Thursday, June 28, 2007

congratulations to my friends

To Nikki, who gave notice today. Long our mentor and adviser, she has left this blessed world of Editorial Assedness (although she was always much cooler than the rest of us anyway--laundry lists of classy social engagements; thorough knowledge of all the best restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, and lounges in Manhattan and Brooklyn; no glasses, cute outfits head to toe; talent at makeup application....geez, she even made the bun look SEXY!) to be a writer.

And to Will, who after careful planning has made his own jump to working for himself. Will's going to be able to unleash all the great ideas and potential he's been quietly storing up over the last two years.

I'm so proud that they have the courage to slough of the terrible gag of corporate culture and the fortitude to get all their ducks in a row and actually do it. Nikki and Will, you've loosened the hinges for me because you've made all my misgivings about my own calling seem superficial--the fact is, if you have a dream, you CAN pursue it. Your parents tell you that ad nauseum when you are little, but after enough photocopying and taking dictations and filing and other forms of slave labor you become confused. Thanks for reminding me.

glub glub glub


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

"In life we all have girls we should have kissed a little more, and girls we never should have kissed at all."

Amen, Robert. (This was meant to be a book metaphor but then he forgot where he was going with it.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Betty's gone

Hallelujah, praise the Lord.

Have I explained about Betty?

One Monday, I came in to find some of the office lights on. Odd, since I'm always the first one here in the mornings. I sneak to my office and sit quietly behind my computer and carry on minding my own business. A spindly curled-up woman in her late 60s with GIANT silver earrings pokes her head into my office and bellows in an excellent Cockney, "Where's the files for the German expense report, do you know?"

"Uh... No. I have no idea," I say. I entertain the notion that she might be some kind of costumed identity thief poking through Robert the Publisher's files.

"Such a mess round here, it is," she says, and leaves.

I slink off to the kitchen to make coffee, and after a moment she appears again. "You making the coffe, are you?"

"Uh. Yes," I say neutrally. Well, as neutrally as possible. (Not having had my coffee yet, etc.)

"Don't use that flavored stuff, Robert gets very upset when you make flavored coffee in his machine."

"Yeah, I know," I say, then take a stab at sociability. "I'm Moonrat."

"I thought you must be. Never seen you here before."

"And you are?" I try, more pointedly.

This is how I learn about Betty. Betty was Robert's personal assistant for twenty years when he was based mostly in England. Betty, the assistant about whom Robert still rhapsodizes. Betty regularly took dictates until 2:30 in the morning every night of the two weeks she was here "on holiday," who still woke Robert up (she was staying in his loft...) at 7:30 am each morning with a cup of tea, who rearranged the entire (indescribably disorganized--no words do justice) office and then got in a huge with Robert over the weekend because he wouldn't give her anything to file on Sunday afternoon.

"I hope Robert's at least paying you really well for all the overtime you're working for him," I tell her politely.

"Oh, 'e flew me over here, and that's more than payment enough."

"Wait," I say. "He's not paying you?"

"Of course not," she scoffs. "I'm retired."

In the mornings, Betty would sit with Robert and take dictates from him (he even verbally punctuates his dictates, although often he does not do so correctly or grammatically, for he, like yours truly, has a penchant for long clause-laden sentences, and by the time he gets to the end of one he doesn't remember what he started with). Betty would scratch down the dictates on her yellow legal pad in stenographic shorthand (who the hell still knows shorthand?!?). Then she would go out to the assistant foyer, where Robert's other three personal assistants work (that's right). She'd would then loudly read the dictate out to one of the other assistants, who would type it as she was reading into a double-spaced word document. The document would be printed out, and then Betty would bring the hard copy into Robert's office, where he would line edit it (not always to great effect). Then Betty would read aloud the changes to the memo to the other assistant, who would input them, then put the text in the body of an email, then send the email.

Now you know why Seinfeld isn't particularly funny to me.

"Betty's off her fucking rocker," I mouth to Dan as he passes my office.

"She worked for Robert for twenty years," he answers out loud. "Wouldn't you be?"

Needless to say, by her third day here I WANTED TO THROTTLE HER. She hijacked our interns--our unpaid interns, who have sacrificed their opportunity to lifeguard at the lake all summer with their friends to come here and, in theory, learn about publishing. She rustled up all the projects that the editors had conveniently "lost" for one reason or another and traipsed them one by one through Robert's office, so new shit was hitting the fan every 10 minutes or so (and all shit that could totally have stayed buried where we carefully left it).

