Cruz (the character) is a really heart-rending depiction of Mexico.

Make sure you get this translation, though. The other one is really clumsy.

2) INVISIBLE CITIES, by Italo Calvino (my copy's in storage and I can't for the life of me find a translator listed on Amazon--anyone want to fill in the blank? It's such a great translation)
Marco Polo entertains Kublai Khan with stories of all the other fantastic cities of the world. These cities are literally fantastic--the whole book is magical and thoughtful and wonderfully quick.

3) THE OXFORD BOOK OF JAPANESE SHORT STORIES, collected and partially translated by Theodore Goossen.
Don't mind the hideously boring cover.

See? I restrained myself and only put in one selection that was originally in Japanese. This is in part because Japanese translates into English (and, I gather, most other languages) really lousily. But in my inexpert opinion, the short story flourishes in Japanese the way the novel never will. Japanese is a language that is conducive of brief, vague but precise writing that is heavy in implication--everything we look for in a prize English-language short story. This was another book I received as a gift and planned to politely taste so I could honestly thank the giver, but instead ended up reading from cover to cover and then feeling sad about when I was done.

This collection is fantastic--you'll recognize a bunch of the contributors' names, even if you're not keen on Japanesey things, but you most likely won't recognize any of the selections, even if you're an avid Japanesey reader. The stories capture moments from across modern Japanese history, and the assortment of writers is diverse and comprehensive. Since I'm obsessed with World War II, the story that sticks out for me is a very short memory of a young soldier who fought in China, but because of the wide range of topics and authors there's something in here for everybody.

quote of the day

One agent on the National Book Awards:

"The NBAs are like the Oscars, only the acceptance speeches are longer and no one is attractive."

this is hideous

An article Angelle forwarded me.

our book lists are SO much better than Washington Post's SHORT STACK choices

Here's their list of 6 best travel books, which they put up today. I love how the most recent book on the list is from 1986 (since, after all, ethnographic and political climates never change from year to year!!) and also by how many intrepid female writers they chose (zero!).

Feel free to

a) list your superior choices of favorite travel narratives here (I haven't actually read very many myself, so this is a shameless plot to get recommendations)
b) visit the Short Stack blog and heckle their choices--they claim that they welcome hecklers, so I'd like to test their merits.

Oh, I have one favorite travel narrative that I've already talked about elsewhere and was saving for a different Top 3 post, but what the heck. FOREIGN BABES IN BEIJING, by Rachel DeWoskin. Seriously, you will fall on the floor laughing at least 15 times.

Judith Regan, sigh

Judith Regan, erstwhile publisher of her eponymous imprint at HarperCollins, sigh. Last year about this time it was OJ (classy, classy) and now it's that she's suing HarperCollins for $100 mil in cold cash for her emotional trauma and defamation etc. Poor thing.

I have close industry acquaintances who did time at Regan Books (none lasted longer than 4 months--fancy that) and words they have commonly used to describe her are "sociopathic" and "bipolar" and "just plain mean" and "really kind of incredibly delusional" (which always begs the question, how did she make it to the top?! HOW? Do nice girls really always have to finish last? But Jane Friedman is a nice girl, and she's Harper CEO. On the other hand, Harper has had a dreadful first half of the year and poor Jane is getting all the flack. Anyway, these are all asides.). But if you're interested in what it would have been like to work for Judith Regan, I'll put in another plug for Bridie Clark's oh-so-very-thinly-veiled roman a clef, BECAUSE SHE CAN. Which is pretty well written for chick lit, since we recovering Ed Asses have to be able to write a little to get by.

But Judith, even when we thought she was down for the count, comes back and back again, our Immortal Beloved. One of the first posts I ever made on this blog, now almost a year ago, was also about Judith. She is a real character. Sammy, who is a car mechanic, knows her by name--it always amazes me when an industry celebrity's celebrity transcends the industry, because my assumption is always no one but book people care about book people, but when I said something along the lines of "there's this woman named Judith Regan" he said, "Yeah, I know her--she's Howard Stern's publisher!" So Judith gets another gold star for that.