One of the purest insults was her assumption that since I sit in the vicinity of Robert's desk and am female that I am his personal receptionist. She dragged me out of my office to answer a couple of phone calls relating to Robert's credit cards. When I ran into his office and picked up the phone (thinking that it was something editorial), I realized she wanted me to spend MY work time on HER life mission of making HIS life more managed. HELLO!! Just because she decided to spend her life in the thankless service of a man who has never even noticed she was there does NOT mean that I AM GETTING PAID ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH HER BULLSHIT as WELL as all my own work that's piling up on my desk, bookcase, floor, chair, lap (you know it's a bad sign when you're balancing you're butt on the tip of the chair because the seat of the chair is covered in submission boxes, and you can't stand up to rearrange because you also have a stack of manuscripts on your lap).

Worst, she splayed across the walls of our happy dysfunctional home an example of a model employee that none of the rest of us could hope to attain (workaholic, doormat-likely obedient, fanatically OCD, and unpaid). That we could never hope to attain because we're not robot fucking morons.

But the point is, she's gone. Gone, gone, gone. And she has vowed not to come back for at least a year.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

guess who

has done NOTHING work related ALL weekend. Except liaise with one copyeditor. All in all, pretty good.

Also, I got to catch up with Nikki and Bluenana on Saturday afternoon during another Queens adventure. We went to Perlas, a Filipino restaurant on 69th and Roosevelt. Blue managed to find her way there ALL BY HERSELF (despite our fears and misgivings on her behalf). (Have I mentioned she was born in and has lived her entire life in Queens?) We gossiped for three hours and ate the following things:

-fresh lumpiang: a doughy soft crepe filled with fresh vegetables and bean sprouts and topped with the most AMAZING peanut sauce

-tocino pork: tiny bits of bright red candied pork... perhaps the tastiest thing ever. Nikki doesn't eat anything that comes from a pig but she ate this. And she LIKED it.

-stir-fried glass noodles with egg, pork, shrimp, and vegetable bits (I can't remember what this is called... Any help, Blue? 'Cuz the Rally Monkey hadn't the foggiest)

-chicken chunks stewed in tomato and red and green pepper...YUM

-avocado shake (ok, only Nikki was smart enough to order this... props to Nikki, a Filipino food rookie)

-halo-halo: this is a lovely desert with shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk in a parfait glass served over chunks of unnaturally brightly colored candied fruit and palm nuts (apparently Bluenana failed to nerdily take a picture of this... we must all have been overly excited about eating it, instead)

Very nice...

[all artwork (c) Bluenana Inc....dude. That's some professional-looking food photography there.]

Friday, June 22, 2007

voicemail from my mother (who is very popular with my readership, apparently)


[7:14 am]

Hello, Good morning

I'm driving to school and I'm thinking of some beautiful songs and when I die I want someone to remember them. So do you remember them?

[begins to sing loudly and laboriously into the phone]

TAra LAra lara, in the Spring
Oriels and robins SWEETLY sing!
O'er the leafy branches YOU CAN hear,
TAra LAra lara, SPRING IS here!

[bridging unceremoniously into next song]

Deeeeeeep in the wooooooood
A soooooong I heeeeeear
A roooooooobin is siiiiiiinging
Spriiiiiiing is heeeeeeeeeere
Then at my feeeeeeeet
A violet bloooooms
Quietly saying, I'm blooming for youuuuuuuu

[awkward pause. honking and miscelaneous highway noises. she clearly shouldn't be talking on her phone.]

Ummmm... Uhhhhh....

[normally this bridges unceremoniously into a third song, which she has clearly forgotten.]

What's the other one?

Let's see...

[launches into unrelated song]

WHITE coral BELLS upon a slender STALK
LIlies OF the VAlley DECK my garden WAAAALK
Oh how I WIIIISH that you could hear them RIIIING

Ok, bye! Have a nice day!!

[end call]

[may i point out, if my relation here does not adequately demonstrate, that OBVIOUSLY I KNOW ALL OF THESE SONGS backward and forward!?!]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

rally round, oh my beloveds

My dear friend Bluenana, upon whose encouragement I started this blog, has decided to make an exit from the blogging world. She thinks that perhaps her readership has tapered off.