If anyone still cares about Judith (and come on, how can you help it?):

Here's a chronology of her recent shenanigans stolen from Ron at GalleyCat. As you'll notice, she cleverly timed her exploits so that news about her would completely eclipse any news about the National Book Award winner for two consecutive years. Here's a Gawker blow-by-blow, with some colorful commentary.

My favorite line is from the Gawker "document": Judith is a hard-working, self-made, single mother who has been supporting herself since she was 14... That's the sad part. I really, really want to admire her, but from every single account in the world, including people I know, trust, and respect, she is just a terrible excuse for a human being. Just absolutely awful.

Update: just after I posted this, Lori Perkins posted her smart commentary here.

changed template (in case you, um, didn't notice)

This one is called Mr. Moto, which just appealed to me on so many stupid levels.

Is this easier on the eyes?

gee, thanks, everybody...

For all the feedback and, especially, warm fuzzies yesterday... It seriously made my day (and also inspired me to start looking into silk screening vendors).

I got in early this morning (7:15!!!) so I could get some posts up before the beginning of a crazy day. Just wanted to stop and say [Heart].


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick Reader Poll

My readership has abruptly taken a dip in the last two weeks. Which is worrisome in that one feels one's friends have gone invisibly missing. After all, my virtual friendships here have kind of distracted me from the fact that I don't really have many real-life friendships because I work too much. I'm not sure if it's because I've let you down because I've been too busy editing, or if this is a natural blog cycle readership thing (you guys ever notice how some people read your blog avidly for a month or two, then disappear?), or if perhaps everyone has simultaneously moved to Kalamazoo, where the internet conenction is temporarily down.

Humor me and help me appeal to YOU more directly.

1) I come here more for
a) entertainment
b) advice

2) Moonrat posts
a) not enough
b) too much
c) just about ok

3) If I knew who Moonrat was, I would send her a postcard/query letter/Amazon bill
a) yes
b) no
c) I already know who she is, and I'm taking her out for sushi and karaoke this weekend

4) If the prize of a contest on this blog were an "I [Heart] Robert the Publisher" t-shirt in my choice of color and size, I would enter the contest regardless of what was required of me
a) true
b) false

5) I wish Moonrat told us more about
a) publishing
b) books
c) delicious places to eat
d) her embarrassing personal life
e) Robert the Publisher

6) Feel free to make up a question here and answer it yourself, if you choose (if this were a hard copy form, this would be the bunch of black lines at the bottom labeled "additional comments" or some such nonsense)

how can it POSSIBLY be

that every single one of my exes is either married or getting married in the next month?!? [Well, except one, but he turned out to be a womanizing dipwad, so he can hardly be counted.]

What is it, like, when they recover from Moonrat they're suddenly struck by bouts of monogamy?!

This is not to say like I'm belatedly feeling like *I* should have married any of these people. But still.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

[actually, I have to admit I'm not sure Robert actually said this--Jesse, one of my fellow editors, was recounting this conversation with Robert that they had shortly after the time of my being hired]

Robert: I'm going to hire a third editor and you and Daniel can give her all your crap. It'll be great.

Jesse & Daniel: That sounds awesome.

[two days later]

Robert: I hired this new girl, and I think she's going to be great. Now I don't want any of you trying to pass off any of your crap on her.

Jesse: But when I started, you passed ME a bunch of crap!

Robert: Shut up, Jesse. Don't you have a bunch of crap to be working on?!


re: my font size struggles with my designer

We have discovered the fax machine has an automatic "reduce by 33%" function turned on.

Each of us just thought the other was taking a lot of drugs.

Not that this makes me less right.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Books about New York

Francie Nolan is a quiet, nerdy, impoverished daughter of an alcoholic club singer father and a hard-as-nails mother in World War I era Brooklyn.

Sorry, guys, was this a cop-out? I LOVE this book. It's one of the few books I read again and again and never feel guilty about.

The side-by-side stories of Treefrog, a contemporary "mole" living in the subway tunnels under Manhattan, and Nathan Walker, a tunnel digger who, almost a century earlier, lost his best friend during the creation of those same tunnels.

This is one of those books that I read a bunch of years ago and felt lukewarm about at the time, but which has really affected me in the longterm--I still have very vivid images from the book periodically, especially when I'm riding the subway. McCann makes you think about race, class, what goes into building our city, and what people have given up so we can run.