Everyone, please read her blog and barrage her with lots of annoying comments to help her realize how wrong she is!!

Thanks & kisses

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'm FINALLY done editing the manuscript I've been slaving away on around the clock for the last two and a half weeks.

I understand that I have an efficiency problem, but I really wanted to do right by this book.

If anyone wants to know what my life is like, read this book. I know I've said it before, but Bridie Clark basically says it all.

an editor's job

In this week's Publishers Weekly, Sara Nelson, in the guise of an article about turnover at Random House, brought forth indeliably the inevitable truth we've been trying to protect ourselves from (by not thinking about, mostly): editors increasingly don't matter.

The emphasis of publishing, she points out, must necessarily move from the acquisitions and editing side to the distribution and marketing side. Shucks. And of course she's right.

So--aside from the fact that my career of choice is going to become increasingly competitive, just as I'm trying to chip away a little nook for myself--what does this mean for readers? And writers?

When quality of content and literary value become increasingly insignificant and the only way to get a book placement on a bookstore shelf (never mind into a customer's hand!!) is marketing... what does this mean for the selection of books that is going to be available to readers in the future? When chains buying up the largest quantities of titles determine how many copies a publisher can print of a book, and thereby whether or not a publisher can even afford to publish a book, will all literature veer toward the mainstream in order to stay afloat? Is the dream of the next Fitzgerald/Salinger/Morrison escaping even further from the clutches of reality?

Ok, ok, a bit Doomsday of me... But seriously. What can I say, besides Oh Fuck?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

thanks, Mom

The truth comes out: my mother thinks I'll never be able to find a man who is willing to "put up" with me. Apparently I'm "not easy to deal with" and a large part of her believed (believes?) I will always be alone.

Thanks, Mom. Your attitude is truly a credit to your generation. Women's Lib my editorial ass.

money diet!

My goal is to spend under $10 a day for the rest of my life.

Yesterday I spent $0!! Gold star.

So far today $0!!! Although it's only 12:02. The true temptations are yet to come.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day (Queens-Style)

The thing about the word "Queens" is that it lends itself to so many wonderful double entendres.

That's right. Queens for Father's Day. I'm too tired to write it all, and alas I have to edit a manuscript, read another manuscript, and finish a freelance assignment by noon tomorrow (alas for slacking) so instead I'll leave you with some high-concept notes:

-2 pans shrimp and crab fried rice
-1 pineapple upside-down cake
-2 feuding sisters
-2 seafood allergies
-1 face-lifted real estate mistress
-3 pitchers of sangria
-9 wheels of very expensive cheese
-1 cynical psychotherapist
-1 foul-mouthed pre-school teacher
-1 drunk, sentimental, closeted gay man feeling all the ladies up
-1 sober sentimental gay man hitting on my dad
-1 little sister with
-7 mental illnesses
-1 inappropriate & unsolicited ass-smack
-1 inappropriate & unsolicited crotch grab

I think I also clearly remember sitting in a circle while my mother waxed nostalgic about what a loser I was during junior high. Sigh.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

still editing

Isn't that sexy?

My eyes kind of hurt.

Friday, June 15, 2007


to everyone who came out last night. Good party. We'll do another one in July. Maybe for Bluenana's birthday.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Further to the the book review conversation

Our publicist forwarded us this really interesting article from The New York Sun on book reviewing.

Based on a quiz the author, a book critic, took, he realized that one of the fundamentally flawed attitudes about book reviewing is that it's an arrangement between an author and a reviewer, instead of between a reviewer and a reader. I think this is fascinating given my earlier post, and given the fact that no one who responded listed book reviews as a major source of book information in their life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sammy met the stupidest man alive.

Sammy works at a major car dealership. He's a service technician, but since it's a dealership there is also a sales floor in the building, too.

To test drive a car, all you have to do is give the secretary your license. She makes a photocopy and puts it in her little file with a note of which car you're taking out. Then out you go with the salesperson. That easy. Anyone can do it. No matter how stupid they are. As long as they have a license.

So today, a salesman named Alex was talking to a customer. The customer liked a car and wanted to take it on a test ride. He and Alex got in the car and headed for the West Side Highway. On the highway, the driver pulls out a gun and holds it to Alex's head. After some roughing him up, he tells Alex to get out of the car. Understandably, Alex does as requested. Shaken, he heads back to the dealership. The cops come and take notes on the robbery.

While the cops are standing there taking notes, the customer comes back to the dealership to retrieve the copy of his license from the secretary. I am not shitting you. Indeed, the Stupidest Man in the World. Perhaps a future Darwin Award winner.

how do you buy your books?

Some curious and important questions for all readers, in response to a posting of Angelle's. I hope anyone who reads this will respond with their thoughts.

Angelle indicates that she has no use for book reviews, which she feels often ruin the book for her beforehand. This is a hot debate, in an age where the book review is dying (cf the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hullabaloo) and the book industry is searching for both ways to reach an audience and ways to measure its own achievements.

Everyone, even Angelle, is entitled to their own opinion about book reviews. However, this news can't help but be distressing to an editor. We rely on an admittedly archaic newspaper and magazine review system for the review sound bites that we paste onto the front covers of books. These reviews aren't really that important for reaching out to consumers, although in theory at least one or two people probably buy a book because a beloved author or a favorite newspaper of theirs has blurbed it.

(I, for example, bought Leila Aboulela's THE TRANSLATOR because of the Coetzee quote on the front cover, although this doesn't directly relate to our review discussion, does it.)

But reviews are important because they show the Buyers--that is, the Barnes & Noble Buyers (with a capital B in my head) who stock the shelves of the chains across the country--that a book is worthwhile and recognized and thereby deserves shelf space.

The complicating factor--book reviews (like the Journal-Constitution) don't exist for the sake of the book industry--we merely profit from them and base our selling mechanisms off of them. They exist to cater to a consumer audience--Angelle, for example--and when that consumer audience isn't interested, they go out of buisness or close down.

So now publishers need to find other yardsticks that will help us reach out to Buyers. Of course, the hot topic is the internet--how do we get word out in cyberspace? And, more frustratingly, how do we measure those results? Or are there even other standards of rating books and other ways of buzzing about them that reach readers even more directly? Perhaps we can cut out the evil Buyer altogether!

This week, PW ran an article about what women are looking for in their book choices. One interesting point is that most women buy most books based on recommendations from family or friends. (There are other, more painful, point in the article--for example, 43% of women would like to write a book. Dear lord let me have my own assistant before they all start sending in their manuscripts.)

So my question for you----how do you buy your books? (Please check all that apply, and if you like, rate from Most Often to Least Often, or whatever.)

1) Book reviews
2) Media specials (eg mentions on Oprah or NPR)
3) Recommendations from friends
4) Bookstore browsing (and if so--how much of your decision is based on the cover? Do you read the flap copy, or try to avoid it?)
5) Amazon surfing (and if so, do you surf by subject? Or do you tend to click through based on what Amazon recommends?)
6) I seek out new books by authors I've liked in the past
7) I seek out books on a particular subject and buy books that specifically address that subject

Thanks for your feedback here.

catafuckinglog copy

That's really all I have to say about that.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Peruvian food

Thanks for your comments. Because of them, I now have an excuse to rhapsodize on my favorite subject.

Peruvian food is AWESOME because it makes liberal use of the best thing in the world (the potato) as well as the second best thing (corn) and the third (yuca). Also, you can easily arrange to have meat, poultry, and fish in any meal. So here's what I, fat ass that I am, typically order when I go to my all-time favorite Peruvian restaurant, Inti Raymi:


Jalea: this is for those too tough for ceviche (which is also excellent). Jalea is a deep-fried wonderland of calamari, shrimp, white fish, and yuca, served with a red onion cilantro salad and lime.

Choclo con queso: choclo is a Peruvian corn variety (as the origin of both corn and the potato, Peru has a spectacular variety of both these wonderful starches). Choclo kernels are huge--about the size of your thumbnail--and the flavor is very sweet. It's nice to eat boiled plain and served with a hot orange garlic sauce (aji) and Mexican white cheese.

God. Writing this is making me really effing hungry.


Aguadito de pescado: The aguadito is a soup with a cilantro base and rice. The pescado version has big chunks of tilapia in it, although you can also get aguadito de mariscos, which looks like a mini saline planitarium (octopus, squid, clams, mussels, shrimp).

Lomo saltado (or pollo saltado, if you like chicken over beef): this is little strips of beef steak stir-fried in onions and tomatos, thereby generating a most LOVELY brown sauce. The whole thing is served on top of a bed of french fries--this renders the french fries soaked through in aforementioned lovely brown sauce--and next to a heap of buttered rice.