3) INVISIBLE MAN, by Ralph Ellison
A Southern black man makes his way north through a series of oppressive obstacles. He ends up in New York, the city where everyone's invisible (although that's not the point of the book, exactly). This only makes it to #3 because only part of the book takes place in New York. However, I can't think of another novel that depicts early 20th century Harlem as powerfully.

Runner-up: WINTER'S TALE, by Mark Helprin
Peter Lake, a street roughian who fell in love with a newspaper owner's tubercular daughter at the turn of the 20th century, is pursued into the mist by gangsters. He and the white horse he is riding emerge almost one hundred years later, in Helprin's imagined turn of the millennium (the book was published in 1983). An urban fantasy epic. It has only lost a little power for having dated itself.

[Look at how I limited myself to 3!!!]

Friday, November 09, 2007

8:44 on a Friday night--do you know where your children are?

My Mommy's child is at work, finishing her second to last galley package.


I think I have some kind of problem.

I have receieved (count 'em!!) SIX BOOKS from Amazon used book vendors today, each in separate packages.

Has anyone noticed that I read (on average) a book and a half a week, but buy (on average) SIX BOOKS A DAY?!?!

Boo, one-click shopping. Boo.

a "keep plugging" serenity prayer for a crappyass Friday afternoon

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The Chambered Nautilus

Agents v. Editors

Galleycat posted this a few days ago--it's a polite and balanced response to various editorial tirades about evil agents and how much editors cringe at the thought of dealing with them.

Originally, I read this agent's response and thought, wow! That poor agent is totally right! Agents rock, and most of them are so smart and good to work with and really passionate about books! And I felt bad for him/her and was planning on posting sympathetically.


Suffice it to say that an episode this morning has me CRINGING and absolutely fed up with certain specimines of that partifular profession. Don't get me wrong, here--I can name off the top of my head at least 15 agents I would want to invite to my wedding (in the unlikely event I were having one), never mind the ones I think are smart, entertaining, well-motivated, and super-admirable author advocates. But I HAVE TO SAY right now that there are certain behaviors of other agents I've had to deal with that I will NEVER understand. They include:

1) bullying, harrassing, or belittling an editor who has politely rejected a proposal. Not only is this awkward, uncomfortable, and bad feeling-generating for all parties, I just don't understand why an agent would push a house that is unenthusiastic about your project. What's the best-case scenario (from the agent's point of view)? The publishing company, feeling stressed out and maligned, capitulates, buys the book, and treats it as a lower mid-list title that they don't have any faith in? (By the way, I can't imagine this happening--after all, no matter how bad you make an editor feel, he or she is protected and back up by an institution of checks and balances, even in the unlikely event that this agent does anything other than piss this editor off.)

2) approaching a publisher or even higher-up person at a company (if one exists) if an editor rejects a proposal. Again, seriously? You REALLY want to work with an editor with whom you've now generated bad blood, but who DIDN'T ORIGINALLY LIKE YOUR PROJECT? Does that REALLY protect your client? Even in the extremely unlikely even that this works out for you--most publishers, I would venture to say, protect their own employees instead of outside free agents--you're doing your client a total disservice by foisting them upon an editor who is going to work with them only begrudgingly. So again, I just don't understand why you would create these uncomfortable situations for yourself.

3) collect an advance and then make yourself scarce for the duration of the life of the book. Because honestly, that makes your day-to-day life a scramble, since it means you'll always have to be selling new projects just to make your bread. By refusing to do a little work to participate in the active life of your book, you're ignoring the potential backlist royalties and rights sales you COULD be encouraging--and the backlist is what can support you in your retirement. But whatever. When you're out of the picture because you're too lazy, then at least I don't have to deal with your carelessness on a day-to-day basis. I just feel bad for your client.

4) cash royalty checks and disappear without paying your client, my author. If the author tries to contact you, say that he hasn't earned out his advance yet. Yeah, this happened to one of my authors (we just discovered this week). That's effin' classy, right there.

I'm sure I could think of more. These are just reasons of which I was recalled THIS WEEK for why I sometimes dread dealing with agents.

I'll do a good agent post soon, though. Because there really are so very many good agents.