Pionono: a pudding made out of purple corn. Very very nice.



Or, for teetotalers, try the chicha morada--it's a disconcertingly purple (but delicious) sweet drink made out of purple corn.

Yes, I usually order all of this. Ideally, you should invite two friends with you. That way you can roll one another home.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday morning

and still editing...I think I have an efficiency problem.


At least there was Peruvian food in between.

Friday, June 08, 2007

yay for extended warrantees!!!

David from Dell showed up at my office this morning and fiddled with my lovely little machine for two and a half hours and voila! here I am posting from home on my resuscitated beloved.

Of course, this means I'm sitting at home on a Friday night editing a manuscript. Oh joy!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

ass-deep in editing

Sorry for the silence this week. On top of the spitefully broken Dell, I have my entire Winter 08 list to edit in the next two weeks.

I would venture to say this kind of schedule does not provide much incentive for content integrity maintenance.

woah! in one day, my Danish readership went down to 2%

Humph. Perhaps I need to take back everything I said.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I would like to take a moment to celebrate the Danes

who are becoming a larger and larger reading audience of my blog, according to the international pie chart.

The Danes clocked in at 1% a couple of weeks ago and have gradually worked their way up to a whopping 5%--the biggest readership contingent after Americans. So I wanted to say a sincere thank you to Denmark and everyone there.

Also, are there any Danish books you think I should read?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

ahhhh GODS

When am I supposed to edit all my f***ing books when the phone won't stop ringing in my office and my computer at home is broken?!?

Melanie suggests I buy a new computer and write it off. But I can't wait until next April for my tax return!! What kind of editorial asshole has that kind of cash lying around in her bank? Not this one. Dell effing assholes. Argh.

Ooo, although I do have my new platinum credit card. Credit card debt ahoy!!

BEA fallout

Sadly, there weren't many exciting galleys at all this year. Everyone seems to be highlighting their thriller list. I really just couldn't care less about thrillers.

I did get one book I'm excited about--It's called THE SPANISH BOW, by debut novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax. It is about a young Catalan boy growing up at the turn of the 20th century. When his father is killed in Cuba, he inherits a large bow to a string instrument. Against the richly-worked historical backdrop of a deeply troubled Spain, he learns to play the cello. I'm about 100 pages into it (naughty me) and I'm looking forward to putting up a review when I'm done.

I was excited by this galley for a number of reasons (not the least of which was the embossed gold title and the spot lamination of the cello head on the front cover--these are special effects we don't even waste on finished books!!). I do think many of us are recovering string players in some way or another, and there is a magnetic appeal for books about characters who didn't fail.

But also I'm encouraged that we're still highlighting debut fiction. I think that the most disheartening perspective of the publishing industry is unfortunately from within, but seeing an author who deserves to make it make it is like a beacon of renewed hope. As my friend Will, an agent, will tell you, one of the saving graces of working in an industry that is increasingly mercenary and rooted in the capricious and conservative sensibilities of national franchises is the idea that there IS still hope for the talented but undiscovered writer. This is our last remaining magic.

My guess is if Harcourt can have anything to do with it, THE SPANISH BOW will be for 2007 what THE THIRTEENTH TALE and THE MEANING OF NIGHT were for 2006, or what THE HISTORIAN was for 2005. I can't wait to find out if I think Andromeda deserves it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

crappy a$$ Dell

Beloved Readers,

In case you were wondering why posts have precipitously dropped off (particularly on weekends), the news is that my flammable Dell laptop, embittered after over three years of wageless slavery, has decided it has put up with quite enough and unceremoniously and irreconcilably turned itself OFF. I have tried stroking, cajoling, beating, and ignoring the problem, but it seems the Dell's will is stronger than mine, alas.

This means that until enough money is drummed up to buy a new computer (hello, freelance check lost in the nethers, please feel free to show up at your earliest convenience!) I can only post during the workday from my office computer. You can imagine the obvious impediments.

But. In the interest of your enjoyment, I will do my utmost to keep the posts coming.

Lovingly yours,


awesome internet tool

from Susanne. A visual dictionary. It's not particuarly useful but it is very entertaining.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Hello, faithful comrades. After much wind-up, we're off to the conference.

I'll post here my most exciting finds. Please do the same!